Why do people have sex? Researchers explore 237 reasons

July 31, 2007

Many scientists assume people have sex for simple and straightforward reasons such as to experience sexual pleasure or to reproduce, but new research at The University of Texas at Austin reveals hundreds of varied and complex motivations that range from the spiritual to the vengeful.

After conducting one of the most comprehensive studies on why people have sex, psychology researchers David Buss and Cindy Meston uncovered 237 motivations, which appear in the August issue of Archives of Sexual Behavior.

People’s motivations ranged from the mundane (“I was bored”) to the spiritual (“I wanted to feel closer to God”) and from the altruistic (“I wanted the person to feel good about himself/herself”) to the manipulative (“I wanted to get a promotion”).

Some said they had sex to feel powerful, others to debase themselves. Some wanted to impress their friends, others to harm their enemies (“I wanted to break up a rival’s relationship”).

Buss and Meston conducted two studies. In the first, they asked more than 400 men and women to identify reasons people have sex. In the second, the researchers asked more than 1,500 undergraduate students about their experiences and attitudes.

The Texas psychologists identified four major factors and 13 sub-factors for why people have sex:

-- Physical reasons such as to reduce stress (“It seemed like good exercise”), feel pleasure (“It’s exciting”), improve or expand experiences (“I was curious about sex”), and the physical desirability of their partner (“The person was a good dancer”).

-- Goal-based reasons, including utilitarian or practical considerations (“I wanted to have a baby”), social status (“I wanted to be popular”) and revenge (“I wanted to give someone else a sexually transmitted disease”).

-- Emotional reasons such as love and commitment (“I wanted to feel connected”) and expression (“I wanted to say ‘thank you’”).

-- Insecurity-based reasons, including self-esteem (“I wanted the attention”), a feeling of duty or pressure (“My partner kept insisting”) and to guard a mate (“I wanted to keep my partner from straying”).

“Why people have sex is extremely important, but rarely studied,” Buss said. “Surprisingly, many scientists assume the answer is obvious, but people have different reasons for having sex, some of which are rather complex.”

Source: University of Texas at Austin

Explore further: Study of same-sex couples reveals causes of work, family stress

Related Stories

Study of same-sex couples reveals causes of work, family stress

September 21, 2017
People in same-sex relationships can face considerable angst when deciding whether to disclose their sexual orientation at work, and that anxiety can affect their home life as well, according to a new University of Georgia ...

The real reason some people become addicted to drugs

October 2, 2017
Why do they do it? This is a question that friends and families often ask of those who are addicted.

Psychiatrist recommends allowing children to dress to express themselves this Halloween

October 4, 2017
For most children, dressing up in a fun costume is one of the best parts about Halloween. Some children may even choose to dress in a costume that may not traditionally be worn for their gender. One Baylor College of Medicine ...

Once a lesbian always a lesbian, right? Or not?

October 11, 2017
Are people's sexual attractions likely to change as they age? That's the question at the core of an ongoing debate as to whether or not sexuality remains stable throughout a person's life. An upcoming presentation at The ...

Who's avoiding sex, and why

July 21, 2017
Sex has a strong influence on many aspects of well-being: it is one of our most basic physiological needs. Sex feeds our identity and is a core element of our social life.

Three reasons employers need to recognise menopause at work

September 6, 2017
Menopause, when periods stop for good, is a normal stage in every woman's reproductive life. The symptoms usually begin in a woman's forties, with the average age of menopause itself being 51. Experiences differ from woman ...

Recommended for you

Probing how Americans think about mental life

October 20, 2017
When Stanford researchers asked people to think about the sensations and emotions of inanimate or non-human entities, they got a glimpse into how those people think about mental life.

Itsy bitsy spider: Fear of spiders and snakes is deeply embedded in us

October 19, 2017
Snakes and spiders evoke fear and disgust in many people, even in developed countries where hardly anybody comes into contact with them. Until now, there has been debate about whether this aversion is innate or learnt. Scientists ...

Dutch courage—Alcohol improves foreign language skills

October 18, 2017
A new study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, conducted by researchers from the University of Liverpool, Maastricht University and King's College London, shows that bilingual speakers' ability to speak a second ...

Inflamed support cells appear to contribute to some kinds of autism

October 18, 2017
Modeling the interplay between neurons and astrocytes derived from children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues in Brazil, say innate ...

Study suggests psychedelic drugs could reduce criminal behavior

October 18, 2017
Classic psychedelics such as psilocybin (often called magic mushrooms), LSD and mescaline (found in peyote) are associated with a decreased likelihood of antisocial criminal behavior, according to new research from investigators ...

Taking probiotics may reduce postnatal depression

October 18, 2017
Researchers from the University of Auckland and Otago have found evidence that a probiotic given in pregnancy can help prevent or treat symptoms of postnatal depression and anxiety.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.