Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Showtime’s “Masters of Sex” #102, “Race to Space”

How to Get What You Want
by Catherine Giordano

Lizzy Caplan as the alluring Virinia Johnson
On Showtime’s “Masters of Sex” Masters and Johnson are getting what they want in episode #102, titled “Race to Space.”

First, Virginia Johnson is demonstrating the first rule of getting ahead on the job. Make yourself indispensable. William Masters fired her, telling her to stay on until she had hired her replacement. He thought that her sexual affair and messy breakup with Dr. Ethan Haas was the reason he was ordered to shut down his study at the hospital.  (He thought Ethan tattled for revenge, although he appears he is mistaken about that.) 

Virginia made herself indispensable by being the go-between for Dr. Masters with the prostitutes. The doctor is a very determined man and he will not shut down his study. He has moved it into the brothel. But the prostitutes think he is weird, and he is about to lose their cooperation.  Virginia steps in and smoothes things out.  The doctor gets his subjects and Virginia gets to keep her job.  (However, she has to ask for it; the doctor is too proud to just admit that firing her was a mistake.)

Betty, the lead prostitute, is pretty brazen about getting what she wants. She wants a job at the hospital or the deal is off. She gets it, but she is a very bad receptionist.  Next she demands that the doctor undo her tubal litigation. Masters refuses. He is morally offended by the idea of a prostitute having children. Betty is ready to call off the study, but Virginia talks to her. She learns that Betty has met a rich man at church who thinks she is just a pretty girl who works at a hospital. (Now we see why she wanted that job so badly.) He wants to marry her. Betty wants to leave “The Life,” marry this man, and have children. Virginia tells William to do the operation. So Betty is getting everything she wants.

Virginia has a young son and all he wants is more time with Mommy. He wants them to read the comic, “Race to Space” together. But Virginia has to work late. She promises her son that they will read it soon.  Her son gets what he wants, sort of—the babysitter reads it with him. Virginia looks rueful—this is the “you-can’t-have-it-all” moment of the week. She realizes that she can’t get everything she wants—her work and home life will often be in conflict.

Ethan is not getting what he wants. He wants Virginia.  He’s having a lot of encounters with a lot of women, but the sex is unsatisfying. He wants Virginia.

The horn-dog married doctor wants to continue having sex with the pretty young female volunteer. She refuses indignantly. She will have sex with a stranger for science, but not for fun. The doctor is not getting what he wants.

Libby, William's wife, wants to have a child and a loving relationship with her husband that includes sex. She’s not getting it. In the hopes of getting him to want her sexually, she begins to masturbate in front of him. (She assumes from his work with the prostitutes that he likes to watch.)  This foray makes both of them so uncomfortable that William tells her to stop. He “loves her too much” for that. Then they both go to their separate twin beds. Yes, twin beds!  The next morning Libby announces that she wants Ethan to be her fertility doctor. I think she does this, in part, for revenge: If you don’t want me in the bedroom, you can’t have me in the examining room.

And what do Masters and Johnson really want from each other. The idea of having sex together is clearly in their thoughts. Throughout the episode they each have brief fantasies about speaking to each other about it. Sometimes they agree to do it—for science, of course—and sometimes they say no. They can’t seem to stop thinking about it.

Here is what they are not thinking about--Sex will lead to emotional complications. You can’t separate the physical from the emotional. We are seeing the beginnings of the emotional entanglements and it is only episode two. Masters and Johnson want sex to be detached, they want to reduce it to its physiology; they will not get what they want.   

Read the book  written by Masters and Johnson,
"Human Sexual Response
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