Desire, Excitement and Orgasm

Sex and Love: Desire, Excitement, and Orgasm

Two people making love might describe their experience like this: they first felt desire.

Then they fondled each other and became excited – he got an erection and she lubricated.

They continued to stimulate each other and both ended intercourse with an orgasm.

At first glance the sexual experience looks and feels like one smooth sequence, beginning with desire, or lust, and ending in a climax, but for both men and, women it is really made up of three distinct phases: desire, excitement, and orgasm.

Now let us examine these phases more closely.

Sexual Desire

Erotic desire, popularly known as feeling “horny,” is the wish or appetite for sex.

Sometimes you spontaneously feel sexy and are moved to seek out a sexual experience; sometimes, even when you are not particularly interested in sex, an attractive person or particular situation can whet your sexual appetite.

The desire for sex originates in the brain. The sexual appetite arises in a special part of the brain which is located in the area which controls emotion.

It is composed of complicated neural circuits and centers, and when these are activated, one feels “sexy.”

The sex centers and circuits in the brain are relatively inactive during childhood. At puberty, androgen production increases in both men and women.

This influx of androgen activates the brain’s sex centers so we become capable of experiencing sexual desire.

Physical and psychological factors can affect the sexual centers and a person’s sexual desire.

If you are ill, or depressed or anxious, or up or down, or on certain drugs, or if you have gotten the message that sex is wrong, or if you have been hurt or rejected, you are not likely to feel much sexual desire.

On the other hand, if you are in good physical condition, if your mood is good, if you feel that sex is O.K. and especially if you are in love or with someone who you find attractive, you are likely to feel very sexy.

Sexual desire is felt by women as well as men, but in our society, at least, the experience is not always the same for both genders.

Young men, for one, seem to have a stronger sex drive than young women. But this changes as they grow older.

During middle age, women who have had pleasurable sexual experiences catch up and sometimes even surpass men in their desire for sex. After fifty, both sexes may enjoy the same desire and sexual libido.

There also seem to be some differences between men and women in how the relationship with the partner affects a person’s sexual desire. Both men and women are more likely to desire and enjoy sex with a partner they love than with a stranger, but men do seem, on the average, to find it easier to enjoy sex with an unknown partner.

Physical attractiveness is often more important to men than to women. But this is only a relative difference, as many girls are “turned on” by an attractive male.

Love is a sexual stimulus for both men and women. The state of being in love intensifies one’s sexual desires and responses.

If a casual friend of the opposite sex touches you, you are probably not going to have a sexual response, whereas all the person you are in love with, or have a “crush” on, has to do is brush your hand, even by accident, and you may become sexually aroused.

 This link between love and desire is so close for some women that they find it impossible to desire or respond sexually to anyone unless they love him. And the connection between love and sex is so important for so many women that they seek out all possible information on how to make a man love them.

There are many equally normal men for whom this is also the case, but, in our society, they are outnumbered by the women.

Sexual Reflexes

The second and third phases of the sexual response, excitement and orgasm, differ from desire in that they are marked by physical changes in the genital organs.

These reactions which prepare the genitals for their reproductive functions are produced by a series of automatic reflexes.

These have already been mentioned, but to make sense of the sexual response, the concept of reflexes has to be explained.

The body is controlled by a whole series of reflexes which adjust it to changes in the outside world and in its inner state. For example, if a foreign body flies into your eye, your eyelids automatically shut tight. This action, produced by a reflex, protects the eye against injury.

There are all kinds of reflexes in the body, some protect us, balance us, coordinate our movements, drive our hearts, and keep us from starving.

Reflexes control muscles, glands, and blood vessels, which are all under the control of nerves. Reflexes depend on connections of a sensory organ to a motor organ by a chain of at least two nerves. For example, there is a pain receptor in the cornea of the eye.

This is connected to a sensory nerve. This sensory nerve runs into the central nervous system where it connects with a motor nerve.

The motor nerve runs out of the central nervous system to an eyelid muscle. When dust hits the cornea it stimulates the pain receptor. This stimulates the sensory nerve which in turn stimulates the motor nerve which then causes the eyelid muscle to contract.

In actual fact sensory nerves usually do not connect directly to motor nerves, but are connected to each other indirectly through a number of connecting nerves.

Such a tangle of connecting nerves, which are located all throughout the central nervous system, are called reflex centers.

In the male there are two erection centers in the spinal cord and a separate orgasm center. Presumably women also have two spinal excitement centers and one which mediates the orgasm reflex.

Reflex centers can be controlled by messages from the higher centers of the brain. This is how your state of mind can make it easier or more difficult to have an orgasm or to get excited. Reflex changes in organs, to prepare them for specific biological function, are not confined to the genitals.

Our bodies are organized so that our inner organs are not perpetually in a state of readiness to perform their special function. That would be wasteful.

Most organs just lie there “resting” until reflexes change them to prepare them for action. For example, reflex changes regulate digestion. When not eating, one’s stomach is a pale, quiet bag of relaxed muscles.

When food is swallowed, however, involuntary reflexes transform the stomach into a churning, writhing organ which is richly engorged with blood, and which by the activation of glandular cells pours out hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes.

The Orgasm Reflex of Men and Women

Orgasm is a reflex which works on the same principle as all other reflexes in the body, e.g. the eye-blink reflex.

In the case of orgasm, the sensory end organs are located in the skin of the penis of the male and the clitoris of the female.

Sensory impulses travel via sensory fibers of the pudendal nerve to the orgasm reflex center in the spinal cord where they connect to connecting neurons.

The connecting neuron stimulates a motor nerve which triggers the genital muscles that produce orgasm.

These muscles, which are homologous in the male and the female, are located at the base of the penis in men, and surround the vagina in the female.

The orgasm reflex center in the spinal cord is also influenced by the brain. The brain contains both pleasure and pain areas which are connected to the genital reflex centers.

In this way your psychological state can facilitate and enhance your orgasmic experience if you are free sexually.

But if you are in conflict, for some reason one part of you doesn’t want to have sex, your brain can block or spoil the pleasure of Your orgasm response.

This block is not under your control. Notice, that although the male and the female sexual response seems so different, it has many basic similarities.

The genital organs of men and women undergo changes to prepare them for the job of sexual intercourse.

In the male one set of reflexes produces excitement or erection which makes the penetration of the penis into the vagina possible, the other set causes orgasm which deposits sperm where they can do their job of fertilization.

In the female, excitement causes vaginal lubrication and swelling while orgasm produces pleasure only.

The excitement phase of the sexual response is produced by genital vasocongestion in both genders. Essentially this means that the blood vessels in the genitals expand and fill with blood.

Vasocongestion itself can occur in many parts of the body by reflex action and for many different reasons. When you are embarrassed, it may occur in the skin of your face, for example, and you blush.

When you are aroused it occurs in your genitals and if you are a man, you get an erection; if you are a woman, the tissues of your vulva swell and your vagina lubricates.

For both men and women, genital vasocongestion is brought about through the action of the autonomic nervous system. This means that they are not under one’s voluntary control.

In other words, you cannot directly will the lubrication of your vagina or the erection of your penis as you do the raising of your arm. The arm and leg are under the control of the voluntary nervous system.

Sexual excitement comes after stimulation, and only if you are relaxed and open to pleasure. In fact, if you try too hard to bring it about, it is not liable to happen, because voluntary effort can inhibit an involuntary response.