Sexual Arousal
and Response
Chapter 5
Learning Objectives
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Making Sense of Sex
Aphrodisiacs
Sexual Response and the Brain: Cerebral Sex?
Sex Hormones and Sexual Behavior
Sexual Response
Making Sense of Sex
Senses
All the senses can be responsive to
stimuli that enhance or diminish
one’s sexual arousal
Making Sense of Sex
Vision
• Visual stimuli are very important to
human sexual arousal and response
• Men appear to be more responsive to
visual stimuli
• Both men and women can be sexually
aroused by mediated erotica
• Men are more interested
Making Sense of Sex
Smell
• Odors can be sexually attractive or offputting
• Play a role in selection of sex partners
• Pheromones are odorless chemicals
detected by the nose
• Contributes to menstrual synchrony in
women
Making Sense of Sex
The Skin Senses
• Sense of touch has most direct effect on arousal
• Erogenous zones are areas of the body that are
especially sensitive to stimulation, such as strokes and
caresses
• Primary erogenous zones are particularly sensitive
because they are richly endowed with nerve
endings
• Secondary erogenous zones are areas of the body
that become especially sensitive through experience
Making Sense of Sex
Taste
•Tastes seem to play a minimal
role in sexual arousal and
response
•Some people are aroused by
taste of genital secretions
Making Sense of Sex
Hearing
•Auditory stimuli can have a strong
influence on sexual arousal and
behavior
•A person’s voice, certain music,
certain “dirty” words, etc., can be
turn-on or turn-off
Aphrodisiacs
Drugs or other agents that are sexually
arousing or that increase sexual desire
•Foods resembling male genitals
•Drugs that affect the brain’s receptors for dopamine
•Testosterone
•Good nutrition and exercise
•Novelty
Anaphrodisiacs
Substances that inhibit or destroy sexual
arousal and response
•Tranquilizers and barbiturates, which depress the
central nervous system
•Drugs for hypertension
•Some antidepressants
•Nicotine
•Antiandrogen drugs, substances that decrease the
level of androgens in the bloodstream
Psychoactive Drugs
Alcohol
•A small amount can be
stimulating, but large amounts
often curb sexual arousal &
response
•Reduces sexual inhibitions
•Binge drinking associated with
high-risk sexual behavior
•Can create feelings of euphoria
Psychoactive Drugs
Hallucinogens
• No proven connection between such drugs
and sexual arousal and response
• Effects may depend on prior use,
attitudes/expectations, and amount
Psychoactive Drugs
Stimulants
• Activate the central nervous
system, but may not have specific
sexual effects
• Can elevate mood, which could
increase sexual pleasure
• Regular users may need the
drug to become sexually
aroused or may lose the ability
to enjoy sex
Critical Thinking
Critical
Thinking
Agree or
Disagree
Alcohol
stimulates
sexual desire
and behavior.
Sexual Response & the
Brain
Parts of the
brain play a
central role in
sexual arousal
and response
Fig. 5.2. Parts of the brain involved in sexual functioning (p. 135).
Sexual Response & the
Brain
Cerebral cortex
• The part of the brain that is active when
people engage in sexual thoughts, images,
wishes, and fantasies
• Transmits messages through spinal cord
• Provides sense of conscious sense of self
• Makes judgments about sexual behavior
Sexual Response & the
Brain
Limbic system
•Structures active in memory,
motivation, and emotion
•Hypothalamus – regulates body
temperature, drives, hormones, and
emotion
Sexual Response & the
Brain
Research
suggests
“pleasure
centers”
may exist
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•Electrical
stimulation of
certain parts of the
limbic system has
led to reports of
sensations similar
to sexual
gratification
Critical Thinking
If you electrically stimulate part of a rat’s
brain, it mechanically runs through a
mating routine. Does it seem useful or wise
to apply this research finding to humans?
