MASTERS AND JOHNSON'S new book is in line with their previous contributions in that it attempts an objective, scientific appraisal of human sexual behavior based upon observation of couples in the laboratory. This new account includes studies of homosexual couples, both male and female, and comparisons of homosexuals encounters with those of heterosexuals. It also includes some interesting observations upon those whose preference for one sex rather than the other is undetermined. Some of the couples studied were "committed" - that is, engaged in a long-term relationship. A smaller number were "assigned" - that is, chosen for each other by Masters and Johnson.
The authors' basic assumption is that all human beings are entitled to satisfactory sexual release as their birthright, whether they be heterosexual or homosexual. Although psychiatrists have devoted a great deal of time and energy to helping heterosexual couples with their sexual difficulties, homosexuals suffering from comparable problems have usually been repudiated by clinics and have found scant sympathy or understanding. One major contribution which Masters and Johnson make in this book is to show that, by the use of their approach, homosexuals who are unable to find sexual satisfaction can be helped to do so.
No doubt there are many, even in the field of mental health, who will be shocked by what they consider to be therapy directed toward reinforcing a pathological state of affairs. But those who take a more objective view of homosexuality can only be grateful to Masters and Johnson for initiative programs to improve their sexual functioning. Homosexually is difficult enough to cope with in our society without having the additional disadvantage of sexual dissatisfaction.
Are there any differences in sexual performance and satisfaction between experienced heterosexual and homosexual partners? It will probably come as no surprise that couples of the same sex are at least as adept at satisfying each other's sexual needs as are heterosexual partners. Heterosexual coupling is bedeviled by the specter of male "performance," meaning that a man's pride is liable to be threatened if either he or his partner do not reach orgasm. Therefore, he pays more attention to "getting the job done" than to giving himself and his partner sensual pleasure along the way.
Moreover, according to Masters and Johnson, there is often a lack of communication between heterosexual couples which seldom exists between homosexuals. It is easier to perceive and to sympathize with the physical needs and preferences of one's own sex than to understand those of the opposite sex. In fact, a first reading of this book leaves one with the impression that, if orgasmic release is taken as being the one true goal of love, the most likely couples regularly to achieve it are the committed lesbians.
Masters and Johnsons offer some novel and extremely interesting observations about "ambisexuals." These are people, rather few in number, who not only have had sexual experience with both sexes, which is commonplace, but who also show no preference for one sex rather than the other. Though responding to any sexual opportunity, they have no interest in continuing relationships, being odd, lonely people who seem to put sex in a different category from affection, for which they express little need. Also, the ambisexuals have fewer sexual fantasies than either heterosexuals or homosexuals.
There is a chapter devoted to the topic of fantasies, and many people will be reassured to know that fantasies of being, or of interacting with, the sexual opposite of oneself or one's partner are vey common. Heterosexuals fantasize homosexual encounters, and vice versa, and both wonder what it would be like to be the opposite of what they are. Fantasies involving some sort of sexual compulsion are also commonplace.
Masters and Johnson have successfully treated a few people who wished either to revert to heterosexuality after a period of homosexuality, or else to convert to heterosexuality in spite of minimal experience in that activity. (Only two people requested conversion to homosexuality). Here, selection is all important. Social pressure still impel some toward heterosexuality who, emotionally, are not really inclined in that direction. Masters and Johnson's observations on selection will be found valuable by every professional who is consulted by such people.
Although one may occasionally jib at the rather mechanical approach which these innovators take to sex, and also deplore the jargon which they employ as a substitute for the English language, there is no doubt about the fundamental importance of their work. This is a valuable and original book.