Women’s Reasons For Sex And How They Relate To Relationship Status And Sexual Orientation

Previous research has found that both men and women report a wide range of reasons for having sex. In fact, as many as 237 different reasons have been identified! But how do people’s reasons and motivations for sex differ based on the type of relationship they’re in (i.e., casual vs. committed)? And are there differences in sexual motivations based on sexual orientation? A new study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior offers a revealing look at how relationship type and sexual orientation are associated with women’s reasons for having sex.

In this study, 510 adult women were recruited through both a college student subject pool and online to complete a survey about their sexual motivations. Participants were 21.6 years old on average, with most being heterosexually-identified (61.7%) and from Canada (94%).

Participants were given a list of 140 different motivations for having sex drawn from past research (e.g., pleasure, love, revenge). For each item, participants indicated how often they had sex for that specific reason in four contexts: casual sex with a woman, casual sex with a man, committed relationship sex with a woman, and committed relationship sex with a man.

Results revealed that when it came to relationship type, physical reasons for sex were more frequently endorsed than emotional reasons for sex when a casual partner was involved. The reverse held for true for sex with a committed partner (i.e., emotional reasons were more common than physical reasons). These results held regardless of whether the partner was male or female.

Examples of some of the most common reasons for sex with a casual partner included: “I wanted to experience the physical pleasure,” “The person’s physical appearance turned me on,” “I was ‘horny,’” and “It feels good.”

Examples of some of the most common reasons for sex with a committed partner included: “I wanted to show my affection to the person,” “I wanted to express my love for the person,” and “I desired emotional closeness.”

For both casual and committed sex with male and female partners, the least commonly reported motivations did not differ and generally focused on goal-attainment (e.g., “I wanted to feel closer to God,” “I wanted to give someone else a sexually transmitted disease”).

For the most part, women’s patterns of sexual attraction were unrelated to their reasons for having sex. Thus, when comparing women with same-sex or bisexual attraction to women attracted to the other sex, their self-reported motivations for sex were largely the same. Thus, sexual orientation did not appear to play much of a role, at least in this sample.

Like every study, this one has its limitations, including the fact that most participants were young college students. It’s possible that the pattern of findings could be different in an older sample with more cultural and ethnic diversity. In addition, most women were heterosexual, and those who weren’t had relatively few same-sex experiences. A more diverse sample would be useful before drawing too many conclusions about the sexual orientation results.

That said, this research provides additional support for the idea that women’s reasons for sex are many and varied; however, it also tells us that women’s motivations for sex are context-dependent.

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To learn more about this research, see: Armstrong, H. L., & Reissing, E. D. (2015). Women’s motivations to have sex in casual and committed relationships with male and female partners. Archives of Sexual Behavior44(4), 921-934.

Image Source: 123RF.com/HONGQI ZHANG

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