Understanding the Sexual Response Cycle

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Sex is so beautiful that it can stimulate you physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. However, have you ever given a thought to what happens to your body when you are stimulated? In 1966, William H. Masters and Virginia E. Johnson, in their book Human Sexual Response, proposed a four-stage model of physiological response to sexual stimulation, called the human sexual response cycle. The four stages include, in the order of their occurrence, the excitement phase, plateau phase, orgasmic phase and resolution phase, right from the moment an individual is turned on till they are blissfully exhausted.

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Four Phases of Sexual Response Cycle

Phase 1: Excitement

On kissing, remember how the breathing and heart rate goes up and blood pressure jumps too? Also known as the arousal or excitement phase, this stage occurs within 10 to 30 seconds of an individual being physically or mentally stimulated during foreplay, leading to sexual arousal. This is also when the body prepares for sexual intercourse, where the penis becomes slightly erect, whereas vaginal lubrication starts in a woman.

Phase 2: Plateau

The plateau phase is a period prior orgasm, and includes the continuation of the changes that started in the excitement phase, where the penis becomes fully erect and the vaginal tissues swell with blood, making the vaginal lips puffier. Both males and females may experience spasms and muscles tension in the hips, hands, thighs and buttocks during this stage. In addition, the dopamine and epinephrine levels in the brain rise, directing blood flow to the important areas for the sexual act.

Phase 3: Orgasm

Amongst the four phases, the orgasm phase, also called the climax of the sexual response cycle, is the shortest and lasts only for a few seconds. During orgasm, breathing is at its peak and blood pressure and pulse rate keep on rising. There is a rapid increase in a feel good hormone called oxytocin, which boosts the sensation of pleasure. In men, accompanied by contractions, seminal fluid is collected in the urethral bulb and is ejaculated from the penis. When a woman has an orgasm, the first third of her vaginal walls contract rhythmically 5 to 12 times, after every eight-tenths of a second. Female ejaculation may occur, although not always in conjunction with orgasm.

Phase 4: Resolution

Resolution is that phase in the cycle where after orgasm, the blood pressure drops, the muscles relax and the body starts slowing down to a normal state from its excited state. Lasting longer for the woman, the body can take a few minutes or even more than half hour to get back to normal. In a woman, the clitoris and uterus return to their normal positions, whereas in men, penis returns to its normal flaccid state. After this, there is a refractory period, until which it is impossible to orgasm again.

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