Yes, Virginia, Healthy Sex Does Make for a Healthy Life

(8/5/13)  We are saddened to note the passing of an American icon: Pioneering sex therapist, Virginia Johnson, who died last week at the age of 88.  Along with her husband, William Masters, she was a maverick in creating the science of sex therapy; an achievement that’s particularly noteworthy because it began during a time when even the mere mention of “sex” was considered an inexcusable social faux-pas and subject to extreme censorship.

Starting in the mid-1950s when few sex-positive resources existed, the team of Masters and Johnson embarked on a mission to bring sexual health into the light.  Against the odds and in the face of tremendous scrutiny, they not only succeeded in breaking through the social stigmas of the time, but also in creating effective strategies and treatments for a wide range of sexual dysfunctions.  Their groundbreaking work inspired the countless subsequent studies and therapies that seem so ubiquitous today.  They were also among the first to scientifically conclude that having a healthy sex life has a direct impact on improving health overall.

It’s hard to say precisely where their initial clinical connection regarding overall health was asserted, but their 1964 book, Human Sexual Response made one of the first publicly compelling cases and set the foundation for many later projects that have confirmed and built on their findings.  The book was instrumental in laying out how a healthy sex life could physiologically influence a wide range of quality of life aspects including everything from living longer to reducing the risk of heart disease and certain cancers.  In particular, Virginia Johnson’s observations were credited towards the finding that sex can relieve headaches through stress reduction, pain-inhibiting hormone production and improved circulation.  That may seem like a simple and natural conclusion to draw nowadays, but at the time, there was actually very little empirical evidence available to back up the claim.  Masters and Johnson had to develop it all from scratch–and they had to do it while often contradicting the prevailing (albeit goofy) notions and misinformation of the age.

Yes, we’re saddened by her passing, but happy to praise her life, her work and her long term commitment to improving the lives of countless people.  Please join us in celebrating a true hero:  Virginia Johnson.  Rest in peace.

(Incidentally, the next time you get, “Not tonight dear, I have a headache,” you can now confidently smile and playfully reply, “Well, according to Virginia Johnson,  sex cures headaches, soooo….”  It may not immediately improve your partner’s mood, but it’s sure to earn you a few snuggle points and perhaps make them think twice before offering that excuse next time.)

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