It might seem obvious: “Why do we want to have sex?”. You might be surprised that the answer to that question differs a lot.
A decade ago, researchers Cindy Meston and David Buss asked a couple of hundreds students what their most important reason for having sex was. They received no les than 237 different reasons, varying from wanting to experience pleasure and being horny (most common) to wanting to punish oneself or wanting to hurt someone (least common).
Their research got a lot of justifiable attention, but also some criticism. All participants in the research were psychology students and that made the results questionable and not representative. What would be the reasons for elder people, or persons with a different education or background?
New research by a team of Belgian and Dutch scientists that was published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine answers some of these questions. These researchers interviewed 4,655 persons about the reasons they have sex and they used a compressed version of the list of reasons of Meston and Buss. The participants varied in age from 13 to 83.
Sex makes us feel good
It’s not surprising that in this new research, a lot of similarities were found. Despite age or gender, three out of four of the most common reasons were the same for men and women: ‘it’s fun’, ‘it feels good’, and ‘I want to experience physical pleasure’. In short, most people have sex because it makes us feel good.
The differences between age and gender become bigger if you’d scroll down the list of reasons. Only then it appears that women give more emotional reasons (like love and commitment) and insecurity (self esteem, don’t want the partner to leave them). Men give more physical reasons (relieve stress, feeling attracted to their partner). This difference between men and women can be found at almost all ages. This means that men and women don’t grow towards each other when they grow older. This is interesting, because the researchers expected that men would give more emotional reasons for having sex, once they grow older and are in a long term relationship longer. The opposite seems to be true. Young men seem to have sex out of reasons of love and commitments more often and that seems to decrease when they age.
Reasons for sex change with age
When we grow older, so the research shows, the physical reasons – such as getting turned on by an attractive partner – and more utilitarian reasons – like wanting to improve skills in bed or trying to get a favor of your partner – decrease for both men and women. The scientists conclude taht the function of sex changes over the years.
Another thing that is striking, is that the researchers saw that we have less sex when we become older, but that we find sex more important though. So, although we do it less often, that doesn’t mean we find it less relevant or meaningful. The opposite seems to be the case. On the other hand, it must be noted that it can be a matter of age difference, but also as a result of generation differences. It might just be that the values of persons that grew up in the ’70s are different from those that grew up in the ’90s.
So there are differences between men and women, but these are mainly to be found in the tail of the list. The common reasons for people to have sex (the top 4) is mainly the same for both men and women: we want to enjoy pleasure and entertain ourselves. That seems to be the main motivation for everybody, despite age, gender or background.