The Science of Sexual Recovery: Understanding the Refractory Period in Men and Women

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Understanding the Refractory Period in Men and Women

What is the Refractory Period?

When engaged in sexual activity, the human nervous system experiences 4 different moods. These moods can also be called the four stages of sexual activity: excitement, plateau, orgasm, and restoration. The restoration phase is the phase when the body is preparing itself to engage in sexual activity again. The other name for this phase is the refractory period.

The refractory period definition explains this phase as the time between the last ejaculation and the subsequent erection/ arousal in both males and females. This period differs from person to person and can be as short as a few minutes and as long as a few hours, or days.

Refractory Period in Men vs Women

Women have a shorter refractory period than men. This means that their bodies can be ready for sexual activity again earlier than it takes for a man to settle down and get normal. Let’s understand how the refractory period in men is different from the refractory period women and the reasons behind it.

Refractory period men depend more on their physical and mental health and not so much on their testosterone level. Women are able to have multiple orgasms because they have a shorter, or in some cases, almost no refractory period. Since the male refractory period is longer than that of men they cannot have multiple orgasms.

Also Read: Is Daily Sex Good For Health?

Stages of Sexual Activity

The first stage of sexual activity is adrenaline rush and excitement when the blood flow in the penile region is enhanced, making the penis hard. This is followed by the plateau stage when the sexual excitement is at its peak.

During this stage, the male urethral sphincters work towards ensuring that semen is not mixed with urine or retrograde ejaculation. The penis stops being flaccid and gets erect closer to the body.

When the male and the female body experience a high amount of pleasure, for a brief period, it is the orgasm stage. During this stage, the brain releases a good amount of oxytocin, which in turn stimulates dopamine and serotonin or the happy hormones.

These chemical reactions and hormone releases in the body can give you a feeling of elation on having a successful sexual engagement with your partner. The absence of orgasm can often lead to sexual frustration.

After the orgasm, comes the resolution stage where there is a rise in the prolactin hormone because of the presence of high levels of dopamine and serotonin in the body. Prolactin affects the sexual drive in men which makes them feel reduced sexual pleasure.

In the resolution stage, the body starts absorbing the excitement felt during the sexual activity. The person feels relaxed and the body returns to its normal state. During the male refractory period, the person does not feel sexual stimulation and there is reduced excitement to engage in sexual activity with the partner.

Refractory Period in Men and Women

Does Masturbation Affect the Refractory Period?

The refractory period is longer after intercourse than it is after masturbation. This is because engaging in physical contact with a partner gives more satisfaction. It is substantiated by the fact that the amount of prolactin released after masturbation is at least 400 times less than what is released after intercourse.

Does the Refractory Period Change With Age?

There is a strong connection between the age of a person and the post-orgasm recovery time or the refractory period. Younger men can recover faster as their sexual functions and desires are still at their peak. With age, it takes longer to get aroused physically and psychologically and this is why younger men have a shorter refractory period. They may experience a change in their refractory period with age as it may get longer with increasing age.

Other Factors that Affect the Refractory Period

Various studies and research have brought to light the various factors that can have an impact on the sexual health of humans. However, a lot is yet to be discovered about factors that affect the refractory period. Some factors apart from age that can play a role in influencing this period are:

  • Cardiovascular health- Cardiovascular health is a significant factor that affects their refractory period. Bad blood circulation and erection issues in men are a result of poor cardiovascular health. It prolongs the refractory period.
  • Arousal Problems- When the arousal phase is longer for a man, it takes him longer to recover from the excitement.


The refractory period does not affect either the sexual pleasure experienced by a person or their physical health. As long as both partners are satisfied, this period should be considered a natural phenomenon of the body just like intercourse.

If you feel that the sexual recovery time taken by your body is abnormally long even at a younger age, you can consult a sexologist for the same.