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Thursday, September 6, 2007

Why we have sex

In Channel Ten's new series Californication, a Los Angeles writer named Hank sleeps with five - or was it 10? - busty, celullite-free women in the very first episode. And while he seems to be getting a healthy dose of casual sex, he still finds himself begging his ex-wife to take him back, lamenting that his life just isn't the same without her.

While bedding a bevy of women in the space of 30 minutes and wanting to ditch it all for his one true love is fittingly fantastical (it is Hollywood after all), it got me thinking about a recent survey disclosing the reasons why people have sex.

So why do we have sex? Is it for love? Intimacy? Pleasure? The answer isn't as simple as you once might have thought. Scientists have found that there are a whopping 237 reasons why we engage in the horizontal hanky-panky. And it wasn't so easy to find the answers either.

Researchers at the University of Texas spent a whole five years on the project, using their very own money to study the "why" behind sex.

The No. 1 reason? "I was attracted to the person," followed by - surprise, surprise - physical pleasure. In the No. 3 spot was to express love, followed by the need to feel desired and the quest to deepen the relationship. Then there are the less-common answers, which include wanting a promotion to feeling closer to God. Hmph ...

The study, carried out by clinical psychology professor Cindy Meston and her colleague David Buss, studied 444 men and women aged between 17 to 52. They were surprised to find that it refuted many of the gender stereotypes. Mostly "... that men only want sex for the physical pleasure and women want love," says Meston. "That's not what I came up with in my findings."

Instead, according to the scientists, the most surprising find was that women these days are doing it like men: purely for physical pleasure.

Psychologist Jo-Anne Baker says she's noticed a similar trend in her own practice. "Women want to feel pleasure as well as feeling empowered as a sexual woman," she says. "They want to enjoy sex for what it is: pleasure, expression, connection and affection, rather than doing it differently with the hope of a deep psychological connection."

She also says that animal attraction does play a major role and that our brains play a discerning role too. "If not, we would be having sex with everyone we are attracted to."

To find out more, I made a visit to the University of NSW to have a chat to Dr Rob Brooks from the Evolution and Ecology Research Centre. By his reckoning, sex feels good as a pay-off to encourage us to procreate. "If sex was cold and nasty all of the time, we would find that very few individuals would do it and we or one of our ancestors would have died out," he says. Indeed.

Are there any reasons not to? "The odds are overwhelmingly in favour of it, aren't they?" says Jed, my male mate, who provides an overwhelming source of sexual amusement and fodder for this column. And I think he might just be right ...

Why do you think people have sex? Love, lust, emotional attachment?

ASK SAM EXTRA: Kiss = Sex?

"Don't have sex man," advised comedian Steve Martin to blokes everywhere, saying: "It leads to kissing and pretty soon you have to start talking to them."

Yet a recent US study has found that most men kiss women in hope of increasing the likelihood of having sex! And that men are less discriminating when it comes to deciding who to kiss or who to have sex with, than the women. What do you think?

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