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Controversy Nothing New For Pioneers In Sex Research With PM-AIDS-Masters-Johnson, Bjt

March 8, 1988 GMT

ST. LOUIS (AP) _ Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson have created a stir in the medical community with their latest book, but that’s nothing new after more than 30 years of pioneering research into human sexuality.

Criticism of the couple’s new book, ″Crisis: Heterosexual Behavior in the Age of AIDS,″ focused Monday on its claim that the epidemic is ″running rampant in the heterosexual community.″

The authors acknowledged using a relatively small and unscientifically chosen sample of sexually active heterosexuals, but said they had enough information to sound an alarm about a group that may not realize how much it is at risk.


Their first landmark book, ″Human Sexual Responses,″ is said to have radically changed the way sex is viewed.

Research for that book began in 1957 with an unprecedented seven-year study of sexual response, research that included the observation of volunteers and prostitutes engaged in intercourse or masturbation.

Many credit their research with helping spur the so-called sexual revolution and opening up human sexuality as a topic for mainstream newspapers and magazines.

In 1970, Masters and Johnson’s book ″Human Sexual Inadequacy″ was a best seller. It carried the authors’ assertion that 79 percent of their female patients treated for inability to reach a climax had responded successfully to therapy originated by Masters and Johnson.

The book brought great attention to the Masters and Johnson Institute of St. Louis, a non-profit clinic where couples receive therapy for sexual dysfunction.

In the early 1980s, two pyschologists from Berkeley, Calif., Bernie Zilbergeld and Michael Evans, challenged the Masters and Johnson claims of treatment success rates of nearly 80 percent. The critics said the couple had failed to disclose the criteria used for evaluating success.

Other therapists said they were unable to duplicate the Masters and Johnson success record even when using the couple’s techniques.

Evans and Zilbergeld made their first assault in Psychology Today in August 1980, accusing Masters and Johnson of ″research so flawed by methodological errors and slipshod reporting that it fails to meet customary standards - even their own - for evaluation research.″

Zilbergeld claimed that in 1982, he and Evans met Masters at a professional conference and that Masters spelled out his success criteria for treatment of sexual dysfunction in women: The woman should reach climax at least once during the two-week intensive therapy period and at least once again during a five-year follow-up period.

Masters has since denied making any such statement. He also has lashed out at critics and defended his research.

″In a field plagued by real and troubling problems which deserve the best effort of the best minds, it is indeed unfortunate that we must devote any energy to absurd allegations,″ Masters said, as he defended his research before a scientific forum in Washington, D.C., a few years ago.

Masters graduated from the University of Rochester Medical School and did his residency in 1943 at Maternity Hospital in St. Louis. He then joined the faculty of the Washington University Medical School in St. Louis.

Masters met Johnson when the school’s placement office sent her to interview for a job in the obstetrics and gynecology department.

They began working together Jan. 2, 1957, and married Jan. 7, 1971. Both had been married before.

Johnson, who once described herself as ″a perpetual student,″ said she pursued an advanced degree in social anthropology until about age 50, when she gave up.

″Just when I got things going academically, he would start something spectacular and he would suggest that I might be on hand for it.″