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Health & Sex

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The Top 20 Reasons People Have Sex

Sexual motives go far beyond the 'Big Three' -- love, pleasure, and making babies.

The Difference Between the Sexes

Generally speaking, men seek sex because they like how it feels. Women, although they very well may also derive pleasure from the act, are generally more interested in the relationship enhancement that sex offers. Researchers describe these differences as body-centered versus person-centered sex.

  • Body-centered sex is when you have sex because you like the way it makes your body feel. You aren't concerned with the emotions of your partner.
  • Person-centered sex is when you have sex to connect with the other person. You care about the emotions involved and the relationship.

"Men often start out being body centered," says University of Hartford adjunct psychology professor Janell Carroll. "But that changes later on. As men reach their 40s, 50s, and 60s, their relationship becomes more important."

Richard Carroll has been counseling couples with sexual issues for more than two decades. "Women actually become more like men over time in that often, early on, sex is about initiating, developing, strengthening, and maintaining relationships, but in a long-term relationship they can actually focus on pleasure."

Despite these general observations, research also suggests that there has been a big convergence in sexual attitudes among men and women in recent years. In 1985, Janell Carroll and colleagues found that most college-aged males had casual sex for physical reasons without emotional attachments. She repeated many of the same study questions to a new audience in 2006.

"Instead of men and women being at opposite ends of the sexual spectrum, they are now coming together," she says. "More women might be having sex for physical reasons, but many more men were more likely to say they had sex for emotional reasons."

20 Reasons People Have Sex

Stressed out? Have sex. Stress reduction is one of the leading reasons Americans, particularly men, say they have sex, Richard Caroll says. The review, published online in Sexuality & Culture, shows other most frequently cited reasons for having sex include:

  • Boosting mood and relieving depression
  • Duty
  • Enhancement of power
  • Enhancement of self-concept
  • Experiencing the power of one’s partner
  • Feeling loved by your partner
  • Fostering jealousy
  • Improving reputation or social status
  • Making money
  • Making babies
  • Need for affection
  • Nurturance
  • Partner novelty
  • Peer pressure or pressure from partner
  • Pleasure
  • Reducing sex drive
  • Revenge
  • Sexual curiosity
  • Showing love to your partner
  • Spiritual transcendence

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