Dr J's Sex Facts

Fun sex facts and accurate information from a clinical sexologist for a hotter and more fulfilling sex life.

Friday, September 15, 2006

An Orgasm Is an Orgasm Is an Orgasm
Part 3 of “What’s all that Stuff Down There and What Does It Do?”

“An orgasm a day keeps the doctor away”… Mae West

Our bodies don’t come with an instruction manual, so many of us are ignorant about their functions—particularly those having to do with sex. It’s very important to know how your body works so that you can enhance your pleasure and increase your options.

Until the mid-20th century, not much was known about how our bodies respond sexually. It was always assumed that as long as you were in love, sex would be great. Romance, not good sex, was the ideal, particularly for women.

The team of William Masters and Virginia Johnson (M&J) performed the original physiological research on arousal and orgasm described below. They found that as long as the body receives effective stimulation, orgasm will occur, regardless of the type of that stimulation. Why is this important? Before M&J, it was assumed that the only good orgasm was a “love” orgasm. How confusing to those who were in love but not having good sex—and vice versa! However, the body doesn’t care where the stimulation comes from—our hand, our lover or someone we absolutely hate. As long as it’s effective touch, and we’re willing, our bodies will respond. It’s like food: whether you’ve eaten a 99¢ cent burger or a $100 dinner, your digestive system will work just the same. Our bodies don’t put any moral value on their functions (even if our minds do).

Following is a brief summary of M&J’s research.

During sex, the body goes through distinct phases of physiological change. As soon as you become aroused, if you’re male, blood flows to your crotch, which results in erection. If you’re female, blood flows into your crotch and your vagina begins to lubricate. (Have you ever felt like you made a questionable decision during sex? Maybe it’s because all the blood has left your brain!) This phase is also characterized by an increase in muscle tension and heart rate as well as nipple erection in both sexes.

In the next phase, if the penis is stimulated, erection will become stiffer. If the clitoris is stimulated, lubrication will increase. Two important things happen during this phase: In women, the clitoral glans (head) retracts under the hood (Where’d it go? I lost it!), which means it needs more intense stimulation. In men, a small internal sac, the Cowper’s Gland, sends a slippery fluid down the urethra and out the end of the penis to clean out any remaining uric acid. However, this fluid may contain sperm. That’s why the “withdrawal method” of birth control doesn’t work. I have a special name for people who use this method: Parents.

If effective stimulation continues, orgasm occurs. This is characterized by a series of involuntary muscle contractions in the crotch, occurring every eight-tenths of a second. In men, orgasm occurs in two stages. The first stage could be called the “point of no return.” You can sense an orgasm is imminent, but if you remove the stimulation, breathe and relax, you can delay it and begin to build back up to orgasm again. Once you decide to orgasm, you’ll proceed through the second stage, during which the contractions will cause ejaculation of semen. In women, orgasms begin with strong contractions in the clitoris and the outer third of the vagina. The uterus also contracts. In both women and men, the anal sphincter contracts, heart rate and muscle tension increase and…toes curl! Some curl up, some down. Have an orgasm right now to find out if you’re an “uppy” or a “downy.”

After orgasm, if no further stimulation occurs, the body returns fairly rapidly to its unaroused state, or more slowly if no orgasm has occurred. The blood leaves the crotch and returns to the rest of the body, including the brain (rational thought resumes!). Erection goes down. Sometimes, men’s penises feel very sensitive and even ticklish, while other times, they may enjoy continued stimulation.

A Word about the PC Muscle: This is the same muscle we use to stop or start the flow of urine. It also contracts during orgasm. A toned PC muscle will contribute to the intensity of your orgasm, as well as help you control its timing. So what can you do keep it in shape? Kegel exercises, named after the physician who developed them. Very simple: while sitting down, practice clenching and unclenching your PC muscle. Do these exercises daily for the rest of your life. Start with a few and build up to as many as you wish. You can do quick, flutter Kegels, or slow rhythmic ones. A healthy PC muscle will benefit you all your life!

This discussion has been limited to physiological changes; everyone’s subjective experience is different. For more information about sexual response, check out any basic sex education book available at such excellent resources as
www.Libida.com or www.GoodVibes.com

Next week concludes this four-part series with some practical information about female/male differences in sexual arousal, and then we’ll move on to the fun stuff: Sexual Fantasies and Self-Pleasuring.

As always, the Doctor is in for your questions and comments.

With Pleasure,
Dr. J


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