Male Sexual Response
Normal Sexual Response and Definitions of Sexual Dysfunction for Men
How a man responds sexually, depends on a number of factors which may include his:
- past experiences
- attitudes related to sexuality
- relationship with his partner
As a man you can learn a great deal about your body and its sexual response by taking the time to explore how you respond to various kinds of touch and stimulation. Trust your feelings. Having too many expectations about how you should feel may prevent you from being aware of how you actually do feel. Paying close attention to your feelings and sensations can help you talk to your partner and possibly increase sexual enjoyment for both of you.
What is male sexual response?
Sexual response in men generally follows a fairly consistent pattern, which may vary from person to person and in the same person depending on whom he is with, the situation he is in and what else is going on in his life. The physical part of sex cannot be separated from thoughts, feelings, and reactions. For men, a sexual response occurs when there is some form of sexual stimulation, which can include touch, smell, looking at someone or something, a thought or fantasy that provokes certain physical changes to start happening.
With sexual stimulation, the penis will become larger and begin to get hard. When the penis is in its soft state, there is an equal amount of blood coming in and going out through the blood vessels (arteries and veins) in the penis. During arousal and stimulation, more blood is pumped into the penis and the outflow of blood is reduced. The result is that the spongy tissue in the penis fills with blood and the penis gets larger and harder. This is referred to as an erection. Full erection (getting hard) may occur quite quickly, especially in young men. For others, it may take a longer period of time to get hard or take more direct stimulation of the penis ( e.g. touching, body rubbing, or oral sex) to reach full erection.
Other body changes that happen during male sexual response are an increase in the size of the testes (balls) and they are pulled upwards with the scrotum (sac). There is increased muscle tension throughout the body as sexual excitement builds. Sometimes the nipples become hard (erect) or a man may notice a sex flush, or reddening of the skin. During periods of sexual excitement a person’s blood pressure, heart rate and breathing rate tend to increase.
For men, there is a point where they know for sure they are going to have an orgasm – a 2 or 3 second feeling of a “point of no return”. Muscles contract and feelings are very intense and pleasurable. Ejaculation (coming) occurs at the point of orgasm when the penis releases semen. Ejaculation may be experienced as a series of contractions and spasms in the legs, stomach, arms and back as well as the penis. Semen is pushed through the penis by contractions and may spurt or ooze out. Ejaculations and orgasms will vary from man to man and from time to time. Orgasm/ejaculation is followed by a period of relaxation called the refractory period. During this period, the penis usually becomes softer and it is unlikely that the man will have another erection or orgasm. The length of time it takes for a man to get another erection varies, depending on the individual and the situation. In younger men the refractory period may last only a few minutes, while in older men it may last a few hours or more.
Things that can affect sexual response:
A man’s sexual response is very much connected to his feelings about himself, his partner and the situation in which sexual feelings are shown. Acknowledging these feelings, and talking openly about any concerns with his partner, can often improve sexual responsiveness.
Negative experiences related to sexuality, such as sexual assault, sexual abuse, fear of pregnancy or fear of contracting a sexually transmitted infection, can influence a man’s sexual response. Sometimes people have negative associations to certain smells, sounds or situations based on these negative experiences that can affect their sexual desire.
Fatigue and stress can affect desire and sexual response. Lifestyles that involve fulfilling multiple roles such as employee, parent, homemaker and sexual partner, may result in fatigue and low interest in sexual activity. Couples may need to look for ways to arrange their lives so that time and energy are available for satisfying sexual interactions. The size of a man’s penis is of little importance where sexual response is concerned. Even though the size of the soft (flaccid) penis varies from man to man, there is often little difference in the size of the erect penis.
Occasional impotence (an inability to obtain or maintain an erection) is normal in all men. This may be especially true if he is overly tired, under a large amount of stress, or drinking alcohol. In the rush and stress of modern life, the pressure to perform may affect a man’s sexual life. Some men feel inadequate if they cannot become erect on demand and maintain an erection for long periods of time – this is referred to as ‘performance anxiety’. Worrying less about ‘performance’ and more about finding ways to give and receive love and pleasure can greatly enhance the sexual responsiveness for both partners. Men don’t need to ‘come’ every time they engage in sexual activity in order to be sexually responsive. Men can be marvellously sexual even without having an erection.
Occasional premature ejaculation (reaching orgasm too quickly) is very common, especially when a man is overly excited or particularly anxious. Men can learn to slow down and explore other ways to be sexual beyond sexual intercourse. Many men enjoy touching, speaking, listening, seeing and smelling in addition to sexual intercourse. They can learn to cuddle and stroke and how to become more comfortable with being cuddled and stroked. Over time, many men discover that they can develop some control over how quickly things move from arousal to orgasm – this can be a pleasing and exciting time for both partners.
Difficulties with sexual response can be troubling for a man – and his partner too. If you are having difficulties in the way you respond sexually, talk the matter over with your doctor or a qualified counsellor. In most cases, both the man and his partner can benefit from counseling because this type of concern affects them both. Many difficulties can be resolved if both partners are willing to participate fully and learn from and care for each other.
Erectile Dysfunction: https://www.serc.mb.ca/sexuality-relationships/male-sexuality/erectile-dysfunction
- Questions Men Have about Cancer, Sex, and Getting Professional Help by American Cancer Society, et al.
- Summary: questions many men with cancer have and answers to them
- Cancer Can Affect a Man’s Erections by American Cancer Society, et al.
- Summary: This article describes how surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy, and psychological changes caused by cancer effect on erection
- Cancer Can Affect a Man’s Ability to Ejaculate by American Cancer Society, et al.
- Summary: describes how surgery and other cancer treatments can affect the ability to ejaculate
- Treating Sexual Problems for Men with Cancer by American Cancer Society, et al.
- Summary: provides general suggestions for cancer patients to improve sexual functions
- Male Sexual Health After Cancer by Livestrong, et al.
- Summary: This article includes several useful tables including effects of cancer on sexual functioning, finding help for male sexual health, and treatment options for erectile dysfunction.
Male’s Fertility After Cancer
How cancer and cancer treatments affect men’s fertility
- How Cancer Treatments Can Affect Fertility in Men by American Cancer Society, et al.
- Summary: some radiation and chemotherapies may damage the sperm and testicles. This article provides general information about how cancer treatment affect men’s fertility
- Preserving Fertility in Men with Cancer by American Cancer Society, et al.
- Summary: it includes some options for men to preserve fertility and options for men who are not fertile after cancer treatment
- Fertility Brochure by Livestrong, et al.
- Summary: This booklet provides an overview of information about the risks of infertility from cancer treatments and family-building options for both men and women. It also provides additional fertility resources and sample questions to ask your doctors about fertility.