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The sexual response cycle is how your body reacts to sexual stimulation. It can happen with a partner, by yourself…and even in your sleep! You don’t always go through all stages of the cycle — you can stop at any time.

The first step is desire or having sexually arousing thoughts. That can lead to excitement when your body gets ready for sex. Your heart rate goes up, your muscles tense, and blood flows to your genitals.

The next step is the plateau phase when you’re really aroused and keep that feeling going by masturbating or having sex.

At the end of the plateau phase is orgasm, when the tension you built up is released in a series of muscle spasms that feel really good. Your body releases endorphins — hormones that make you feel happy and relaxed.

The resolution phase happens at the end of the sexual response cycle, whether you have an orgasm or not. Resolution means your body goes back to how it was before you got aroused.

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