Masters of Sex



Titillating period drama shows the sexier side of science.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

 Sex is viewed as normal, positive, and worthy of study. Female empowerment, infidelity, and racial divides are themes. 

Positive role models

Both Masters and Johnson are committed to their research for scientific reasons. Their professional relationship eventually leads to questionable behavior. 


Physical fights occasionally break out among characters; blood, bruises, and stitching up visible. Childhood abuse is a theme. 


The entire show is about sex and sexual response. Occasional explicit sex acts visible. Nudity is frequent (breast, nipples, bottoms). Impotence is a theme.  


Unbleeped swearing includes "f--k" along with colorful sexual slang such as "twat," "hump," and "cum."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Drinking (hard liquor) is frequent and often excessive; often leads to negative behaviors. 

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Masters of Sex examines the life and work of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, a pair of pioneering researchers who studied the physiological aspect of human sexual response in the 1950s and '60s. You'll see plenty of simulated and explicit sex acts and lots of nudity and hear characters frankly discuss dildos, orgasms, and blow jobs (along with some unbleeped swearing). The show also delves into titillating social issues -- including sexism, racism, and the nature of love -- making it about a lot more than sex.

What's the story?

Based on the lives of pioneering sex researchers William Masters (Michael Sheen) and Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan), MASTERS OF SEX explores the famed duo's controversial sex studies. From observing hundreds of people in the throes of ecstasy in a science lab at Washington University in St. Louis to challenging well-established theories about sex, impotence, and other taboo subjects of the time, the duo faces endless professional and personal challenges as they break ground in the field of human sexuality.  

Is it any good?


For viewers who have never heard of the titular William Masters and the groundbreaking work he did with his then-research assistant (and future wife) Virginia Johnson, Masters of Sex will be a bit of a revelation. The lab equipment alone -- including a Plexiglas dildo with a built-in camera dubbed "Ulysses" -- is downright eye-opening. Still, when you get past the sex and nudity, which can hardly be avoided, you soon realize there's also some thought-provoking substance.

British actor Sheen (perhaps best known for his repeat portrayals of former Prime Minister Tony Blair in the film trilogy The Deal, The Queen, and The Special Relationship) pulls off a credible American accent as well as another great character who, in this case, is both respectable and unlikable. Still, the real charmer here is Caplan, who blends unflappable street smarts with a beguiling charisma that makes Johnson the real standout of the duo.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the real-life Masters and Johnson and discuss their work in a historical context. What were the 1950s and '60s like for human sexuality, particularly in how publicly it was discussed in social settings and in the media? Has history proven Masters and Johnson's research to be more or less relevant than it was when they initially published their findings?

  • How does sexism play into the duo's on-screen drama and their working relationship? Do women working in science still face the same challenges they did more than 50 years ago?

  • How accurate is Masters of Sex's portrayal of the real-life research pioneers and their work? Is it important for TV shows, movies, and other media to stay true to the facts when bringing the lives of actual people to life on-screen? What are the downsides of taking creative liberties with the truth?

TV details

Cast:Lizzy Caplan, Michael Sheen, Nicholas D'Agosto
Topics:Science and nature
TV rating:TV-MA

This review of Masters of Sex was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

  • Canadian WWII factory drama has strong, empowered women.
  • Artful drama explores the origins of news as we know it.
  • Ads and anxiety in 1960s office drama for adults.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Parent Written byphuong nguyen October 2, 2013

99% masters of sex is for adult only not for kids

master of sex this show is not for children is too much sex and nudity drug use and foul occassional course language it is TV-MA or Rated R Fortoo much sex and nudity drug use and occassional course language vote for not for kids only for adult only
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Kid, 11 years old November 11, 2013


it was for adults so it should be rated TV-MA.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Written byAnonymous October 14, 2013

21+ Show and it's only for Adults.

This show with the sex is much like Cinemax. SHOwtime must have time to make this show. This show has Female Nudity, *Sex Scenes, *Violence, *Language, Drinking, Drugs, & Smoking. *Sex in Nature is Violent with Language to make people have sex. Adults Only Show 21+ People Please. Simulated Sex is Softcore P*rn. ...and this show rated TV-MA. No Positive of anything on this show.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Star Wars Guide