237 Reasons Humans Have Sex

Cristen Conger

There are (at least) 237 reasons humans have sex.
There are (at least) 237 reasons humans have sex.
© Vstock LLC/Tetra Images/Corbis

Asking why humans have sex might seem like an obvious question. It feels good. It bonds us together. Oh, and the future of the human species depends on it.

But prior to the 2007 study, "Why Humans Have Sex," published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, "the most comprehensive existing taxonomy" cited only eight reasons: "to feel valued by a partner, expressing value for a partner, obtaining relief from stress, nurturing one another, enhancing feelings of personal power, experiencing a partner's power, experiencing pleasure and procreating." Oddly, researchers hadn't delved too deeply into the seemingly simplistic question. With that 2007 study, then, University of Texas psychology professor David Buss handily myth-busted the notion that we can identify humans' rationales for sex on our fingers.

In it, he and coauthor Cindy M. Meston asked 444 men and women to list all of the reasons they had ever had sex, and the following 237 answers they received ranged far ("I wanted to get rid of a headache") and wide ("I wanted to feel closer to God"):

  1. The person's physical appearance turned me on
  2. The person had a desirable body
  3. I wanted the pure pleasure
  4. I wanted to achieve an orgasm
  5. I wanted the adventure/excitement
  6. The person had an attractive face
  7. I was "horny"
  8. It's fun
  9. The person was too "hot" to resist
  10. It feels good
  11. I was sexually aroused and wanted the release
  12. The person was too physically attractive to resist
  13. I wanted to improve my sexual skills
  14. It's exciting, adventurous
  15. I saw the person naked and could not resist
  16. I wanted the experience
  17. The opportunity presented itself
  18. I wanted to try out new sexual techniques or positions
  19. I wanted to experience the physical pleasure
  20. I was curious about what the person was like in bed
  21. I hadn't had sex in a long time
  22. I was turned on by the sexual conversation
  23. The person smelled nice
  24. The person had beautiful eyes
  25. The person was really desired by others
  26. The person really desired me
  27. My hormones were out of control
  28. The person wore revealing clothing
  29. I am a sex addict
  30. I wanted to get the most out of life
  31. I thought it would relax me
  32. I'm addicted to sex
  33. I was curious about my sexual abilities
  34. I hadn't had sex for a while
  35. The person was a good kisser
  36. I wanted to see what it would be like to have sex with another person
  37. The person caressed me
  38. The person made me feel sexy
  39. I wanted to release tension
  40. The person was a good dancer
  41. The person was available
  42. I was curious about sex
  43. I wanted to release anxiety/stress
  44. It would allow me to get sex out of my system so that I could focus on other things
  45. I was attracted to the person
  46. The person seemed self-confident
  47. I was frustrated and needed relief
  48. I wanted to feel masculine
  49. I wanted to act out a fantasy
  50. I wanted to satisfy a compulsion
  51. I knew the person was usually out of my league
  52. The person had a great sense of humor
  53. It just happened
  54. I wanted to see whether sex with a different partner would feel different or better
  55. I was in the heat of the moment
  56. I wanted to please my partner
  57. It was easier to go all the way than to stop
  58. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about
  59. I could brad to other people about my sexual experience
  60. I wanted to see if I could get the other person in bed
  61. I was drunk
  62. I wanted to increase the number of sex partners I had experienced
  63. I got carried away
  64. I wanted to relieve blue balls
  65. The person was mysterious
  66. An erotic movie turned me on
  67. I wanted to celebrate something
  68. I thought it would make me feel healthy
  69. It seemed like good exercise
  70. It became a habit
  71. I wanted to make a conquest
  72. I wanted to see what it would be like to have sex while stoned
  73. I was bored
  74. I wanted to lose my inhibition
  75. The person flattered me
  76. I was under the influence of drugs
  77. I wanted to have something to tell my friends
  78. I was tired of being a virgin
  79. I wanted to get rid of aggression
  80. I wanted to dominate the other person
  81. I was seduced
  82. I wanted to get a raise
  83. I wanted to get a job
  84. I wanted to get a promotion
  85. It was an initiation rite to a club or organization
  86. I wanted to give someone else a sexually transmitted disease
  87. I wanted to punish myself
  88. Someone offered me money
  89. I wanted to gain access to that person's friend
  90. I wanted to break up a rival's relationship by having sex with his/her partner
  91. I wanted to hurt an enemy
  92. I wanted to get rid of a headache
  93. I wanted to even the score with a cheating partner
  94. I wanted to get a favor from someone
  95. I wanted to breakup another's friendship
  96. Because of a bet
  97. The person offered me drugs for doing it
  98. My regular partner is boring, so I had sex with someone else
  99. I wanted to hurt/humiliate the other person
  100. I wanted to breakup my relationship
  101. I wanted to be popular
  102. The person had a lot of money
  103. I felt jealous
  104. I wanted to make money
  105. I wanted to get a special favor from someone
  106. I thought it would boost my social status
  107. It was a favor to someone
  108. I was mad at my partner, so I had sex with someone else
