Sexual Response and Arousal

Updated: DECEMBER 24, 2018

Human sexual response and arousal is the body's response to sexual stimulation. This response takes place over a four-phase cycle. The phases of the cycle are as follows:

  1. Excitement - This phase leads to arousal and starts when the body is stimulated either directly via contact or indirectly via viewing something arousing like pornography. This phase can last hours if the stimulation is maintained.
  2. Plateau - This is the phase between excitement and orgasm and includes several physical markers like muscle tension as well increased heart rate and circulation. Maintaining this phase for a prolonged period can be uncomfortable and frustrating.
  3. Orgasm - This is the release that comes at the end of the plateau phase and is marked by involuntary muscle contaction.
  4. Resolution - After orgasm this is the phase when the muscles relax, the heart rate slows, and the breathing returns to normal. For many, resolution also involves the refractory period which is a time when they cannot orgasm again.

More About Sexual Response and Arousal

This model of sexual response and arousal was formulated by Masters and Johnson. It has been criticized for its focus on soley physiological factors. Other models exist including one focusing on "


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