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Female Sex Response
Written by Matt Butcher:

The course of sexual activity runs through 4 general stages in both men and women: excitement, plateau, orgasmic, and finally resolution, or returning to an unstimulated state. There are no sharply defined boundaries between these phases, so they are used only for reference and convenience. Below is a detailed guide to the various sexual changes found in women throughout all 4 of these stages, and you might notice it is a bit lengthy. This is because you have to understand that in detail, a description of all the sexual changes that occur in a woman are quite complex.

Excitement (Oh yeah!)

The first sign of sexual response in women may seem a bit different from the first obvious signs of arousal in men (penis erection). The walls of the vagina are moistened with a lubricating fluid. This lubrication appears quite rapidly, within ten to thirty seconds from the onset of sexual stimulation. This lubrication appears in the same manner, whether the source of the sexual stimulation is directly on the genitals, or on the breasts, or even an erotic train of thought. The source of this lubrication has long been argued; but now most experts believe it is caused by a sweating reaction of the walls of the vagina; beads of moisture form and then coalesce, all this despite the fact that there are no sweat glands in the vagina.

To most people, the lubrication of the female vagina and the erection of the penis may seem like completely different reactions, however they share a common cause. In the genitals of both men and women, during sexual arousal more blood enters the surrounding tissues than can exit, producing vasocongestion. Since both the walls of the vagina and the surrounding blood vessels are semipermeable membranes, meaning they hold back fluids on some occasions and let them flow through on others, the lubricating action of the vagina is thought to be a result of the vasocongestion producing moisture on the vaginal walls. This can be thought of in much the same way that a damp sponge won't drip unless it is squeezed; when the vaginal walls are compressed through vasocongestion the excess fluid is forced out of the tissue to become the lubricating fluid.

This appearance of vaginal lubrication very early in the sexual response cycle deserves some attention, because many men may believe that this signals the woman's complete readiness for sexual intercourse. This is true in a sense, because entry prior to this lubrication can be uncomfortable for the woman, or even painful, however this reaction should be seen as just the beginning of the female arousal. Many more changes are necessary throughout the course of a woman's arousal before she will be "erotically prepared" to reach orgasm.

Important changes will follow, for example, in the clitoris. This tiny organ is located under a hood of flesh, just above the entrance to the vagina. Like the penis, it is a shaft with a bulb at the tip, although much of it is usually hidden under the hood and it is much smaller than the penis. The size of this organ can vary greatly amongst different women, however just as in men, the size and shape of this organ do not correspond with different levels of responsiveness or ability to achieve orgasm. The clitoris is packed with many sensitive nerve endings, and the stimulation of this organ contributes greatly to the heightening of the woman's sexual response and feelings of pleasure during sexual encounters. In fact, it is believed by most sexual experts that the sole purpose of the female clitoris is for sensing pleasure during sexual encounters. Direct contact with the clitoris, however, is not necessary in order to stimulate it; the hood of flesh that covers it is attached to the lips of the vagina, and during normal thrusting of the penis into the vagina during intercourse the friction created does well to stimulate the clitoris. In addition to the various types of physical stimuli, the clitoris is responsive to purely psychological stimuli as well, such as erotic trains of thought. This is similar to the responsiveness of the male penis.

The first of these changes during sexual relations is the swelling of the clitoral glans or tip. In some women the glans may actually double in size, while in others the change may be barely noticeable. The swelling reaction is no doubt very similar to the swelling reaction of the male penis, where blood vessels become engorged with blood and cause the surrounding tissue to swell. As with the penis, the swelling of the glans also corresponds with the swelling of the clitoral shaft, although this is much less pronounced than the swelling present in the glans. The time at which these changes occur depends on the nature of the stimulation in which the woman is responding to. If her mons veneris- the area surrounding the clitoris- is being stimulated directly, the engorgement of the clitoris may appear quite rapidly, however if her breasts are being stimulated or if the stimulation is psychological, then the engorgement may take somewhat longer.

In addition to changes present in the woman's sexual organs, a series of changes is also present in her breasts. The first of these changes is an erection of the nipples, which is caused by a contraction of the muscle fibers surrounding them. Often one nipple becomes erect before the other, either immediately after one or after a delay of considerable time, a phenomenon which is also present in some men. During erection, the nipples increase in both length and diameter as a result of blood vessel engorgement, which is very similar to the process that causes the sex organs of the penis and the clitoris to swell. The pattern of veins ordinarily visible on the skin surface on the breasts may become much more pronounced, and some previously invisible veins may become visible during this engorgement process.

The breasts themselves also increase in size late in the excitement phase. This is a sign of heightened sexual tension that precedes the boundless transition into the next phase of excitement. This swelling of the breasts is most notable in women who have not breast-fed babies. Late in the excitement phase, the areolas- the rings of darker skin surrounding the nipples- become engorged and swell.

The outer lips of the vagina respond in several ways during the excitement phase. In a normal, unexcited state, they normally meet in the midline of the vagina, covering the inner lips and other organs and features within. During excitation they open up somewhat, and may point towards the clitoris. In women who have not had babies, the lips tend to flatten out and press against the surrounding tissue. In women who have given birth several times, and especially those who have developed vericose veins in their outer lips, they become noticeably distended and engorged with blood instead of flattening. In extreme cases the lips may increase in size to two or three times their normal, unexcited size, so that they resemble a curtain of flesh surrounding the opening to the vagina, however they still tend to point outward and upward as tension increases as to not interfere with the entry of the penis. These changes, as with those mentioned earlier, tend to occur late in the excitement phase.

