The Sexual Response Cycle

The "sexual response cycle" is a phrase used to describe the emotional and physiological processes the body goes through as a person becomes sexually aroused and participates in sexually stimulating activities. The process is an individual one – each person experiences it uniquely, both within each occurrence, and in systemic terms.

The sexual response cycle is typically divided into four phases; excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution. This cycle was first defined and described by sexology researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson in the 1960s, and serves as the best model of sexual response (Female Sexual Response Cycle) insofar as most sexologists are concerned today.

There are, however, several other cycles defined by other sex researchers (Kaplan, Zilbergeld and Ellison, etc.), but this one enjoys the widest support today. These phases occur along a continuum and there is normally no noticeable delineation among the various phases - they are sensed along a timeline that is not always definable.

These stages are not unique to any one form of sexual stimulation, such as penile-vaginal intercourse. The full sexual response cycle can be experienced during masturbation, manual stimulation by one's partner, oral sex, and fantasy.

There are a great many similarities between the responses of men and women, but I am breaking them apart to allow for a better grasp of what each sex goes through during the various stages. It is important to note that there are several factors that can cause one to deviate from the "normal" response cycle.

These included:

Female genital cutting (FGC, also known as female circumcision) whereby the clitoris and perhaps much of the labial tissue is removed. This may affect the ability of a female to reach or achieve orgasm.

Normal hormonal fluctuations in the body (including estrogen for women, and testosterone for both sexes)

The effects of drugs (prescribed and otherwise)

The effects of hormonal birth control

The relative safety and comfort of the individual will also have an impact on the response cycle; the more comfortable you are in the sexual situation, the more likely you are to be able to relax and allow the sensations to progress

Why is it necessary to understand the Sexual Response Cycle?

Understanding the physiological underpinnings of how your body works allows you to better enjoy your sexuality. Knowing how your body works and why it does the things that it does when you're having sex allows you to feel more confident that your body is working like it should, and might help you identify any problems you're having in performance.

You don't have to wonder if something that is happening is "normal" or not.

It is also critical to understand that males and females experience different, though similar patterns during these cycles. Primary differences include the degree of variability involved with female sexual response, and the fact that females can have multiple orgasms in sequence without needing a refractory period, unlike males (in the absence of specific training to overcome that limitation).

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Sexual Response Cycle