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Virginia Johnson: She Helped Bring Sex Out of the Bedroom

In 1957, Virginia Johnson, a divorced mother of two, saw an ad for a position as a research assistant at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The job turned out to be working for Dr. William H. Masters, a gynecologist who’d begun to study a topic that was largely taboo: sex. Johnson took the job, and it was the start of a partnership that would change America.

johnsonJohnson, who died on July 24 at age 88 in St. Louis, became Masters’ research partner, co-author and, for a time, wife. In 1966, the two published a book, Human Sexual Response, that, with its frank revelations about the physiology of intimacy, vaulted to the top of bestseller lists.

While their predecessor, William Kinsey, had gathered his information through questionnaires, Masters and Johnson persuaded nearly 700 subjects to allow themselves to be hooked up with various instruments – including an artificial penis with a built-in camera – that gathered detailed data about how the human body functions during sex. Their findings included the revelation that sexual desire and activity among the elderly was not only possible but normal.

Here are some intriguing facts about Johnson and her work with Masters (who died in 2001), which helped to create the modern field of sex therapy:


Here’s a video clip of Johnson being interviewed by CNN’s Larry King.


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