Sexual response patterns vary among women (and in the same woman depending on her menstrual cycle). These variations can be attributed to the amount of time spent in each phase. For example, more time spent during arousal in foreplay may result in a greater orgasmic response. The intensity of the response may also be affected by factors such as menstrual cycle and previous childbearing. However, even with these differences, the basic physical response is always the same.

 

resolution

The fourth stage of the sexual response cycle, in which the body returns to the prearoused state.

 

vasocongestion

An increase in the blood concentrated in the male and female genitals, as well as in the female breasts, during sexual activity.

 

Excitement Phase The first phase, excitement, begins with vasocongestion, an increase in the blood concentrated in the genitals and/or breasts. Vasocongestion is the principle component of sexual arousal (Frohlich & Meston, 2000). Many different cir­cumstances can induce excitement, including hearing your partner’s voice, seeing an erotic picture, having a fantasy, or being touched a certain way. Within 30 seconds, vasocongestion causes the vaginal walls to begin lubricating, a process called transuda­tion (trans-SUE-day-shun). If a woman is lying down (which is common during fore­play), the process of lubricating the vaginal walls may take a little longer than if she is standing up. This may help explain why it takes most women longer than men to get ready to have sexual intercourse. During the excitement phase, the walls of the vagina, which usually lie flat together, expand. This has also been called the tenting effect (see Figure 10.3).

The breasts also experience changes during this phase. Nipple erections may occur in one or both breasts, and the areolas enlarge (see Figure 10.4). The breasts enlarge, which may cause an increased definition of the veins in the breasts, especially if a woman has large breasts and is fair skinned.

During sexual arousal in women who have not had children, the labia majora (see Chapter 4, p. 104) thin out and become flattened, and may pull slightly away from the introitus. The labia minora often turn bright pink and begin to increase in size. The in­crease in size of the vaginal lips adds an average of V2 to 1 inch of length to the vaginal canal.

Because of increased blood flow to the genitals, women who have had children have a more rapid increase in vasocongestion and enlargement of both the labia majora and minora, which may become two to three times larger by the end of the excitement

 

myotonia

Involuntary contractions of the muscles.

 

transudation

The lubrication of the vagina during sexual arousal.

 

tenting effect

During sexual arousal in females, the cervix and uterus pull up, and the upper third of the vagina balloons open, making a larger opening in the cervix.

 

introitus

Entrance to the vagina.

 

Image not available due to copyright restrictions

sex flush

A temporary reddish color change that some­times develops during sexual excitement.

phase. Vasocongestion may also cause the clitoris to become erect, depending upon the type and intensity of stimulation. Generally, the more direct the stimulation, the more erect the clitoris will become. It is possible that serotonin, a neurotransmitter, partici­pates in producing sexual arousal as well (Frohlich & Meston, 2000). (We discussed serotonin in Chapter 4.)

The excitement phase can last anywhere from a few minutes to hours. Toward the end of the excitement phase, a woman may experience a sex flush, which resembles a rash. This usually begins on the chest and, during the plateau stage, spreads from the breasts to the neck and face, shoulders, arms, abdomen, thighs, buttocks, and back. Women report varied sensations during the excitement phase, which are often felt all over the body, rather than being concentrated in one area.

Plateau Phase Breast size continues to increase during the plateau phase, and the nipples may remain erect. The clitoris retracts behind the clitoral hood anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes before orgasm, and, just prior to orgasm, the clitoris may not be visible at all. Masters and Johnson claim that it is the clitoral hood rubbing and pulling over the clitoris that is responsible for the orgasm during sexual intercourse.

Подпись:During sexual arousal in women who have not had children, the labia majora are difficult to detect, due to the flattened-out appearance. The labia minora, on the other hand, often turn a brilliant red. In women who have had children, the labia majora become very engorged with blood and turn a darker red, almost burgundy. At this point, if sexual stimulation were to stop, the swelling of the clitoris and labia, which can continue for anywhere from a few minutes to hours, can be very uncomfortable. Orgasm helps to relieve this pressure, whether through masturbation or sexual activ­ity with another person. Overall, the plateau stage may last anywhere from 30 seconds to 3 minutes.

