Sexual Response Cycle: What Is It And How Does It Work?

3 min read

Sexual response cycle

Being sexually educated is the absolute need of the hour. And if you have a good sense of sex education, then keep passing it on because it is nothing to be ashamed of, instead, it is an important part of life that should be talked about more often. 

But let’s find out if you truly are educated on the topic with a simple question – are you aware of the sexual response cycle? You don’t have any idea? Well then, you might want to polish your information because this is one of the principal aspects of sex ed. 

But, there is no need to worry because we are here to inform you on the subject and help you out! Here is the human sexual response cycle unravelled! 

What is the sexual response cycle? 

The human sexual response cycle is the pattern of events that tend to occur during sexual stimulation and it consists of 4 phases or stages in its totality. Sexual stimulation occurs when an individual engages in sexually stimulating activities that include masturbation and sexual intercourse. 

Although both men, as well as women, tend to experience these 4 stages, the timing, feeling, result, sexual responses, etc., tend to be different. 

Also, there are a set of common characteristics that both the male as well the female may or may not experience and then comes several distinct characteristics that only that particular sex might or might not experience. 

How does it work? 

The 4 brief stages in which the sexual response cycle takes place are as follows. 

Desire/excitement – Stage 1 

This is the first and the foremost stage wherein the individual experiences an intense and exciting feeling and it can last from a period of minutes to hours. 

Common characteristics: 

  • Increase in muscle tension. 
  • Heart rate fastens. 
  • Flushed or red skin in some areas or the entire body. This is commonly known as the sex flush. 
  • Breathing pace quickens. 

The excitement in females: 

  • Nipples harden and get erect.
  • Swelling of the clitoris and/or vaginal walls as a result of blood flow to the genitals.  
  • Fuller breasts. 
  • Vaginal lubrication begins. 

The excitement in males: 

  • Partial or full erection of the penis as a result of blood flow to the genitals. 
  • Swelling of the testicles. 
  • Scrotum tightens. 
  • Secretion of a lubricating liquid begins.

Plateau/arousal – Stage 2 

This stage appears right after the excitement phase and tends to extend to the verge of getting an orgasm. 

If a lengthy amount of time is spent in this stage without progressing to the orgasmic stage, then it may result in sexual frustration

Common characteristics: 

  • Changes that occurred in the first stage get intensified to a much greater extent. 
  • Heart rate and blood pressure continue to accelerate. 
  • Involuntary vocalisation starts (moaning). 
  • Muscle spasms in facial areas, hands, feet, etc… 
Sexual Response Cycle

Arousal in females: 

  • Vaginal walls turn into a shade of dark purple as it continues to swell due to the blood flow. 
  • The clit tends to become highly sensitive. Sometimes, it may even become so sensitive that it might even get painful if it is touched, which is why during intercourse, it tends to retract under the clitoral hood as a way of avoiding direct stimulation from the penis. 

Arousal in males: 

  • Testicles tighten and rise closer to their body. 
  • Secretion of seminal fluid, or more commonly known as pre-ejaculatory fluid starts. 

Orgasm – Stage 3 

Also referred to as the phase of climax, an orgasm normally lasts for a few seconds or minutes, which is why it tends to be the shortest of all the stages. 

More than a variation in males and females, orgasm tends to vary more among females and is thus a totally different experience for different females; it might be extremely pleasurable for some and painful for others, it might last for mere seconds for some and might last for even an hour for others. 

Sexual Response Cycle

Common characteristics: 

  • Muscle spasm in the feet. 
  • Involuntary muscle contractions tend to take place. 
  • Moaning. 
  • Blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate are at the maximum in this phase. 
  • A sudden and abrupt release of the sexual tension. 
  • Sex flushes usually appear across the whole body and last for a few seconds. 

Orgasm in females: 

  • Contraction of vaginal muscles. 
  • The uterus experiences rhythmic contractions. 
  • Increase in vaginal lubrication. 
  • Overall pleasure. 

Orgasm in males: 

  • Ejaculation of semen occurs because of the rhythmic contractions of the muscles at the base of the penis. And each ejection is associated with constant and continuous pulses of sexual pleasure. 
  • Sensations in the lower back. 

Resolution – Stage 4 

This is the last stage of the sexual response cycle wherein the body of the individual slowly starts to go back into its original state.

Sexual Response Cycle

In the resolution stage, men are unable to orgasm again and need time to recover which is why it is known as the refractory period, but women, on the other hand, can achieve multiple orgasms. However, the way an orgasm varies in women, similarly,  the refractory period, its duration, effect, etc., tend to vary among men as well and it generally lengthens with advancement or progression in their age. 

Common characteristics: 

  • Muscles begin to relax. 
  • Blood pressure drops. 
  • The heart rate starts to slow down into its original pace. 

Resolution of females: 

  • Might be able to orgasm again as long as there is still effective stimulation. 
  • The colour and size of the vaginal walls are restored.

Resolution in males: 

  • The refractory period begins. 
  • The penis decreases from the state of being erected or hard to its original size and form and thus returns to being flaccid. 

The sexual response cycle works uniquely and differently in every person and the principle reason as to why it is a rather vital part of sex education is because getting to know characteristics and effects of the patterns of your sexual response cycle will help you to a great extent by exploring and discovering your likes and dislikes, your comfort zone, etc… 

Also read: Know the Cause Behind Your Clear Semen!

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