Why We Have Sex: 237 Reasons Revealed

couple kissing. (Image credit: Stockxchng.com)

People have sex for more than 200 reasons, ranging from "I was bored" to "I wanted to feel closer to God" to "I wanted to get a promotion," according to a new survey.

Researchers asked more than 400 men and women, ranging from 17 to 52 years old, to identify the various reasons why people have sex. Then, more than 1,500 undergraduate students were asked about their sexual experiences and attitudes.

The top 3 reasons:

  • I was attracted to the person.
  • I wanted to experience physical pleasure.
  • It feels good.

The combined results revealed 237 sexual motivations, which the psychologists, David Buss and Cindy Meston of the University of Texas at Austin, sorted into four major factors and 13 sub-factors:

Physical reasons—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 a partner (“The person was a good dancer”).

Goal-based reasons—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—love and commitment (“I wanted to feel connected”); expression (“I wanted to say ‘thank you’”).

Insecurity-based reasons—self-esteem (“I wanted the attention”); a feeling of duty or pressure (“My partner kept insisting”); to hold onto a mate (“I wanted to keep my partner from straying”).

They also found significant gender differences. For instance, men were more likely than women to endorse being motivated by experience seeking, mere opportunity and phsyical appearance. Examples included: "The person was available," "I wanted to increase the number of partners I had experienced" and "The person had an attractive face."

Women were more motivated than men by certain emotional factors, such as "I wanted to express my love for the person."

“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.”

The study, detailed in the August issue of the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, is based on surveys conducted between 2000 and 2004 and included undergraduate students with an average age of 19.

Jeanna Bryner
Live Science Editor-in-Chief

Jeanna served as editor-in-chief of Live Science. Previously, she was an assistant editor at Scholastic's Science World magazine. Jeanna has an English degree from Salisbury University, a master's degree in biogeochemistry and environmental sciences from the University of Maryland, and a graduate science journalism degree from New York University. She has worked as a biologist in Florida, where she monitored wetlands and did field surveys for endangered species. She also received an ocean sciences journalism fellowship from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.