By KATHARINE STOEL GAMMON ABC News Medical Unit July 31, 2007
Have you ever had sex to feel closer to God?
How about to change the topic of conversation? Or because you wanted to get rid of a headache or break up a rival's relationship?
Perhaps you just wanted to debase yourself.
A new study, published today in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, suggests that the reasons we have sex may be much more varied than previously thought.
"In the scientific literature, they've really only been talking about the most obvious reasons why people have sex -- because they're in love, because it feels good and because they want to have a baby," says study author Cindy Meston, associate professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin.
"But after 17 years of doing research into women's sexuality, it was apparent to me that people are having sex for all sorts of reasons that weren't being discussed in the literature," she said.
The researchers first sampled 203 men and 241 women, ranging in age from 17 to 52. They asked them to list all the reasons why they ever had sex.
Some of what they found surprised the researchers.
They received answers from "The person smelled nice" to "I wanted to burn calories" to "I wanted to get out of doing something."
"Some of the negative motivators -- the ones that had to do with revenge, or manipulation, or competition -- really surprised us," says Meston. "One of the darkest answers was 'to give someone else an STD,' and that really surprised us."
Some of the other answers they found had nothing to do with pleasure, emotional attachment or procreation -- what many would consider the usual reasons for sex.
"There were lots of things about enhancing psychological or physical well-being, like getting rid of a headache, cramps or stress," says Meston.
The researchers then took their compiled list -- 237 motivations for making love in all -- and gave it to undergraduate students at the University of Texas. The students indicated on a questionnaire how frequently each of the reasons led them to have sex in the past.
TOP 50 REASONS PEOPLE HAVE SEX
1. I was attracted to the person/I was attracted to the person 2. I wanted to experience the physical pleasure/It feels good 3. It feels good/I wanted to experience the physical pleasure 4. I wanted to show my affection to the person/It's fun 5. I wanted to express my love for the person/I wanted to show my affection to the person 6. I was sexually aroused and wanted the release/I was sexually aroused and wanted the release 7. I was "horny"/I was "horny" 8. It's fun/ I wanted to express my love for the person 9. I realized I was in love/I wanted to achieve an orgasm 10. I was "in the heat of the moment"/I wanted to please my partner
11. I wanted to please my partner/The person's physical appearance turned me on 12. I desired emotional closeness (i.e., intimacy)/I wanted the pure pleasure 13. I wanted the pure pleasure/I was "in the heat of the moment" 14. I wanted to achieve an orgasm/I desired emotional closeness (i.e., intimacy) 15. It's exciting, adventurous/It's exciting, adventurous 16. I wanted to feel connected to the person/The person had a desirable body 17. The person's physical appearance turned me on /I realized I was in love 18. It was a romantic setting/The person had an attractive face 19. The person really desired me/The person really desired me 20. The person made me feel sexy/I wanted the adventure/excitement
21. The person caressed me/I wanted to feel connected to the person 22. It seemed like the natural next step in my relationship/I wanted the experience 23. I wanted to become one with another person/It was a romantic setting 24. It just happened/The person caressed me 25. I wanted to increase the emotional bond by having sex/The person made me feel sexy 26. I wanted the experience/It seemed like the natural next step in my relationship 27. I wanted the adventure-excitement/ I wanted to increase the emotional bond by having sex 28. The person had an attractive face/I wanted to keep my partner satisfied 29. The person was a good kisser/The opportunity presented itself 30. I wanted to intensify my relationship/It just happened
31. My hormones were out of control/I wanted to intensify my relationship 32. I wanted to try out new sexual techniques or positions/I wanted to try out new sexual techniques or positions 33. I wanted to feel loved/My hormones were out of control 34. The person had a desirable body/The person was too "hot" to resist 35. I wanted to celebrate a birthday or anniversary or special occasion/I was curious about my sexual abilities 36. I wanted to communicate at a "deeper" level/I wanted to improve my sexual skills 37. I was curious about sex/I wanted to become one with another person 38. It was a special occasion/I saw the person naked and could not resist 39. The person was intelligent/The person was a good kisser 40. I wanted to say "I've missed you"/I wanted to feel loved