Orgasm Phase At the end of the plateau phase, vasocongestion in the pelvis cre – orgasmic platform ates an orgasmic platform in the lower third of the vagina, labia minora (and labia ma-

The thickening of the walls of the outer third jora in women who have had children), and the uterus (see Figure 10.3). When this

of the vagina.

pressure reaches a certain point, a reflex in the surrounding muscles is set on, causing vigorous contractions. These contractions expel the blood that was trapped in the sur­rounding tissues and, in doing so, cause pleasurable orgasmic sensations. Myotonia of the uterine muscles is primarily responsible for these contractions; without these muscles, the orgasmic response would be significantly reduced.

Muscular contractions occur about every 0.8 seconds during orgasm. In total, there are about 8 to 15 contractions, and the first 5 or 6 are felt most strongly. In women, con­tractions last longer than in men, possibly because vasocongestion occurs in the entire pelvic region in women and is very localized in men (mainly in the penis and testicles). Because of this, women need more muscle contractions to remove the built-up blood supply. In Chapter 2, we discussed Freud’s two types of orgasms, the clitoral and the vagi­nal. Today we know that all orgasms in women are thought to be the result of direct or indirect clitoral stimulation, even though orgasms might feel different at different times.

During orgasm, there is a release of vasocongestion and muscle tension. The body may shudder, jerk uncontrollably, or spasm. In addition, orgasms may involve facial gri­macing, groans, spasms in the hands and feet, contractions of the gluteal and abdominal muscles, and contractions of the orgasmic platform. Peaks in blood pressure and respira­tion patterns have been found during both male and female orgasms.

The Sexual Response Cycle in WomenQuestion: Why would a person fake orgasm?

Many women have faked orgasms at some point in their lives. Some women who never have orgasms rely on faking them. It could be that either the woman or her partner is unaware of what would help her to reach orgasm, and so faking becomes habitual. Other women claim that they fake orgasm in order to end a sexual encounter or to make their partners feel good. Men are also able to fake orgasm—if a man is losing his erection during sexual intercourse, he may fake orgasm in order to avoid a confrontation with his partner. In all of these instances a man or woman is giving false information to his or her partner; and, even though they are probably doing it under the guise of good intentions, open, honest communication about sexual needs and feelings is a far better strategy.

Resolution Phase During the last phase of the sexual response cycle, resolution, the body returns to preexcitement conditions. The extra blood leaves the genitals, erec­tions disappear, muscles relax, and heart and breathing rates return to normal.

Подпись:Подпись:Подпись:Подпись:Подпись:Подпись:During resolution, women are able to be restimulated to orgasm (and some women can experience multiple orgasms). Kinsey reported that 14% of women regularly expe­rienced multiple orgasms, and although Masters and Johnson believed all women were capable of such orgasms, the majority of women they studied did not experience them. If they did, multiple orgasms were more likely to occur from manual stimulation of the clitoris, rather than from penile thrusting during sexual intercourse. There has also been some research into the female G-spot that indicates that some women may have an area inside the vagina that, when stimulated, causes intense orgasms and possibly female ejac­ulation of fluid (see Chapter 4).

After orgasm, the skin is often sweaty, and the sex flush slowly disappears. The breasts begin to decrease in size, usually within 5 to 10 minutes. Many women appear to have nipple erections after an orgasm because the breast as a whole quickly decreases in size while the areola are still engorged. The clitoris returns to its original size but remains extremely sensitive for several minutes. Many women do not like the clitoris to be touched during this time due to the increased sensitivity.

Earlier we mentioned that a woman’s menstrual cycle may influence her sexual re­sponsiveness. Research has found that sexual excitement occurs more frequently during the last 14 days of a woman’s menstrual cycle (Sherfey, 1972). During this time, more lu­brication is produced during the excitement phase, which may be due to the increased vasocongestion. As we discussed in Chapter 4, orgasms can be very helpful in reducing cramps during menstruation, presumably because they help to relieve pelvic congestion and vasocongestion.