Seduction, Sensation, Surrender

Circular theory of sexual response

Issue #25

By Vivienne Arkell

The three S’s – sounds like the description of a movie you’d like to watch or even star in, right? Instead, this sequence of events is actually what’s happening during your own favorite personal sex scenes.

Sexual behavior is a vital life force, so theories abound in an attempt to analyze the mechanisms and complexities of female sexual response.

The original linear model of human sexual response, published in 1966 by Masters and Johnson, defined the four phases as excitement, plateau, orgasm and resolution. Soon after, Helen Singer Kaplan proposed a slightly different model by adding the concept of the desire phase.

In 1997, a new model of sexual response was developed by Whipple and Brash-McGreer building on the Reed model by making it circular. Summarized in an article posted by the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, stages of sexual response in the circular model exist within a cycle of seduction, sensations, surrender and reflection. A comparative diagram can be viewed below. Crucial to the new circular model, this illuminating article clearly explains, “Whipple and Brash-McGreer demonstrate that pleasant and satisfying sexual experiences may have a reinforcing effect on a woman, leading to the seduction phase of the next sexual experience. If, during reflection, the sexual experience did not provide pleasure and satisfaction, the woman may not have a desire to repeat the experience.”

A third theory, the non-linear model presented by Rosemary Basson in 2001, goes further to posit that “the goal of sexual activity for women is not necessarily orgasm but rather personal satisfaction, which can manifest as physical satisfaction (orgasm) and/or emotional satisfaction (a feeling of intimacy and connection with a partner).

Attempting to uncomplicate the flow and shed light on the sensitive topic of female desire and response, we break down the circular model’s four stages of sex.

  • Seduction: One way or another the mood has to strike or someone has to get the ball rolling. Sensual lovers appreciate a slow seduction. Whispers, compliments, sweet notes, special tokens are all key to getting the mind turned on and the body flowing and ready. There is no rushing this step. This is the game that is played as desire comes closer. Seduction is all about savoring the thrill of desire and being desired.
  • Sensation: As we females get in the mood, sensations become enhanced and our desire to continue increases. When does ‘full arousal’ occur? Whenever the sensations lead you, and you are ready to succumb to the most intimate acts of lovemaking. Kristen Mark PhD, writing for Psychology Today, reminds us that with both the nonlinear and circular theories of sexual response, “Sexual desire doesn’t always have to come before sexual activity or arousal… sometimes getting physical and experiencing arousal will elicit desire.”
  • Surrender: Using the word surrender rather than orgasm is what makes the circular model my personal favorite. Orgasms are not essential for good sex, though they are a great bonus. When you, or you and your partner, succumb to sexual pleasure you allow intimacy and physical satisfaction to flow.
  • Reflection: This fourth phase in circular response theory is also key. Sex, for most females, leaves us extremely reflective. During the after-glow phase, we recall yummy, fun and sensual aspects of our encounter: smells, words, details, tastes, thrills. We process the unique moments where we felt seduction, sensation, and then surrender. When positive, all of these make us want to repeat our encounter and the extreme physical pleasure and emotional closeness it brought us.

Enjoy being naked and sexual whether or not you are having orgasms! Enjoying sex in any form will keep the wheels turning and your body alive. Surrender to the power of sensual pleasure. Reflect upon your physical and emotional satisfaction, feelings of intimacy, and connection.

Image: Detail of Raphael, “Triumph of Galatea” c. 1514


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