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The Scientists of Sex
  • September 18, 2013 : 07:09
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THE MISSIONARY POSITION

PLAYBOY: Is there any single trait or pattern that characterized intercourse [in heterosexuals]?

MASTERS: The great American formula for sex is: a kiss on the lips, a hand on the breasts and a dive for the pelvis.

JOHNSON: In terms of sexual behavior, although we seem to be a people who look for cookie cutters to shape ourselves after someone whose life is purported to be the sexual ultimate, when the moment arrives, we generally fall back on our early peer-group lessons. There is too little individual confidence to be sexually creative. Even in the lab environment, sexually sophisticated people sometimes fell back on the old familiar scenario.

PLAYBOY: Which was?

MASTERS: Some 80 percent of the men made love in the missionary position. They mounted the female as soon as they had an erection and as soon as they thought the partner was ready. Usually they decided she was ready when she was obviously lubricated.

PLAYBOY: Is that incorrect?

JOHNSON: Well, in theory, you might say it is true. Vaginal lubrication for the woman is essentially a counterpart of erection in the male. Ah, but it doesn’t stop there. I’m really going to tread in water I normally try to avoid, because we generally represent only on a same-sex basis—but I’m going to suggest the very real possibility that a man with an erection is not always a man who is ready for intercourse.

The woman may demonstrate physiological or anatomical readiness. But it’s a mistake to assume that because she is physically prepared, she has also arrived at the point of emotional or even spiritual receptivity. So often the man makes this assumption, penetrates and immediately sets the pattern of thrusting. She is even further distracted by the task of accommodating to the depth, frequency and the force of the man’s thrusting action before she ever establishes awareness of her own responsiveness. Although she ultimately may be orgasmic, her level of subjective involvement may remain low and her sense of satisfaction minimal. There is a high risk of hostility toward the partner developing in such a situation.

PLAYBOY: One of the sacred tenets of marriage manuals is that if you engage in enough foreplay, everything will be all right in the end. Did you find that to be so?

MASTERS: I don’t even like the term foreplay. It sounds like something less than important or meaningful. Dividing sexual response into stages is a necessity for the scientific observer, but sex partners who do the same thing make the human experience a goal-oriented performance. In so doing, a woman’s capacity for spontaneous responsivity especially is victimized.

PLAYBOY: How?

MASTERS: We found that when we requested a woman and a man in the lab to engage in, let’s say, genital touching or cunnilingus, the woman tended to lubricate freely, in direct proportion to the amount of stimulation she was receiving. However, when on another occasion we asked the same couple to engage in intercourse and, as part of the total process, the man engaged in the same activities—genital touching or cunnilingus—the woman frequently did not lubricate as freely, in direct proportion to the amount of stimulation she was receiving.

PLAYBOY: Is it possible that the homosexual couples you observed—because they were not under any pressure to have intercourse—were better able to enjoy themselves?

MASTERS: Certainly. They give more of themselves to these activities—masturbation, fellatio, cunnilingus—because it is the only thing they have. Even when we told heterosexual women that cunnilingus was the point of the evening, they were so unused to it as a pleasurable end in itself that they initially did not get particularly involved.

THE IMPORTANCE OF SEX

PLAYBOY: What do you think the future holds for sex research in general?

MASTERS: Sufficient maturity and controlled expansion, we hope, so that research may be done in the total area of sexual behavior—not just from the psychological and physiological points of view, the “why” and the “what,” but also, for example, from the sociological and theological perspectives.

Human sexual behavior is of vital concern to every single individual throughout his or her life. Aside from the instinct for self-preservation, it is the most forceful response we know. Yet it is the response about which we know least. Look at the massive amount of time and effort that has been spent on the control of poliomyelitis, for instance—an effort that was worthy, since it brought the disease under control—but compare the occasional individual who contracts polio with the daily concern of every individual about his or her sexuality. Although we are obviously in favor of any medical approach that helps eliminate the major pathologies, it must also be realized that the one physiological activity, after eating and sleeping, that occupies the greatest part of human life is no less worthy of definitive and objective research. We intend to devote the greatest part of our lives to that research.

PLAYBOY: Just how important do you think sex is?

JOHNSON: For most people, sex is of paramount importance in their life. One thing you can be sure of: The more one knows about sex, the better chance there is of dealing with it effectively when something is not satisfactory. That is the principle, at least, by which we are committed to sex research. That, plus the fact that we continue to believe that “sex is a natural function.” We’ve proclaimed that for so long now, people surely are tired of hearing it. Maybe in another 10 years beyond that, our society will allow us to live it.

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

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