The stimulus for sex




Larry lost his house in the fire last week. Everything was gone — art, clothes and furniture. Everything expect for Rebecca.


Rebecca and Larry have been married for 33 years and have three kids and five grandkids. They feel blessed to have the most important thing to them — their family and each other.

Larry and Rebecca evacuated to a friend’s house in Denver. That night they made love. That evening, sex signified comfort, connection and reassurance. It was the best sex Larry has experienced in more than 20 years. For him, sex always means closeness, and showing love to Rebecca. For Rebecca, however, sex oftentimes feels like a sense of duty. She wants to give him a gift and knows that sex feels good to him. But Rebecca doesn’t define sex in the same manner as Larry.

Sex means different things to all of us, and thus, we all have various motives for engaging in it. A study in Sexuality & Culture found 237 reasons people gave for having sex. The classic top three include procreation, pleasure and to show love to a partner.

The study illuminates the concept of body-centered sex versus person-centered sex. Body-centered sex accentuates having sex for corporal pleasure while lacking an emotional backdrop. Person-centered sex emphasizes the relationship and the emotional connection with a partner. Regarding gender differences, body-centered sex is found to be manifested more by men, while person-centered sex is more common with women. It’s like the old adage: women fall in love with people; men fall in love with genitals.

The redemption in this overstated stereotype is that as we age, the relationship becomes more important to men, while women learn to fully accept physical pleasures of the body. Sex therapist David Schnarch similarly points out that during adolescence and young adulthood we may hit our genital prime, where hormones are in the driver seat. Yet in later adulthood, we awaken to our sexual prime, whereupon we assign more meaning to sex.

David, age 30, notes that he is initially drawn to have sex based on a visceral attraction for another. Yet when that attraction settles in deeper, sex becomes love-making.

On the other hand, Shanna Katz, resident sexuality educator at Fascinations, is deeply connected to her bodily pleasure. She states, “When I orgasm during a certain activity, I feel almost spiritual, like I’ve taken off from the earth, and am flying among the planets, riding a shooting star. Nothing else has ever made me feel that way.”

Arielle, 28, has sex to give her vibrator a break and because she likes being naked with someone else.

Katie, a 46-year-old mother of three, loves sex for the connection and to remind her husband that she adores him.

Rita, 65, is engaged to Ralph, 70, and has sex twice a day for the multiple orgasmic pleasure Ralph gives her. Ralph has sex to keep up with Rita.

Scientist Jared Diamond, author of Why Sex is Fun, explains that human beings are the only species having regular sex for reasons beyond procreation.

We have sex with various partners irrelevant of breeding, whether with the opposite gender, same gender, or alone. We have sex although we have no idea when we are ovulating. We have sex although we have stopped ovulating (menopause). Even when not lactating, female breasts are engorged with fat for visual stimulation and attracting a mate. And human penis size is uselessly too large. While a gorilla’s erect penis barely pushes one inch, and an orangutan gets a whooping 1.5 inches, the male human boasts an average erect penis of five inches even though he has a much smaller body compared to the neighboring monkey species. Human male penis size is unnecessary for complex sexual positions or for sexual stamina. The petite penis orangutan outnumbers us in intercourse endurance, and even performs a radical variety of copulatory positions while hanging from trees.

If size is irrelevant when executing necessary duties of urination and ejaculation, the only explanation is that the human penis is a symbol of virility — and thus, a symbol of why we have sex.

At the end of the day, as Jared Diamond says, sex is fun.

Jenni Skyler, PhD, is a sex therapist and board-certified sexologist. She runs The Intimacy Institute in Boulder,