Female Sexual Response Cycle
Masters and Johnson, the pioneering researchers into
human sexuality, identified four stages of physiological responses during sexual
stimulation, for both men and women. They named these four stages as:
We will consider the different physical manifestations of
these four phases of sexual stimulation and response, in the human female.
Stage 1: Excitement Phase
Also known as the Arousal Phase, this is the first stage of
the human sexual response cycle. It occurs as the result of any sexual
stimulation, be it physical or mental. This can be erotic touching, kissing,
petting, viewing sexy images, even imagining or fantasizing sexually exciting
situations. During this phase, the body is preparing for sexual intercourse.
For the woman, the Excitement Phase causes the blood vessels
in her genital areas to dilate, resulting in increased blood flow to her
genitals. Her clitoris, vagina, labia majora and labia minora (outer and inner
genital lips) all become engorged and swollen with blood. The enhanced blood
supply to the vaginal walls leads to fluid passing through, to create vaginal
lubrication, making her vagina wet. The top of the vagina expands as it gets
ready for penetration by a penis. Her clitoris becomes erect and swollen, in a
response similar to the male penile erection. The nipples become erect,
especially if stimulated directly.
There is an increase in the rates of breathing, heart beats,
and in the blood pressure. More than 50% of women also display vasocongestion of
the skin, commonly referred to as the “sex flush”.
Stage 2: Plateau Phase
This second phase of the sexual response cycle is the stage
before climax or orgasm. In this phase, there is a further increase in blood
flow, rates of breathing and heart beat. Feelings of sexual pleasure increase
with increased stimulation. The high blood flow causes the outer third of the
vagina to become engorged and firm. The muscle around the vagina tightens,
reducing the diameter of the vaginal opening, creating what Masters and Johnson
refer to as the orgasmic platform. For those who never achieve orgasm, this is
the peak of sexual excitement.
At this stage of sexual arousal and response, the woman’s
breasts may increase in size by up to 25%. The clitoris withdraws slightly,
while the areola and labia increase in size. At this point, the woman needs
continuous stimulation to raise the level of sexual arousal to the point of
Prolonged time in the plateau phase without progressing to
orgasm can result in sexual frustration.
Stage 3: Orgasmic Phase
The normal and expected progression from the Plateau Phase is
to reach the Orgasmic Phase. In orgasm, the sexual tension built up in the
earlier phases is released with intense and powerful feelings of sexual
pleasure. Orgasm in women is accompanied by rapid cycles of contraction and
release in the muscles surrounding the vagina and the anus, as well as
contractions in the uterus. Involuntary sounds expressing pleasure, and muscular
spasms spread throughout the body are commonly experienced by women in orgasm.
Heart rate increases even further and there is a general feeling of intense
pleasure and euphoria.
Unlike men, women do not need a recovery period after orgasm, and they can go on
and have further orgasms if adequately aroused and suitably stimulated. This is
known as female multiple orgasms.
Current thinking holds that female orgasm has a significant
role in human reproduction. It is believed that the muscular vaginal spasms help
move the sperm up the vagina and into the uterus for fertilization of the egg.
Stage 4: Resolution Phase
After orgasm, either single or multiple, the woman enters the
resolution phase. Here her body gradually returns to its normal state. The
muscles relax, blood pressure reverts to normal, rates of breathing and heart
beat slow down to their unexcited states. There is an extremely pleasant feeling
of relaxation, satisfaction and fulfillment.
Role of Female Sexual Stimulants
The four-stage sexual response cycle indentified by Masters
and Johnson is virtually automatic for almost all men but, unfortunately, it is
not so for many women. There are many women who are unable to proceed from the
Excitement Phase through to the Orgasmic Phase – some surveys indicate that up
to 40% of all women may experience this difficulty.
In addition, there is the question of duration of sexual
intercourse. Often, sexual activity will end when the man has ejaculated –
although it need not, and should not, be so. In such cases, often the
woman has not had enough time to reach orgasm, especially if her man suffers
premature ejaculation – an all too common male sexual problem.
Studies have conclusively shown that sensitivity and response
to sexual stimulation are increased and intensified when there is an increase in
the flow of blood to the genital tissues – in the case of women, to the clitoris
and vagina. The normal progress of sexual response in the Excitement and Plateau
Phases depends on enhanced blood supply to these areas by dilation of the blood
Research studies have established that this dilation of the blood vessels is
controlled by the level of nitric oxide in the body – if there is
adequate nitric oxide, the blood vessels dilate to allow enhanced blood
Research has also established that the amino acid, L-arginine,
creates nitric oxide in the body by a natural chemical reaction. Therefore, if
L-arginine is supplied to the body by external means, there is
significant enhancement of genital blood supply and, consequently, in sexual
sensitivity and response.
It is this effect that enables a female sexual
stimulant cream like Vigorelle,
that is based on L-arginine, to enhance female sexual sensitivity and to
help women progress through the four stages of the sexual response cycle, to
experience the powerful pleasures of female orgasm and resolution.
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