LOS ANGELES — In the 1950s couples who wanted better sex lives had few places to turn for help. They could confide in a priest or rabbi and pray for enlightenment or see a psychiatrist and pay for it, only to learn, after months or years, that their mothers were probably to blame.
Then, in 1957, a balding, middle-aged gynecologist named William Masters teamed up with a divorced mother of two named Virginia Johnson in a research collaboration that would permanently illuminate the taboo subject.
Johnson, Masters’ collaborator, lover and later wife, who played a leading role in their crusade to turn sex into a science and legitimate field of therapy, died in St. Louis on Wednesday of natural causes, said her son, Scott Johnson. She was 88.
She and Masters co-wrote two landmark books: “Human Sexual Response” (1964), and “Human Sexual Inadequacy” (1968).
The latter book, which made the cover of Time magazine, “was a product of Virginia’s particular insight,” said Thomas Maier, who wrote the biography “Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson,” published in 2009. “She was the genius who put together their stew of a therapy that was incredibly effective.”