Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love” as Want to Read:
Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love

3.59  ·  Rating Details ·  1,714 Ratings  ·  258 Reviews
This critically acclaimed biography offers an unprecedented look at William Masters and Virginia Johnson, their pioneering studies on intimacy, and their lasting impact on the love lives of today's men and women.
Audiobook, 411 pages
Published April 1st 2009 by Phoenix Audio (first published March 20th 2009)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Masters of Sex, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Masters of Sex

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jan 09, 2011 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
after reading masters of sex, i am totally charmed by virgina johnson. for whatever reason, i always thought she was a stiff old doc like bill masters. but i was wrong. some notes:

--seated on a leather lounge chair, a woman, naked except for a pillowcase over her head, rubbed the outside of her vulva with a long, plexiglas penis. attached to a small camera with a plate glass optical eye, this “motor powered phallus” could produce high-quality color-motion photographs. sensors fixed to various pa
Audacia Ray
Jun 21, 2009 Audacia Ray rated it really liked it
I'm not generally in the habit of reading biographies (exception: I've read all the biographies there are to read about Victoria Woodhull), because I don't really subscribe to the "great men" approach to history (I'm somewhat more susceptible to "great women"). I'd rather read about social movements and popular culture. That said, William Masters and Virginia Johnson spawned a new age of sex in the United States, so: worth reading.

I really enjoyed this book - the prose was accessible and there w
Stephany Van alstyne
Aug 03, 2013 Stephany Van alstyne rated it it was ok
Somehow manages to be boring and interesting simultaneously.
Aug 04, 2014 Krissy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for-suggestions
Wow, talk about Masters and Johnson! If there is anything you ever wanted to know about them, it is in this book. Plus quite a few things you didn't know you wanted to know. It may be because I'm in a related field to M&J and have always seen them as forefathers, but I was enthralled with the book from start to finish.

Why only 3 stars? I'm not positive that the content really required 375 pages of text to explicate. Also, the opening description of Virginia's first sex experience was almost
Mar 13, 2013 Louise rated it really liked it
Their lives were a period piece. Their work would have had no other relevancy but during post war America. Masters was a pioneer in this medical field and Johnson a pioneer in her field of therapy. They were ahead of their time in taking a female inclusive approach to sex therapy. How would the sexual revolution have evolved without this staid Midwestern couple giving couples a means to discuss and/or improve their sex life?

At the end of the book we realize that besides their 1950's lab techniqu
Kathleen Brugger
Nov 12, 2013 Kathleen Brugger rated it really liked it
I am so glad Thomas Maier wrote this book: what a fascinating couple Masters and Johnson were. If you’ve been enjoying the Showtime series, read the book. It will not only increase your enjoyment of the TV show (because you realize it is largely based on the facts), you will get a deeper appreciation for what these two accomplished.

As a female, I was fascinated by Virginia Johnson. She didn’t ever get a college degree, yet through her intelligence, talents, and hard work became Dr. Masters’ equa
Mar 12, 2015 Ally rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"We're still entirely alone."

Okay! I'm gonna get two things out of the way really quickly so I can focus on my love for this book after I do:

1. This is not a work of fiction. I see too many reviews from people who are disappointed in it not being very similar to the show, and this is in no way to discredit them, but... don't expect a gripping tale of two people who breathe dramatically and talk in slogans and which does not deviate from their story - it's a biography. It goes off on tangents, it
Apr 05, 2014 Kate rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A thorough retelling of the personal lives, the careers and "the times" of sex researches William Masters and Virginia Johnson. Masters' discoveries, his (sometimes flawed) methods and his chilly, driven personality are of interest, but even more interesting is Virginia Johnson. Without any medical or academic degree, and with a minimum of training, she developed into an influential figure in sexual research through the force of her enthusiasm and her winning personality. Until she too became dr ...more
David Beeson
Feb 23, 2014 David Beeson rated it really liked it
William Masters and Virginia Johnson undertook a task that would have seemed beyond the power of most of us: to study human sexual behaviour by direct observation.

Reading (or listening to) the account of their work, it’s hard not to wonder whether there wasn’t an element of prurience in what they were doing: viewing hundreds of acts of masturbation or copulation sounds terribly like something that is sold in seedy backstreets, behind suspicious looking doors.

However Masters and Johnson’s subjec
Sep 24, 2013 Steve rated it it was amazing
Shelves: feminism, history, sex
If ever anyone needed proof that being scientific, secular and atheistic is no guarantee that a person will be a Humanist or even a decent human being, one need look no further than William Masters. An amazing doctor and great researcher in his early days, Masters was driven more by ego and self-interest than by his desire to help people or chart new territories in the science of sex. His manipulation of those around him, and especially of Virginia Johnson, is striking in its cold blooded narcis ...more
Paul Lima
Oct 11, 2014 Paul Lima rated it it was ok
I've been enjoying the TV series loosely based on the book; the book, not so much. The TV series, while true to the premise of what Masters and Johnson accomplished, and what they did, is fiction -- it has a narrative arc and characters do things to advance the story. The book, while a lot of work went into the research and writing, is, quite frankly, about an asshole and an idiot. These two may have been world-renowned sex researchers and sex therapists, but they both could have used a little ( ...more
I read this after finishing the first two seasons of the HBO series "Masters of Sex." I really liked the series (and am anxiously awaiting the third season). But I knew they'd taken some creative liberties with it so I was curious to see what was really true.

