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Why Women Have Sex

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Press Release



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE     For More Information Contact:
         Melanie DeNardo

An unparalleled exploration of the mysteries underlying women’s sexuality, from two of America’s leading research psychologists

Why Women Have Sex

Understanding Sexual Motivations from Adventure to Revenge (and Everything in Between)

by Cindy M. Meston, Ph.D., and David M. Buss, Ph.D.

“Why Women Have Sex is an endlessly well informed and irresistibly readable book. [It is] the most fascinating and illuminating look at female sexuality since Kinsey’s Sexual Behavior in the Human Female.” —Mary Roach, author of Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex

“What an excellent book! You will come away from reading Why Women Have Sex with a better understanding of what turns women on or off, the physiology underlying desire and arousal, the likely consequences when sex is undertaken to thwart or titillate a partner, and the complexity of sexual desire.” —Sandra Leiblum, Ph.D., coauthor of Getting the Sex You Want

“This study will intrigue and inform students and readers of Havelock Ellis, William Masters and Virginia E. Johnson, and Alfred Kinsey.” —Library Journal 

“Solidly researched.” —Publishers Weekly 


Do women have sex simply to reproduce or to display their affection? When University of Texas at Austin clinical psychologist Cindy M. Meston and evolutionary psychologist David M. Buss joined forces to investigate the underlying sexual motivations of women for WHY WOMEN HAVE SEX (Times Books/September 29, 2009), what they found astonished them.

Drawing on their pioneering research on physiological responses and evolutionary emotions, as well as an intensive survey of more than a thousand women that was conducted solely for the book, Meston and Buss reveal the motivations that guide women’s sexual decisions. Here is what some women divulge in WHY WOMEN HAVE SEX:

• “I seduced someone else just to give myself the confidence that, if I were dumped, I would still be able to find another partner.”
• “I was only seeing him because I was bored, new in town, and had not met anyone else . . . I figured, why not? He enjoyed it and I got a good meal.”
• “It was a dream come true . . . I was able to lose myself and see God.”
• “Sex for pleasure; he was a sure thing. It was as simple and complex as ‘I want you.’ ”

Using women’s own words and backed by extensive scientific evidence, the authors delve into the use of sex as a defensive tactic against a mate’s infidelity, as a ploy to boost social status, as a barter for household chores, and even as a cure for a migraine headache. Meston and Buss offer a revelatory examination of the deep-seated psychology and biology that drive women to have sex, sometimes in pursuit of joy and sometimes for darker, disturbing reasons that a woman may not fully recognize.

WHY WOMEN HAVE SEX stands as the richest and deepest psychological understanding of women’s sexuality yet achieved and promises to inform every woman’s (and her partner’s) awareness of her relationship to sex and her sexuality—and the consequences as well as the impact on her both emotionally and physically.


Cindy M. Meston is one of the world’s leading researchers on women’s sexuality and a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, where she directs the Sexual Psychophysiology Laboratory, a cutting-edge lab on women’s sexual experience.

David M. Buss, one of the founders of the field of evolutionary psychology, is a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and is the author of several books, including The Evolution of Desire and The Dangerous Passion. Their jointly authored article, “Why Humans Have Sex,” garnered international attention when it was published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.

Understanding Sexual Motivations from Adventure to Revenge (and Everything in Between)

by Cindy M. Meston, Ph.D., and David M. Buss, Ph.D.
Times Books/Henry Holt and Company
On sale: September 29, 2009/ISBN: 978-0-8050-8834-2/$25.00

Some Surprising and Fascinating Findings

 The Study: Men and Women Have Sex for Similar Reasons*

In Meston and Buss’s original study of 2,000 people, women most commonly said they had sex because:
1. I was attracted to the person.
2. I wanted to experience the physical pleasure.
3. It feels good.

Men’s top three choices?
      1. I was attracted to the person.
      2. It feels good.
      3. I wanted to experience the physical pleasure.
      *Notice there is no mention of motivating emotional reasons from either gender.

 The Complexity of Women’s Sexual Motivations

There is an astonishing variety of sexual motivations, ranging from the altruistic (to boost my partner’s self-esteem) to borderline evil (I wanted to give someone else a sexually transmitted disease).

 Sex as a Mate-Switching Strategy and Transition Strategy

o Having affairs to segue out of one relationship and into another
o Having affairs to test the mating market to see whether there are better mates out there

 What Turns Women On? Knee-Knocking Symmetry

Men with deep voices have more symmetrical bodies, and more symmetrical bodies signal more robust, disease-fighting genes for their offspring. It turns out that women also have more frequent orgasms with partners who have symmetrical bodies—an evolutionary adaptation that plays out in whom they find sexually attractive, from the sound of a voice to the smell of a person’s sweat.

 Dads vs. Cads 

Women like men who are tall, have a deep voice, and masculine bodies and faces—these are evolutionary triggers of health and good genes but they also are qualities associated with unfaithfulness.

 The Ferocity of Women’s Sexual Competition with Other Women

Mate poaching—stealing mates from other women, sometimes their best friends: 53 percent of women admit to trying to lure someone else’s mate into a committed relationship and 38 percent admit to “poaching” someone for a short-term fling.


 The Thing Called Love: Getting Emotional Connection

The hormone oxytocin, which has been associated with emotional bonding, spikes in women during orgasm. The oxytocin effect is powerful: if you inject oxytocin into young rats that have never given birth or even copulated, they nuzzle and protect other females’ rat pups as if they were their own.

 Sexual Medicine: The Health Rewards

• The headache cure: During sex, the hormone oxytocin triggers the release of endorphins—the cause of “runner’s high”—which relieve migraines in about fifteen minutes for 50 percent of women.

• The insomnia cure: During orgasm, the hormone prolactin—linked with feelings of satiety and sleep—is released. In men, prolactin inhibits further arousal, but in women it does not. There is a 400 percent increase in prolactin release when an orgasm occurs after intercourse rather than after masturbation—which may be evolution’s way of favoring sex with a partner.



Have You Ever Had Sex . . .

. . . Out of Green-eyed Desire?
Thirty-one percent of women had purposefully evoked jealousy in their sex partner—from mentioning that someone made a pass to talking about past relatonships—versus 17 percent of men.

. . . Due to a Sense of Duty?
Eighty-four percent of wives say that they usually or always comply when their spouse wants to have sex and they don’t—versus 64 percent of husbands. Women gave three reasons for willingly having unwanted sex: to maintain the relationship; it was the “nice” thing to do; it was their duty.

. . . For a Sense of Adventure?
Among women who chose “other” as their sexual orientation, “fill in the blank” responses included asexual, bi-curious, hetero-flexible, pansexual, straight-plus, fluid, open, still questioning, and various combinations—for example, “mostly heterosexual plus a touch of gay.”

. . . To Barter and Trade?
Prostitution isn’t the only form of sexual economics.

• When a twenty-two-year-old woman auctioned her virginity to the highest online bidder this year, bids reportedly neared $4 million. She retained the right to accept a lower offer.
• When women have casual sex, 63 percent prefer to have it with a friend, compared to 37 percent who prefer to have it with a stranger.

. . . For the Ego Boost?
Changing body image due to aging plays a major role. Compared to ten years earlier, 57 percent of women report less sexual desire; 58 percent report engaging in sex less often; 40 percent enjoy sex less; and 32 percent report more difficulty with orgasms.