How do I know if I'm horny
Is Your Arousal Up for Debate?
Your Questions …
What is the Sexual Response Cycle?
What are the phases of the Sexual Response Cycle?
What do the phases of the Sexual Response Cycle mean?
Am I normal if I experience arousal differently?
Without a doubt, some of you, have heard about something called The Sexual Response Cycle (SRC.) Sexual response is generally considered to be the bodily responses of the genitals (or other changes) tied to sexual stimulation.
This is a model created by the infamous William H. Masters and Virginia E. Johnson (more on them later) back in their 1966 book The Human Sexual Response.
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This little graph says A LOT. It also makes a lot of assumptions. There are a few things that we have learned since 1966, one of them being that this graph doesn’t always ring true for everyone. More about that in Part 2.
For now, let’s work together to define what these words mean 🤓.
According to the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders – Fourth Edition) a set of guidelines for therapists and psychiatrists, there are some pretty specific definitions for these phases. We’re going to paraphrase for simplicity’s sake.
- Arousal 📈 On the left side, you’ll see this word. Essentially, this just means how turned on or horny you are. As you move through the phases, you’ll experience different levels of arousal shown by the line across the graph.
- Desire 💭 This first phase is about the fantasies and thoughts we have about potential sexual activity that get us initially aroused. Essentially, thinking about what or who you want to do.
- Excitement 💦💥 This phase encompasses all of the pleasurable physical changes that come with being turned on. Things like an erection or getting wet. Usually, this is paired with engaging in a sexual act.
- Plateau 🔜 This is the phase where you have reached maximum arousal before experiencing orgasm. Where you are experiencing a great amount of pleasure from what you’re doing but you’re not quite at your peak yet.
- Orgasm 💓 This phase (quite problematic) is the peak of sexual pleasure during a sexual act. Usually paired with male/female ejaculation and contractions of the reproductive organs. This experience varies in intensity from orgasm to orgasm and person to person.
- Resolution/Refractory Period ⏳ This phase is essentially the cuddling stage. Muscles relax and so do you. Tons of neurochemicals are sent from your brain rewarding you for the sexual acts you just experienced. Male-bodied people typically have a longer refractory time (time where they cannot experience an erection again) than female-bodied people.
According to Masters and Johnson, this means that every person experiences the SRC in a similar manner. Desire always leads to excitement, excitement to plateau, plateau to orgasm and orgasm to resolution.
There has been a lot of debate about whether or this is accurate. With many people suggesting that it looks different for male-bodied people and female-bodied people.
What about people who don’t experience orgasm? What about people who are of a non-binary body and identity? A lot of people do not fall within these strict boundaries and definitions 🤔.
Sorry to leave you hanging, but next time, on Part 2: Sexual Response Cycle we’ll discuss some of the alternatives to this standardised model. Ones that create a more inclusive and comprehensive understanding of human sexual patterns.
We want to know what you think.
Do you agree or disagree with this model?
What more do you want to know?
What are your stories about going through your SRC?
We want to know!
Feel free to comment below or share with us on our Instagram or Facebook.
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Get out there, get in there and get off there!
Elaine S. Turner
Sex Coach, Clinical Sexologist & Sexuality Educator
Masters, W. H., & Johnson, V. E. (1966). Human Sexual Response Cycle. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company.
Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders. (1994). In Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-IV (4th ed., pp. 493-494). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
Sexual Behavior. (n.d.). Retrieved August 18, 2020, from https://www.coursehero.com/sg/introduction-to-psychology/sexual-behavior/