“We ARE the Sexual Revolution.”
As the third season of Masters of Sex begins, we arrive at a critical point in the Masters/Johnson journey. Their new book, Human Sexual Response, has just been released, and they’re facing a wave of scrutiny as their work reaches the masses. And it’s not only the turning point from private to public in terms of their work; their private lives at home are shifting as their kids grow up and attempt to figure out the world. These parallels aren’t exactly subtle in nature–especially once their kids start exploring their own sexuality—but they’re still interesting comparisons to delve into for the show.
Early on in the episode, a very telling line pops up during a conversation Bill and Virginia are having about their work: “If it gets sent out to critics, we lose control.” This idea of loss of control is playing out at home as well, and Virginia has to deal with walking in on Henry having sex and finding out that he wants to enlist in the army and seeing him get hit by a car. Here’s a kid who quit his job and now wants to risk his life for his country, and you can see the worry and uncertainty written on George’s and Virginia’s faces. “Maybe you just don’t understand me,” Henry tells Virginia at the breakfast table, and it’s obvious that the kid wants to take the initiative and be his own person. He probably shouldn’t walk into the middle of the street anymore if he wants to do that, but hey, growing pains.
Over on the Bill side of things, Tessa gets drunk and tries to make a move on him, and that leads to him standing there helplessly as Johnny throws his work into the water. And earlier, Bill takes control of the press situation when asked about Virginia’s education, but it creates a heap of conflict between the two researchers. It’s clear that Bill wants to be the one in the driver’s seat–literally, when Tessa tries to make a deal with him about the Sex Talk–whether it be during sex at the beginning with Virginia or at the vacation home or in front of the press. It’s also clear that this is deeply affecting Libby’s mindset about her family, as she expresses to Virginia: “I need my home and family to remain intact.” She’s hurting, she’s taking Serax, and she seems to feel closer to Virginia than she does to her husband.
So, there is an undercurrent of fear running through the premiere, fear about what will happen in the future in all aspects of life. Like the country itself, Masters and Johnson are caught in an uncertain position at the moment, just trying to figure out how to get their message to the world around them. But as much as a loss of control and a sense of fear can govern decisions and states of mind, what’s needed quite often is simply the truth. The fear may not ever dissipate, but what we can learn to do is, well, learn. “Free of fear, but also full of understanding,” Bill Masters tells the press as he discusses their new book. Understanding the society around you may sometimes be difficult, especially when two generations are clashing and perspectives on the world are shifting. However, you can always try, and acceptance may follow.
-I’m afraid I will not be able to cover this season regularly, but I should be able to drop in more often than I did last year.
Photo credit: Showtime, Masters of Sex