Masters and Johnson described human sexual response as being made up of four phases: excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution. (Greenberg, 2014)


The Male sexual response cycle begins with sexual arousal. Arousal can be initiated from a variety of stimuli including anything from touch, images or even thoughts. Arousal can cause a male’s heart rate to increase, an increase in muscle tension, or an increase of blood flow to the penis. This phase can last from anywhere from minutes to hours. The plateau stage causes the penis and testes to grow due to blood flow throughout the blood vessels in and around the penis, blood pressure and heart rate may continue to rise as well. With tension building, it may cause involuntary movements throughout the body. The orgasm phase can be described as the climax of the response cycle. Contractions of the prostate gland and the pelvic area force semen into the urethra which leads to ejaculation. The resolution phase is when the blood begins to flow out of the penis and the body begins to return to its original state. After ejaculation, there may be a period when the body is very sensitive and any type of sexual stimulation can be painful.


During a woman’s sexual response cycle, she may begin to experience physiological changes, which can also occur in the arousal phase as well. A woman’s nipples can become erect causing the breast to become fuller. As blood begins to flow to the genitals a woman’s clitoris and vaginal walls may begin to swell. She may experience an increase in heart rate and the skin may begin to flush similar to the reaction of men.  During the plateau phase, all the changes that begin in the arousal phase may be intensified. The clitoris can become very sensitive and blood flowing to the vagina continues the vagina walls to swell as well. Phase 3, the Climax causes a release of sexual tension consisting of muscle spasms and the muscles of the vagina contracting. For a woman, the resolution phase can result in fatigue and enhanced intimacy while body parts return to its normal size.

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Both males and females experience the same four phases, but not necessarily in the same order. It is very unlikely that both partners reach each phase at the same time. A major difference in both males and females can be found in the resolution phase. Most women can experience an orgasm and with further sexual stimulation can experience multiple orgasms again. While the majority of men need time to recover after experiencing an orgasm.







Greenberg, J. S., Bruess, C. E., & Oswalt, S. B. (2014). Exploring the dimensions of human sexuality (5th ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.


Sexual arousal in men – Live Well – NHS Choices. (2016). Retrieved 27 December 2017, from


Stages of male sexual response | Go Ask Alice!. (2016). Retrieved 27 December 2017, from


The Sexual Response Cycle. (2016). WebMD. Retrieved 27 December 2017, from



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