The Sexual Response Cycle According to Masters and Johnson
The sexual response cycle, according to Masters and Johnson, has four phases that are excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution (Masters et al., 2010). Both males and females experience these phases; although, significant differences and similarities between the two can be noted in each phase.
Concerning differences, at the excitement phase, the increase in blood flow to genitals results in swelling of the female’s clitoris and labia minora, also known as inner lips, whereas it results in the erection of the penis for males (Masters et al., 2010). Still, at this phase, females experience vaginal lubrication, vaginal walls begin to swell, and their breasts become fuller while men experience swelling of testicles, tightening of scrotum, and secretion of a lubricating liquid through the penis.
Significant differences between males and females are also noted at the plateau phase of the sexual response cycle. At this phase, the female’s clitoris becomes highly sensitive and often retracts under the clitoral hood as it avoids direct stimulation from the penis while, for males, the testicles are withdrawn up into the scrotum. Besides, because of increased blood flow at this phase, females experience continued swelling of the vagina while males experience continued erection of the penis.
At the orgasm phase, while women experience a contraction of the muscles of the vagina and rhythmic contractions of the uterus, men experience rhythmic contractions of the muscles at the base of the penis, which often leads to ejaculation of semen. At the resolution phase, although some women have the capability of returning to orgasm upon further stimulation, men need recovery time after orgasm, and this is commonly known as the refractory period during which they cannot reach orgasm (Cohen et al., 2013).
A host of similarities between males and females can be noted in each of the phases of the sexual response cycle according to Masters and Johnson. At the excitement phase, both males and females experience increased muscle tension, accelerated breathing, and quickened heart rate, as well as flushing of the skin. At the plateau phase, both males and females experience continued increase in breathing, blood pressure, tension in muscles, and heart rate (Masters et al., 2010). It is also possible for both males and females to experience muscle spasms at the plateau phase, which may begin in the feet, hands, and face.
More similarities between males and females are noted at the orgasm phase, which is the climax of the sexual response cycle for both. At this phase, both males and females experience involuntary contraction of muscles, sudden and forceful release of sexual tension, as well as spasm of muscles in the feet. Moreover, heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure for both males and females are at highest for males and females and these are often accompanied by rapid oxygen intake. It is also common for both to experience a rash or sex flush over the entire body when at the climax of the sexual response cycle (Masters et al., 2010).
Various similarities between males and females are also noted at the resolution phase, which is the final phase of the sexual response cycle. For both, the body gradually returns to its normal functioning level and parts that are swelled or erected return to their previous sizes. At this phase, both males and females experience a general sense of well-being, fatigue, and enhanced intimacy, and these often come immediately after orgasm for both men and women in case there is no additional stimulation (Cohen et al., 2013).
Cohen, L., Pooley, J. A., Clarke-Stewart, A., Penner, L. A., Roy, E. J., Bernstein, D. A., Provost, S., … Cranney, J. (2013). Psychology: An international discipline in context. Melbourne: Cengage Learning Australia.
Masters, W. H., Johnson, V. E., & Reproductive Biology Research Foundation (U.S.). (2010). Human sexual response. Bronx, NY: Ishi Press International.