Why Women Have Sex

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

Cindy Meston: There were lots of things we were surprised by. We were expecting it to be diverse, but we were surprised by the diversity of motives for having sex—everything from sympathy sex to the darker side of competition and revenge; to mate-poaching and wanting to get closer to God. I was also surprised by the lack of substantial gender differences. Women dohave sex for love, and love was a big theme in our research, but what was surprising was that physical gratification was frequently endorsed as a reason. Women were just as likely as men to want to have sex because it felt good—they wanted the pure physical pleasure. That was refreshing in a lot of ways. It's nice to know that the majority of women are having sex because it brings them pleasure.
Buss: It's not like women have to have love or feel that emotional connection for every reason that they have sex. Some women have sex for exchange or simply because it feels good, or for economic gain.

iVillage: So the idea that women see sex as an expression of an emotional commitment isn't necessarily true?
Meston: For some women, when the partner wanted emotional commitment, it was a turn off. They wanted sex for the adventure and the experience; to test out the partner, to try men of different ethnicities, financial statuses, penis sizes.

iVillage: What about the idea explored in your book of using sex as a trade-off for something else?
Buss: We have a whole chapter in the book called "Barter and Trade" which deals with the exchange aspects of sex. These range from having sex so he'd take out the garbage to a husband getting a promotion at work that made the woman feel more in the mood for sex. Another reason [why women have sex] had to do with mate-switching. Women in a relationship will have sex with someone else to either test the waters to see if there's a better mate out there; to segue out of an unhappy relationship; or boost her self-esteem to give her confidence to leave a relationship. The other thing we found was the mate-poaching: women having sex with men who were already in relationships either for short-term sexual encounters or to lure them out of the relationship.

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