Until the latter part of the 20th century, etiquette and public morality in the United States limited the discussion of sexuality. When Alfred Kinsey released his notorious studies on the frequency of then-taboo sexual practices in his subjects, his ideas were viewed by critics as a social revolution. This promotion of sexual deviancy e.g. masturbation, promiscuity, or homosexuality would undermine institutions, such as family and order, which had provided civilization with a solid foundation for millennia. But Pandora’s Box was now open, and this climate of increased openness towards the nature of human sexual responses and the diagnosis of sexual dysfunctions bred a generation of inquiring researchers. Amongst the most prominent was the research team of William Masters and Virginia E. Johnson. And among their most enduring contributions is their methodology of sex therapy developed to treat psychosexual and sexual dysfunctions and disorders.
In the earlier part of the century, there was a conflict occurring between two of the most predominant approaches to treating sexual dysfunctions. Cognitive-behavioral psychologists believe any poor sexual drive or capacity is learned, and that the solution to this is for these habits to be unlearned. By contrast, psychoanalysts viewed sexual dysfunctions to be under the umbrella of psychosexual disorders. That is, dysfunctions are cultivated and originate in the mind of an emotionally unhealthy individual. The problems were often deep-rooted, such as childhood abuse, and thus the best therapy was to discuss these origins and confront them. However, the problem with these approaches to dealing with sexual dysfunctions was that they required long-term commitment to therapy and both had a low success rates. The Master and Johnson method sought to pioneer a new form of therapy that was more rapid, more group-oriented, and enjoyed a higher success rate of overcoming sexual dysfunctions.
The treatment program developed by Master and Johnson was a process that shifted the focus onto both partners in the relationship. Other popular forms of therapy made a habit of burdening one member of the relationship entirely with the inadequacies and sexual deficiencies in the relationship. In this therapy, both partners are provided medical examination first. This is followed by individual therapy sessions with an expert of the same sex. Following this therapy session, the partners then individually are interviewed by an expert of the opposite gender, and finally all four members of the therapy discuss together possible sources and potential treatments for the problem. This whole process would occur three times a week for a total of 18 sessions. The first sex-therapy program of Master and Johnson was established in St. Louis, where they were based, in 1970 that became a model for many more clinics across the country. According to their recorded results, subjects were able to perform sexually without suffering from sexual dysfunction, such as premature ejaculation or impotence, 80% of the time following the therapy. Naturally, this data has multiple limitations: ranging from the lack of official pre-treatment data to its reliance on patient self-reports.
[ad#downcont]In their report Human Sexual Inadequacy, Masters and Johnson reiterated their belief that sexual dysfunctions, such as impotence, were psychological in nature. The Masters and Johnson method of therapy sought to explain and explore the psychosexual development of these disorders without reducing the fault on only one of the partners in the relationship. Forms of therapy in where the blame is allocated to one member, they believed, would be counterproductive. Interrogation and blame during therapy reinforced the burden of blame on the individual which would not serve to improve their psychological outlook on their disorder. Indeed, Masters and Johnson broadened the perspective for sufferers of sexual dysfunctions insofar of allowing them to understand what their disorder meant and how it can be remedied.