Why have sex with thee? Let me count the ways

University of Texas studies uncover 237 reasons why people have sex.

Update: I added more detail from the study itself and some of the reasons it spotlights.

No doubt we all oversimplify the world a bit, but University of Texas-Austin researchers have found that there are way more reasons people have sex than one might expect.

Specifically, 237 reasons.

Helpfully, the researchers did boil the list down to four major factors--physical, goal-based, emotional and insecurity-based--and 13 minor ones, the university said Tuesday. Researchers David Buss and Cindy Meston described the motivations in the August issue of the Archives of Sexual Behavior.

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

The top reason both men and women gave was that "I was attracted to the person," but some motivations were ranked very differently by the two sexes. The study authors found an "astonishing" 123 of the 237 motivations were cited more frequently by one sex or the other. Topping the list was "The person wore revealing clothes," which as social stereotypes might lead one to expect was cited by men more often than women.

More specifically, men had lots of reasons for sex that women didn't rate as highly.

"Men showed significantly greater endorsement of having sex due to physical reasons...and simply because the opportunity presented itself. Men more than women reported having sex as a way to improve their social status. Finally, men exceeded women on endorsing a variety of utilitarian reasons for sex," the study said.

In contrast, "Women exceeded men on only three of the 237 reasons: "I wanted to feel feminine"; "I wanted to express my love for the person"; "I realized that I was in love."

Among the reasons that subjects gave researchers for two studies on the matter:

• I wanted to feel closer to God.
• I wanted to get a promotion.
• I wanted to feel connected.
• I wanted to keep my partner from straying.
• I wanted to have a baby.
• I wanted to give someone else a sexually transmitted disease.
• I wanted the attention.
• I wanted to break up a rival's relationship.
• It seemed like good exercise.
• I wanted to defy my parents.
• I wanted to change the topic of conversation
• The person was famous and I wanted to be able to say I had sex with him/her.
• I wanted to end the relationship.
• I wanted to communicate at a "deeper" level.
• My partner kept insisting.
• I was bored.

About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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