"I wanted to get rid of a headache."

"I wanted to be nice."

"I wanted to feel closer to God."

"I wanted to change the topic of conversation"

These are some of the reasons researchers found that people engage in sex. Two clinical psychology professors at the University of Texas conducted a study, published in the August issue of the Archives of Sexual Behaviour, to find out people’s top reasons for having sex.

Professors Cindy Meston and David Buss performed their study in two parts. First they asked 444 people, from age 17 to 52, to give "all the reasons you can think of why you, or someone you have known, has engaged in sexual intercourse in the past." This netted them 715 reasons, which they narrowed down (after removing duplicate answers) to 237.

The second part of their study involved surveying about 1,500 undergraduate students to rank the reasons from a scale of 1 to 5 according to how often they had done the deed for that reason. This gave them their ranking system.

Meston told reporters that she and Buss performed the study to challenge existing assumptions and to provide answers for professionals treating people with sexual disorders, or to improve programs for safe sex.

"You need to know why people are having sex if you’re trying to put into place a safe-sex program," said Meston to the press. "If you assume people have sex because they’re in the heat of the moment, then you tell them to carry condoms. But if they’re doing it for revenge or because they want to enhance their social status, that will require a different strategy."

Meston said that she was surprised at the high number of various reasons people gave. Most people, she said, would guess that there are a relatively small number of standard reasons given, i.e. they are in love, want to create a child, are attracted to the other person. But "…we found that people are having sex for lots of other reasons."

Some of them were expected: "I wanted to please my partner," "To celebrate a special occasion," or, "I realized I was in love." And some of the reasons were really strange. Among the more unusual reasons listed in the study were "Because of a bet," "The person offered me drugs," "It was an initiation rite," and the very unpleasant, "To give someone a sexually transmitted disease."

The study’s co-author David Buss, author of the well known "The Evolution of Desire," said to the The New York Times, "I was truly astonished by this richness of sexual psychology."

Keep in mind that the rankings were created by 1,500 college undergraduates. Meston agrees that the subject group may skew the results, and she’d expect different rankings from older people. However, the students only came up with the ranking; the reasons were derived from the first phase of the study, in which the ages of the test group was ranged from 17 to 52.

One aspect of the study that has been surprising (other than some of the reasons themselves) is the fact that there were not many differences in the responses from men and women. Both the top 10 and the bottom 10 reasons given my men and women were very similar. The number one reason given by both sexes was "I was attracted to the person," and eight of the top ten were the same, including, "It’s fun," "To express my love for the person," and "I was horny."

"It refuted a lot of gender stereotypes…that men only want sex for the physical pleasure and women want love," said Meston to reporters. "That’s not what I came up with in my findings." Meston added that there were only slight differences; for example, men were more likely "to be opportunistic towards having sex, so if sex were there and available they would jump on it," (so to speak), "…somewhat more so than women."

Yes, that is actually what she said.

Reaction to the results of the study have been overwhelming—apparently people are very interested in reading about the reasons we have sex. Online bloggers have offered several suggestions for reason #238, including, "To make my husband stop whining," "It keeps my face out of the refrigerator," and my personal favorite, "Uh, you need a reason?"


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