Healthy Living

The Science of Orgasms

Woman with Expression
Flickr/Roly Mo

Orgasm is defined as the climax of sexual excitement, characterized by pleasure centered in the genital and following an ejaculation. The body's sexual response cycle occurs in four stages for both men and women. These four stages include: excitement, plateau, orgasm and resolution. Once an individual has experienced arousal the brain stimulates blood flow to the genitals, your heartbeat and your central nervous system becomes engaged sending signals of enjoyment to the brain's reward system. This continuously transmits pleasure signals to the brain causing an orgasm.

Stage one:

The characteristics of excitement can last from minutes to hours. In this stage muscle tension increases, your heartbeat and breathing increases, the skin may become flushed, nipples are erect, blood flow increases to the genitals, vaginal lubrication begins, a woman's breast and vaginal walls swell, and a man's testicles swell secreting lubrication.

Stage two:

In the Plateau phase, muscle spasms may occur in the hands, feet and face. Muscle tension increases, the man's testicles are elevated towards the scrotum and changes in stage one are intensified.

Stage three:

In the orgasm stage, an individual's blood pressure and heart rate are at its highest, there are involuntary muscle contractions, a forceful release of sexual tension, the woman's vaginal muscles and uterus experiences rhythmic contractions, men experience rhythmic contractions in the base of the penis, ejecting semen.

Stage four:

In the resolution stage the body begins to return to normal level of functioning. In this particular stage the brain releases bonding chemicals.

Sex as a science

For men, the orgasm includes rapid contractions of the anal sphincter, prostate gland and the penis muscles. This process may last between three to 10 seconds. For women, the contractions include the vagina, uterus, pelvic muscles and the anus. This process may last nearly 20 seconds (or longer.) Among the many differences between men and women during sex, the refectory period is the most significant. Most men experience a refectory period that could last minutes to hours where a man cannot achieve another orgasm, whereas women do not experience a refectory period and can experience multiple consecutive orgasms.

Researchers have also determined how orgasms affect the brain. Following an orgasm the brain releases dopamine, the hormone responsible for activating your reward circuit that makes you yearn for the sensation again. Additionally, the hormone oxytocin is also released. This hormone fosters bonding and love between the partners.

Orgasms can also reduce fear and anxiety among the two consenting individuals. To learn more about the science behind orgasm, watch the video below.

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