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Running head: PSY515A, HUMAN SEXUALITY,

Human Sexual Response


Human sexual response is complex and consists of at least four aspects. The first is physiological. This

drive at the biological level is reinforced or discounted by cognition. A person is able to make himself or herself

turn him or herself off. The biological drive is separate from cognition though they work together.

Disorders such as hypo sexual drive (loss of sexual desire) and hyper sexual drive (an insatiable desire for

sex) are good examples of this because the person’s physical status is affected by their cognitive perspective of

whatever stimulus is creating the reaction.

During a lecture in a Human Sexuality course, the lecturer (Stokes, 2005) presented that in most biological

life forms there is a mating urge or cycle and in these cycles, females will have ways to let males know they are

ready for mating. Human females are thought to be sexually receptive all the time physically, and some females

even show discoloration when they are fertile. It is the evolutionary argument that the female has hidden her cycle

and become sexually accessible at all times so the male will provision her (Stokes, 2005).

There are medications that may lower human sexual drive and limit the ability for fantasy to take place.

Medication modification can usually correct these complications. When there is a present problem with male sexual

response, sexual medication such as Viagra and others may help, but these lower blood pressure so there is some risk

involved in stimulating sexual performance with medications. There is also risk that a person may become

depressed due to obsessions that he is no longer virile all on his own and needs a pill to get an erection; this can be

very damaging to a male and may lead to a diminished desire to be involved in any sexual activity. Psychoactive

drugs like alcohol and cocaine are believed to have aphrodisiac affects by some, but this may be the reported

experience because of the expectations of the people who are taking the drugs. There is no evidence that marijuana

and other hallucinogens directly stimulate response, but users may have more empathy and heighten subjective

sexual feelings. Stimulants may heighten arousal and sensation of orgasm. Frequent usage of some of these drugs

may lead to eventual sexual dysfunction (Rathus, 1998).

Sexual response at the cognitive level operates on five sublevels (Stokes, 2005). The first of these is

knowledge of sex. A counselor should know about his or her client’s knowledge database and should offer correct

information where it is needed. Sex is an activity that requires practice, time and patience to have better intimate

encounters with their spouses, and sexual knowledge, including knowledge of the parts of the genitalia and their

functions and familiarization with the sensations brought about by manipulating them are all helpful in having a

more pleasurable sexual experience.

The personal preferences of people person affect their sexual responses. Men receive most of their

stimulation visually and their preferences effect their physical response. Erection, the engorgement of the penis with

the blood, can occur as quickly as 10 or 15 seconds (Rathus, 1998). Senses do have roles in a person’s sexual

arousal. Visual cues can be sexual turn-ons. (Rathus, 1998). These are highly individualized. Someone who is

more turned on by a smaller figure with darker skin may be more easily sexually aroused by a slender African-

American woman than by a larger Caucasian woman. Similarly, a woman whose fantasy is a muscle-bound tall man

may be more sexually responsive to a man who has these traits. It should be noted that preferences do change

sometimes and variation of the sexual setting may be very exciting, also.

Odors can also be sexual turn ons or turn offs. Clean and fresh-smelling scents are mostly pleasing to

people in the united states and people learn to mask or remove other odors by the use of products.

Memory of sensual experiences as a child (sensualization) may have an effect on how they develop their

sexual erogenous zones. The sense of touch has the most direct effects on sexual arousal and response (Rathus,

1998). Erogenous zones are parts of he body that are especially sensitive to touch.

Some people are sexually aroused by different tastes, such as the tastes of genital secretion and others are turned off

by them.

Sounds can also be turn-ons and turn offs. The sound of another couple having sex or a partner who is

vocally expressing his or her pleasure, or “talking dirty” can all be very sexually arousing, while some may find it

offensive. Music may also contribute to the arousal and put someone “in the mood” or have pleasant associations,

such as a couple hearing a song that is special to them.

A person’s attitude about his or her sexuality affects their sexual response as well. Someone who is always

looking to masturbate will have a different attitude and sexual response from the person who hates his or her genitals

and will not allow themselves to derive any pleasure from sex.

Stokes’ model of human sexual response includes the human experiences of affection, pleasure, and

arousal. There are guidelines provided to define each of these. These should be explained to children by parents so

children can be able to identify inappropriate behavior toward them after the conversations. These all help to

interpret an experience. For example, a man who hugs a woman may feel very little affection and mostly pleasure,

then arousal. The woman may mostly feel affection and likely will not feel aroused at all.

Affection is mostly other-directed when giving and non threatening when receiving. Truly affectionate
behaviors do not “take” anything, but somehow gives something (Stokes).

When one experiences pleasure, it is usually with a higher level of trust and safety. This requires a greater

knowledge of the other’s wants and dislikes. These behaviors have a faster saturation point than affection and will

move into arousal a lot more quickly. Arousal behaviors require a great knowledge of self and the other (Stokes,


The four different phases of the human sexual response cycle described by Rathus begins with the

excitement phase. This is characterized by erection and vaginal lubrication. The heart rate also increases. During

the plateau phase, the muscles tense and the heart rate and blood pressure rise in preparation of the orgasm. During

the orgasmic phase the sphincter and urinary bladder contract in the man and ejaculation takes place. In the female,

3-=15 contractions of the pelvic muscles occur. The experience of orgasm in both male and female are described to

be a release of sexual tension that is very pleasurable. Finally, during the resolution phase, the body gradually

returns to its prearoused state (Rathus, 1998).


Rathus, S., Nevid, J.S., & Fichner-Rathus, L. Essentials of Human Sexuality. 1998. Allyn and Bacon.