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Virginia Johnson, Sex Researcher, Dies

The sex therapist revolutionized the treatment of sexual dysfunction and helped legitimize the study of copulation and masturbation physiology.

By | July 29, 2013

WIKIMEDIA, SINABEET Virginia Johnson, a sex researcher who was among the first scientists—along with her frequent collaborator William Masters—to seriously study sex on a physiological level in the laboratory, died on Wednesday (July 24). Johnson, who coauthored several books on sex and sexuality with Masters and others, was 88 years old. Her son, Scott Johnson, confirmed her passing to The New York Times, but gave no cause of death.

Johnson and Masters, names that would become synonymous with the study and treatment of sexual dysfunction, began working together in 1957, when Johnson answered an ad for an assistant placed by Masters, then a gynecologist at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The pair would collaborate on research, publishing several papers and books together, over the next 3 decades.

The duo broke scientific ground by recording physiological data, such as brain activity, heart rate, and metabolic measurements, from people in the act of copulation or masturbation. They also used an artificial phallus, fitted with a miniature camera, to record, for the first time, the changes that occur in the vagina during arousal.

Johnson is survived by her son, Scott, a daughter, Lisa Young, and two grandchildren. Masters died in 2001.

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