  109. The person had too much to drink and I was able to take advantage of them
  110. It would damage my reputation if I said "no"
  111. I wanted to be used or degraded
  112. I wanted to get out of doing something
  113. I wanted to relieve menstrual cramps
  114. I wanted to enhance my reputation
  115. I wanted to impress friends
  116. I wanted to change the topic of conversation
  117. It would get me gifts
  118. The person was famous and I wanted to be able to say I had sex with him/her
  119. I wanted to feel closer to God
  120. I wanted to get even with someone
  121. Someone had told me that this person was good in bed
  122. I was afraid to say "no" due to the possibility of physical harm
  123. I wanted to make someone else jealous
  124. I wanted to end the relationship
  125. Someone dared me
  126. The person bought me jewelry
  127. My friends pressured me into it
  128. I wanted to get back at my partner for having cheated on me
  129. I wanted to make someone else jealous
  130. My friends pressured me into it
  131. I was competing with someone else to get the person
  132. I wanted to brag to my friends about my conquests
  133. I wanted to have more sex than my friends
  134. I wanted to keep warm
  135. I thought it would help me fall asleep
  136. I wanted to become more focused on work
  137. I wanted to have a child
  138. I was slumming
  139. The person had taken me out for an expensive dinner
  140. I wanted to burn calories
  141. I wanted to reproduce
  142. I wanted to test my compatibility with a new partner
  143. I wanted to avoid hurting someone's feelings
  144. I was on the rebound from another relationship
  145. I wanted to defy my parents
  146. It's considered taboo by society
  147. I needed another notch on my belt
  148. I wanted to reaffirm my sexual orientation
  149. I wanted to return a favor
  150. I wanted to gain acceptance from my friends
  151. Everyone else was having sex
  152. I was married and you're supposed to
  153. I realized I was in love
  154. I wanted to increase the emotional bond by having sex
  155. I wanted to show my affection for the person
  156. I wanted to communicate at a deeper level
  157. I wanted to express my love for the person
  158. I wanted to become one with another person
  159. I wanted to feel connected to another person
  160. I wanted to say "I've missed you"
  161. I wanted to celebrate a birthday or anniversay or special occation
  162. I wanted to intensify my relationship
  163. It was a romantic thing
  164. I wanted to welcome someone into my home
  165. I wanted to say "I'm sorry"
  166. I wanted to put the passion back into my relationship
  167. I wanted to say "goodbye"
  168. I wanted to say "thank you"
  169. I wanted to lift my partner's spirits
  170. It was a special occasion
  171. I wanted to get a partner to express love
  172. It seemed like the natural next step
  173. The person was intelligent
  174. I desired emotional closeness
  175. I wanted to help my partner forget his/her problems
  176. I wanted to keep my partner satisfied
  177. I wanted the person to feel good about himself/herself
  178. I wanted to make up after a fight
  179. I wanted a spiritual experience
  180. I felt insecure
  181. I felt like it was my duty
  182. I felt obliged to
  183. I didn't know how to say "no"
  184. I didn't want to disappoint the person
  185. I didn't want to lose the person
  186. I was pressured into doing it
  187. I wanted the person to love me
  188. I was verbally coerced into it
  189. I wanted to boost my self-esteem
  190. I wanted my partner to notice me
  191. I wanted to be nice
  192. I wanted to feel attractive
  193. I wanted to keep my partner happy
  194. It was expected of me
  195. I felt guilty
  196. I was afraid my partner would have an affair if I didn't have sex with him/her
  197. I wanted to feel loved
  198. I felt like I owed it to the person
  199. I wanted to feel powerful
  200. I wanted him/her to stop bugging me about sex
  201. I wanted to make myself feel better about myself
  202. I was feeling lonely
  203. I wanted to keep my partner from straying
  204. I wanted to feel good about myself
  205. I wanted to feel loved
  206. I wanted to get my partner to stay with me
  207. My partner kept insisting
  208. I wanted to raise my self-esteem
  209. I wanted to decrease my partner's desire to have sex with someone else
  210. It was the only way my partner would spend time with me
  211. I thought it would help trap a new partner
  212. I was physically forced to
  213. I wanted to possess the person
  214. I wanted to keep my partner from straying
  215. The person demanded that I have sex with him/her
  216. I wanted to make my partner feel powerful
  217. I felt sorry for the person
  218. I was trying to get over an earlier person/relationship
  219. I felt rebellious
  220. It just seemed like the thing to do
  221. I wanted to stop my partner's nagging
  222. I wanted to submit to my partner
  223. I wanted to ensure the relationship was committed
  224. I wanted to make the person feel better about himself/herself
  225. I wanted to feel older
  226. I wanted to prevent a breakup
  227. I wanted to display submission
  228. I wanted to manipulate him/her into doing something for me
  229. I wanted the attention
  230. It was just part of the relationship routine
  231. I had no self-control
  232. I wanted to gain control of the person
  233. I wanted to feel feminine
  234. I wanted to forget about my problems
  235. I wanted to feel young
  236. I wanted to fulfill a previous promise to my partner
  237. My friends were having sex and I wanted to fit in