Why Do Women Have Sex? Study Reveals Complexities of Female Arousal

Sept. 21, 2009

AUSTIN, Texas — Challenging the idea that women's sexual motivations are tied exclusively to romantic emotions or reproduction, a new study by psychologists at The University of Texas at Austin found women's sexual decisions are motivated by a shocking array of reasons that range from the mundane ("I was bored") to a sense of adventure ("I wanted to know what it was like before getting married"), and from the altruistic ("I felt sorry for him") to the borderline evil ("I wanted to give him a sexually transmitted disease").

"Understanding why women have sex is extremely important, but rarely studied," said David M. Buss, evolutionary psychology professor. "One thing that's interesting about our study is that it goes against the stereotype that men desire sex for pleasure while women have sex only for love or commitment."

Detailed in their new book "Why Women Have Sex: Understanding Sexual Motivations from Adventure to Revenge (and Everything in Between)," Buss and Cindy M. Meston, clinical psychology professor, collected personal accounts from more than 1,000 women of diverse educational, ethnic and religious backgrounds on their reasons for having sex.

"We knew motivations for sex were more complex than what had previously been talked about in the literature—having a baby, love and physical pleasure," Meston said. "But we were still astonished by the amazing diversity of sexual motivations—from curing a headache to feeling closer to God to getting their partners to take out the trash."

Other findings:

  • Thirty-one percent of women, at some point, purposely evoked jealousy in their sex partner, compared with only 17 percent of men.
  • Eighty-four percent of wives, at some point, said they had sex out of a sense of duty, compared with 64 percent of husbands.
  • Thirty-eight percent of women admit to "poaching" someone for a short-term fling.
  • Fifty percent of women reported having sex to cure a migraine headache.
  • Women, in general, are turned on by men with deep voices and symmetrical bodies.

Meston believes the results of this research will help inform every woman's (and her partner's) awareness of her relationship to sex and her sexuality. The book will be released Sept. 29.

"Our investigation into why women have sex will help both men and women to better understand the sexual psychology of women," Meston said. "This could help increase empathy and sexual communication between partners, and between men and women more generally. My hope is this research will help people to become better 'consumers of sex,' and to make decisions that lead ultimately to more sexual satisfaction and less remorse and regret."

For more information, contact: Jessica Sinn, College of Liberal Arts, 512-471-2404; Cindy M. Meston, professor, Department of Psychology, 512-232-4644; David M. Buss, professor, Department of Psychology, 512-475-8489.

6 Comments to "Why Do Women Have Sex? Study Reveals Complexities of Female Arousal"

1.  Joe said on Sept. 21, 2009

The headline for this article caught my attention. I was hoping for some revealing secrets - but just more complication!

2.  Naughtika said on Sept. 21, 2009

This is a pretty interesting topic because women are always the ones down-played when it comes to sex. Men automatically think that ALL women get attached when they become intimate and it sometimes is quite the opposite! I indulge in sex because I enjoy it, and I enjoy it better when I have the "option" of not having to have the same partner all of the time. I don't have multiple partners, but I do have a partner that I may have for three to six months, then maybe move on to someone else for a partnership that may even last longer, six months to a year. But for me, just having the ability to choose if I so desire is great for me. I am so caught up with my life, I'm comfortable in it and in my skin that perhaps this is why detachment is easier for me. I like the pleasure of sex and all of the feelings that come with it. I just prefer not to get married. That would bore me.

3.  Jonny said on Sept. 25, 2009

Actually it's a scientific fact that women get attached when sexually intimate. It's not even psychological, it's purely biological and neurological. The chemical oxytocin has been linked to bonding and trust and the study found that it is secreted in the female brain during orgasm. Look it up on Wikipedia.

Many of these motivations are unhealthy. Poaching someone for a fling? I would judge that to be sociopathy, and not necessarily attributable to any particular sex. Due to the erosion of the worldwide social climate (except for those few remaining corners of the planet where the first world has not yet touched), sociopathy is on the rise. If this behavior becomes dominant, what's to stop it from becoming socially acceptable? Criminal behavior fast becoming socially acceptable, it's just laughable. "Have fun, lighten-up, you only live once" is the typical mantra associated with this pattern; very judgmental, short-sighted and (ironically) disinterested. All in the name of adventure and excitement. This bears a remarkable similarity to the pattern of compulsive addicts.

4.  Awesomeness said on Oct. 7, 2009

I totally agree with Naughtika on most, and especially on not getting married because it would bore me. On the statistics part of this summary, I'd agree with the 84 percent of women who have sex because it's their duty.

5.  ev said on Oct. 26, 2009

It drives me crazy that promiscuity and loveless sex are being heralded as the next best thing. It is not too big of a leap to notice that uncommitted sex breaks down families and that in turn breaks down society. Marriage isn't boring. You just have to have the maturity to see value in commitment.

When Western society started to celebrate families as the cornerstone of society we started to thrive. I'm not saying that there weren't issues. But keeping love and sex connected will allow men and women to grow intellectually instead of becoming nothing more then lust-driven animals.

This study only emphasizes our society's obsession with carelessness and lack of values which has always been recognized as aspects of youth. Eventually they will become wise, we will continue to hope. Let's not celebrate these new findings though as if they are new. They are merely a result of a nation maturing too slow.

6.  Shantel said on Jan. 3, 2010

Interesting article and very interesting comments. I must interject though on a couple of things. Not all women get emotionally attached through sex. There are some women out there who can just have a one night stand and think nothing of it. You can claim things are scientifically proven, but really what is science if not just a couple of tests run on some, but not all. So it's hypothetical, meaning the rest is your own opinion. And maturity would have a great deal to do with sex if we lived in that day and age. We don't, so sex now is whatever the time permits it to be. Many women who are married understand that sex is something they can control. They can hold out for a week, or they can be spontaneous. To many, it is the duty of the women. Sex is complicated, because without it many relationships falter and with it some cave away as well. Having sex with different people is a way to keep from getting emotionally attached. At this time in your life you may be scared to let someone hold your libido and your heart, because that in itself is a case that scientists also hypothesize about.