Making Love, Sex, and Orgasm

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The Male Orgasm

The normal male response in the sexual act is a series of phases. The four phases specified by Masters and Johnson, the arousal, the plateau, the orgasm, and the resolution phase, although they merge into each other imperceptibly, have quite distinct physiological and emotional aspects.

The first obvious sign of sexual arousal in a man is tumescence, the swelling and erection of the penis, although the lubricating secretion from the Cowper's glands may precede erection.

Erection can occur quite quickly - the fastest recorded is three seconds - and it can even be triggered by thoughts or sights that leave no chance of full orgasmic release, sometimes in circumstances embarrassing for the man concerned. Few fully erect phalluses are completely upwardly vertical (about 8 or 10 percent according to Kinsey).

The average position is just above the horizontal, and in about 15 to 20 percent of cases the angle of erection is about 45 degrees above the horizontal. The degree of the angle tends to decline with age.

During the arousal phase muscular contractions draw the testicles up closer to the body. Another change, of which people are not generally aware, was observed in three-fifths of the men who participated in the Masters and Johnson research: the erection of the nipples.

Also both voluntary and involuntary muscles throughout the body tense up, the pulse rate quickens and blood pressure rises, and in the case of one man in four a "sex flush" may spread over the body as it does with a majority of women.

This condition of arousal can last for a long time. Kinsey noted that with continued sexual stimulation, "many a teenage male will maintain a continuous erection for several hours," although the average period for a man in his sexual prime is about one hour, and when a man reaches his late 60s it is only about seven minutes.

 However, Hurana and Lu, the authors of The Ying-Yang (1971), a book on sexual life in China, say that busy old men would often spend hours each day with concubines and that "there are many instances in both novels and court records, of papers being signed without the male member being withdrawn, and of urgent matters being discussed with callers to the accompaniment of occasional movements to insure that the erection was not lost."

This suggests that the decline, with advancing years, in the capacity for maintaining arousal may not necessarily be as dramatic as Kinsey said.

Certainly it would have to be low-keyed arousal, but even in normal lovemaking if the couple want to prolong their pleasure they may allow their excitement to escalate and decline several times before entering into the second phase - the plateau.

The plateau phase of the man's sexual

 response is short relative to that of the woman. The plateau is the immediate preliminary to orgasm, and of short duration.

Once in the plateau phase, a man soon knows that there are only seconds left before he ejaculates.

Changes that normally occur during the plateau phase are the full elevation of the testicles, their increasing in size by about 50% over their unaroused state, a further slight swelling of the ridge of the corona at the base of the glans of the penis, and in some cases a deepening of the reddish-purple color of the glans.

Breathing, blood pressure, and pulse rate all increase, and there is further tightening of muscles throughout the body, including in many cases involuntary contortions of the face muscles.

The muscles of the rectum and buttocks contract particularly hard and some people deliberately tighten them in order to increase the tension. At this stage in the act of sexual intercourse, with the man's phallus located in his partner's vagina, his pelvic movements will become increasingly vigorous as he delivers his final thrusts before orgasm.

The physiology of the male orgasm is complex. During the plateau phase of sexual activity semen accumulates in the tiny sacs known as the seminal vesicles, and when orgasm begins these sacs contract in order to discharge the semen into the urethral passage.

The prostate gland also contracts and expels its fluids. In the urethra, there is a bulb just at the base of the penis which doubles or triples in size at this stage in order to receive these fluids.

These internal contractions and expansions are experienced by the man as the onset of ejaculation and give him the delightful sensations of the first stage of orgasm.

He may feel that he would like to prolong this stage and his enjoyment of these sensations, but voluntary control is no longer possible and he reaches the peak of the orgasm, a series of rhythmic contractions of the urethral bulb and of the muscles of the penis itself which force the semen along the urethra and project it from the tip of the glans.

These contractions are experienced as the very climax of the orgasm, and in a fully developed orgasm there may be from five to eight of them at intervals of four-fifths of a second.

This is precisely the timing of the female's vaginal contractions in orgasm, so that when a man and a woman climax together his ejaculation is assisted by her contractions to project the semen as powerfully as possible toward its goal; a phenomenon which the psychiatrist Eric Berne has called "one of the wonders of evolution."

Unassisted by vaginal contractions, the semen may be propelled a considerable distance. Kinsey states that distances of 5 or 6 feet have been known, although in three-quarters of men the semen just exudes from the tip of the penis or travels a very short distance.

