I would naively assume that the main reason a person would have sex would be simply because they wanted to. As it turns out, there are a whole slew of complicated reasons why people have sex.
The University of Texas conducted a study to find out exactly what motivates people to get busy and the results were much more nuanced than I’d have thought. Researchers first asked over 400 survey participants to reveal reasons people have sex; then, they asked about 1,500 undergraduate students about their experiences and attitudes. What they found was over 237 reasons for having sex.
The UT researchers were able to divide those reasons into four main categories and several subcategories:
- Physicality (stress relief, pleasure, improving experiences, and attraction to a partner)
- Goals (hoping to get pregnant, wanting to gain popularity, revenge)
- Emotions (love, wanting to express a positive feeling like gratitude to a partner)
- Insecurity (low self-esteem, feeling obligated, attempts to keep a partner interested)
Some of the other specific reasons cited were wanting to feel closer to God, boredom, wanting a promotion, wanting to give someone an STI (seriously), drunkenness, hormones, self-punishment, fear of saying “no,” a dare, and hopes of manipulating someone. Both genders were motivated by all four categories, but men were more likely to have sex for physical reasons or for goal attainment, whereas women were more likely to do it because of emotional reasons or insecurity.
It seems that almost every feeling in the world has been a motive for people to bang at one time or another, even though they are sometimes on opposite ends of the spectrum. People do it both to feel powerful and degraded, to express love and contempt, and to either feel popular or alienate themselves. In that regard, it seems that sex is like any other form of social interaction (albeit with many more serious implications than say, a conversation or a hug). It’s a vehicle that can be used to express whatever the participant chooses to use it for.
People much wiser than I am have often told me that pretty much everything we do as humans can be linked back to a usually subconscious desire to feel loved or whole, and I don’t exactly see that as untrue. I don’t believe people only have sex to feel loved or validated by their partner; I actually detest that line of thinking. But all of the end goals cited by these survey participants — even revenge, manipulation, and just plain fun — stem back to that desire for validation, just like every other thing people do. When we analyze the study’s results this way, maybe its findings aren’t so surprising. Maybe the only surprise is that sex, at its core, is just like any other behavior out there. We all have complex reasons for every choice we make in a given day all stemming back to that “feeling whole and loved” business.
[Photo of a bedpost via Shutterstock]