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Why People Have Sex: 237 Reasons

Love, Lust, Revenge -- Researchers' List Goes On and On
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 1, 2007 -- Why do people have sex? A new study counts the ways and comes up with 237 reasons.

The reasons range from the sublime to the scandalous. Some motivations came from the heart. Others came from elsewhere in the anatomy.

The leading reason for sex was, "I was attracted to the person," according to the study, which appears in the August issue of the Archives of Sexual Behavior.

The study comes from Cindy Meston, PhD, and David Buss, PhD, of the psychology department at the University of Texas at Austin.

First, they asked 203 men and 241 women aged 17-52 in Austin, Texas, to anonymously list every reason they had ever had sex. Those men and women were taking psychology classes or were participating in other studies at the Sexual Psychophysiology Laboratory of the University of Texas.

All in all, participants listed 715 reasons for having sex. The researchers deleted repetitions, boiling the list down to 237 reasons.

Next, Meston and Buss presented the list to 1,549 psychology students and asked them to rate how often, if ever, they had had sex for each of the 237 reasons.

9 Leading Reasons for Having Sex

The researchers identified nine broad themes that characterize the students' top reasons for having sex:

  1. Pure attraction to the other person in general
  2. Experiencing physical pleasure
  3. Expressing love
  4. Having sex because of feeling desired by the other
  5. Having sex to escalate the depth of the relationship
  6. Curiosity or seeking new experiences
  7. Marking a special occasion for celebration
  8. Mere opportunity
  9. Sex just happening due to seemingly uncontrollable circumstances

The study also highlights five general themes that were least frequently cited by the students.

Those themes included wanting to harm another person (their partner, rival, or a stranger), getting resources (such as a job, money, drugs, or gifts), enhancing social status, using sex as a means to a seemingly unrelated end (such as relieving a headache), or having sex out of duty or pressure.

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