Ejaculation and orgasm are two quite distinct processes, and one may occur without the other.

Preadolescent boys, whose glands are not yet producing seminal fluids, can experience orgasm; so can men who are no longer capable of ejaculation because they have had their prostate glands removed.

A man who has several orgasms with short intervals between will not ejaculate in the later ones because he will have exhausted his supply of semen. In some men ejaculation occurs some seconds after orgasm, and in others it occurs without orgasm and they experience the release of their pent-up sexual tensions but not the culminating spasms and well-defined peak of sensation that constitute a full orgasm.

Alexander Lowen makes the point that orgasm may be a rebirth: "Man is reborn through orgasm. If this is speaking figuratively, let us not forget that orgasm is often experienced as a rebirth. One feels renewed and refreshed through orgasm. The whole act of sex can be viewed for the man as a symbolic return to the womb and rebirth."

These ideas of the symbolic and transcendental significance of orgasm are attempts to express the meaning of the mystery and to explain why the experience is so sought-after and so satisfying.

But its great satisfaction lies primarily in the way it confers a feeling of complete union with another who is profoundly loved.

The sense of fulfillment, of release of all tensions, of warmth, love and well-being that follows the complete orgasm, might well be described as constituting a state of higher mental energy.

When Shakespeare wrote in one of his sonnets that orgasm was "a joy perceived". As Kinsey has written: "For most persons who have experienced orgasm there is a quiescence, a calm, a peace, a satisfaction with the world which, in the minds of many persons, is the most notable aspect of any kind of sexual activity."

The post-coital state is called by Masters and Johnson the "resolution" phase of sexual response. Its most obvious feature in a man is the rapid deflation of the penis.

Generally, a man loses his erection quite soon after ejaculation. His organ does not immediately return to its completely unstimulated condition, however; it remains for some time slightly tumescent, but not stiff. If he leaves it inside his partner and they remain still it will eventually slip out.

Muscular contractions throughout the body are utterly relaxed in the resolution phase. Blood pressure, and pulse and breathing rate quickly return to normal, and all the physiological processes that took place in the arousal phase are reversed.

The testicles descend again and the scrotum relaxes. In some people sweating, particularly of the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet, occurs. In most, sensory perceptions are quite quickly reoriented.

The outer world that was obliterated from consciousness moments before is suddenly present again. The sound of a telephone that was ringing but unheard throughout the plateau and orgasm phases may suddenly penetrate a person's awareness.

Also, an awareness of subjective states often returns and many people feel hungry, thirsty or in need of a cigarette after orgasm. In others the sense of fulfillment and contentment soon leads into sleep.

A feature of the resolution phase which Masters and Johnson found only in the male was what they called the "refractory period." In this period a man is unable, at least for a time, to be sexually aroused again, and he may find continued sexual activity with his partner, even if she has not yet achieved orgasm, difficult.

The length of the refractory period varies greatly and is not constant with individuals. On one occasion a man may be quite incapable of being aroused again for hours or even days, and on another he may be ready to start the whole process again after 5 or 10 minutes.

His general state of health, the time of day, and his feelings for his partner, are some of many factors that could affect a man's ability to achieve orgasm again. In some cases the woman can arouse her man for a second encounter after a fairly short interval, and in other circumstances a man will find his penis becoming erect again and urging him on to further sexual activity without any prompting from his partner.

The question of how many orgasms a man can have in succession is often raised, and men given to sexual boasting often make remarkable claims, but facts are hard to ascertain.

As the diagram based on Kinsey's studies shows, a man's ability to reach orgasm more than once in a single session rapidly declines after his teens. But to equate this fact with a decline in sexuality is a mistake, just as in many areas it is a mistake to identify quality with quantity. You see, a sense of total fulfillment can be achieved whether or not a particular sexual encounter leads to sequential orgasms.

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[ Stages Of The Female Orgasm ] Intercourse and Orgasm ] Relationships, Sex and Love ] Simultaneous and Multiple Orgasm ] Women's sexual anatomy (1) ] Women's sexual anatomy (2) ] Women's sexual anatomy (3) ] Sexual Arousal and Libido ] [ The Male Orgasm ] Orgasm problems and anorgasmia ] Female ejaculation and G spot orgasm ] Manifestation And Law of Attraction ]


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