The Secret of Sexual Arousal

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:

  1. 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.
  2. It then moves to desire, which is the realization accompanied by warming sensations signaling that your sexual engine is beginning to wake up.
  3. 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.
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