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Sex: How It Works

Medically reviewed by Mary Rani Cadiz, MD · Obstetrics and Gynecology


Written by Hazel Caingcoy · Updated Jul 05, 2022

Sex: How It Works

Sex: how it works? Each individual has a unique set of experiences in sexual response. Our sexual responses are greatly influenced by thoughts, fantasies, and real-life experiences. How we respond to sex also depends on the state of our physical and mental health. There is no such thing as a typical sexual response, so it is really important to understand yourself and your body well so that you can be as aware and comfortable as possible during this process.

Sex: How it works?

An individual who becomes sexually aroused and participates in sexually stimulating activities goes through a series of physical and emotional changes.

Regardless of gender, a person usually goes through 4 stages during a sexual response cycle. Sex: How it works? There are 4 stages:

  • Arousal
  • Plateau
  • Orgasm
  • Resolution

Women and men are both capable of experiencing these phases, but the timing may vary. A few of these stages may be missing or out of order during some sexual encounters.

Sex: How It Works in Males

Stage One: Arousal

A number of factors can trigger arousal, including thoughts, images, touch, and odors. Male arousal can manifest in the following ways.

  • Muscle tension
  • Flushed skin
  • Hardened or erect nipples
  • Heavy breathing
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Elevated blood pressure 
  • As blood flow increases, the penis becomes erect and the testicles become larger.

Stage Two: Plateau

Essentially, plateau is a more intense version of excitement or arousal. Sex: how it works in males? The plateau phase can show as:

  • Blood flow increases, which drives the testes  and penis to grow and harden
  • Heart rate increases
  • Increased muscle tension
  • Feet, hands, and face moving or contracting involuntarily 

Stage Three: Orgasm & Ejaculation

An orgasm is also sometimes referred to as the climax or peak.  Depending on the sexual encounter and the individual, an orgasm can last from seconds to minutes. Others may experience longer orgasms.

Semen is expelled from the body during ejaculation through the urethra. Rhythmic contractions can be felt near the anus, in the pelvic area, and at the head of the penis. During those contractions, semen is propelled through the urethra and out of the penis. 

Stage Four: Resolution

As the body returns to an unexcited state, resolution occurs. The erection gradually subsides as blood drains from the penis. After a couple of minutes, muscles relax and skin returns to normal color.

Refractory Period

Sex: how it works in males? They usually go through a refractory period. During this phase, the body recalibrates. Erections or subsequent orgasms are unlikely to return. The sensation of sexual stimulation may be too sensitive or even painful. Refractory periods can greatly differ from one person to another.

Sex: How It Works in Females

Stage One: Arousal

Blood vessels in a woman’s genitals dilate as she becomes aroused. Blood flows faster in the vaginal walls, causing fluid to pass through. Vaginal lubrication comes from this source, making the vagina feel moist or wet.

This increased blood supply causes the external genitalia to swell. Parts of the external genitalia include vaginal opening, inner and outer labia, and the clitoris.

The pulse quickens, and the blood pressure increases. It is common for women to look red or feel “flushed”, especially on their chests and necks during arousal. The dilation of the blood vessels causes this.

Stage Two: Plateau

The lower two-thirds of the vagina become swollen and firm as the blood flow reaches a limit, and it begins to contract as the woman experiences an orgasm. This is known as introitus or orgasmic platform. 

As a result of women’s breasts becoming larger, blood flow to the areola increases, making nipples appear less erect.

During orgasm, the clitoris pulls back towards the pubic bone. It would seem as if the clitoris has disappeared. This phase requires continual stimulation to build enough sexual arousal for orgasm.

Stage Three: Orgasm

An orgasm is characterized by the release of sexual tension after a period of build-up, which is accompanied by contractions of the genital muscles, including the introitus (0.8 seconds apart).

Orgasms in women do not result in the same refractory period as they do for men.  It is possible to have another orgasm if a woman is stimulated again.

Sex: how it works in women? They don’t always experience an orgasm whenever they have sex. Foreplay portrays a significant role in triggering an orgasm for most women. Foreplay may include stimulating the clitoris or stroking the breast and other erogenous zones.

Stage Four: Resolution

During resolution, a woman’s body gradually returns to normal. Swelling in the genital area reduces, breathing slows down and the heart rate becomes normal. 

Conclusion

The sexual response cycle is a theoretical model that describes the physiological changes that take place in the body during sexual arousal. It includes four phases: excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution. This cycle can differ for males and females, but it usually lasts about 30 minutes on average.

Learn more about Sexual Wellness here

Disclaimer

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Mary Rani Cadiz, MD

Obstetrics and Gynecology


Written by Hazel Caingcoy · Updated Jul 05, 2022

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