Masters of Sex tells the Story of the research team consisting of William Masters and Virginia Johnson researching sexuality in the 1950s. The persons really existed as well as their study, so I wonder how close the events of the show match the events of real life.

Especially the fact that the show has a big drama component with major developments between all the main characters makes me wonder if they simply took the back story of the study and beefed it up with some fictional personal background.

Some questions that come to mind:

  • Did the creators of the show make any statement regarding how close they are sticking to the real life events?
  • Is there even enough known about the personal life of Masters and Johnson to tell the story in such detail?
  • What major differences are there between the show and reality?
  • 1
    I have not seen the movie but have heard the following about Masters & Johnson. Masters wanted a pretty face for the team so hired Johnson. She had no scientific qualifications. He ended up having sex with her one summer while his wife was away. He left his wife and married Johnson. They later got divorced. He had sex with a variety of partners and encouraged his staff to do so as well. His choices included male partners, and he later came to the conclusion that homosexuality was an illness that he could 'cure'. ..so what types of 'drama' are you referring to? Aug 4, 2014 at 4:43
  • It's a TV show actually, although I remember seeing a movie about the same topic once...
    – magnattic
    Aug 4, 2014 at 4:45
  • "It's a TV show actually.." My bad. I don't actually own a TV and get all my movies and TV shows on DVD (haven't got enough PC bandwidth to torrent them - but do have a Blu-Ray in the PC). Aug 4, 2014 at 4:50
  • 3
    The TV show is based on a book amazon.com/Masters-Sex-William-Virginia-Johnson/dp/0465079997, and the blurb for the book along with some of the reviews make it clear there was access to notes and journals, and that's it's pretty accurate. Sep 2, 2014 at 18:03

1 Answer 1


The show is fairly close to real life - especially in the large strokes of the series plots. There were obviously creative departures both to add to storytelling but also to protect the identities of some real-life characters. There are several articles that detail fact and fiction - here are three that I thought did a good job:

  1. The article here does a pretty good job of laying out fact versus fiction following season 1. Among the fictions cited in the article, Barton Scully, Washington University Provost in the show, a fictional character, was gay - the real provost of Wash U. at the time was not gay, but there was someone from the University that was gay which may have influenced the character.

Masters and Johnson did both participate in the early sex studies. Masters did have low sperm count but was able to conceive with his first wife. Prostitutes were involved in the early studies and Masters and Johnson did eventually get married.

  1. This season three fact vs. fiction article notes that Masters and Johnson did NOT treat a gorilla at the St. Louis Zoo. They also did not have babies after they started their work each had 2 older children - this article details the decision to add babies to protect the real-life characters that the show featured who are still alive.

The real life duo did conduct a scent study to augment their practice's income.

  1. This Bustle article cites that Virginia Johnson did have sex with Dr. William Masters on several occasions inside study, but that she felt she had to to keep her job and it wasn't romantic as depicted in the show. Their marriage was mostly for business reasons and their divorce essentially ended with their practice.

This infographic summarizes some of these facts and fictions: enter image description here

  • Publicly asserting that one is not a feminist would seem to be oxymoronic.
    – Strawberry
    Jan 8, 2018 at 22:09

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