Women on Their Backs
Masters of Sex Season 1 Episode 3 recap
Hard not to see, right? Everywhere women are on their backs, waiting for something to happen to them (in one memorable case, orgasm that never arrived) and it’s men who stand there and demand results one way or another. This is true in the case of the quadruplet story, which to me was way underdeveloped – let’s meet the mother who was so unaware of what was going on! What does this mean for her? – as well as in the “Betty is thwarted in her quest for children, which may actually just be her quest for the Pretzel King” endeavour. Even the most benign of men expect women’s bodies to do what they want them to, you know?
Fine. But after three episodes, the show, which I still find ridiculously compelling, is starting to repeat itself. So prostitutes have a prosaic attitude about sex and aren’t so precious? You don’t say. So doctors in the 50s have ideas about “whores” and how they differ from “regular women?” Go on with your bad self. I’m not trying to be cute here, but we GET IT already. The addition of the gay men seemed perhaps a bit heavy handed and, who are we kidding, the kind of thing you can exploit for press – but at least it’s dragging Masters into the actual world he wants to investigate.
Or maybe not. Because he’s still pretty obscure in his thoughts and actions, for that matter. He is still a cipher, as, to a lesser extent, is Virginia. She’s easier to get, of course. Even though she’s liberated in her own life, she’s got to toe the line professionally, pretend to be happy about the ice-cold female doctor coming to usurp some of her position while simultaneously being kind of impressed that the woman is who she is. “Hiding in Plain Sight”, Virginia has things as well as can be expected for a girl of her age and station (again, cue the Mad Men comparisons) but she’s still way out on a limb and far from where she wants to be. Did she engineer herself here or is it only a stroke of luck that has made her so interested in Dr. Masters and his endeavours?
Then there’s the man himself. We’re given to understand that he’s full of ego, but it comes out at the strangest times. I feel like the time he spends alone with “normal” gynecological patients is to show us how tender he actually can be. When he’s talking to the hapless young wife of the week (Hey, Mae Whitman!) he’s instructive, kind – even lovely. So it’s not like he’s a dick by design. Or at least, not exclusively. But where Virginia is concerned – the woman who denied him sexually – he’s a power-tripping superior douche. So to with the prostitutes – he can’t get over the idea of what’s normal and what’s deviant long enough to appreciate them or their experiences as typical for human bodies. He’s a jerk, and he seems to want to be.
My biggest surprise in the show is that I don’t hate Masters’ insipid wife (which, I suppose, means that she’s not so insipid). I’m sure the show designed her this way, to only look like spun sugar on the outside – and it always helps when you can watch a character smoke bitterly – but I find myself so empathetic to her plight, because she’s so in the dark. She doesn’t know what everyone else knows, and in addition to the futility of the fertility treatments (sorry, I had to) there’s the humiliation of everyone watching you.
So she’s pregnant. So knowing what we know now – knowing what Masters, allegedly, knows – whose do we think it is? Awful abusive Teddy trying to get back at Bill? With his own swimmers or some other random sample? And given that there weren’t really paternity tests back them, how much will it actually matter? If a tree falls in the forest with nobody to hear it, is it still a f*ck you?