Arousal, Orgasm, and Post-Coital Behavior

Why is sexual arousal important?

Arousal is essential for sex, evolutionary theorists argue, because sex is gross. Naked bodies, bodily fluids, and unusual sounds are all generally things that, outside of a sexual context, many people find disgusting. Disgust is a core human emotion, and an important one: It helps to alert us to potential pathogens and foster survival. But sexual disgust can prevent couples from reproducing and so humans may have evolved to allow sexual arousal to supersede disgust, thus perpetuating the species.

Is sexual arousal a reliable feeling?

Not always. Often sexual arousal is a sign of passion and commitment between partners. At other times, it may just be the residual effect of driving over a bridge, watching a scary movie, or riding a roller coaster. Research finds that the high arousal states generated by fear or (nonsexual) physical excitement, such as a racing heart or sweaty palms, can easily be misread by an individual as attraction to the person they are with at those moments. It may be best to avoid making romantic or sexual commitments in these moments.

Do men and women experience sexual arousal differently?

According to research, they do. Studies of male and female sexual response when prompted to view arousing subliminal images have found that women experienced less arousal then men in those conditions. One theory to explain this and similar findings: For women, an unfamiliar man, even an attractive one, may appear threatening, and in evolutionary terms, a woman would be expected to be more selective about partners, as opposed to men, who may be more likely to allow themselves to be aroused by any attractive potential partner.

Can men smell a sexually aroused woman?

Recent research suggests that heterosexual men are able to process distinct olfactory signals linked to female sexual arousal, and that they experience greater sexual arousal themselves when they encounter those scents. However, other researchers have questioned the accuracy of these findings, and their potential implications for sexual relationships.

The Keys to Better Sex

What are the keys to a great sex life?

When sex therapists and researchers discuss what makes for a truly great sex life, their lists are mainly composed of emotional or psychological factors, not physical ones. Communication is vital to a satisfying sex life, as are being intimate, vulnerable, and transparent with a partner; allowing oneself to be open to new experiences, and to fun; being in sync with each other, emotionally and sexually; and an ability to be in the moment and to be open to transcendent feelings

Do people enjoy sex less now than they used to?

Some researchers believe that the pace of contemporary life, as well as distractions like cellphones, are leading couples to derive less pleasure from their sexual encounters. Therapists suggest that individuals and couples spend more time becoming open and attuned to their bodies, and to their bodies’ signals of arousal and pleasure before, during, and after sex, to restore higher levels of satisfaction

Is foreplay equally important to women and to men?

Contrary to the stereotype that men are primarily interested in rushing into intercourse and climax, research has found that men desired an average of 18 minutes of foreplay, very close to the average of 19 minutes sought by women. Women, however, significantly underestimate how much foreplay their male partners wanted. Other research has found that longer foreplay leads to greater relationship satisfaction for men and women.

How important is kissing before sex?

For women, kissing can be very important. Much more than men, women report finding it important to kiss a partner before sex, and they are more likely to report using kissing as a way to evaluate their interest in a new partner when considering having sex with them or not.

Are makeup and breakup sex really better?

They may be. The theory of arousal transfer suggests that powerful stimuli in one area can be transferred to another. Anger, for example, is an arousing emotion. In relationships, that high arousal state may be transferred to a high arousal state during makeup sex after a fight is resolved. Similarly, a couple breaking up may transfer the painful emotions of deciding to separate into intense sex as they say goodbye. Couples report intense lovemaking at these times, but there is a downside if, say, a couple rushes to makeup sex without truly resolving their conflict, or if a couple extends the life of a failing relationship because of great breakup sex.

Should couples schedule sex?

According to many sex therapists, they should. Different levels of sexual desire challenge many couples, but for others with high levels of desire for each other, the calendar becomes the enemy of satisfying sex because of conflicting work schedules, child care, or other commitments. Scheduling sex even days ahead of time can help a couple restore sexual goodwill, block out time for greater affectionate touch during sex, and, after the fact, elevated relationship satisfaction.


What is orgasm?

An orgasm, or climax, is the intense and usually pleasurable release of sexual tension after sexual arousal and stimulation. During orgasm, one’s heart rate and blood pressure rise, breathing becomes faster and heavier, and involuntary muscle contractions occur, not only in the genitals but often in the hips, chest, head, and limbs. In men, orgasm typically involves the ejaculation of semen, though not always. In some women, orgasm also leads to the release of ejaculate.

How often do people achieve orgasm?

Research suggests that only about one in four women regularly reach orgasm during vaginal sex, while more than three quarters of men do. For males and females alike, orgasm is achieved faster and more reliably through masturbation. There are distinct health benefits in orgasm, including higher levels of oxytocin, which promotes bonding between partners, and increased blood flow to the brain.

How does the female orgasm benefit relationships?

Orgasms enhance a woman’s sexual pleasure, and the sexual satisfaction of their partners. But the female orgasm benefits relationships in other, more subtle ways. Women who report more orgasms with a partner, research suggests, may be more genetically compatible with that person. Women who have more orgasms with a certain partner also tend to evaluate that person as more creative, confident, and funny. These factors all lead to stronger bonding between two partners.

What Happens After Sex

What is sexual afterglow?

Some researchers believe that the most important part of sex occurs after climax. The term sexual afterglow refers to the positive feelings that follow pleasurable sexual experiences, and some research suggests that it, and not the sex itself, determines how positively people feel about their sexual partners. Cuddling, kissing, and other expressions of intimacy after sex can increase afterglow, boost satisfaction, and extend the positive effects of sex on a relationship.

What do couples talk about after sex?

Research on “pillow talk” following sex has debunked the myth that men fall asleep first after sex: There’s no evidence of a gender difference. Also, women who reach orgasm during sex tend to talk more intimately after sex, revealing more about themselves. The release of the hormone oxytocin during sex, which promotes bonding, may foster this effect. Men with higher levels of testosterone after sex, however, appear to talk less, limiting bonding.

How long do partners feel good about each other following sex?

About 48 hours. Research on post-coital sexual and relationship satisfaction has found that partners experience elevated positive feelings about each other, and about their connection, for an average of two days following sex.

Is it more important for men or women to experience great sex?

Women. Research into relationship satisfaction finds that a woman’s sexual desire for her partner is more closely linked to relationship satisfaction than a man’s. Women’s levels of satisfaction with a relationship are also much more variable than men’s, which tend to remain at a consistent high level.

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