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Wednesday October 15, 2008

Female response

Women differ from men in many ways, but more so in the bedroom.

WOMEN are different from men. Their sexual response is more complex than that of the male.

Some have no interest in sex; some have limited interest while others are passionate about it. It is a common assumption of many in the media and the public that only a minority have little or no interest.

This is not entirely correct. While most women today are more open to information about sex, it takes time to understand and then learn how to enjoy it. Young women usually have no or limited knowledge of the female sexual response. It takes time for them to come to terms with their sexual feelings and to respond accordingly.

Different models of the female sexual response have been described. The first model was described by Masters and Johnson in their book Human Sexual Response published in 1966.

The woman’s initial response to sexual stimulation is usually a nice, warm feeling all over her body. There are various stimuli that a woman responds to and they are unique to each woman.

During the excitement phase, blood flow to the genitalia increases. The clitoris, the most erotically sensitive part of the body, swells. The vagina becomes moist to lubricate it, in preparation for possible sexual activity. At the same time, there is increased blood flow to the breasts and an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate. The diameter of the pupils of the eyes increases. This makes the woman more attractive.

During the plateau phase, increased blood flow to the genitalia leads to swelling of the outer third of the vagina and the labia, the lip-like structures at the opening of the vagina. This opens up the vaginal opening slightly, in preparation for intercourse. The heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate continue to increase.

When a climax (orgasm) is reached, the muscles of the outer third of the vagina contract in a rapid series of waves. The skin may appear flushed and the heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate are at their highest levels. At the same time, the body’s muscles contract. The experience is that of pleasure. Orgasm lasts a few seconds.

At the time of orgasm or just prior to it, there may be secretion of a clear fluid from the urethra of some women. This is commonly called female ejaculation, similar to that of seminal fluid in men. This is followed by the resolution phase, during which the vagina and genitals return to their normal size while blood pressure and breathing rate return to their normal state.

The resolution phase is longer in women than men. During this time, the woman may be able to return to the plateau phase if they are skilfully stimulated. In this respect, women are different from men in that they can have multiple orgasms but men, only one at the same sexual contact.

A woman does not experience all the stages of the sexual response at every sexual intercourse. Some women rarely or never have orgasms. The model of the female sexual response, described by Masters and Johnson, has been criticised by researchers and women for some basic reasons: it assumes that men and women have similar sexual responses; many women do not progress sequentially through the phases described; and other psychological and relationship factors have not been taken into account.

Another model of the female sexual response was proposed by Basson in 2001, who emphasised that emotional intimacy, sexual stimuli, and relationship satisfaction affected the female sexual response. Unlike the male, psychosocial issues such as satisfaction with the relationship, self-image and previous negative sexual experiences have a significant impact on the female sexual response.

Women have different reasons for involvement in sexual intercourse. There may be spontaneous desire in women who are in a new sexual relationship or after separation from a partner. Women in long-term relationships often do not think of sex often, or experience spontaneous desire. Basson suggests that in these women, a desire for emotional intimacy or partner overtures may lead to participation in sexual activity. In Basson’s model, the goal of sexual activity is personal satisfaction which can manifest as physical satisfaction (orgasm) and/or emotional satisfaction (emotional intimacy).

The female sexual response is very different from the male model where orgasm is part of resolution and satisfaction. The major difference between the male and female sexual response is that the cycle often starts with intimacy and may not end in orgasm.

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