12 Common Motivations for Sex (Part 1)

If you think about the motivations for having sex you might think well, you have sex because you want to have sex. Now wouldn’t that be easy? If that were the case I’d be out of a job! That would be like saying we eat food simply because we want to eat food. Instead each time you eat food the motivation may stem from the biological urge of hunger, or your body is craving some iron, or perhaps you want to enjoy something yummy, because you are avoiding a negative feeling, because you feel like you have to (does “eat all of your food or there’s no leaving the table or dessert sound familiar?). 

So it’s not so simple. Sexual motivations vary and there are 12 common motivations that I have come across in my years of work, yes 12. And in actuality, there are more but these will give you a start to considering your why, your motivation, for your Inner Miss Desire saying ‘yes’ to sex with your partner. Keep in mind that your motivations may vary at any given time and that’s ok! Some may also overlap and so several motivations will exist at the same time. What’s powerful about understanding what motivates you is this awareness allows you to pause and ask yourself if this is how you want to approach sex with your partner and if not, ask yourself what motivation would you like instead. Or further, if there is something else you could do to address the underlying need. 

Motivation 1: Spontaneous Desire

Your Inner Miss Desire may be saying ‘yes’ to sex because you are experiencing a spontaneous motivation from a surge of hormones that has you want to have sex with your partner. (And let’s be clear here that when I’m referring to sex throughout this article I mean being sexually intimate, which could be full penetration, oral sex, genital touching, etc. There’s a the whole assortment of sexual pleasures to enjoy. This motivation happens more in the beginning of your relationship and also in certain times of your period. In long-term relationships, if you wait around for the hormonal surge from spontaneous desire you may be waiting for this motivation to emerge for a while because it isn’t dependable, especially for women and in long-term relationships. Acknowledging that this isn’t THE way to be motivated to have sex, despite what media shows us, but is rather ONE way, will make all the difference for you and allow you to access other types of motivations. 

Motivation 2: Responsive Desire

This is the body before mind approach. Your motivation stems from the response to your body receiving touch with enough time to “warm-up”. Your mind then comes on board saying ‘yes’ to sex. This type of desire is the most dominant type of desire because women don’t have the same level of hormones that ignite the spontaneous desire as frequently or powerfully as many men. This responsive desire motivation means you are not waiting for the spontaneous hormonal surge like in spontaneous desire. Instead, the motivation is coming from the building of arousal in your body, which then triggers your mind to go “yes please!” 

Motivation 3: Obligation

This is a zone of motivation that I have heard many women visit and is not where I want you to be. Often the obligation sex or “I have to”, comes from thoughts like “we haven’t had sex in a while and I feel I should to keep him happy” or “I might as well to keep the peace so he stops bugging me”. This is an obligation and although it is a motivation for sex, it isn’t one that honors you in the least bit. It builds resentment and resentment is a HUGE block of desire. To avoid obligation sex there are tools like a Rain Check to navigate intimacy in an honoring way for both of you. Further, when you are intimate you don’t have to say yes to the whole kit and kaboodle but rather you can find the <<slices of pleasure>> that you can say yes to remove the pressure and have a balance of respecting yourself and your partner. 

Motivation 4: Giving a Gift of Connection  

This motivation for sex is different than obligation sex but can quickly enter obligation space if left unchecked. Gift sex means that you are saying yes because your partner asks and, although you weren’t thinking or wanting sex in that moment, you want to give the relationship a gift of connection and so you say yes. The motivation then, is that you want to deposit connection into the love bank of your relationship, like when you focus on the 5 Love Languages. The importance is that the yes comes from a “yes I want to” rather than “yes because I have to”, which is an obligation. A gut check will help you distinguish the two: if there is a sinking feeling, tightness or internal eye-roll to your yes, that would mean obligation is afloat, and if there is an openness, leaning forward, and internal curiosity and smile then a gift is being given.

Motivation 5: Calming Anxiety About the Relationship

A motivation for sex can come from a feeling of uncertainty that we are loved, wanted, desired, enough etc. This means you are seeking out sex to soothe the fear stemming from questions in your mind like “does my partner love me”. At the root, it is one way in which you may be trying to ease the fear of abandonment. Or perhaps a fear that you don’t want to end up like your parents: in a 35-year relationship that is cold, distant and unloving. You may seek out sex with your partner because it is a very tangible reassurance and a soothing answer to the fearful questions inside you. An example reassurance reasoning would look like: if my partner has sex with me then that means they want me and I’m important, and if that is the case then they aren’t going to go anywhere, which means I won't be abandoned. The tricky part of this is that it puts so much pressure on the sexual side of your relationship to ease that fear and provide reassurance. Being open and vulnerable with your fears and gaining emotional reassurance is a way to ease that pressure on sex. 

Motivation 6: To Add Playfulness to the Relationship 

This motivation stems from the desire to enjoy the playground that we as adults get to experience. The bedroom, or wherever the shenanigans occur, is a potential for exploration and curiosity and play, just like when we were kids exploring the tunnels and monkey bars of a playground. Play is so important in life in general and as adults, we often forget to play amid bills and dropping the kids off at school. “Hey let’s go play!” can be a fun motivation and the possibilities are endless when you use your imagination and creativity. There are toys galore!

These six motivations for sex: spontaneous desire, responsive desire, obligation, gift-giving, relationship anxiety, and play are common but keep in mind there are others. Next week’s post will give you six more! Share in the comments below if any of these motivations pop up for you in your relationship and If you need further help or want personalized guidance and answers to your questions, there’s help for that! I have the awesome cost-effective Intentional Intimacy Email Coaching Program that is just perfect for the on-the-go woman. Curious?