Although the real story is interesting, lets just say that the writers of the series knew what to add to make it more compelling and titillating. I guess it's the whole visual aspect of it--watching people participate (well, simulate partici
When you look at my undergraduate transcript, it looks like I studied to be a whore. Every other subject has "sex" or "sexuality" in the title - "Philosophy and Sexuality", "Sex and Society", "Gender, Sex and Power in Australian Politics", "Sex and Sexuality" - you get the drift. That's what you get for being a women's studies major. As a result, I quickly became familiar with Masters and Johnson and their study, but I always just thought of it as a regular university study that a couple of scie ...more
Al Zaquan
Bought this because I saw the pilot on Showtime, and I've been a huge fan of Lizzy Caplan since 'Party Down'. So instead of waiting for a new episode every week, I wanted to know more of the story immediately. This is a very problematic book. There's no sense of what's interesting. Quotes and stories are plopped in the way you'd serve a child a cold omelette. The story is built on direct quotes that sound formal and deliberate, or hearsay he picked up from one of the interviewees, the interviews ...more
Nov 26, 2012 Socraticgadfly rated it it was amazing
Clearly, as Thomas Maier shows, that was the case in the marriage of William Masters and Virginia Johnson. It's not just that a quasi-forcible sexual relationship devolved into a quasi-loveless marriage. It's that Gini Johnson, for all her sexuality, never thought of looking outside the marriage, apparently. It's that Bill Masters apparently, until his end-of-life marriage to a college flame, couldn't be with a woman unless he could dominate her.

In a sense, they both, despite their groundbreakin
One thing is clear: Both Bill Masters and Virginia Johnson were two unique and most intersting, yet flawed and complicated persons who complimented each other on many levels. Bringing their lives to paper must have been a difficult task and I compliment Thomas Maier for his extensive research, especially since not everybody involved was eager to comment on all topics (especially all things surrounding Bill and Gini's marriage, oh how I would've loved to get more details on that).

The thing is, t
Dec 06, 2013 Hawkgrrrl rated it it was amazing
It's hard not to be charmed by Virginia Johnson in this biography about her and partner Bill Masters who pioneered sexual research. It's also an interesting portrait of feminism trapped by the mores of an era, as well as the struggle aging poses for someone whose ideas were revolutionary and cutting edge but then sparked understanding that eclipsed those breakthrough insights. In a way it's also a love story, but a repressed one lacking in the intimacy that comes with vulnerability. It was a fas ...more
Donald Grant
Sep 16, 2015 Donald Grant rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thomas Maier does an excellent job of documenting the lives of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, “the couple who taught America how to love.” Maier takes us behind the curtain to reveal the biographies of two people who went out of their way to keep their private lives private.

This is a well researched account of not only who Masters and Johnson were, but also an eye-opening look at the era and mood in which their study took place. It is amazing how much has changed over the years regarding
Christie Bane
Apr 18, 2015 Christie Bane rated it really liked it
I thought I knew something about sex research -- I have dreamed of getting a PhD in Human Sexuality for almost my entire adult life -- but I realized after reading this book that I didn't really know that much about the history of it at all. I knew that Kinsey came first and Masters and Johnson came second, but I didn't know that M&J were the first researchers to study the actual mechanics of human sexual response. Here are some other things that I didn't know:
*They started their research o
Pam Frost Gorder
Jan 01, 2014 Pam Frost Gorder rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
"Complements the Showtime series"

This review is for the Audible version of the book (which received some negative reviews for the narration).

I'm a fan of the Showtime series and listened to this book (upon which the show is based) following season one. First: the narration is not that bad. The occasional mispronunciations and fatigue in Ms. Barton's voice were slightly distracting, but her reading is pleasant enough. Second: the book gives a deeper background on Virginia Johnson's motivations, a
Into the dark, two beams of light showed the way.

In the 1950s, Virginia Johnson was a twice-divorced mother of two trying to get her degree and work to support her family. Bill Masters was an OB/GYN, specializing in infertility treatments, but wanting to expand his research into sexual disorders. The two met when Gini was hired as an assistant in the obstetrics department where Bill worked. Over the next twenty years they would revolutionize the study of sexual behavior and physiology, publish
-La posmodernidad sexual y afectiva.-

Género. Biografía.

Lo que nos cuenta. Acercamiento a las personalidades y obra de William Masters y Virgina Johnson, investigadores cuyas publicaciones trajeron luz a la “maquinaria” detrás de la respuesta sexual del individuo y cuyas vidas, que orbitaron alrededor de ello, resultan paradójicamente próximas al asunto.

