Greenberg, Bruess, & Conklin (2011) define sexual response cycle as the sequence of emotional and physical changes that take place when a person is aroused sexually thus participating in activities that lead to sexual stimulation, for instance sexual intercourse and masturbation. There are four phases of the sexual response cycle, namely excitement, plateau, orgasm and resolution phase (Crooks & Baur, 2007). Naturally, both women and men experience the four phases but the timing usually differs from one individual to another. For instance, it is not possible for both partners to reach orgasm simultaneously. It is very important for the partners to understand their differences as far as their sexual life is concerned (Carroll, 2010).

Phases of sexual response cycle

In the excitement phase of the sexual response cycle, the body gets ready for sexual activity.  The muscles tense and the heart pumps blood faster so that the genitals get supplied with enough blood (Carroll, 2010). Males get ready for sexual intercourse as the penis become erect. With women, the clitoris enlarges, the walls of the vagina become moist, and the vagina’s inner part widens (Taylor, 1975). Erection of the penis happens as a result of massive vaso-congestion as the concentration of blood increases in the penis. The scrotal sac becomes elevated due to thickening of the scrotal skin and vaso-congestion (Carroll, 2010). The female genital changes involve tumescence of the clitoral glans, expansion and lubrication of the vaginal walls (Covington, 2000). The tumescence of the clitoral glans is due to vaso-congestion and it has always been found to accompany sexual tensions. Vaso-congestion happens in various parts of the female body, such as the labia minora, clitoris, and the nipples (Crooks & Baur, 2007). 

In both men and women, during the phase of excitement, the coital position plays a role in determining the appropriate muscle groups that will exhibit the miotonia, which involves both voluntary and involuntary muscles during any given sexual response cycle (Carroll, 2010). There is an increase in pulse and blood pressure, which increases the blood supply to the body surface bringing about elevated skin temperature, rapid breathing, flushing, and swelling of the distensible body parts.  Therefore, the major characteristic of the excitement period is the general increase in muscle tension (Crooks & Baur, 2007).      

The plateau phase is referred to as a period of sexual excitement just before orgasm (Carroll, 2010). In males, during the plateau phase, the fully erected penis increases slightly in circumference. The testicular size apparently increases during this phase. The glans of the penis swells as the testes enlarge. A pre-ejaculatory fluid which originates in the Cowper’s gland often comes out when the phase of orgasm is just about to start (Carroll, 2010). This fluid, in most cases, contains active sperms. Orgasm phase is accompanied by sex flush which covers the face, chest, neck, and thighs (Taylor, 1975). In female, the clitoris withdraws; the vaginal tissue entirely becomes engorged with blood; and the outer tissues of the vagina contract as the clitoris retracts (Covington, 2000). The labia minora also swells further due to vaso-congestion. All the changes that the female genitals experience during the plateau phase are aimed at physiological expression of orgasm phase, which is referred to as orgasm platform (Greenberg, Bruess, & Conklin, 2011). And this becomes the peak of sexual excitement for those individuals who do not achieve orgasm. It has found that, if the phase of plateau becomes prolonged, it may bring about frustration (Brown, et al. 2002).   

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The phase of orgasm is the third phase in the sexual response cycle (Carroll, 2010). Orgasm concludes the plateau phase and it is naturally experienced by both females and males. This phase is associated with unavoidable feelings of ejaculation in men, while females experience the contractions of the vagina and the uterus (Carroll, 2010). Orgasm in females is also associated with muscular spasms and vocalization which accompanies euphoric sensation (Covington, 2000). The muscular spasms in female are of great significance for the process of fertilization since it aids the locomotion of sperm up the walls of the vagina into the womb. During this time the rate of heartbeat increases even more. In men, the first and second convulsions experienced are acutest in sensation (Covington, 2000).

The resolution is the fourth and last phase in human sexual response cycle which takes place just after orgasm (Crooks & Baur, 2007). Resolution ensures relaxation of muscles, reduced blood pressure, and slowing down of the body’s excited state. It has been found that men and women sometimes do not experience the resolution phase, which is also referred to as refractory period because further stimulation brings back the plateau phase (Carroll, 2010). In both sexes, this situation brings about the likelihood of multiple orgasms. In most cases men experience the refractory period, such that, after the phase of orgasm, continued stimulation becomes painful. Unlike men, most women do not undergo similar refractory period and may be ready to repeat the sexual response cycle almost immediately the resolution phase is reached (Taylor, 1975).   

Sexual dysfunction

Sexual dysfunction is also referred to as sexual malfunction and it can be defined as a difficulty that is experienced by a couple in any stage within the human sexual response cycle (Basson, 2004). Sexual dysfunctions constitute of a number of problems: men experience delayed or premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction in men, while females experience pain during sexual intercourse as well as reduced sexual desire and response (Carroll, 2010). It has been found that most men are affected by the erectile dysfunction at the age of 65 and above (Greenberg, Bruess, & Conklin, 2011). About 43 percent of women experience diminished sexual desire. The problems may be physical, psychological, or both. Menopause related problems like experiencing of painful intercourse can be treated with estrogen therapy, also gels and creams are available over the counter to reduce vaginal dryness. A number of behavioral, interpersonal, and psychological therapies are very effective in the treatment of the sexual dysfunction disorders (Carroll, 2010).


Normal human beings must undergo all the four phases of the human sexual response cycle at their maturity (Carroll, 2010). The phases include excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution phase. Men and women experience different changes in their bodies while undergoing through the phases after they have been sexually aroused, but there are some commonalities in between them (Carroll, 2010). The length of time any given phase lasts depends on the individual differences. Some men and women do not undergo the stages normally due to sexual dysfunction disorders such as erectile dysfunction, lack of desire, and painful sexual intercourse (Basson, 2004). A variety of treatments have been discovered and the sexual dysfunction disorders can be addressed effectively.    

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