The inner lips also swell at about the same time as the outer lips, and it may be this swelling that causes the outer lips to open out away from the vagina. The vagina also responds. It can be thought of as a cylinder or "barrel" which remains in a collapsed state in a normal, unexcited state. The outer third of the vagina reacts in a completely separate manner than the inner two-thirds during successive sexual excitement. The inner two-thirds expand and then relax again. The cervix and uterus are pulled up and back at about this time, producing an expansion of the vaginal walls surrounding the cervix. The net result of these changes and others is a dramatic "ballooning" of the inner two-thirds of the vaginal barrel. The diameter of the inner part of the vagina may extend to three times that of an unstimulated organ, and the length may be increased by a full inch or more. The expansion and engorgement of the inner and outer lips may also contribute to this lengthening. The "rugae" or wrinkles in the vaginal walls are also smoothed out as the vessels in them become engorged with blood. At this time they also change in color from red to dark red or purple.

There are also other changes that appear in both men and women throughout the entire body during the excitement phase. Voluntary muscles tense and relax. Pulse rate speeds up, and blood pressure rises. A remarkable feature that is less common in men but seen at sometime during the excitement phase of 75% of all women is the sexual flush of the skin. It usually appears on the upper abdomen, and then eventually spreads to the entire body in some cases. This doesn't occur in all women, and sometimes its appearance may come earlier or later but is found most often late in the response cycle, when a woman is nearing the climax of orgasm.

Plateau (We're getting there!)

Experts divide the sexual response of men and women into 4 phases only for convenience and reference, because there are no sharp boundaries between them. This is especially true of the vague boundary between the excitement and plateau.

In both men and women, the rate of breathing increases during the plateau phase, and there is a further increase in blood pressure and pulse rate. The sex flush may appear now, if it hadn't earlier, or if it had it will now appear darker in color and more widespread over the body. The tension of voluntary and involuntary muscles is heightened, and there may be almost spastic contractions in several muscle groups in the face, hands, ribs, back, and abdomen. The sphincter muscle in the anus may tighten up, and some women tighten it intentionally to further heighten tension.

In the female breasts, further darkening and swelling of the nipples and areolas (the darker area of skin surrounding the nipple) may occur. The swelling of the areolas may initially mask the erection of the nipples, causing them to appear shorter, however further swelling of the areolas and erection of the nipples may occur.

The most dramatic change in women during the plateau phase is the appearance of the "orgasmic platform." This is the engorgement and swelling of the tissues surrounding the outer third of the vaginal barrel. As a result of this swelling, the diameter of the outer third is reduced by as much as 50%. Thus, during intercourse, at this time the vagina actually grips the penis, and the erotic stimulation of the man increases greatly. The appearance of this "orgasmic platform" however, does not necessarily mean a woman is ready for orgasm.

Further changes occur in the internal sexual organs of the female. The uterus becomes elevated and enlarged, as much as twice its normal size, and the inner vagina balloons even more than before. The clitoris, at this point, may become elevated, rising from its normal position over the pubic bone, becoming retracted behind the clitoral hood. During this elevation, it is drawn away from the vaginal entrance, however it remains extremely sensitive to stimulation, either directly or indirectly through the thrusting of the penis around the pubic bone into the vagina. Aside from these changes, color changes, if not present before, may become more pronounced at this point as the pinkish tissue of all the visible organs may become darker, especially is stimulation is prolonged.

As mentioned earlier, in both men and women all of these changes seem to stem from two causes: the engorgement of blood vessels and increases in muscle tension. In both genders it seems logical that readiness for orgasm is reached after these tensions reach an adequate peak.

Orgasm (Ahhh!)

The major feature of the female orgasm is the euphoric explosion of pleasure, accompanied by a series of rhythmic contractions of the female sexual organs. Contractions of the anal sphincter muscle and other surrounding tissues may also occur. These contractions seem to start in the uterus and progress down through the cervix, vagina, clitoris, and vaginal lips. The first few contractions occur at 4/5 second intervals, and tend to taper off and become longer as the orgasm diminishes. A mild orgasm might only have three to five contractions, while an intense one may have twelve or more.

In addition to initial effects of the orgasm, changes occur in the rest of the body. Pulse rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate reach a peak. The sex flush will be most pronounced. Muscles throughout the rest of the body may also undergo various changes. These changes vary greatly from one woman to the next, however some common orgasmic reactions include screaming, grunting, moaning, fist clenching, thighs clenching the male body, and there are many more.

Resolution (Ahh...)

One major function of the orgasm becomes apparent soon after it ends. It releases all the stored sexual and muscular tensions and initiates the release of blood from engorged organs. The first noticeable change in women is the areolas surrounding the nipples losing their erection. This reaction gives an observer the impression that the nipples are experiencing a further erection, while in fact the tissues around theme are only subsiding away from them. This feature is a sign that the woman has in fact reached orgasm.

Breathing rate, pulse, and blood pressure return to normal levels. Women don't have the refractory period that men experience, and if they are further stimulated shortly after orgasm, they may experience further excitement and may even have additional orgasms.

The sex flush also disappears rapidly, and accompanying this rapid disappearance is the forming of a filmy sheen of perspiration on the entire bodies of many women. This varies greatly. This perspiration is completely unrelated to the muscular action and orgasm intensity.

Within a few seconds after the orgasm has ended, several other changes occur. The clitoris returns quickly to the unstimulated position, however up to a half an hour or more may elapse before it shrinks to its unstimulated size. Over the course of about an hour after the woman has experienced the orgasm, all her sexual organs and the rest of her body eventually returns to a sexually unstimulated state.

None of the details of sexual arousal above may accurately describe any one woman, everyone is different in their own manner of response. This is just a general guide of what often or usually takes place, often men and women won't show all the features listed, and could even show signs not even mentioned. Another important thing to note is the fact that these phases occur almost exactly the same no matter what the source of the stimulation is, whether it is from masturbation or intercourse or something... else.
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