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Thursday Watercooler

Tonight’s musical selection is the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles singing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Thanks to MyFDL’s cmaukonen for suggesting this video.

Virginia Johnson, the pioneering sex researcher of the duo Masters & Johnson, has died. From Slate’s XX Factor:

Virginia Johnson, a trailblazing sex researcher whose study of human sexuality spanned five decades, died Wednesday at age 88. In 1957, Johnson was a twice-divorced mother of two with no college degree. Then, St. Louis OB-GYN William Masters plucked her from his hospital’s secretarial pool and asked her to provide a female perspective to his pioneering studies of the human body during sex. Johnson initially contributed only the lightest academic insight into Masters’ work, but she brought with her the invaluable personal experience of a sexually active woman. She became an example of the radical possibilities of a woman’s touch in a male-dominated field.

Masters learned about the importance of female perspective early in his experiments, when a sex-worker subject told him she faked orgasms with her clients, and he tried—and failed—to understand why a woman would ever feign climax. “At an early age, I learned something that most men never learn—that I knew nothing at all about female sexuality,” Masters said later. He eventually recruited Johnson to advise him on the finer parts of female sexuality because she was a woman and willing, but also because she was not a fellow MD. As Thomas Maier detailed in his 2012 biography of the duo, female doctors in the 1950s were fighting an uphill battle in the male-dominated world of medicine just to earn their degrees and secure jobs; they didn’t yet have the social clout to turn their attentions to the highly stigmatized study of sex. “When women went to medical school at that particular time, an MD was so hard-won they would never have jeopardized it, being associated with sex research,” Johnson recalled Masters as telling her. Instead, Masters leveraged his own social positioning to undertake the research, with the help of a woman who had no social standing to lose.

Their teamwork proved essential to their research. Together, Masters and Johnson cracked more than just the mystery of the fake orgasm; they also debunked Freudian theories that prioritized the importance of a man’s penis in female sexual pleasure, revolutionized the treatment of female sexual dysfunction, and successfully recruited hundreds of men and women to have sex in their lab to inform their findings. “The presence of the two sexes in the laboratory team makes the difference,” Johnson said once. “The volunteers feel at ease; he or she does not have suspicions about our motives. There is, if I may say so, a certain dignity in having us both present.”

What’s on your mind tonight? It’s an open forum in  the comments.

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Kit OConnell

Kit OConnell

Kit O’Connell is a gonzo journalist and radical troublemaker from Austin, Texas. He is the Associate Editor and Community Manager of Shadowproof. Kit's investigative journalism has appeared in Truthout, MintPress News and

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