Why Women Have Sex

A new book reveals some of the surprising reasons women have sex -- and what they get from it

Men have spent millennia trying to figure out exactly what prompts women to climb into the sack. It's a question that science hasn't been able to truly answer. That's why researchers Cindy M. Meston, Ph.D. and David M. Buss, Ph.D. decided to simply ask more than 2,000 women, age 18 to 87, why they have sex and what they expect to get from it for their book, Why Women Have Sex. The two psychologists discovered reasons that ran from the trivial—"I was told that if a man could dance he could perform in bed. I did not believe this and wanted to see if it was true"—to the downright unscrupulous: "I decided that I wanted to sleep with this man, just to sort of get back at my friend, and to sort of prove that I was the more attractive/better one of us. So I achieved what I set out to do." But their results also found a surprising, most-common reason why women have sex, summed up nicely by this 36-year-old survey participant: "Sex for pleasure is the main motivation for most of my experiences."

Does this focus on pleasure mean that women are more like men than we thought? Not exactly. iVillage spoke with Meston and Buss to find out more about the remarkable reasons women pursue sex.

iVillage: What surprised you most about the survey?
David Buss: I was surprised by—and maybe it's just because I have a Y chromosome—the tremendous impact that sex has on women's self-esteem. Some of the stories are truly heart-wrenching. Some women feel that they have sex because it will result in greater emotional closeness, but they do it and end up feeling lonelier and more miserable. To the other end, some women in a bad relationship have sex and it gives them the confidence to leave the relationship. Just the dramatic impact that sex has on women's self-esteem is particularly interesting.

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