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Arousal and Response. Lighting the fire, Stoking the flame. The Essential Hormones. Two basic types – Steroid & Neuropeptide Steroid Hormones – secreted by the gonads and adrenal glands Examples: testosterone, estrogen, etc.

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arousal and response

Arousal and Response

Lighting the fire, Stoking the flame

the essential hormones
The Essential Hormones
  • Two basic types – Steroid & Neuropeptide
  • Steroid Hormones – secreted by the gonads and adrenal glands
  • Examples: testosterone, estrogen, etc.
  • Not simply male or female – both sexes produce each, but in varying amounts
neuropeptide hormones
Neuropeptide Hormones
  • Produced in the brain, they influence sexuality and behavior
  • Perhaps the most significant:
  • Oxytocin – the “love hormone”, it influences our erotic and emotional bonds
testosterone the motivator
Testosterone – “the motivator”
  • Menhave 20 to 40 times more
  • Effects desire (libido) more than function
  • But deficiencies do decrease sensitivity and desire
  • Castration – the surgical removal of the testes causes dramatic reductions in sexual interest and desire
less testosterone
Less Testosterone
  • Antiandrogens – drugs which reduce testosterone levels
  • Occasionally given to sex offenders
  • Usually decreases sexual interest and activity
  • But sometimes offenders assault for other reasons , such as anger, power and control
Hypogonadism – testosterone deficiency due to diseases of the endocrine system
  • If it begins before puberty, development is slowed
  • If it starts after puberty, a marked decrease in desire follows
estrogens and desire
Estrogens and Desire
  • Their influence is undeniable but exact role is unclear
  • Research findings differ as to whether they increase desire
females testosterone
Females & Testosterone
  • Testosterone clearly increases female sexual desire, sensitivity and activity
  • True even for women after menopause or removal of the ovaries
Women with “normal” levels of sexual activity and hormones who receive additional testosterone show significant increases in sexual arousal, sensation and even lust
  • Theresa Crenshaw “…. when a woman’s testosterone dwindles, so does her sex life.”
more on testosterone
More On Testosterone
  • Women have much less testosterone, but are much more sensitive to its effects
  • For women, too much testosterone causes problems, such as “unwelcome” changes to secondary sexual characteristics
  • Women see levels fall more rapidly after menopause than male’s more gradual decline
If measured, it is “free” (unattached) testosterone that matters, not “total”
  • Testosterone Replacement Therapy

commonly available for men

now, slowly becoming an option for women

  • A neuropeptide from the hypothalamus that effects sexual response and attraction
  • Bonding occurs through its release

mother/child – breast feeding

sexual partners – arousal and response

  • Autistic children have low levels and corresponding difficulties forming bonds and expressing love
oxytocin and love
Oxytocin and Love
  • Release is triggered by touch
  • Its circulation increases the skins sensitivity to touch
  • Levels increase within us as we go through the cycle of arousal to orgasm
  • Presence remains in blood stream after orgasm facilitating pair bonding
the brain our most sexual organ
The Brain – Our Most Sexual Organ?
  • Our cerebral cortex stores memories and images producing powerful fantasies
  • Our culture has conditioned us to have certain preferences for what we consider physically attractive
  • World-wide prototypes?
exemplars of beauty
Exemplars of Beauty
  • A 2005 poll of plastic surgeons revealed the following as possessing the most desired:
  • Nose – Nicole Kidman
  • Eyes – Catherine Zeta Jones
  • Lips – Angelina Jolie
the limbic system
The Limbic System
  • A subcortical brain system of several related structures that impact sexual behavior
  • Investigated through a number of studies
olds 1950 s
Olds (1950’s)
  • Implanted electrodes in rat’s limbic system
  • Allowed them to control stimulation
  • When given the chance, rats will “dial their own number” until they reach exhaustion, even up to several thousand times an hour
  • “pleasure centers”
heath 1972
Heath (1972)
  • Humans with a variety of disorders were allowed to self-stimulate their limbic system
  • One man pushed his button over 1500/hr, described intense sexual pleasure, and complained whenever a “session” ended
  • A woman reported similar experiences, even multiple orgasmic responses
the hypothalamus
The Hypothalamus
  • Stimulation greatly arouses rats
  • Its destruction crushes response
  • Apparently, the medial preoptic area (MPOA) is especially sensitive
  • Heroin, morphine and other opiates suppress activity of the MPOA
  • Dopamine and testosterone excite it
serotonin s influence
Serotonin’s Influence
  • Presence inhibits sexual activity
  • Seems to have the opposite effects of dopamine
  • Released after males ejaculate and blocks or dampens sensitivity to dopamine and oxytocin
  • SSRI’s have many negative effects on sexuality
the senses
The Senses
  • Many sources of erotic stimulation
  • Their influence leads to tremendous variety and amazing sexual complexity
  • Our nerve endings are unevenly distributed, locations which are most sexually responsive are called our

