Sexual Response: In 5…4…3…2…1…

In the 1960s and 1970s, sexologists Masters and Johnson outlined their revolutionary Four Phases of Human Sexual Response.

Through their research (don’t ask…it involved a lot of not-so-fun electronic devices, like a penile strain gauge and the photoplethysmograph, placed into a lot of different body cavities), they discovered that sex—whether it’s masturbation, oral sex, anal sex, sex with a toy, or penis-in-vagina sex—causes a chain reaction of sorts.

(Or, as my husband says, “the launch sequence has been initiated!”)

When men and women become sexually aroused, they experience vasocongestion, or the engorgement of blood in the genitals. In men, this results in an erect penis and enlarged testicles. In women, vascogenstion causes the swelling of the labia and the clitoris.

Both men and women also experience myotonia, the involuntary head-to-toe muscle tension—“toe curling” sex.

Vasocongestion and myotonia begin in the excitement phase (Phase 1 of sexual response), and greatly intensify throughout the plateau phase (Phase 2). Technically speaking, an orgasm is the sudden, “explosive” release of vasocongestion and myotonia during the orgasm phase (Phase 3). In the resolution phase (Phase 4), our bodies return to pre-excitement levels.

But men and women differ as to how long they remain in each of these phases. And that’s usually the root of a lot of sex problems for couples.

A. Lot.

While a guy might be ready to go at the push of a button his penis, his gal might need several minutes (or hours?) of cuddling, snuggling, kissing, licking, loving, nibbling (you get it….).

Too many times, women feel as though the love-making ended before they were even in the room.

And to add to this [humongous] problem, new research suggests that Masters and Johnson’s research ignored how a woman’s sexual desire is intricately intertwined with the emotional intimacy she feels towards her partner, how much her partner turns to her for his emotional needs, and how responsive and receptive he is to her on a day-to-day basis.

In other words gals, it doesn’t look like we necessarily move progressively and sequentially through the phases…it looks like what’s going on around us and in our relationships is almost more important (more important??) than what’s going on in our bodies.

[This is why I get so riled up when I read stuff written by folks like Mr. Happy who promote ridiculous crap like, A sexually fulfilled husband will do anything for you, and A sexually fulfilled husband will feel good about himself, and A sexually fulfilled husband appreciates the more important things in life (Translation: If a man [comes home at night], it’s likely because the queen is keeping the king pretty happy.)  Mr. Happy: You’re an idiot!!

Week by week, I’m going to help you to discover what makes you sizzle and sigh. Let’s get this party started!

To understand your sex scripts and what makes your toes curl, first take the Sexual IQ test. After that, jot down your answers to these Sex Talkquestions.

Photo Credit: “Launch,” stevendepolo (


  1. [...] Earlier I talked about sexual response and I mentioned that the problem for most couples is that men and women differ as to how long they reach and remain in the various response stages. [...]

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