Understanding Sexual Response Cycle

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Jan 30, 2013

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The sexual response cycle implies series of physical and emotional changes that occurs in the body when a person is sexually aroused which includes intercourse as well as masturbation.


Being aware of the sexual response cycle


Being aware of how the body reacts in different phases of arousal can help you determine what your partner may be wanting, thereby heightening the experience and better bonding. It can also help you solve certain sexual problems such as initiation of intercourse early in the arousal period and spending less time in foreplay. You and your partner will benefit by reading the body signs and prolonging pleasure for each other.


Body’s response to sexual arousal


There are four phases of your body’s response to sexual arousal:

  • Excitement
  • Plateau
  • Orgasm
  • Resolution

Sexual arousal in men and women


Both men and women experience this sequence of changes in their body but the duration and occurrence of these changes varies between them. On an average, men rush through these stages while women are slower in achieving orgasm. Speaking of orgasm, it is rare that both the partners experience orgasms simultaneously.

Excitement phase


General changes in both sexes which ranges between a few minutes but can also extend for hours.

  • Increased levels of muscle tension.
  • Increased pulse and blood pressure.
  • Flushed skin which may be accompanied with patches of redness on the chest area and back.
  • Sensitive nipples which may harden or become erect.
  • Increased flow of blood towards the genitals resulting in swelled clitoris and labia in women and erection of penis in men.
  • Vagina starts getting lubricated, swells and muscles around it tighten.
  • Breasts become larger in women.
  • Changes in the scrotum and testes in men, swelling of testes and elevation of scrotum and secretion of a lubricating fluid.


Many men have a wrong notion that a lubricated vagina is a sign that a woman is ready for penetration. Whereas a lubricated vagina in the initial stage of arousal only means a woman’s body is in the process of preparing for eventual sex.

Plateau phase


In this phase, the changes in the body start becoming more intense. It is the phase between excitement and orgasm and on an average men experience this phase for a short duration. If men can somehow prolong this stage, it can help with the problem of premature ejaculation. This stage needs foreplay to be performed on both the partners especially the woman.

  • Sexual tension intensifies.
  • Vagina continues to swell and the opening starts getting narrower, the walls of vagina or labia change their colour from pink to purple due to increased blood flow.
  • A woman’s clitoris gets erect and sensitive.
  • A man’s penis head increases in size and change of colour may also be seen as a purplish colour appears on the head of the penis.
  • Testes and scrotum move closer to the body.
  • Pulse rate, breathing and blood pressure continue to rise.
  • Some experience a “sex-flush” which means increased blood flow on different parts of the body which gives an appearance of redness or a flushed look.
  • Pre-ejaculatory fluid starts secreting from a man’s penis.

Orgasm phase


This phase is the peak of sexual arousal response of the body. Orgasm or climax is shorter in duration which lasts for a few seconds. All the sexual tension which was building up in the previous phases gets released at one go resulting in a forceful sensation called orgasm.

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