The sexual response cycle refers to the physical and emotional changes an individual may go through when experiencing sexual stimulation, with a partner or when masturbating.
In simple terms, the sexual response cycle defines your body’s response starting from the shivers down the spine caused by a mild touch to the final orgasm, and then coming back to normal.
The sexual response cycle is typically divided into 4 phases. These are – Desire or Libido, Arousal or Excitement, Orgasm, and Resolution. Even though these phases are commonly coined as individual terms, they are a part of one cycle itself. Biologically, vulva and penis owners both go through these 4 stages, while their timing may differ. Stage I- The Exciting beginning of the pleasure ride
Remember the first kiss you had with your crush? Or the first time you had a wet dream about a celebrity crush? 😉😉. Can you recall how you felt after that? Is the answer breathless, pounding heart, or flushed skin? Well, you my friend, what you felt at that time was arousal. Excitement or arousal is the very first phase of the cycle. It means that the individual is aroused sexually and has hopped onto the pleasure ride. The arousal can take place through thoughts, fantasy, kissing, touching, or masturbation. Following changes are common in everyone
- Increase in muscle tension
- Hardening and erection of nipples
- Heart rate and breathing increases
- Flushed skin
Some of the changes may differ, however. In vulva owners, the vagina secretes a lubricating liquid, blood flow increases towards the groin area, breasts become fuller as well as vaginal walls begin to swell. The clitoris and labia minora (inner lips) swell as well. In penis owners, penis erects, testicles begin to swell, scrotum or testicle pouch tightens, and lubrication begins. Stage II- The Ride Reaches the Plateau Sex is not quite the same as they show in Bollywood movies, since they cut to the next scene and show flowers kissing🙄.In reality, the changes the body experiences in stage one start to intensify (you may recall the first time you explored masturbation.) This is the second stage of the cycle that we call Plateau.
Since the body's response to touch intensifies, both penis and vulva owners experience changes. Continued swelling of the vaginal wall from increased blood flow, and the vaginal walls may turn a dark purple!
The clitoris becomes highly sensitive, it may even be painful to touch. It retracts under the clitoral hood to avoid direct stimulation from the penis. Among the penis owners, testicles continue to tighten.
Because of the above-mentioned activities, breathing, heart rate, and blood increase resultantly. Muscle spasms in the feet, face, and hands are a common occurrence as well! All the changes slowly build up to an orgasm, which is most of the time the next phase of this cycle. Stage III- The High on the Ride/ Time to Reach the Climax Orgasm, the third phase of the cycle itself is the climax of the cycle. Thanks to all the physical work, blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing increase further, and are at their highest rates. Oxygen intake is faster than before. Involuntary muscle contractions are observed. All the changes are accompanied by the sudden, forceful release of sexual tension.
Vulva owners can feel the muscles of the vagina contract, as well as the uterus undergoing rhythmic contractions. Penis owners feel rhythmic contractions of the muscles at the base of the penis, which results in the ejaculation of semen. The sudden release can also be called a "sex flush" which might appear all over the body. Orgasm is relatively shorter than the rest of the phases and generally lasts for about a few seconds. It may not be the end goal of sexual stimulation, but it sure feels great to reach the top of the ride. Stage IV- Time to Roll Down The fourth and the last phase of the cycle marks the body returning to a normal state after an indulging roller-coaster pleasure ride. This stage accompanies a sense of intimacy, feelings of well-being, and also exhaustion/ fatigue from physical participation. Swelling and erection subside and the body begins to return to normal functioning. Many vulva owners may be able to return to the orgasm stage quickly and hence can experience multiple orgasms. Penis owners, on the other hand, go through a “refractory period’’ a particular duration that they have to endure before they can orgasm again. The duration varies from individual to individual, and with aging, it tends to increase.
Not every pleasure ride may go as expected. Sometimes people climax abruptly or don’t achieve as strong orgasms as they expected. Hence during this stage, partners need to indulge in aftercare. It creates a feeling of closeness and intimacy. It helps people feel that whatever moment they shared with the other person was special in some way. Contrary to the popular belief or what we see in movies, aftercare is important even while hooking up. All you need to do is communicate and decide what suits you, folks, the best.
Gentle Reminder- The sequence of these phases may not be concrete. They may switch up or any of them can be absent as well. At times the motivation to engage in sexual activity may be craving intimacy and not libido, and so on, understanding these differences may help you better understand your partner’s needs.