There are plenty of reasons to have sex this weekend: because you want to express your affection for your partner, because it smoothly seals the transition from casual to committed relationship, because it’s a great supplement to your yoga program. Or, could it be because you have to… (how else would you inaugurate a brand new hot tub)?
Though the field of sex research brims with curious insight, little scientific research has sought to uncover our complex sexual motives. Meager existing evidence assumes two people only engage in sexual activity within a romantic context (“to please my partner,” “to express love for my spouse,” “to start a family,” etc).
So, in the quest to study more varied sexual activity, who better to ask than oversexed college undergrads? Researchers David Buss and Cindy Meston at the University of Texas did just that, analyzing the sexual motives of over 400 students. With their results, they compiled the most comprehensive catalogue of reasons to do the nasty to date. The coolest part of it is that they’re ranked like the Billboard Top 40.
The most frequently cited motive, “Because I was attracted to the other person,” was found to be a tried-and-true catchall.
Other top contenders were, “It feels good,” “I wanted to express my love/affection for the person” and the succinct reply, “I was horny.”
The low-ranking reasons sound pretty terrible: “I wanted to boost my social status,” “I wanted to punish myself” and “I was offered drugs in exchange.”
But I know there are earnestly aroused people out there who replied, “I wanted to break up a rival’s relationship” or “I wanted to get rid of a migraine” (what you lack in principles you make up for in honesty).
In my reading, I tried to think of some inventive new additions, but I was mostly redundant. But the study did overlook “so I could try out my new paddle” and “Wednesday sex” (to get over the mid-week hump). Take note, Buss and Meston.
And, of course, there are some strange people who replied that they decided to have sex simply because the other person had beautiful eyes (which is certainly fodder for a polite compliment but an odd reason to sleep with someone).
Buss and Meston theorize that there are four categories which classify all sexual motives: to have a physical experience (“I wanted to relieve blue balls”), to attain a goal (“Because of a bet” or “My friends pressured me into it”), to have an emotional experience (“I realized I was in love”) and to offset insecurities (“I didn’t want to lose the person”).
Their darling study found no significant differences in how often women and men cited emotional experiences, but men reported more reasons overall and were more likely to rank physical attraction highly as a motivator.
Though this supports a host of literature indicating that men value appearance in partners more highly than women, it also suggests that women may contextualize their sexual experiences differently to meet societal expectations (even if they really think you’re a stud).
Though this list is certainly lengthy, with 237 reasons in total, sex researchers realize most people rarely have sex with one clear motive in mind. Typically, participants are attracted to one another, craving physical attention, hoping to develop a partnership, jonesing for a self-esteem boost and maybe hoping to score some free jewelry in the process.
So, while it is certainly helpful to have a list outlined for us ranked in order of citation popularity, most people will continue getting it on without dwelling on the specifics.
One way or the other, you’re having sex. So get to it.
That is, I said, the case for most people. I do know a lady who once initiated sex with her lover simply to try out a new Kama Sutra position.
And — might I add — she’s not half bad at writing, either.
Titus is a member of the class of 2011.