Sexual Response

Hi Readers! 

In this week’s article, I would like to explore the four-stage model of physiological responses to sexual stimulation by Masters and Johnson. The four stages are:

  1. Excitement phase, 
  2. Plateau phase, 
  3. Orgasmic phase
  4. Resolution phase

Excitement phase

The excitement phase is also known as the arousal or initial excitement phase. This is the first stage of the human sexual response cycle. This occurs as a result of physical and/or mental stimulus (kissing, touching, viewing or watching erotic videos and photos). In this phase, the body prepares for sexual intercourse. 

Every individual, every couple, has a different variation regarding preferences for the length of foreplay and the methods used to stimulate themselves or their partners. Physical and emotional interaction and stimulation of the erogenous zones during this phase usually establishes an initial arousal. 

What happens to the body? 

As erectile tissues in the pelvis, vulva and clitoris swells with blood, and nerves in the area become more sensitive to stimulation and pressure. 

The penis becomes partially or fully erect, often after only a few seconds of erotic stimulation. Both testicles become drawn upward toward the perineum and the scrotum can tense and thicken during the erection process. 

Plateau Phase

The plateau phase is the phase of sexual excitement prior to orgasm. This phase is characterised by increased circulation, an elevated heart rate, increased sexual pleasure with increased stimulation and further the muscle tension. Your respiration will continue at an elevated level. In some cases, if the time in the plateau phase is prolonged without progression to the orgasmic phase, it may result in frustration. 

What happens to the body?

The response of the excitement will intensify as the vagina becomes more sensitive and the glands of the clitoris retracts under the hood.

The testicles are drawn further into the scrotal sac and pre-seminal fluid from Cowper’s glands may be secreted by the penis. 

Orgasm Phase

The orgasm phase is the conclusion of the plateau phase of the sexual response cycle. This phase is the shortest of the 4, it usually only last a few seconds. During this phase, the muscles in the lower pelvis surrounding the anus and the sexual organs contract. Individuals with a uterus and vagina will also experience contractions in these areas. Orgasms are also associated with other involuntary actions, including vocalisations and muscular spasms in other areas of the body and some individuals get a euphoric sensation. The heart rate increases even further.  

What happens to the body?

With enough stimulation of or around the clitoris and for some, pressure on the cervix or other sensitive areas, a person with female genitalia may build up to a peak or orgasm. Contractions may be felt in the vagina, uterus and rectum. Some experience orgasm as a total-body contraction and release. 

In individuals with male genitalia, ejaculation/orgasm has 2 stages of autonomic response; in the first, the vas deferens, seminal vesicles and prostate trigger the urethral bulb to expand with seminal fluid, with internal sphincter contraction closing the bladder neck to prevent urine leakage. In the the second, the muscles surrounding the base of the penis contract, propelling semen externally. 

Resolution Phase

The Resolution phase occurs after orgasm and allows the muscles to relax, blood pressure to drop and the body to slow down from its excited state to the normal resting state of the individual. It can last from a few minutes to a half-hour or longer. This phase is usually longer for individuals with female genitalia than it is for individuals with male genitalia. The refractory period, which is part of the resolution phase, is the time frame in which an individual with male genitalia is unable to orgasm again, though individuals with female genitalia can also experience a refractory period. 

What happens to the body?

At this stage, the muscles relax and the clitoris, vagina and uterus return to their resting position. Blood pressure drops and respiration returns to the pre-arousal state. The erectile tissues return to normal. 

It is at this stage that the 2 sexes differ. Masters & Johnson explain and note that there is a greater refractory period in individuals with male genitalia, such that they are incapable of achieving an immediately successive orgasm. Individuals with female genitalia typically have a shorter refractory period, being capable of successive orgasms in a short period of time. 

Hope this article has expanded your knowledge on the different phases the body goes through during the sexual response. Stay tuned for next week’s article!!!!

Be kind to one another!

Julia, Sexologist

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