But the legacy of the real Virginia Johnson, who died in July at age 88, is considerably more complicated, say those who knew the country singer-turned- sex researcher and her groundbreaking work.
“What was remarkable was that Ginny made tremendous use of her opportunity — she came in as a secretary, and she created opportunity.” Johnson was hired as Masters’ assistant.
“This was a woman who was twice-divorced, 32 years old, looking to go back to school,” says Thomas Maier, author of “Masters of Sex,” the book on which the show is based.
According to Tom’s book, physicians slut-shamed her, pointing to sexy pictures from their studies and saying things like, ‘Oh, isn’t that Virginia in those photos? ’ ” So long-lasting was Johnson’s feeling of bitterness about her treatment, says Stiritz, that she ultimately declined to attend a 2012 ceremony, organized by Stiritz and her colleagues, at which Johnson was to be given an award.
“She told me, ‘I just want to put this whole thing behind me.
“I just wish we could find some way to honor her and her life’s work,” she says.
“I told her what a difference it made to everyone who used the knowledge that she and Masters gave us, and how appreciative we all were.
Despite Masters’ commitment to treating her as a partner, Johnson was viewed condescendingly by others at Washington University, the site of the pair’s lab before they founded their own St.
Louis facility in 1964, which would eventually be titled the Masters and Johnson Institute.
“Women often think that sex and love are the same thing,” Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) tells Dr.
William Masters (Michael Sheen) in the pilot episode of “Masters of Sex” on Showtime.
She really was not interested in hearing me talk about it.