Female Sexual Response Cycle

Female Sexual Response Cycle

It's astonishing to consider the vast physical changes that occur in the female body during sexual arousal … not just during the orgasm stage, but throughout the entire cycle of her sexual response. From the time the brain registers sexual interest, up to the point after climax, men and women share similarities in how their bodies react to stages of sexual arousal; but most of the time they arrive at them at different rates. Moreover, a female's physical reaction to sex is less discernible and, often, far more misunderstood.


Neither the orgasm, nor understanding the physical and emotional factors leading up to one, need be a mystery. Although there may be no set pattern to the sexual repertoire, the response does, in general, follow a pattern - and the human sexual response cycle is a model of this pattern; namely, the five physiological stages that the human body goes through in answer to sexual stimulation. A woman's sexual response is an elaborate interaction between her and her partner, and if they understand how the female body responds to talk, touch or even sexual tension alone, sex could be enjoyed a whole lot more!

We'll take a look at the five stages of sexual response in order of occurrence...

Phase 1: Desire

The preliminary stage called desire is a vital part of the sexual response for women and differs immensely from what men usually experience. Once some form of stimulus is presented, be it an erotic thought or a sensual caress, many males are capable of experiencing the desire and arousal stages practically at the same time; this is quite the opposite of most women, who can take anywhere between a couple of minutes to an hour before they are physically ready to proceed to the next stage of sexual response.

Unlike men, who are highly turned on by visual stimulus, women are much more receptive to touch during the initial stages of arousal. Her physical and psychological response to desire will also depend on her mental and emotional state at the time. It is far more difficult for many women to build desire when they are distracted by anxiety, stress or low self-esteem.

Prior to arousal:

Because the process of arousal is often a slower one for women than it is for men, it is important for a woman to communicate her needs with her sexual partner and address any needs she might have during the desire stage, be it more time for foreplay or a certain type of stimulation.

Phase 2: Arousal/Excitement

Physical arousal in women can begin as soon as she has experienced some form of pleasurable contact with her partner - or by herself. Once the ball gets rolling, she undergoes the physical process that gets her ready for sex.

Just like the penis begins to change in shape when it gets excited, so too the female genitalia undergo a physical alteration, though it can often occur without even being noticed. The phenomenon is called ‘tenting' and happens when the passage of the vagina take on a sort of capped tent shape; it also increases in length.

Additional physical changes that occur are the:

Phase 3: Plateau

Continued sexual tension plays a vital role in maintaining arousal, and as sexual tensions rise and stimulation continues, a woman's path along the sexual response cycle steadily ascends closer to orgasm.

During this stage:

In comparison of the sexes, men become aroused quickly and experience a longer plateau period - and at a certain point, will stop the process of stimulation because they reach the point of orgasm more quickly. Women, on the other hand, may take longer to become aroused in stage two, but only require a short period of time in the plateau phase. In fact, even after having an orgasm, if a woman is sufficiently aroused, she can revert back to the plateau stage and continue having sex.

Phase 4: Orgasm

No two women have an orgasm in quite the same way. The sensation of climax may feel like a whole body experience, or remain concentrated in the genitals. Orgasms can feel powerful, overwhelming, and occur over a short span of time - or can be felt as a flutter of sensation, milder in intensity, and drawn out over a longer period of time. Once she reaches peak pleasure, her body undergoes orgasmic contractions - the same for men as in women - an involuntary flexing of muscles in response to orgasm. These contractions occur at intervals of 0.8 seconds.

During orgasm the following occurs:

Phase 5: Resolution

Women differ from men in that they do not experience a refractory period (the length of time after sex in which a person is physically unable to get aroused again). If she remains sexually aroused and stimulation continues to occur, a woman can keep receiving stimulation and orgasm, repeatedly. This stage in arousal is longer for women than it is men and is a great time for sexual partners to enjoy after-play, the time post-coitus when you can revel in the sensations and let intimate contact continue if you so choose. Because she is not held back by a refractory period, a woman in the resolution stage is able to indulge in more sexual activity if she is still aroused and has been sufficiently stimulated.

Also during resolution:

Final Thoughts

Often during heterosexual sex, it is common for a misalignment of sexual response to occur, causing women to feel pressured into having an orgasm which, unfortunately, has the effect of inhibiting her ability to get turned on enough to do so!

As many men who experience performance anxiety will also attest, when you feel like you have to act sexually before you're mentally and/or physically ready, it is enough to thwart the experience of even the most virile individuals. Thus, it is of great benefit to understand your, and your partner's, sexual response and give them the time and attention they deserve at every stage of arousal.

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