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Desire to orgasm, know the phases of sexual arousal before you hit the big O!

A lot happens to the body before you can experience orgasm. An expert tells you about the sexual response cycle, which involves four stages of sexual arousal.
Couple in bed
The journey to orgasm involves four stages of sexual arousal. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Purvi Kalra Published: 10 Sep 2023, 18:00 pm IST
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Turn sexual pressure into sexual pleasure by understand the sexual response cycle of your body. Is this the first time that you are getting to know of this concept? Well, before getting anywhere near hitting the stage of orgasm, your body preps itself for intercourse or masturbation through different stages of arousal. When you are turned on or sexually aroused, your body feels changes emotionally and physically in preparation for intercourse or self pleasure. This process is divided into four stages, each with its specific set of physical and psychological changes.

Health Shots got in touch with Dr. Chitwan Dubey, Consultant Obstetrics, Gynaecologist and Laparoscopic Surgeon, Dr. LH Hiranandani Hospital, Powai, Mumbai, to understand the four stages of sexual arousal or sexual response cycle.

What are the levels of sexual arousal?

Going through these crucial phases can help couples increase their sexual satisfaction. Let’s go through all these four stages one by one with insights from experts.

stages of sexual arousal
Everything you need to know about the four stages of sexual arousal. Image courtesy: Adobe stock

1. Desire and excitement

The initial phase of sexual arousal is desire, which means the inner need. It can be well understood like any sexual fantasies or ideas. “Attractiveness towards your partner, emotional attachment and sensual visuals or advertisements can raise desire. Eventually, the levels of male or female hormones that as testosterone or estrogen rise during this desire stage which increases the feeling of sexual desire among individuals,” says the expert.

After desire reaches the level of satisfaction, the level of excitement increases in the body. During this stage, physiological changes become increasingly obvious. In this excitement of the body, blood flows to the genitals increases which leads to engorgement and erection in males and clitoral enlargement and vaginal lubrication in females. Slowly, the body prepares itself for sexual activity during which heart rate and breathing rate eventually increase. Physical excitement, cerebral arousal, or a mixture of both eventually excites the individual during this stage.

Also read: From obesity to depression: These lifestyle diseases can lead to sexual dysfunction

2. Plateau

The expert shares, “After the excitement in the body, the plateau stage follows which actually represents the peak of arousal prior to climax. This stage is the one in which sexual tension continues to rise and individuals reach a “point of no return”, where orgasm becomes inevitable. The plateau stage lasts because of the muscle tension, higher sensitivity, and a more focused state of mind.

stages of sexual arousal
Reaching an orgasm mostly takes two to tango and to hit the Big O a person goes through four stages! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

3. Orgasm

This is the third stage of sexual stimulation. It is considered the most satisfying experience of sexual activity. During orgasm, sexual tension is fully released from the body, which is accompanied by the repetitive contractions of the genitals muscles. Males often have more continuous contractions, resulting in ejaculation, whereas females may suffer contractions of vaginal and uterus muscles. Orgasm is actually a level of pleasure with the release of chemicals such as endorphins. While men mostly finish with orgasm, not every woman may experience the big O during sexual intercourse or solo play.

4. Resolution

This stage naturally follows orgasm. It involves the return of the body to normalcy – the penis becomes flaccid and the extra blood flow to the vagina becomes normal. This phase may involve fatigue after a physically strenuous sex session. Women are likely to experience the orgasm phase multiple times, while men are known to take recovery time after one orgasm before being able to orgasm again.


It is very important to understand that the sexual response cycle may differ from one person to another. Some people may spend more time in the initial stages, and some people may not. Some people may face stress, weirdness or health issues which may impact their sexual cycle. However, understanding the stages of sexual arousal can help them express their wants and collaborate to improve their sexual experiences better.

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About the Author

After testing her skill-set in the field of management and marketing, Purvi Kalra is exploring the world of turning thoughts to words. Her penchant for writing stems for being an avid reader all her life. Her work drives her to be better every day. ...Read More

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