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The Scientists of Sex
  • September 18, 2013 : 07:09
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LIFE BEFORE VIAGRA

PLAYBOY: The second sexual inadequacy you mentioned as part of your long-range research program is impotence. What is your definition of the term?

MASTERS: We classify it as two types. In primary impotence, the male has failed at his first opportunity at penetration and continues to fail at every exposure thereafter to achieve and/or to maintain an erection for the length of time sufficient to accomplish mounting. In secondary impotence, the male has not failed his first time or his first thousand times, but then begins to develop difficulties in achieving or maintaining an erection.

PLAYBOY: What is the chief cause of impotence?

MASTERS: Fear. Regardless of why or under what circumstances the male fails to achieve or maintain an erection the first time, the greatest cause of continued sexual dysfunction thereafter is his fear of nonperformance. Those who have had an instance of failure due, let’s say, to fatigue or excessive alcohol intake and do not attach special significance to it rarely develop this fear. But those who elevate an occasional failure out of context and dwell on it retrospectively can go on to develop severe cases of secondary impotence.

JOHNSON: Alcohol is probably the greatest single cause of secondary impotence.

PLAYBOY: Is it possible, as some critics have suggested, that the female’s sexual ­emancipation—and the consequent increase in her sexual demands on the male—is a significant cause of impotence?

MASTERS: Any situation conceived as threatening by a particular male may tend to make him fearful about his performance and thereby lead him to try forcing the situation. But one doesn’t need female emancipation to do this.

PREMATURE EJACULATION

PLAYBOY: The final sexual inadequacy you mentioned is premature ejaculation. Is this as difficult to define as the others?

MASTERS: As a working definition, we describe a premature ejaculator as a male who can’t control the ejaculatory process long enough to satisfy his partner at least 50 percent of the time. Obviously, such a definition does not hold up if the partner happens to be nonorgasmic. As for the causes, they vary. I suppose one of the greatest causes in a 40-year-old male is exposure to prostitutes in his late teens and early 20s, with its pressure for speed and performance and lack of regard for time, place and circumstances.

PLAYBOY: Many men try to overcome their problem of premature ejaculation or that of orgasmic failure on the part of their partners by developing a self-conscious sexual technique. Assiduously memorizing sexual lore and following the suggestions of many marriage manuals, they recite the multiplication tables silently during intercourse, or think of the stock market.

JOHNSON: It shouldn’t be necessary to recite multiplication tables in order to withhold ejaculation.… When we first treated cases of premature ejaculation, we noticed an almost stereotypical case history. Usually the person’s first experience had been under circumstances in which it was necessary to rush through intercourse under a great deal of pressure. For instance, the backseat of a car. There was no sense that you should linger and appreciate the act; there was just the fun of doing it.

AS TIME GOES BY

PLAYBOY: Another area of medical uncertainty and misconception relates to sex among the aged. What can you tell us about your research on this subject?

MASTERS: There are two fundamental constants necessary for the human male and female to maintain effective sexual function into the 80-year age group: One, the individual must be in a reasonably good state of general health, and two, he or she must have an interested partner.

For the female, an effective sexual function in her earlier years encourages continued successful functioning as she ages, primarily because she isn’t contending with fears of nonperformance. If the female has not been particularly effective before menopause, then the added concerns of the aging process may make her totally ineffective thereafter. But if she has been responsive and well-oriented sexually, she usually sails through the menopausal situation with no significant variation in her sexual-response pattern.

As for the male, if he has had satisfactorily active sexual experience during his teens, 20s, 30s and 40s, there’s no reason he can’t maintain sexual effectiveness into his 50s, 60s and 70s, if he meets the criteria already described.

JOHNSON: The only thing I’d like to add is that aging may cause some reduction in the urge to ejaculate—that is, in the need for frequency of ejaculation. But, contrary to popular belief, this has nothing to do with the older man’s ability to achieve and maintain an erection.

THE GAY FACTOR

PLAYBOY: There have been predictions that another by-product of increasing sexual freedom will be the proliferation of homosexuality. What do you think?

MASTERS: If the majority of reasons given by scientists and by homosexuals themselves for turning to homosexuality are true, a liberalization of sexual attitudes would remove some of these reasons; it would help lessen the homosexual’s self-rejection. This is, of course, only theorizing. We have no evidence to support it.

We’re doing a great deal of work in homosexuality. We’re studying the female homosexual in particular, as we feel she has never been examined in depth. We want to learn as much as we can from the sociological, physiological, biochemical, endocrinological—and, ultimately, the therapeutic—points of view.

PLAYBOY: What is your goal in the homosexual research?

MASTERS: We hope eventually to move into some concept of sexual reversal for those who wish it. From what we know now—which is very little—we can’t conceive of homosexuality itself as an inversion or abnormality. It seems to be a basic form of sexual expression—a minority form but a very definitive one.

