Sexuality and U
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Sexual Health

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Sexual Arousal and Orgasm

What happens to our bodies when we get turned on sexually? Answering this question is important for several reasons. First, it’s always a good idea to have an understanding of how your own body works, including the sexual parts. That way, you can be comfortable with the way your body responds as you get sexually excited and you will also have a better idea if something is wrong that you should see a doctor about. Second, while no two people are exactly the same in the way they respond sexually, knowing what happens to the male and female body during the process of sexual arousal and orgasm will give you some idea of how a sexual partner’s body responds when he or she is sexually excited. Having a basic understanding of your own body’s sexual response and your partner’s sexual response can be an important building block for a mutually satisfying sexual relationship.

Sexual arousal usually begins in the brain. That is, your brain responds to a sexy thought or image, or having a feeling of closeness or affection toward a partner, or the touch of a partner by sending signals to the rest of your body, especially the genital area. For both men and women, one of the major components of physical sexual arousal is increased blood flow to the genital area causing the clitoris to swell and harden in women and the penis to become erect in men. Also, for both women and men, the heart beats faster, blood pressure increases, and breathing becomes more rapid. So in some basic respects, the process of male and female sexual response is quite similar. But because males and females have different reproductive organs we need to look at how sexual arousal affects the genital area separately.

Women
For women, a number of things happen as sexual arousal triggered in the brain increases blood flow to the genital area. The vagina becomes lubricated with fluid that seeps through the walls of the vagina. Due to the increased blood flow, the clitoris swells slightly and hardens, becoming more visible and sensitive to touch. As sexual arousal continues and increases, the outer third of the vagina tightens and the opening becomes a little smaller. As a women gets close to having an orgasm, the clitoris retracts, becoming a little less visible.

For most women, having an orgasm requires some form of stimulation of the clitoris or clitoral area. The orgasm consists of a series of 3 to 15 contractions of the muscles around the vagina. The first few contractions are the most intense, coming about a second apart, and then they becomes weaker and farther apart. During the orgasm, the woman’s uterus and anus may also rhythmically contract.

Men
The most obvious physical sign of sexual arousal in men is erection of the penis. The increased blood flow into the penis causes it to stiffen. As the spongy tissue inside becomes filled with blood, pressure is put on the veins inside the penis which prevents blood from flowing out which helps to keep the penis hard. As the process of sexual arousal continues, the penis may become even harder and the head (tip) a little larger. Once the penis has become erect, a few drops of clear non-urinary fluid may come out of the urethra where urine comes out. The testicles move closer to the body.

For men, orgasm occurs in two basic stages. In the first stage, seminal fluid (semen) flows to an area near the base of the penis called the urethral bulb. Once this happens, the man usually has a feeling that he is about to ejaculate. This is sometimes called “the point of no return” because once the semen has reached this area, the man will not be able to stop himself from ejaculating. In the second stage, the urethral bulb and muscles in the pelvic area go through a series of contractions (5 to 8 on average), causing the semen (often called “cum”) to be pumped out of the penis. The semen may squirt or dribble out. The first few contractions are stronger and are about one second apart. During orgasm, a man’s body may stiffen up or he may have mild muscle contractions. Once he has finished ejaculation, his body will relax and the penis goes back to its usual size.

Differences in the Speed of Sexual Response
From the descriptions of arousal and orgasm above we can see that there are some major similarities in the ways that males and females become sexually aroused and then have orgasms. However, we need to keep in mind that there can be differences in the sexual responses of men and women.

On average, the time it takes to become aroused and have an orgasm is shorter for men than for women. This is important to know because it means that in a relationship between a man and a woman, the man may need to try to slow himself down and not expect that his female partner will become sexually aroused as quickly as he does.

The partners in same sex relationships are more similar to each other biologically than is the case with opposite sex couples but that does not mean that the pace of sexual arousal of two men in a gay relationship or two women in a lesbian relationship will necessarily match perfectly. In other words, everyone has their own pace of sexual arousal.

How fast we become aroused and have an orgasm can change from one day to another depending on a wide range of factors including how relaxed or stressed-out we are, whether we are tired or feeling well rested, whether we have drunk a lot of alcohol or smoked cigarettes, and, probably most importantly, whether we are feeling positively or negatively towards our partner.