Sexual Response Cycles
Masters and Johnson's Model of
The Human Sexual Response Cycle
and Johnson were sex researchers who described sexual response
as the result of two principal physiological changes -- increase
in blood flow to various parts of the body (vasocongestion) and
increase in muscle tension (myotonia). Masters and Johnson chose
to use the words "excitement," "plateau," "orgasm," and "resolution"
to specify phases of the human sexual response cycle. According
to Masters and Johnson, these phases correspond to the level of
sexual arousal and describe typical responses.
Masters and Johnson also described other physiological effects
of sexual stimulation on both men and women. As we get excited,
an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, and often a noticeable
"sex flush" in the chest, neck, face and ears are associated with
increased blood flow and vasocongestion. In addition, there is
nipple erection and an increase in muscle tension throughout the
body. As excitement moves to plateau there are significant increases
in heart rate, blood pressure, sex flush, breast size, respiration
rate (heavy breathing), and muscular tension.
Kaplan's Model of Sexual Response
sex therapist named Helen Singer-Kaplan pointed out that without
the desire to be sexually active, we are not going to get excited
or have orgasms. The inclusion of desire as part of the human
sexual response cycle leads to consideration of psychological
and physical factors that many inhibit sexual desire. Factors
that might block sexual desire include stress, fatigue, depression,
pain, fear, some prescribed medication and recreational drugs,
negative past sexual experiences, power and control issues in
a relationship, loss of interest in a partner, low self-image,
and hormonal influences.
David Reed's Erotic Stimulus Pathway
Another model of sexual response which focuses more on the psychosocial
aspects of human sexual response was suggested by therapist, David
Reed. Reed's four stages are "seduction," "sensation," "surrender,"
and "reflection." Seduction includes all those things we might
do to either entice ourselves or someone else into sexual activity
-- wearing cologne and perfumes, using makeup, dressing sexy,
making eye contact, sending love notes, buying flowers, arranging
time, sharing feelings, and asking for sex. In the next stage
of sensation, we are open to sexual stimulation from all of our
senses. Sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, imagination and fantasy
all have potential to arouse. This potential is dependent on how
we interpret sensations. How we interpret sensations is often
influenced by our prior learning about what is sexually stimulating.