Sex Hormones & Sexual
Behavior
Hormones
are
chemicals
secreted
by the
endocrine
system
Regulate various bodily
functions
Hypothalamus and pituitary
gland regulate gonadal
secretion of sex hormones
Testosterone in males
Estrogen and progesterone in females
Female and male sex hormones are present in
both women and men
Release of sex hormones at
puberty results in reproductive
maturity and development of
secondary sex characteristics
Sex Hormones & Sexual
Behavior
Sex
hormones
have
Organizing effects
Exert influence on the
type of behavior being
expressed
Activating effects
Ability to perform the
behavior
Frequency and motivation
to perform the behavior
Sex Hormones & Sexual
Behavior
Prenatal
hormones
Play a role in sexual differentiation of
genitalia and brain structures
Role in patterning sexual behavior in
adulthood remains unknown
Sex Hormones & Sexual
Behavior
Male
Sexual
Behavior
Male hormones influence sex drive
& response
Men who are surgically or
chemically castrated typically show
a gradual decline in sexual desire
Hypogonadism
No one-to-one correspondence to
hormone levels and sex drive
Condition characterized by abnormally
low levels of testosterone production,
results in a loss of sexual interest and a
reduction in sexual activity
Sex Hormones & Sexual
Behavior
Female
Sexual
Behavior
Estrogen and
progesterone activate
changes that occur
during puberty and
regulate the menstrual
cycle, but do not seem
to influence sexual
motivation or response
in human females
Women who have
ovariectomies
(surgical removal of
the ovaries) continue
to be sexually active
Androgens appear to
have more of an effect
on both men’s and
women’s sexual
response
Sexual Response
Excitement
phase
Masters and
Johnson’s model
of sexual response
consists of four
phases
Plateau
phase
Orgasmic
phase
Resolution
phase
Sexual Response
Excitement Phase
• Erections in men
• Vaginal lubrication and genital swelling in
women
• Muscle tension and increases in heart rate in
both females and males
• Sex flush is a reddish rash that may appear on
the chest or breasts late in the excitement phase
Sexual Response
Plateau Phase
• Increases in vasocongestion, muscle tension, heart rate, and blood pressure
• Orgasmic platform, which is the thickening of the walls of the outer third
of the vagina, due to vasocongestion
• Sex skin, which is the reddening of the labia minora
• Rapid breathing and heart rate, blood pressure increases
Sexual Response
Orgasmic Phase
•Male orgasms consist of
two stages of muscular
contractions
•1st stage –
contractions push
seminal fluid into
urethral bulb
•2nd stage – ejaculation
Sexual Response
Orgasmic Phase
• Female orgasms manifest
as 3 to 15 contractions of
the pelvic muscles
surrounding vaginal barrel
• Spacing of contractions
more variable in women
than in men
• Uterus and anal sphincter
contract rhythmically
Sexual Response
Orgasmic Phase
• In both men and
women, muscle
spasms occur
throughout the body
and blood pressure
and heart rate peak
• Orgasm is a
subjective experience
Sexual Response
Resolution Phase
• The fourth phase of the sexual response cycle, during
which the body gradually returns to its pre-aroused state
• Resolution takes longer when people do not reach orgasm
• Blood is released from engorged areas, myotonia
dissipates, and blood pressure, heart rate, & respirations
return to normal
Refractory period for men
• Period of time following an orgasm during
which an individual is no longer responsive to
sexual stimulation
• Men experience in varying degrees
Sexual Response
Fig. 5.3. Levels of sexual arousal during the phases of the sexual response cycle (p. 141).
Sexual Response
Kaplan’s Three Stages of Sexual Response:
An Alternative Model
• Desire
• Excitement
• Orgasm
• The stages are independent and their sequence is variable
• This model is notable for identifying desire as a separate phase
of sexual response
• Useful for identifying and treating sexual dysfunctions
Controversies about
Orgasms
Multiple Orgasms
• One or more additional orgasms following the
first, which occur within a short period of time
and before the body has returned to a pre-plateau
level of arousal
• Women are more capable of multiple orgasms, by
definition, than men are because they do not
experience a refractory period
• Men may experience multiple orgasms if they are
dry orgasms
Controversies about
Orgasms
Orgasms Increase the Likelihood of Conception?
• Evolutionary perspective suggests that female orgasm will lead to
conception by holding the sperm within the body
Controversies about
Orgasms
How many kinds of orgasms do women have?
• Freud
• Clitoral orgasm
• Vaginal orgasm
• Masters & Johnson
• Only one type of orgasm
• Singers
• Vulval orgasm
• Uterine orgasm
• Blended orgasm
No consensus yet
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Sexual Arousal and Response