Review: “Masters of Sex” Season 3 Premiere Takes on Sex, Revolution, Women’s Lib, & the Human Sexual Response
The Season 3 premiere of the popular cable television show, “Masters of Sex”, is available for free viewing in advance of its airing on July 12, 2015. Similarly to HBO, Showtime is presenting its content online for a monthly fee as an alternative to watching it on TV. And it’s about time!
“Masters of Sex” follows the important work of sex researchers William H. Masters and Virginia Johnson, wonderfully played by Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan, respectively. After two successful seasons delving into the ground-breaking work that changed society’s perception of sex and of women’s sexuality forever, Season 3 of “Masters of Sex” promises to go even further, showing their work finally reaching the masses while exploring their personal relationships which are crippled by the very work they love.
This online episode offers a brief review of where the show left off at the end of Season 2 and picks up in 1965. Much like my dismay with “Mad Men’s” foray into the mid-1960s, “Masters of Sex” is now squarely thrust into a world of avocado green appliances in the home, false eyelashes and white eye shadow on the women, and some of the ugliest clothes ever designed. Be that as it may, the ’60s were also an incredibly important time for progress in the civil rights movements for blacks, women, American Indians, and other traditionally marginalized groups.
This episode alternates between Masters and Johnson’s press conference for the release of their pioneering book, Human Sexual Response, and the months leading up to that press conference. Masters is as work-focused as ever, and even when he is with his family physically, he is an absent father to his children emotionally. Likewise, Johnson also deals with her role as a mom to two teenagers and is determined to finish school, a personal and professional goal she repeatedly has put off due to her dedication to their work.
Masters’ wife, Libby, pops pills to get by as she deals with anxiety and depression. At one point, she admits she has been “medicating myself so I wouldn’t feel” all of the things wrong in her marriage. She confides in Johnson one night, “I think that a heart can only be broken so many times, and then it’s done. And I think that I’m done.”
Even though she is a sex researcher, Johnson has trouble talking to her own daughter about sex, which is difficult at the best of times, but the irony is not lost. Her son, Henry, wants to enlist in the military, causing Johnson another knock-down-drag-out with her ex-husband, George.
Now that the children of Masters and Johnson are growing up, the show focuses more on the relationships they have – or do not have – with their families. Masters and Johnson are much more equipped to help other couples even as they fail horribly in their relationships in their own families. A pivotal scene between Masters and his son Johnny, in which Masters’ past issues with his angry father come barreling to the forefront, shakes Masters to his core.
The mentality of the time toward women’s sexuality is also on full display. During the press conference, a reporter asks, “With your emphasis on female sexual pleasure, can a woman feel free now to say, ‘No’?” I laughed out loud at the stupidity of the question, and yet I had to remember that the timeframe of the show is 1965. Then I remembered misogynist Virginia politician Dick Black’s comments from just 2002 about how spousal rape was not possible, especially if the woman is wearing a nighty. Then I remembered by own marriage, when I felt like I had to have sex to keep the peace about bills or not to get kicked out. Johnson’s response to the reporter’s question was brilliant: “Our study gives women more freedom than ever to say ‘No’ because a woman will no longer be making her decision out of fear.”
By “fear”, she means the traditional fears regarding social ostracism, disease, and pregnancy. The point is that women would now have the information they need to make informed decisions in regard to sex, safe sex, and a better chance at preventing unwanted consequences. All hail, women’s lib!
The reporter presses Masters and Johnson, questioning if they think the current societal trends will lead to a culture of moral decay. Johnson emphatically responds by explaining, “Young men and women today are inclined to work things out emotionally rather than fixating on sex.”
At no point in the series has Dr. Masters been likable as a person, a husband, or a father; he fails on all three points. However, as a doctor, Masters is a vocal and unapologetic advocate for women’s sexuality, women’s equality – especially pertaining to sex and pleasure, and a woman’s right to choose whether or not she wants to be sexually active. A New York Times reporter remarks that clergy members are warning that lowering these traditional fears – and women feeling comfortable telling their husbands “No” when it comes to sex – means women will bring about the collapse of social order … because women living in fear and enduring spousal rape is apparently preferable. Masters bluntly and succinctly replies, “There is no universe where fear is a value worth preserving.”
Probably the best line in the episode occurs when one reporter insinuates that Masters and Johnson are trying to piggy-back on the sexual revolution, to which Johnson retorts, “We are the sexual revolution.”
“We know the fear that surrounds the subject of sex…. The legacy affects us all,” Masters points out to the reporters. He explains that the narrow-minded constrictive view of sex has only been around since the Industrial Revolution. Before that, “Sex was a given. It was valued, enjoyed, even if it wasn’t understood scientifically.” He states that all they want from their research is an approach to sexuality that is free of fear and full of understanding.
The reporter who grills Masters and Johnson throughout the episode dishes his final words about their book, Human Sexual Response. What does he say? You’ll have to watch to find out.
