This workshop is all about sexual arousal. Sexual arousal plays a key role in promoting sexual satisfaction. Interestingly enough, both men and women experience an almost identical set of phases of sexual activity, known as the sexual response cycle. It is a regular route (like a set of tracks that your train goes down every time) that you travel when you are expressing your sexual energy, whether alone or with a partner. In the early days of American sexual science, researchers Masters and Johnson identified a four-part response cycle: excitement, plateau, orgasm and resolution. Some years later, noted sex therapist Helen Singer Kaplan added another twist to the puzzle: desire. And in the 1980s, the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, where I hold a faculty post, designed a more elaborate way of describing what happens when humans are turned on and being sexual.
The revamped sexual response cycle works like this:
- It begins with what's fondly known as vague stirring
--that hiccup-like sensation of "mmm" that you feel when seeing a sexy star such as Mel Gibson on the screen or when you notice that your partner's weight lifting has paid off and his abs are starting to get your attention.
- It then moves to desire, which is the realization accompanied by warming sensations signaling that your sexual engine is beginning to wake up.
- Then you move to excitement, or the green-light time, when all systems are go and the physical (physiological) signs are present, such as engorgement of blood in the genitals, lubrication, increased breathing and tender or erect nipples.