Gender similarities and differences in sexual arousal, desire, and orgasmic pleasure in the laboratory

J Sex Res. 2014;51(7):801-13. doi: 10.1080/00224499.2013.867922. Epub 2014 Mar 3.


Relatively little is known about gender differences in the orgasm experience. The objectives of this study were to compare men's and women's patterns of sexual arousal and desire before and after orgasm, and the predictors of their orgasmic pleasure. Using their typical technique, where masturbation enjoyment was similar to that experienced at home, 38 men and 38 women masturbated to orgasm in the laboratory. Physiological sexual arousal (genital temperature) and subjective sexual arousal and desire measurements were taken at baseline, after masturbation almost to orgasm, and immediately and 15 minutes after orgasm. In both genders, all measures increased significantly during masturbation, with a greater buildup leading to a more pleasurable orgasm. After orgasm, however, sexual arousal and desire decreased more quickly and consistently in men than in women, thereby replicating Masters and Johnson's (1966) observations. More men than women exhibited resolution of subjective sexual arousal and sexual satiation; their genital temperature also decreased more than women's but did not return to baseline. Women's orgasmic pleasure was related to a postorgasmic decrease in genital temperature but, unexpectedly, the maintenance of subjective sexual arousal and desire. Future studies should explore whether this pattern explains gender differences in the pursuit of additional orgasms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Libido / physiology*
  • Male
  • Masturbation*
  • Orgasm / physiology*
  • Pleasure / physiology*
  • Sex Factors
  • Sexual Behavior / physiology*
  • Young Adult