Stage 1: Excitement

During the s*xual response cycle’s excitement stage, both men and women experience increased blood flow to their private parts. “Men tend to get an erection and women tend to have slight swelling of the cli**ris, vulva, and v**ina,” McGough said. “Women often produce lubrication, but the amount varies. Many women [also] begin to have increased blood flow to their br**sts and develop erect bosoms.”

Other characteristics of this phase include a heightened heart rate and accelerated breathing, according to WebMD.

Stage 2: Plateau

The period between initial excitement and climax is referred to as the plateau stage, McGough explained, during which the body’s responses, which began in the excitement phase, continue to intensify. For example, women produce more lubrication and often develop skin flushing in the face, neck, and chest. Men can experience similar flushing, as well as hardening of the bosoms. “It isn’t confirmed, but [it’s] widely believed bosom erection in both men and women is due to the release of oxytocin,” McGough said.

At this point, overall muscle tension increases for both partners. Also notable about the plateau stage is how a woman’s cli**ris becomes more sensitive — in some cases, almost painful to the touch — and retracts under the hood to avoid direct stimulation.

Stage 3: climax

climax is the s*xual response cycle’s shortest phase, lasting between 10 and 25 seconds for both men and women, McGough said. The climax phase is generally characterized . a sudden release of tension caused . involuntary muscle contractions. For women, such contractions can be felt in the v**ina, uterus, and rectum, according to the nonprofit organization Our Bodies Ourselves. Men typically experience rhythmic contractions in their prostate, often resulting in the Release of semen.

“climax can be just the reflex contractions in the private parts, which is pleasant, or the more common [and far more pleasurable] state where the private part’s reflex contractions correspond to an intense mental state where the person momentarily becomes lost in the moment,” McGough pointed out. “This brief loss of a sense of self is why the French slang for climax is ‘la petite mort’ or ‘the little death.’”

Stage 4: Resolution

During the resolution phase, “the body slowly returns to its normal level of functioning.” Men go through what McGough called the “refractory period,” in which they naturally lose their erection and require time to recover before engaging in further s*xual activity. However, some women can quickly return to the climax phase, particularly if they have continued stimulation in areas other than the cli**ris, or if the initial climax occurred vaginally or elsewhere, McGough said.

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