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Arch Sex Behav (2007) 36:477–507 DOI 10.1007/s10508-007-9175-2

ORIGINAL PAPER

Why Humans Have Sex
Cindy M. Meston Æ David M. Buss

Received: 20 December 2005 / Revised: 18 July 2006 / Accepted: 24 September 2006 / Published online: 3 July 2007 Ó Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Abstract Historically, the reasons people have sex have been assumed to be few in number and simplein nature–to reproduce, to experience pleasure, or to relieve sexual tension. Several theoretical perspectives suggest that motives for engaging in sexual intercourse may be larger in number and psychologically complex in nature. Study 1 used a nomination procedure that identified 237 expressed reasons for having sex, ranging from the mundane (e.g., ‘‘I wanted to experience physical pleasure’’) tothe spiritual (e.g., ‘‘I wanted to get closer to God’’), from altruistic (e.g., ‘‘I wanted the person to feel good about himself/herself’’) to vengeful (e.g., ‘‘I wanted to get back at my partner for having cheated on me’’). Study 2 asked participants (N = 1,549) to evaluate the degree to which each of the 237 reasons had led them to have sexual intercourse. Factor analyses yielded four largefactors and 13 subfactors, producing a hierarchical taxonomy. The Physical reasons subfactors included Stress Reduction, Pleasure, Physical Desirability, and Experience Seeking. The Goal Attainment subfactors included Resources, Social Status, Revenge, and Utilitarian. The Emotional subfactors included Love and Commitment and Expression. The three Insecurity subfactors included Self-Esteem Boost,Duty/Pressure, and Mate Guarding. Significant gender differences supported several previously advanced theories. Individual differences in expressed reasons for having sex were coherently linked with personality traits and with individual differences in sexual strategies. Discussion focused on the complexity of sexual motivation and directions for future research.

Keywords Sexual motivation ÁSexual intercourse Á Gender differences

Introduction Why people have sex is an extremely important, but surprisingly little studied topic. One reason for its relative neglect is that scientists might simply assume that the answers are obvious: to experience sexual pleasure, to relieve sexual tension, or to reproduce. Previous research already tells us that the answers cannot be as few orpsychologically simple. Leigh (1989), for example, documented seven reasons for sex: pure pleasure, to express emotional closeness, to reproduce, because a partner wants it, to please a partner, to make a conquest, and to relieve sexual tension. The most comprehensive existing taxonomy, framed from a theoretical perspective of dispositional sexual motives, documented eight reasons: to feel valued by apartner, expressing value for a partner, obtaining relief from stress, nurturing one’s partner, enhancing feelings of personal power, experiencing a partner’s power, experiencing pleasure, and procreating (Hill & Preston, 1996). Several theoretical perspectives suggest that reasons for engaging in sexual intercourse might be even more numerous and complex than even this previous research suggests. Withthe exception of ‘‘to make a conquest,’’ most of the documented reasons for having sex above implicitly assume the context of an ongoing romantic relationship or long-term mateship. Sexual strategies theory (Buss & Schmitt, 1993) and strategic pluralism theory (Gangestad & Simpson, 2000), however, propose that humans have a menu of mating strategies, including long-term, short-term, and extra-pairmating. Thus, there might be reasons for having sex with a casual sex partner or extra-pair partner,

C. M. Meston (&) Á D. M. Buss Department of Psychology, University of Texas at Austin, 108 E. Dean Keeton, Austin, TX 78712, USA e-mail: meston@psy.utexas.edu

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Arch Sex Behav (2007) 36:477–507

such as the desire to experience sexual variety (Symons, 1979) or seeking to...
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