What is the sexual response cycle?
The sexual response cycle means the series of physical and emotional changes which occur at the moment an individual becomes sexually aroused and engage in activities that are sexually stimulating examples include sex and masturbation. Having a better understanding of how your body reacts to each phase of the cycle can improve your relationship and help you determine what could lead to sexual dysfunction.
The phases of the sexual response cycle
The sexual response cycle is made up of four phases which are desire, arousal, orgasm, and resolution. These four phases are common to both men and women; however, the time at which they occur differs. Take for instance; it is not possible that both partners during sexual intercourse will reach orgasm at the same time. Beyond this, the intensity of the response and the time spent at each stage vary from person to person. A lot of women will not pass through the sexual phases in this order. There are some cases where some of these stages do not surface during sexual encounters or out of the others. The desire for intimacy can be a motivation for sexual activity in some people. Understanding these differences can help partners to better understand the bodies and responses of each other and improve their sexual experience.
There are many physiological changes that have been found to occur at different stages of sexual activity. Individuals can experience some, all or none of these changes.
Phase 1: Desire
The general features of this phase, which can last from a few minutes to several hours, are as follows:
• There is an increase in muscle tension.
• Heart rate is fast and breathing is accelerated.
• The skin may become red-faced (an irregular shaped spot appears on the chest and back).
• The nipples become erect.
• The rate at which blood flow to the genitals increases, leading to the swelling of the female clitoris and the labia minora (inner lips) and the erection of the man’s penis.
• Lubrication of the vaginal begins.
• The breasts of the woman become fuller, and the vaginal walls begin to become inflamed.
• The testicle of the man swell, his scrotum tightens and starts to secrete a lubricating fluid.
Phase 2: Arousal
The general features of this phase, which go beyond the margin of orgasm, are as follows:
• Changes in Phase 1 are intensified.
• The vagina continues to swell because of increased blood flow and the wall of the vaginal becomes a dark purple.
• The female clitoris becomes very sensitive (can even be painful to touch) and pulls under the clitoral hood to avoid direct stimulation from the penis.
• The testicles of the man are withdrawn up into the scrotum.
• There is a continuous increase in breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure.
• Muscle spasms can begin on the legs, face, and hands.
• Muscle tension rises.
Phase 3: Orgasm
This phase (orgasm) is known as the climax of the sexual response cycle. This is the shortest phase and usually only takes a few seconds. The general features of this phase are as follows:
• Involuntary muscle contraction begins.
• Blood pressure, heartbeats and breathing are at their peak, with a rapid supply of oxygen.
• Muscles in the feet spasm.
• There is an immediate, forceful release of sexual tension.
• There is a contraction of the muscles of the vagina in women. Uterus also goes through rhythmic contractions.
• In men, rhythmic contractions of the muscles at the base of the penis cause sperm ejaculation.
• A “sex flush” may run around the whole body.
Phase 4: Resolution
During this phase, the body gradually returns to its normal functional level, and the inflated and erect parts of the body return to their original size and color. This phase is characterized by a general feeling of well-being and often tiredness. Some women can quickly return to the orgasm phase with additional sexual stimulation and can have more orgasms. Men need recovery time after an orgasm; this is known as the refractory period. At this moment, they cannot reach orgasm again. The duration of the refractory period differs among men and varies with age.