Spiritual, Carnal, Vengeful: 237 Motives for Sex

WASHINGTON ~ Drunk, ambitious, in love? Or maybe you’re just looking for God. From the sensual to the downright scheming, respondents in a new study owned up to scores of unusual motives for having sex.

In the study by the University of Texas at Austin, the people surveyed surprised psychologists by giving 237 separate reasons for sex – suggesting there are far more stimulants at play than may previously have been known.

“We found that people are having sex for lots of other reasons” beyond sheer arousal or a drive for procreation, said psychologist Cindy Meston, lead author of the paper published in the August issue of Archives of Sexual Behavior.

Alongside predictable claims such as “I was ‘horny,'” “I was drunk,” and “I was in love,” was a catalogue of other “infrequent” justifications, from the sublime to the shocking.

Among them: “I wanted to get closer to God,” “I felt sorry for the person,” “I wanted to punish myself” and “I was slumming.”

Both men and women reported doing it to get a job or promotion, or because they wanted to be “used or degraded.”

Another response stated: “I wanted to give someone else a sexually transmitted disease.”

Some claimed it was an aid to good sleep or a headache cure.

Others even said they had done it because they wanted to have children.

Meston said she was surprised by apparent similarities between the genders indicated in the study.

The sexes shared 20 of the 25 top reasons, with the sheer carnal aspect the top motivator for both men and women: the study cites “pure attraction” as the most common trigger for a coupling.

“The stereotype that men have sex for physical reasons and women have sex for love – our data didn’t really support that,” Meston said.

She also tossed out another sex stereotype, saying that according to the study, men are more likely to endorse having sex in order to get favors.

The study identified a series of broad motivation types: physical (“The person was too ‘hot’ to resist”), emotional, insecurity and “goal attainment” (“I wanted to change the topic of conversation”).

The survey questioned 400 students and other volunteers at the university in order to draw up a list of motivations, which were then put to some 1,500 undergraduates to tick off.

Meston acknowledged the study was limited to the expressed sexual habits of students and also that people might have been reluctant to cite socially unacceptable motivations, such as the desire to make money or punish a partner.

But she plans further studies in the future on different groups of people.

“You need to know why people are having sex if you’re trying to put into place a safe-sex program,” Meston said.

“If you assume people have sex because they’re in the heat of the moment, then (you tell them to) carry condoms. But if they’re doing it for revenge or because they want to enhance their social status, that will require a different strategy.”

The report also pointed out that some of the less common motivations, such as deliberately passing on a sexual disease, could nevertheless be fatal, while the common motive of vengeance or jealousy could lead to violence.

The 45th most common reason cited by men for having sex was that their partner “had beautiful eyes” – a criterion which did not feature among women’s top motivations.

“One person’s seemingly trivial reason for having sex might well be another person’s magnificent obsession,” wrote Meston and her coauthor, David Buss.

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