Do you love to have sex? If you do, you’re not alone. Scientists know that sex is a pleasurable experience for most women. But how and why does it feel so good to have sex?

Scientists say there’s a lot going on in the body that makes sex feel good. These feelings of pleasure belong to a series of physical and emotional stages that you experience when you’re having sex or feeling aroused.

The four stages of the so-called sexual response cycle include:

  • excitement
  • plateau
  • orgasm
  • resolution

These four stages are experienced by both men and women and can occur during intercourse or masturbation. Every person experiences different timing and different intensity of the various stages because every person’s body is different.

Phase 1: Excitement

You or your partner may experience:

  • increased muscle tension
  • increased heart rate and breathing
  • flushed skin
  • hardened or erect nipples
  • increased blood flow to genitals (causing swelling in the woman’s clitoris and inner lips — labia minora — and erection in the man’s penis)
  • increased moistness in the vagina
  • more fullness in the woman’s breasts
  • swelling in the woman’s vaginal walls
  • swelling of the man’s testicles
  • tightening of the man’s scrotum
  • secretions of lubricating liquid from the man’s penis

Phase 2: Plateau

You or your partner may experience:

  • an escalation of the physical changes from stage 1 (elevated breathing, heart rate, muscle tension, and blood pressure)
  • increased vaginal swelling and a change in color in the vaginal walls to dark purple
  • increased sensitivity to a woman’s clitoris (sometimes becoming painful to the touch) and retracting under the clitoral hood so that it doesn’t become stimulated directly by the penis
  • the man’s testicles pulled up into the scrotum
  • muscle spasms possibly occurring in the feet, face, and hands

Phase 3: Orgasm

You or your partner may experience:

  • involuntary muscle contractions
  • the intensity of blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing at their highest and both partners taking oxygen rapidly into the body
  • muscle spasms possibly occurring in the feet
  • a sudden and powerful release of sexual tension
  • contraction of the vaginal muscles in women as well as rhythmic contractions in the uterus
  • rhythmic contractions of the muscles at the base of the penis in men, which results in semen ejaculation
  • a flush or “sex rash” over the body

Women can experience several orgasms with continued sexual stimulation. Men must wait after an orgasm to have another. This waiting period varies among men and increases with age.

Phase 4: Resolution

During this phase:

  • The body returns to normal function.
  • Swollen and erect body parts return to their usual size and color.
  • There’s an increased sense of well-being, intimacy, and fatigue.

The brain is its own pleasure center during sex. Just being physically close with another human being is known to increase levels of oxytocin — the “cuddle hormone” — in the brain, making you feel happy and safe.

Scientists know that certain parts of the brain are associated with pleasure, becoming more active after consuming food or drugs — or having sex.

When we have sex, the physical signals felt by the body send signals through our nerves to the brain — which reacts by releasing chemicals that make us experience even more pleasure.

Some research suggests the rhythmic nature of sex and sexual stimulation creates a physical-psychological loop of pleasure.

As physical pleasure increases during the orgasm phase of sex, so does psychological pleasure — and more psychological pleasure increases physical pleasure.

The research also suggests that the rhythm of sex can help women and men choose appropriate sexual partners.

A person will tend toward a sexual partner whose rhythm brings them the most pleasure because a good rhythm is a measure of sexual fitness.

The best way to have better sex is to learn to listen to your body and brain. Who and what brings you the most pleasure during sex?

  • Choose sexual partners that make you feel happy and fulfilled. Feeling comfortable with someone can help you have good sex.
  • Opt for sexual positions that bring you the most pleasure. Take time to explore your body on your own and know what sensations you most enjoy. Masturbating is a safe, healthy, and normal way to learn more about your sexual preferences.
  • Talk to your partner about what they like. Keep an open line of communication with your partner when it comes to talking about sex.
  • Try things your partner likes and ask them to try things you like. Sex is more enjoyable when both parties involved are getting pleasure from the experience. Learn about what brings the other pleasure, together.

The most pleasurable type of sex is safer sex. Good sexual health places a high priority on healthy relationships, planned pregnancies, and prevention of sexually transmitted infections.

Be sure you’re on the same page as your sexual partner before having sex. Open communication about sexual health is just as important as — if not more important than — open communication about sexual pleasure.