Women’s Anatomy of Arousal

Arousal is the first of the body’s four-stage sexual response. It includes lubrication, a quickening heartbeat and shifts in blood flow to the genitals.

Stimulating your clitoris, which looks like a tiny nub at the top of your vulva (vulva refers to your external reproductive organs), can trigger arousal and a buildup of tension until you reach sexual climax.

Genitals

Women’s genitals are called the vulva and include the labia minora, clitoris, vaginal opening, and urethral opening. The clitoris head, or glans, has thousands of nerve endings, and it becomes swollen when aroused. Two hairless skin folds, known as the labia minora, are situated laterally and medial to the clitoral head. The labia are heavily supplied with blood and tumesce during sexual stimulation.

The urethral opening is located below the clitoral head and above the vaginal opening. This is where menstrual blood leaves the body, and it’s also where babies are born.

The clitoral gland is made of spongy tissue that becomes swollen when you’re aroused and has more nerve endings than any other part of the human body. It is a major source of sexual pleasure in women. It can be stimulated with a penis, finger, sex toy, or tampon, but it’s also most often stimulated by female genitalia.

Pelvic Floor

The pelvic floor muscles, known as the levator ani, play an important role in sexual response and sensation. They provide 1; physical support or act as a “floor” for the abdominal viscera including the rectum and 2; a constrictor mechanism to the urethral, anal and vaginal orifices (in women).

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When you become sexually aroused, blood circulation increases in the genital tract. The erectile bodies of the clitoris get engorged and thicken. Your vulva and clitoris glands produce lubricating fluids. Your vaginal opening gets enlarged and you may experience a sensation of ecstasy.

The lubrication is caused by a combination of neurogenic transudate from the blood vessels in the vulva, cervical mucus and sperm. Normally the surface of the vaginal epithelium is soft and slippery. This is due to its high water content and the presence of sialoproteins which coat it. You can strengthen your levator ani by doing pelvic floor muscle exercises, also known as kegels. Practice doing them 10 times per day to feel the effect. Having weak pelvic floor muscles will prevent your body from getting the full sexual response you are craving and can cause problems during intercourse, especially during arousal up to orgasm.

Bladder

The bladder lies preperitoneal (behind the pubic symphysis) with its ventral and dorsal walls covered by peritoneum. It has a fundus, body and apex, which is the tip of the trigone. The neck of the bladder extends into the urethra in women and into the prostate in men.

It is lined with circular smooth muscle fibers and a layer of Waldeyer sheat. It has a pair of vestibular bulbs that are situated on either side of the glans. These swell and contract when a woman is aroused.

The innermost muscular wall of the bladder is called the detrusor. It is under involuntary control and consists of striated muscle. It is an essential structure for urinary continence. The external urethral sphincter, on the other hand, is under voluntary control and consists of a sphincter muscle. The muscles in the EUS are much more intricate compared to its counterpart in men. It can constrict the urethra and vagina to prevent seminal fluid from coming back up during urination. This is one reason why many women experience a sexually pleasurable feeling when they “hold it” during urination.

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Nerves

The physiologic, psychological and neural components of female sexual response are complex. There is a great deal of data on these factors for men, but not so much for women with sexual dysfunction (desire, arousal, orgasm and resolution).

A lack of established animal models has hampered the investigation of genital arousal in the laboratory. However, a few recent studies have contributed to the understanding of the genital arousal mechanism. For example, Park et al demonstrated that pelvic nerve stimulation caused an increase in vaginal and clitoral hemodynamics as well as a decrease in vaginal luminal pressure in a rabbit model. Giuliano et al confirmed these findings by investigating vaginal blood flow and cholinergic fibers in the rat vulva.

Large gaps remain in our knowledge about the central nervous system modulation of descending supraspinal control of spinal sexual reflexes. In some cases, high levels of anxiety have been reported to increase genital arousal in clinical samples of women with sexual dysfunction and dyspareunia. In other cases, high levels of anxiety have been found to decrease genital arousal. More experimental research manipulating anxiety sensitivity (by inducing beliefs about physiological sensations and their consequences) is needed.

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Muscles

The pelvic floor is a group of muscles, ligaments and connective tissue that attach to the pubic bone in front, run underneath like a muscular trampoline and stretch from the sit bones on either side. These muscles are important for bladder and bowel control, but are also essential for satisfying sex. Many women have a low level of awareness of these muscles, referred to as the ‘love muscle’, and need to learn how to engage them properly.

In men, contraction of the pelvic floor muscles increases blood flow to the clitoris and penis, which can lead to arousal and fuller, erect penis. Women can achieve orgasms by practicing a series of movements designed to contract and relax the ‘love muscle’.

It’s not clear exactly what causes a coregasm, but scientists believe it is a combination of factors, including the way in which a woman and man activate the muscles and their exact pattern of muscle activity. They may even be triggered by different emotions, and can differ from one person to the next. For example, if a woman feels shaky and fatigued at the time of her workout, this can affect how pleasurable she finds the exercise.

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