¿Quiere saber más de este libro, sin spoilers? Visite:
Mark Hiser
As much as it is a biography of the famous sex-research duo, Masters and Johnson, Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love is about the sexual revolution that took place in the United States between the 1950s and 70s.

Masters and Johnson, of course, are the male/female team (who later married then divorced) who conducted years of scientific research on the physiology of sex. Their work destroyed myths and helped fuel th
Kerry Connelly
Brilliant, intelligent, educational and well written bio on the lives of two incredibly intricate, passionate, dedicated and interesting people. What a life they lived and what a contribution to society they made. As a companion to the tv series 'Masters of sex' of which was based on this non-fiction book, it gives extra insight & more detail on the research, it's protocol and back story on the 'characters'. Bill, as per the show, was a real hard ass work-a-holic, not exactly likable... but ...more
Jul 19, 2014 Audrey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I received this book as a gift from a friend who knew I'd been watching the Showtime series based on it. I found it utterly engaging, though sometimes the prose was a bit verbose (much like Masters' own writing, I gathered from the book.) Can't remember the last time I had to pull out a dictionary that much while reading, but I learned some fascinating new words in the process. It seems a fairly complete look at the Masters and Johnson partnership in terms of their research and public lives; how ...more
May 04, 2014 Cat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved reading this biography, in which Maier really highlights the way that the contradictions in the relationship of these two researchers reflect some of the contradictions of their times. I can see after reading this book why Showtime decided to move ahead with the series; after finishing Season One, I was wondering where else they could possibly go, and the old cliché truth is stranger than fiction definitely applies here. Not only are many of the most vivid details from Season One drawn f ...more
Peter Goodman
Jan 20, 2014 Peter Goodman rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction

Masters of Sex: The life and times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the couple who taught America how to love,” by Thomas Maier (2010, Basic Books paperback). Yes, I’m reading this because of the TV series—but also because Tom is a former colleague of mine from Newsday. First, it is clear that TV took a lot of liberties---not with the basic science, the personalities of the two protagonists, or the way they carried out the research, but all the added characters and plot lines that make i
Doug Clark
Dec 27, 2013 Doug Clark rated it really liked it
Masters of Sex by Thomas Maier (published in 2009) is a dual biography of Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the famous researchers who in the 1950s and 60s did much to determine the physical responses of human sexuality. Although I purchased the book when it was originally published, I didn’t start reading it until Showtime starting airing their series Masters of Sex which is loosely based upon this book. And loosely is being kind. Although several incidents in the show are historically ...more
Dec 30, 2013 Leah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I got this because I have so enjoyed Masters of Sex on Showtime. I also have worked for many years in HIV and STD prevention in public health, so Masters and Johnson's work is in my wheelhouse as well as a clear popular influence during my adolescence and young adult years. (I was a graduate student when Masters and Johnson published Crisis.)

I have to say that I rate this around a 3.5. I gave it 4 because it is well written and engaging, but for content it deserves something closer to a 3.

I am
Jeremiah Dollins
Jan 08, 2014 Jeremiah Dollins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I began reading this excellent biography as a result of watching the Showtime series of the same name. Initially, I found myself annoyed by the disparities between the two sources -- the show changes many things in the book by inventing characters, or combining them -- but ultimately found that it didn't matter. The story of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, whether fictionalized, or presented realistically, is still compelling and fresh as it probes to get at the universal truths underlying ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Endorsements for "Masters of Sex" by Thomas Maier 1 17 Apr 02, 2009 07:24PM  
  • Justice, Gender, and the Family
  • Alfred C. Kinsey: A Life
  • Gender
  • Notes From The Firehouse: Seventeen Firefighting Stories From A Retired Firefighter
  • On Sex and Human Loving
  • An Intimate Life: Sex, Love, and My Journey as a Surrogate Partner
  • Opium Fiend: A 21st Century Slave to a 19th Century Addiction
  • The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography
  • Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America
  • The Soul of Sex: Cultivating Life as an Act of Love
  • The Technology of Orgasm: "Hysteria," the Vibrator, and Women's Sexual Satisfaction
  • Don't Leave Me This Way
  • Crazy: Notes On and Off the Couch
  • Pablo Neruda: A Passion for Life
  • Thanks for Coming: One Young Woman's Quest for an Orgasm
  • The Ultimate Lost and Philosophy: Think Together, Die Alone
  • The Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution
  • Daddy
Thomas Maier is the author of "WHEN LIONS ROAR: The Churchills and the Kennedys," published by Random House's Crown imprint. He is also the author and a producer of "MASTERS OF SEX", the Showtime series based on his book of the same name, which tells the story of researchers Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson. His other books include: "The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings, which was adapted ...more
More about Thomas Maier...

Share This Book

“Masters’s, as a way of getting her son out of” 0 likes
“believed in a genetic predisposition toward homosexuality,” 0 likes
More quotes…