The Human Body

Physiology of Sex

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Understanding the processes and underlying mechanisms of sexual arousal and orgasm is important to help people become more familiar with their bodies and their sexual responses and to assist in the diagnosis and treatment of sexual dysfunctions. Nevertheless, it was not until the work of American gynecologist William H. Masters and American psychologist Virginia Johnson that detailed laboratory studies were conducted on the physiological aspects of sexual arousal and orgasm in a large number of men and women. Based on data from 312 men and 382 women and observations from more than 10,000 cycles of sexual arousal and orgasm, Masters and Johnson described the human sexual response cycle in four stages: excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution.

In men who are unaroused, the penis is relaxed, or flaccid. In unaroused women, the labia majora lie close to each other, the labia minora are usually folded over the vaginal opening, and the walls of the vagina lie against each other like an uninflated balloon.

A. Excitement
B. Plateau
C. Orgasm
D. Resolution