PLAYBOY: Why should heterosexuals be interested in the findings in Homosexuality in Perspective [a later book that focused on homosexuality]?

MASTERS: The book is as much about how heterosexuals make love as about how homosexuals make love.

PLAYBOY: In a nutshell, what were the most interesting findings in your study?

MASTERS: One of the most striking features of the findings was the fact that homosexuals and heterosexuals demonstrated so little difference in ability to respond to noncoital sexual stimulation. Homosexuals and heterosexuals, male or female, were able to respond to masturbation, partner manipulation or fellatio/cunnilingus. We observed many hundreds of orgasm cycles, and less than one percent of the time was there failure to achieve orgasm.

PLAYBOY: Time magazine, in its cover story on your book, drew the conclusion that gays are better in bed. Your findings seem to suggest that if we make love like homosexuals, our sex lives will improve.

MASTERS: Let’s put it this way: The greatest mistake is to say that you make love like anybody. Because that isn’t what you’re doing. You’re doing what you want to do, and, it’s hoped, what your partner would like to enjoy. In presenting our findings on homosexuality, we want to show the wealth of variation that is possible, so that it doesn’t become threatening. Inevitably, we are a little anxious about those things we don’t understand or aren’t familiar with.

PLAYBOY: Nonetheless, your book suggests that homosexuals of both sexes know more about their partners’ needs and showed more interest in variety, which translates—to us—as saying they’re better at sex than heterosexuals.

JOHNSON: Well, they work at it a little more. They invest more of themselves in sex; therefore, they probably get a little more back. They don’t have more orgasms, mind you. They just seem more involved.

PLAYBOY: Were there differences in the way homosexual couples and heterosexual couples stimulated each other in heavy petting?

MASTERS: The homosexual couples took their time. They moved deliberately through excitement to linger at the plateau stage. In contrast, the heterosexuals created the impression that they were in it just to get the job done, to produce the orgasm in the shortest time possible.

PLAYBOY: What differences did you notice in the ways heterosexuals and homosexuals masturbate?

MASTERS: The primary differences related to gender and not to sexual preference.

PLAYBOY: How did women masturbate?

MASTERS: Approximately four out of five of the women masturbated while lying on their backs. They were generally less direct in their approach to the clitoris than were men in approaching the penis. Some women touched their breasts, others stroked the lower abdomen or the thighs. Most women tended to touch the glans directly only at the onset of the clitoral stimulation, if at all. But as sexual tensions elevated, they moved from the glans to the stimulation of the clitoral shaft. When they got tired or lost the thread of their response, they slowed the pace. Far more often than men, women deliberately varied the rate and pressure of genital stroking, at times even stopping and starting clitoral manipulation—as though teasing themselves.

PLAYBOY: How did men masturbate?

MASTERS: Men moved immediately to the penis. Approximately three out of five masturbated while lying on their backs; the rest did so standing, sitting or lying face down. The force and rapidity of the stroking increased as excitement increased. For the most part, men concentrated on the shaft. At orgasm most men slowed, or even stopped stroking. In contrast, the women usually kept stroking or massaging through orgasm. Women actually tended to be more sexually responsive, moving from one orgasmic experience to the next, while the men almost universally had one orgasmic experience during the session and that was it.

PLAYBOY: How did gay women act in bed?

MASTERS: There was holding, kissing and caressing of the entire body area before any specific approach was made to the breasts or genitals. Only six out of 76 of the lesbians we studied moved directly to breast stimulation, and only one woman approached her partner’s genitals at the onset of sex play.

PLAYBOY: Obviously, a woman would know that about another woman. But how does a man progress if his partner doesn’t tell him?

JOHNSON: They do unto others as they have done unto themselves, and that’s not always what a woman can respond to. Quite often the male uses his fingers as he would a penis. If the lesbians used penetration with their fingers, they seldom went beyond the outer third of the vagina, which, in terms of nerve endings, is the most sensitive area. Husbands frequently used their fingers as a substitute penis, even though their wives merely tolerated this approach, especially when approached this way before they were really aroused. One third of the wives we questioned said that they felt deep manual penetration was more exciting to their husbands than to them. Lesbians, on the other hand, exhibited a general willingness to find out what their partners like and appreciate.

PLAYBOY: Once a lesbian woman turned to breast play, did she go about it any differently than a man would?

MASTERS: Breast play was significantly prolonged. The entire breast was consistently stimulated both manually and orally, with particular attention focused on the nipples. And almost scrupulous care seemed to be taken by the stimulator to spend an equal amount of time with each breast. Sometimes as much as 10 minutes was devoted to the breasts before genital play was introduced. I’ve seen many a heterosexual couple engage in and complete intercourse in the time a lesbian couple would still be focusing on the breasts.

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read more: lifestyle, Sex and Dating, sex, interview, issue september 2013

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