Wednesday, August 01, 2007

On the "The Whys of Mating: 237 Reasons and Counting"

Most news sources have picked up the story I first saw that the New York Times did on July 31, 2007 entitled "The Whys of Mating: 237 Reasons and Counting" (free registration may be required to access the story). First of all, the New York Times article title is misleading. It refers to the "Whys of Mating" when the study done clearly refers to the "Whys of Sex." Mating typically refers to the act of reproduction. Whereas this study clearly did not seem to equate sexual intercourse with reproduction. But I digress.

The New York Times piece concerns a study done by psychologists at the University of Texas at Austin who surveyed nearly two thousand people and came up with a total of 237 reasons why people have sexual intercourse. As the NYTimes story points out, these reasons run the gamut "from 'I wanted to feel closer to God' to 'I was drunk.' They even found a few people who claimed to have been motivated by the desire to have a child." The Times piece says that "The researchers, Cindy M. Meston and David M. Buss, believe their list, published in the August issue of Archives of Sexual Behavior, is the most thorough taxonomy of sexual motivation ever compiled. This seems entirely plausible." How this can seem plausible is a point of contention from my perspective. More on this later.
The researchers collected the data by first asking more than 400 people to list their reasons for having sex, and then asking more than 1,500 others to rate how important each reason was to them. Although it was a fairly homogenous sample of students at the University of Texas, nearly every one of the 237 reasons was rated by at least some people as their most important motive for having sex.

The best news is that both men and women ranked the same reason most often: “I was attracted to the person.”

The rest of the top 10 for each gender were also almost all the same, including “I wanted to express my love for the person,” “I was sexually aroused and wanted the release” and “It’s fun.”
Without getting much further into the study, I wanted to point out something very important about the volunteers in this study. As the study notes (you can find the study linked on the New York Times website in the form of a .pdf), the majority of those who took part in the survey and were tested with the Why Have Sex questionnaire, were undergraduate students (1,549: 503 men and 1046 women) and they ranged in age from 16 to 42 years of age and the mean age was 19. Of this group of 1,549 participants, 4% of the women were married and 2% of the men were married. These psychologists were clearly not motivated to tie together marriage and sexual intercourse. They were more interested in the sexual habits and reasonings from mostly sexually-active single people who live in a hook-up culture where sex is amusement and pleasure and with the body something to be used.

I might say more about the study as I read further into it. For now, this is all I want to say.