Sexes: Masters & Johnson on Homosexuality

An exclusive preview of the famed sex researchers' newest study

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    > Committed homosexuals (those who have lived together at least one year) have a more relaxed understanding of their partners' sexual needs than most heterosexuals, married and unmarried, presumably because it is easier to understand one's own sex than the opposite sex.

    > Homosexuals and heterosexuals they studied-all of them preselected for "sexual efficiency"-have about the same low rate of failure to reach orgasm: 3%.

    > "Ambisexuals." M & J's term for their admittedly small sampling of twelve bisexuals who are equally attracted to both sexes, have few sex fantasies and rarely fantasize about real people.

    > In lesbian lovemaking. which many sex researchers believe can teach heterosexual males a thing or two about how to approach women, committed couples devote an "extraordinary" amount of time to sexual play. For example, stimulation of the breasts, usually begun by heterosexual men within 30 seconds of sexual activity, begins much later among lesbians.

    > Prolonged lovemaking without orgasm can cause lower abdominal pain in women, comparable to the familiar testicular pain in men.

    > Heterosexual sex fantasies are common among homosexuals, mirroring the homosexual fantasies occasionally indulged in by many heterosexuals.

    Perhaps the most intriguing finding is not about homosexuals, but about heterosexuals. As Masters and Johnson tell it, heterosexuals are generally bumblers in their lovemaking: they hurry sex, misread signals, and communicate poorly. Men usually assume, wrongly, that lubrication of the vagina means that the woman is ready for intercourse. Many women have no idea how men like to be touched sexually, and most men massage the female genitals in a straightforward gung-ho style that women find harsh. And enjoyment of sex is clouded by the fear of not reaching orgasm. Say Masters and Johnson: "Preoccupation with orgasmic attainment was expressed time and again by heterosexual men and women during interrogation after each testing session."

    A third of all heterosexual women said that their breasts are not a particularly important erogenous zone, yet many considered breast play exciting because men seemed to enjoy it. Unlike lesbians, who knew that touching the breasts can be painful during certain times of the menstrual cycle, heterosexual men almost always touched the breasts in the same way. Even when breast play caused pain, the wives reported the fact to the researchers, but not to their husbands. Say Masters and Johnson: "When the husbands were queried separately, they expressed surprise at their wives' cyclic distress, and the unanimous reaction was 'Why didn't she tell me?' "

    The sex researchers suggest an obvious answer: poor sexual communication between men and women rests on the assumption, shared by both sexes, that men are natural leaders and experts in sex and therefore must be doing the right thing. "The burden of sexual performance is on the man," says Johnson, "the burden of trying to guess when she's interested, what she wants, how she wants it, and so on." Adds Masters: "What we have established in this book is that the male will have to give up his position as sex expert and the one with the greater sexual facility -which he doesn't have.".

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