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.
As a survivor of sexual abuse, I have always pondered why most people think rapists and sexual abusers are “the boogey man,” a scary, terrifying, stranger who lurks in alleys and dark parking lots stalking their next victim, the unwitting stranger.
Statistics show that most sexual abuse victims know their abuser and most abusers appear to be just like everybody else. No one would ever suspect the abuser because of what he looks like, his type of job, the amount of money he makes, or having what many consider to be the picture-perfect family.
Sexual abuse is not a sexual act. Rape is a heinous act of aggression for reasons other than sex, often out of jealousy or a control freak need to prove something — the worst kind of power-trip. Women have been on the receiving end of systematic sexual abuse since the rise of patriarchal religion and governments and have often been powerless to get justice due to the religion or regime’s indifference to the victims’ plight. The victims had no rights.
In fact, rape and sexual aggression have long been viewed as the right of the male, “punishing” his wife as he saw fit, just as he could beat, whip, or kill any other piece of property he owned. Or worse, after defeating an enemy on the battlefield, raping the enemy’s women was just a part of the victor’s spoils of war.
In the 21st century, 40 years past the women’s movement, continued outrage over the Catholic Church’s pedophile priests, and the outing of bullying against LGBT youth, one area of awareness that has yet to see the light of day is the widespread sexual abuse within the United States military. The cover-up of the abuse is pervasive, and the victims have been shamed while their rapists received promotions and medals of honor.
The women who join the military do so to contribute their skills to protecting our country and to provide for their families. Our military is supposed to be the defender of the United States’ Constitution, our Bill of Rights, our laws, and our ideals of freedom, justice, and liberty. These women did not join the military to be abused or ridiculed when they reported the abuse. No one ever suspects that the “boogey man” is the man working beside you, or your boss, or a respected member of society, such as a “war hero.”
The new independent film, The Invisible War, has lifted the veil off the United States military’s cover-up of sexual abuse within the U.S. military branches — a true “War on Women.” With a country that is tired of war and suspicious of government officials, The Invisible War exposes the extent of sexual abuse in the United States’ military with video testimonies from the victims juxtaposed with the abusers’ being awarded accolades and promotions — jobs and pay raises all paid for by our tax-dollars.
Having won the 2012 Audience Award at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, this film should win the Academy Award for “Best Documentary.” If you get the chance to see this film, DO IT. See it. Share the clip below on every social networking platform you are on.
The Invisible War opens in select cities today including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and most appropriately, in our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. The film will open around the U.S. throughout the summer. For cities and theater listings, visit The Invisible War’s website.
Raping a woman is not a man’s “right.” Ever.
I’m a stage person, not a video person, so I don’t have all the fancy equipment to do video. I had to use my phone (held by my fabulous daughter!). I’m also still losing my miserable-marriage-weight, so video has been the last thing on my to-do list!
And yet, I’ve been wanting to do a weekly video round-up of news and blog posts but have been too self-conscious. Maybe now, I just won’t care about what I look like on video and do the weekly vids anyway.
So for what it’s worth, here’s the video of me giving the nutshell version of my stance on why I work for Women’s Rights.
A current series on BBC Two is shaking up the bubble of religious misogyny that the Catholic church and fundamental conservatives don’t want you to know about.
Bettany Hughes, anthropologist and author of The Hemlock Cup: Socrates, Athens and the Search for the Good Life and Helen of Troy: The Story Behind the Most Beautiful Woman in the World, has appeared in several programs for the BBC and PBS highlighting ancient history and women’s place in it: Helen of Troy, The Minotaur’s Island, and When the Moors Ruled in Europe.
Hughes’ latest foray into the world of highlighting women’s contributions to world history is the BBC Two series “Divine Women.” She brings to light information about women’s involvement in religion, not only as supreme mother goddesses and priestesses to the masses, but goddesses and women as true forces to be reckoned with (think Kali), when women were revered for their ability to both create and defend themselves and their loved ones as they saw fit — essentially, these females were in complete control of their bodies and their own desires, a great reminder for women today!
Women’s independent nature has repeatedly been attacked for centuries in the form of witch trials and anti-suffrage movements. The inherent fear and jealousy that many men have toward women was first cultivated by the patriarchal, imperial regimes of antiquity in the original #waronwomen that we are fighting to this day.
Hughes’ soft-spoken, well-educated British delivery lessens the blow of shockingly empowering information, that heretofore, only we Pagans and heathens seem to have known. Elevating women to the status of not only equals in religion, government, and society, the evidence shows women were actually viewed as superior to men just as female goddesses overshadowed male gods. This may come as a surprise to religions that forbid women to be priests or governments that refuse to allow women to fight on the front lines of battle — all because we have vaginas, the part of woman men love and fear simultaneously.
In reading a review by a clueless male UK writer, he thought the first episode was slow, meandering, and overall lame. When I confronted him on Twitter, I substantiated my arguments with facts (and passion), and he accused me of being a “bot.” I guess that’s the social media version of when women are “emotional” or “high-strung,” we’re just experiencing the effects of being “hormonal” at “that time of the month.” He again proved that the average man simply cannot tolerate an empowered, strong, kicking-butt-taking-names woman — similar to the insecure men who banded together to erase women from history and religion, relegating women’s only value in society to giving birth to healthy sons and cleaning the house, doing laundry, cooking meals, raising the kids, and laying back for lackluster sex whenever the husband was horny.
Whether you believe in a duality of a higher spirit or not, the time has come to re-write the his-story books that erased women from its narrative. We regurgitate the names of male generals and the battles they waged and call it “history.” We revere the “Founding Fathers” with no regard for the women who were our “Founding Mothers.” This series, “Divine Women,” is a brilliant step in the right direction of getting accurate information about women’s true role in the history and the her-story of the world.
For now, UK audiences can watch it on BBC Two. When it hits the DVD section of Amazon, I am definitely buying it!
Agree or disagree? Leave a comment!