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Masters of Sex “Pilot” 

Photo Credit: Erwin Olaf/SHOWTIME
Photo Credit: Erwin Olaf/SHOWTIME

Turns out women aren’t the only ones who confuse sex and love. Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson were pioneers way ahead of their time. It was the 1950s and people were uptight about sex. Well people are still uptight about sex, but in the 50s people were even more uptight because no one in polite society was talking about it. It was practically unheard of to think about women having sex for pleasure and if they were they were labeled whores or prostitutes. So when Dr. Masters meets Virginia Johnson – a woman who is refreshingly direct about her opinions on love and sex – he feels like he’s found a kindred spirit. And he’s definitely attracted to that kindred spirit.

Photo Credit: Craig Blankenhorn/SHOWTIME
Photo Credit: Craig Blankenhorn/SHOWTIME

Scully: “You’re saying watch out for the dildo.”

University Provost Barton Scully is afraid of Masters’ proposed study on human sexuality. He thinks Masters will be labeled a pervert and that this study will never be considered serious science. Scully has the university’s reputation to think of, but Masters likes to think big. Whereas Scully wants Masters to be happy as a pioneer in women’s reproduction, Masters wants to make an even bigger name for himself. He wants a nobel prize.

What does Virginia Johnson want? She wants to be “friends” with Dr. Ethan Haas, which does not entail him meeting her children or spending the night. Virginia wants to try new things in bed with the man she’s attracted to without him getting attached. But Haas thinks he’s in love with her and reacts very badly when she doesn’t reciprocate his feelings. I can understand that he’s hurt, but the name calling and the physical attack are way out of line. Masters is Haas’ colleague and mentor so all three of them will be forced to interact on almost a daily basis. This could get even more awkward.

Masters: “You didn’t have an orgasm?”

Prostitute: “You’re serious now?”

Masters: “Yes, I’m serious. You pretended to have an orgasm? Is that a common practice among most prostitutes?”

Prostitute: “It’s a common practice amongst anyone with a twat. Women fake orgasms, almost all of them although I haven’t checked my clipboard lately.”

What kind of person volunteers for a study on sex? While Masters was only successful in recruiting a prostitute to participate in the study – and he had to pay her for her time – Johnson is much more successful. She has a way about her that makes it easy for her to approach people and talk about what is a difficult subject considering the mores of the day. It doesn’t hurt that she’s attractive either. Masters, on the other hand, is very much a scientist. He claims he’s only interested in what can be measured by his instruments. It’s Virginia who makes him realize they also need to understand the emotions and feelings behind the physical responses.

Masters thinks there might be a problem with transference so he suggests they take part in the study as well. Virginia doesn’t think it’s a good idea for them to have sex with their subjects, but Masters isn’t suggesting that. He thinks they should have sex with each other. Interesting. Very interesting.

I loved the end of this episode. It made me think about the kind of man Masters is. He has a very low sperm count, but is content to let his wife think she’s the obstacle in their plan to have a child. When Libby asks what William sees when he looks at her, he says “love.” What does that mean though? Does he see Libby’s love for him? Does he see her love for the baby they have yet to conceive? Does he even love her? William claims he’s not interested in the missionary position because he says what they’re doing (the spoon position) has been proven as the most successful method for conception. He’s clearly attracted to his wife, but he’s so clinical about their lovemaking. He is such an interesting contradiction.

And what about his OB/GYN practice? When Masters is called into a surgery to save the life of a colored woman who has lost her baby, he takes her on as a patient. She is heartbroken when she wakes up because she was told she’d never conceive again. But Masters tells her that he’ll do everything he can to help her and by the end of the episode, she’s pregnant again. Even though Masters has expressed frustration and impatience with his own contraceptive struggles, he is so invested in helping Mrs. May. It’s yet another facet of a fascinating man. That being said, I’m so curious to see what becomes of Masters and Johnson. We know they become partners in this study and eventually in life. I can’t wait to see how this study of sex affects not only them, but everyone around them.

Masters of Sex airs at 10/9c on Showtime.

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