Overall, this episode is a great testament to the work of Masters and Johnson, while highlighting the hurdles they faced professionally and personally. The 1960s time period is firmly established by the production design, and Annaleigh Ashford, who plays Betty the office manager, has an all-too-brief scene at the beginning, but sporting a pseudo-vintage Streisand/Funny Girl wig makes it worth it.
My only complaint is the casting of Johnson’s son, Henry. The actor, Noah Robbins, looks nothing like Lizzy Caplan or Mather Zickel, who plays her ex-husband George; and Robbins seems more like a 14 year-old, not a 17 year-old who is ready to enter the military. This is TV, not the stage; a little more realism is expected. Also in this episode, this 17 year-old Henry has sex with a woman older than he is, and yet there is no mention of statutory rape or impropriety, except for the fact that she has a child.
For the other teenage Johnson kid, the casting of Tessa with Isabelle Furhman was a good choice as she resembles both Caplan and Zickel with her dark looks. And though she does have a nude scene, Furhman is 18+ in real life.
Extra kudos also go to the casting team for hiring Jaeden Lieberher to play Masters’ son Johnny, who perfectly expresses through body language and facial reactions how much he wants to be like his father and desperately wants his father’s love, but secretly resents Masters’ obsession with his work.
The real-life Virginia Johnson did have two children with George Johnson, but their names are Scott and Lisa. The factual William H. Masters had two children with his wife Elizabeth, and their names are William and Sarah.
This online freebie preview has been edited for content, with the more choice language silenced, naked breasts blurred out, and the best part – the sex – has been cut out completely. You’ll have to buy a subscription to get the full benefit of the sailor’s language, nudity, and sex scenes.
If you have never seen the show, check it out. And if you think we struggle with society accepting women’s sexuality in today’s world, “Masters of Sex” expertly portrays the narrow-minded environment that women endured as they struggled for sexual liberation just 50 years ago.
Catch the Season 3 premiere of “Masters of Sex” on Showtime.
Wow! Has it really been 300 blog posts — already?! I still can’t believe I just passed 3 years of doing ArousedWoman. And to think I’ve now written 300 articles, posts, reviews, and rants about women’s sexuality and activism is just amazing. That’s 300 posts over 3 years, which equals 100 per year, or about 2 per week on average. No wonder I’m exhausted!
ArousedWoman began as a simple website and this blog on which I bared my soul and my experiences as I reclaimed my body and my life. I had left my marriage a year or so before, and I had recently begun exploring my sexuality. I felt dead sexually and wanted so much more. I began a Tantric journey and discovered things I never knew could actually exist; and I wrote about them here.
In so doing, I encountered amazing experiences that absolutely challenged my concept of infinity and pleasure, and it made me deal with long-buried issues of sexual abuse that I had neatly locked away and thought I had dealt with years ago. Processing these immense highs and these painful lows was overwhelming at times, but it was necessary for me, especially if I hope ever to have a successful relationship for myself someday. I am still a work-in-progress.
Honestly, if I had not taken off most of 2014 while I was running for Congress, I would have reached this milestone sooner. But I am proud of the work I have done here on ArousedWoman. I’m proud of the AW extensions via the radio show, the YouTube videos, and the upcoming magazine. But most of all, I am proud of being able to help so many people who didn’t feel they could turn to someone else.
Over the course of 300 posts, I have written on anatomy and sexual function, communication and relationships, health and fitness, and of course, activism and equality. In the process, ArousedWoman has become a trusted source of information in regard to women’s sexuality AND has been named a #1 site for sexuality and relationship information for couples.
This is just the beginning! I have sooooooo much more to do for you and with you. Expect a complete overhaul later this year as I work on expanding ArousedWoman into a more life-encompassing resource. It’s gonna be fabulous!
As always, I love you, and I thank you for being with me on this journey.
Aroused and doing the happy dance,
The African country of Nigeria has passed a bill that makes Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) a crime. This is WONDERFUL news for women’s rights in Africa and hopefully will spread to other parts of the world that still carry out circumcision on minors. In fact female circumcision was only outlawed in the United States in 1996. Yes. Just 19 years ago.
Watch my YouTube video for more information on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM, a.k.a. circumcision).
Other blog posts and videos you may be interested in exploring:
- NEWS: Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation
- OpEd: Why Is Circumcision Still Considered a Humane Procedure?
- VIDEO: Sexy Saturday: Circumcised Man Asks If Dry Sex Is Painful for a Woman
- VIDEO: Saving Chase: Sign Petition to Stop Court-Ordered Circumcision of Chase Nebus-Hironimus
Feel free to leave a comment here on the blog or on the video’s page! And please share!
If you’ve seen my recent foray into daily YouTubing, you will have noticed that the second day of the week is now Tantra Tuesday. You know I love Tanta, and there is SOOOOO much more to Tantra than just sex … although I love the sexy side of Tantra as well.
In this weekly series, I will talk about the history behind Tantra, its philosophies and its wisdoms for improving your life on a daily basis — yes, that includes sex. Of course, the best orgasm secrets I keep for clients who sign up for training with me.
So check out the first installment of Tantra Tuesday, and leave a comment here and/or my YouTube page!
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