Primary Erogenous Zones, which include our genitals, lips, buttocks, inner thighs, neck, mouth, perineum

  • But we find tremendous variability
Secondary Erogenous Zones

other areas touched within the context of sexual intimacy

  • Could be anywhere on the body
  • Established through classical conditioning?
  • Very important in our society
  • Emphasis on physical attractiveness, grooming, clothes and cosmetics
  • Are males more aroused by visual stimuli?
Kinsey’s survey said, “YES!”

But once women were presented with the:

1) right stimuli,

2) in the right settings, and

3) measured the right way,

STRONG similarities between men and women were found

though women’s self-reports say no

  • Are genitals smells arousing or awful?
  • Depends largely on where you live and your acceptance or rejection of fragrance claims.
  • Odors secreted by the body which relate to reproduction
  • Common for mammals
  • The vomeronasal system relates to their use
  • Present in humans,
  • But is it functional?
what works
What Works
  • Smells that arouse
  • Women – licorice, banana nut bread, cucumbers
  • Men – lavender, pumpkin pie, doughnuts
what doesn t
What Doesn’t
  • Women – barbecued meat, men’s cologne’s
  • Men – Nothing
  • Substances that supposedly increase sexual desire and capacity
do they deliver
Do They Deliver?
  • Many claims – little evidence
  • Alcohol, amphetamines, barbiturates, cocaine and marijuana reduce inhibitions but also sexual response
  • The power of suggestion seems key
hope on the horizon
Hope on the Horizon?
  • One substance, yohimbine hydrochloride (sap of the tropical evergreen) does increase desire and performance
  • Substances which inhibit sexual desire and performance
  • Many things “work”
  • Drugs such as opiates, tranquilizers, and antidepressants inhibit ejaculation and cause erectile problems in males and decrease orgasmic capacity for females
other anaphrodisiacs
Other Anaphrodisiacs
  • Birth control pills decrease free testosterone levels
  • Nicotine both decreases vasocongestion and reduces testosterone levels
sexual response
Sexual Response
  • A highly individualized process
  • Research has revealed common patterns of physiological changes
kaplan s three stages
Kaplan’s Three Stages
  • Desire – a prelude to physical sexual response, ignored by Masters and Johnson
  • Excitement
  • Organism
Masters and Johnson

Sexology Trailblazers

Direct Observation

masters and johnson s four phases
Masters and Johnson’s Four Phases
  • Excitement

both men and women:

muscle tension, anatonia

increased heart rate/blood pressure


sex flush

more excitement
More Excitement
  • Women:




  • Men:



stage ii plateau
Stage II - Plateau
  • The acceleration of processes begun in the excitement phase
  • Females

the orgasmic platform – the significantly engorged outer 1/3 of the vagina

  • Lasts from a few seconds to a few minutes
phase iii orgasm
Phase III - Orgasm
  • Involuntary muscle spasms
  • Blood pressure, respirations, heart rate peaks
  • Males – emission then expulsion
are some orgasms superior
Are some Orgasms superior ?
  • Freud thought so, claiming that vaginal orgasms are more “mature” than clitoral
  • This view, influential for decades, has been abandoned
  • Masters and Johnson established that there is just one kind of female orgasm, though most arise from clitoral stimulation
return to the g spot
Return to the “G” Spot
  • Once found, manual stimulation produces variable sensations
  • Intense pleasure and orgasm usually follows
  • Some women even experience ejaculation
  • But the source of the fluid is uncertain
finally resolution
Finally, Resolution
  • Process through which sexual systems return to a nonexcited state
  • While in most respects the sexes experience this process similarly, men go through a refractory period during which they cannot experience another orgasm
aging and the response cycle
Aging and the Response Cycle
  • Function continues but intensity declines
  • Older women – longer for lubrication

Occasional decreases in desire, sensitivity, and capacity

  • Older men – longer for erection/orgasm

greater control

longer refractory period

where the sexes differ
Where the Sexes Differ
  • Despite surprising similarities, some distinctions remain
  • Variability

Women have three patterns within the sexual response cycle

Men just one

the male refractory period
The Male Refractory Period
  • Why?
  • Evolution based ? Give another guy a chance ?
  • Dependent on midbrain- hypothalamus pathway ?
multiple orgasms
Multiple Orgasms
  • Women can have several, in succession
  • But just 14 to 16% ?
  • Masters and Johnson say most can have 5-6 !
  • Men can too ?!?