How Historically Accurate is Masters of Sex?

masters of sex logo

Masters of Sex is a Showtime historical drama that tells the story of Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the “pioneers” of sexual research who, throughout the late 1950s through the 1990s, conducted unprecedented research on the human sexual response. Their work is cited as dispelling many long-standing myths about sex, particularly in relation to women. The show stars Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan and is currently set to air its third season in 2015.

Like any show based on real events, many people are curious as to just how historically accurate Masters of Sex is to the real-life people and events it is depicting. Just how accurate is Masters of Sex? Let’s take a look at three key aspects of the show are being created or tweaked for television.

masters of sex

Masters wasn’t really socially awkward

In the show, Johnson is depicted as being the “people person” of the group. This is actually accurate to history–Johnson was typically the person who primarily talked with their patients and clinical subjects, made them comfortable, and asked them the important questions. Masters, on the other hand, is depicted in great contrast as being socially awkward with the people that they interview or study. In reality, however, Masters was described as being “charming,” “funny” and even “delightful.”

Masters and Johnson didn’t display affection or sexual tension publicly

One of the cornerstones of the show is the frequent sexual tension between Masters and Johnson, particularly when they are interviewing patients about their sexual history or visually watching one of their studies. And while the real-life couple certainly had chemistry—they eventually married—they were extremely professional during while they were publically working on the study. Many former patients and colleagues described the pair as “aloof” and even “icy” towards each other while they were in front of patients and subjects.

masters of sex hot tub

The subjects weren’t “Hollywood beautiful”

In the show, just about every subject shown engaging in intercourse is primed for television—fit, beautiful and very “Hollywood.” It almost seems as if the only people Masters and Johnson are interested in studying are those deemed “Hollywood beautiful.” In reality, however, people of all shapes and sizes participated in the study—namely because the pair were interested in the science of sexual human response, and not on the appearance of their subjects. The producers of the show likely want to make sure that viewers find the scenes titillating, and thus avoid anyone who may look too “normal.”