41. I wanted to keep my partner satisfied/I wanted to celebrate a birthday or anniversary or special occasion 42. I got "carried away"/The person was too physically attractive to resist 43. The opportunity presented itself/It was a special occasion 44. The person had a great sense of humour/I hadn't had sex for a while 45. I wanted to improve my sexual skills/The person had beautiful eyes 46. I was curious about my sexual abilities/I wanted to communicate at a "deeper" level 47. The person seemed self-confident/I wanted to experiment with new experiences 48. I wanted to make up after a fight/The person was intelligent 49. I was drunk/I wanted to keep my partner happy 50. I was turned on by the sexual conversation/I was curious about what the person was like in bed
BOTTOM 50 REASONS PEOPLE HAVE SEX
1. I wanted to give someone else a sexually transmitted disease/The person offered to give me drugs for doing it 2. Someone offered me money to do it/I wanted to give someone else a sexually transmitted disease 3. I wanted to get a raise/I wanted to punish myself 4. It was an initiation rite to a club or organization/I wanted to breakup my relationship 5. I wanted to get a job/I wanted to get a job 6. I wanted to get a promotion /It was an initiation rite to a club or organization 7. The person offered to give me drugs for doing it/Someone offered me money to do it 8. I wanted to punish myself/ I was afraid to say "no" due to the possibility of physical harm 9. I wanted to hurt-humiliate the person/I wanted to make money 10. I wanted to feel closer to God/I wanted to feel closer to God
11. I wanted to breakup my relationship/I wanted to get a raise 12. I wanted to breakup another's relationship/I wanted to hurt/humiliate the person 13. I wanted to be used or degraded/Because of a bet 14. I wanted to gain access to that person's friend/I wanted to breakup another's relationship 15. I wanted to get a favor from someone/I wanted to get a promotion 16. I wanted to enhance my reputation/I wanted to hurt an enemy 17. It would get me gifts/It would get me gifts 18. I wanted to make money/The person had a lot of money 19. I wanted to hurt an enemy/I wanted to be used or degraded 20. Because of a bet/I wanted to break up a rival's relationship by having sex with his/her partner 21. It was a favor to someone/I wanted to get rid of a headache 22. I wanted to end the relationship/It would damage my reputation if I said "no" 23. I wanted to break up a rival's relationship by having sex with his-her partner/I wanted to get back at my partner for having cheated on me 24. It would damage my reputation if I said "no"/ I felt sorry for the person 25. The person had a lot of money/I wanted to gain access to that person's friend 26. Someone dared me/I wanted to be popular 27. I wanted to have more sex than my friends/I was physically forced to 28. I wanted to even the score with a cheating partner/I felt jealous 29. I thought it would boost my social status/The person bought me jewelry 30. I wanted to be popular/I wanted to end the relationship
31. I wanted to get a special favor from someone/My friends pressured me into it 32. I was afraid to say "no" due to the possibility of physical harm/It was a favor to someone 33. I wanted to relieve menstrual cramps/I wanted to get a favor from someone 34. My friends pressured me into it/Someone dared me 35. I felt sorry for the person/I wanted to avoid hurting someone's feelings 36. I felt jealous/My regular partner is boring, so I had sex with someone else 37. My regular partner is boring, so I had sex with someone else/I wanted to be popular 38. I wanted to get rid of a headache/I felt guilty 39. I wanted to change the topic of conversation/I wanted to enhance my reputation 40. The person had too much to drink and I was able to take advantage of them/I wanted to gain acceptance from friends
41. I wanted to impress friends/I thought it would boost my social status 42. The person was famous and I wanted to be able to say I had sex with him-her/I thought it would help "trap" a new partner 43. I wanted to get out of doing something/I was mad at my partner, so I had sex with someone else 44. I wanted to get even with someone/I wanted to get out of doing something 45. I wanted to make someone else jealous/I wanted to have a child 46. I was competing with someone else to "get the person"/I wanted to make someone else jealous 47. I thought it would help "trap" a new partner/I wanted to change the topic of conversation 48. I was slumming/I wanted to defy my parents 49. I wanted to brag to friends about my conquests/I wanted to stop my partner's nagging 50. The person demanded that I have sex with him-her/I wanted to manipulate him/her into doing something for me