Last update: 21 September, 2018
One of the most important aspects of most people's lives is sex. Nevertheless, not everyone knows how our body works on a sexual level. For this reason, it is important to know the most important characteristics of the sexual response cycle.
Years ago, the Masters and Johnson research team pioneered the study of human sexual response. Despite the numerous controversies that have arisen over the years, their studies are still of great relevance today. One of their most important discoveries is the sexual response cycle, thanks to which the different phases that the body goes through during the sexual act have been identified.
It is important to know that each person shows their sexual response differently. While some people pant, others make no sound at all. While some move intensely, others are very measured in their movements. In any case, despite the necessary differences, the physiological way the organism reacts to sexual arousal is always the same.
The four phases of the sexual response cycle
The sexual response cycle theory shows that, during intimate intercourse, people go through 4 phases: (a) arousal, (b) maintenance, (c) orgasm and (d) relaxation. These phases always follow each other in the same order, starting with excitement and ending with relaxation. Let's deepen the topic.
The phase of sexual arousal
It presupposes the onset of physiological changes that indicate the organism's first response to sexual stimulation. The stimuli that cause the cycle to start can be both physical and psychological. The main function of this phase is the preparation of the body for coitus.
The physiological changes that are found at the female level are manifold. Vaginal lubrication increases rapidly thanks to the control of the parasympathetic system. At the same time, the upper part of the vagina dilates to facilitate the entry of the male genital organ, as well as an increase in the size of the clitoris and chest due to vasocongestion.
Also in man it is possible to identify different physiological reactions. Due to the joint action of the sympathetic system and vasocongestion, penile erection is possible, accompanied by an increase in the tension of the scrotum and raising of the testicles. In addition, there are regular contractions in the rectum.
There are also physiological reactions common to both sexes. For example, hot flashes, rapid heartbeat, and increased blood pressure.
The maintenance phase
The maintenance phase consists in a conservation of the acquired physiological state and represents the central and most lasting moment of the sexual response. In this phase, the actual sexual activity takes place. There is a significant increase in sexual tension with high levels of muscle contractions and vasocongestion. The function of this phase is to maintain the sexual state until the climax or orgasm arrives.
The physiological changes that occur in women during this phase are: contraction of the vaginal walls, displacement of the clitoris inward, increase in the size of the uterus and a darkening of the labia minora. These changes are called "formation of the orgasmic platform". At the same time, involuntary contractions in the rectum begin to occur, the same ones that occur in the male level in the arousal phase.
In man, however, the penis reaches its maximum level of erection, the testicles are larger and reach their maximum height. Pre-seminal fluid appears in the glans in order to clean the seminal ducts of residues. Contractions in the rectum, which began in the previous phase, persist.
Hot flashes persist in both sexes, and heart rate increases, blood pressure and respiratory rate.
Orgasmic phase or climax
The orgasmic phase or climax consists of a explosive release of highly rewarding neuromuscular tension. It occurs involuntarily and suddenly when the stimulation reaches its maximum intensity. It presupposes the end of the sexual act and, from the psychological point of view, the pleasant experience serves as a reinforcement of the conduct.
In the case of female orgasm, the orgasmic platform contracts at regular intervals with a duration of 0,8 seconds and a frequency of 5-12 times. Contractions of the anal sphincter and other muscle groups are also produced.
In men, however, the contractions of the urethra and pelvic muscles allow the penis ejaculation of seminal fluid. This ejaculation is nervously balanced by the sympathetic system.
In both sexes, the increases initiated in the previous phases continue: heart rate, blood pressure and respiratory rate.
It consists of the progressive loss of sexual tension and the gradual return of the organism to the state prior to the stage of arousal. The return of the phases described above can take place no earlier than 15-30 minutes.
Men can hardly have a new erection, and then another orgasm. The duration of this time interval is variable and ranges from several minutes to hours, and increases with advancing age.
For women, it's not the same. They are capable of experiencing multiple or repeated orgasms in a very short period of time. Another difference compared to men is that while the latter show a similar recurrence in terms of timing and duration of sexual phases, women have a greater variability: while some reach orgasm quickly, others do so slowly and progressively.