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The Sexual-Response Cycle: What Happens to Our Bodies During Sex

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Phase Three: Orgasm

This is the climax of the cycle. It is also the shortest of the four phases, usually only lasting a few seconds.

Men: First, seminal fluid collects in the urethral bulb. This is when a man may have the sensation that orgasm is certain, or "ejaculatory inevitability." Next, semen is ejaculated from the penis. Contractions occur in the penis during the orgasmic phase.

Women: The first third of the vaginal walls contract rhythmically every eight-tenths of a second. (The number and intensity of the contractions vary depending on the individual orgasm.) The muscles of the uterus also contract barely noticeably.

Both: Breathing, pulse rate and blood pressure continue to rise. Muscle tension and blood-vessel engorgement reach a peak. Sometimes orgasm comes with a grasping-type muscular reflex of the hands and feet.

Phase Four: Resolution

This phase is a return to the normal resting state. It can last from a few minutes to a half-hour or longer. This stage is generally longer for women than men.

Men: The penis returns to its normal flaccid state. There is usually a refractory period, where it's impossible to orgasm again until a certain amount of time has passed. The amount of time varies among men by age, physical fitness and other factors.

Women: The uterus and clitoris return to their normal positions. Some women may be able to respond to additional stimulation with additional orgasms.

Both: Swelling recedes, any sex flush disappears, and there is a general relaxation of muscle tension.

Understanding what's happening to you and your partner's bodies during sex can only aid in the full enjoyment of the experience. Combine this with some good communication skills, and you've found the key to unlock sexual pleasure and your heart's desires.

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