How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways. . .

by Susan Moke

Which of the following statements about your sexual motivations most strongly reflects your feelings?

  1. One of the best ways of feeling like an important part of my partner's life is relating to him or her sexually.
  2. The sense of emotional closeness I experience from having sex with my partner is one of the most satisfying ways I know of feeling valued.
  3. Many times when I am feeling unhappy or depressed, thinking about sex or engaging in sexual activity will make me feel better.
  4. Often the most pleasurable sex I have is when it helps my partner forget about his or her problems and enjoy life a little more.
  5. Expressing myself sexually generally makes me feel personally strong and in control of things.
  6. Engaging in sexual activity is a very important way for me to experience and appreciate the personal strength and forcefulness my partner is capable of.
  7. I really value sexual activity as a way of enjoying myself and adding an element of adventure to my life.
  8. I especially enjoy sex when my partner and I are trying to have a baby.

These questions are part of a self-evaluation called the AMORE (Affective and Motivational Orientation Related to Erotic Arousal) questionnaire designed to investigate motivations for engaging in sexual activity (fantasy, masturbation, and sexual interaction with a partner). Craig Hill, an associate professor of psychology at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, developed the questionnaire. Hill's research has led him to identify eight distinct sexual motivations.

If you responded most positively to question 1, Hill would identify you as someone who most often engages in sexual activity out of a desire to feel valued by your partner. If you responded most positively to question 2, he might conclude that your predominant reason for sexual expression is to express value for your partner. Hill contends that six other sexual motivations affect sexual expression: obtaining relief from stress, providing nurturance to one's partner, enhancing feelings of personal power, experiencing the power of one's partner, experiencing pleasure, and procreating. The AMORE questionnaire consists of 62 questions that target these eight motivations.

Hill's current research extends investigations he conducted as a research associate and assistant scientist at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction. Under the directorship of June Machover Reinisch and then of Stephanie Sanders, Hill was involved in a project documenting the frequency and prevalence of sexual behavior among college students and examining how students are motivated to engage in risk-taking behavior. His current studies also sample from this population, although the student population at IPFW is somewhat older (the average age is 27) than that on the Bloomington campus.

Does Hill's research indicate that women and men tend to have different sexual motives? Hill says that the same eight motives emerge for both sexes. He notes, however, that the genders diverge in average strength of two of the motives: "There's a sex difference in men's rating the relief-from-stress motive higher. There also seems to be a reliable sex difference in men saying they wanted to experience the power of their partners more often than women did." Explaining the goals of his study, Hill points out that "the reasons for engaging in sex are more varied and complicated than has previously been thought. In the past, both theorists and the lay population have assumed that sex is related to either a desire for pleasure or for having children. The point I am making is that there are a number of different reasons people want sex. People will engage in different strategies with their sexual partners depending on what they are interested in about sexuality." Thus someone who is interested in furthering relationship intimacy will engage in different kinds of courtship strategies and sexual behaviors than someone who is interested primarily in physical pleasure.

In a follow-up study, Hill is examining sexual relationships of student and non student couples in the Fort Wayne community to see how these couples' sexual motives affect each partner. He wants to follow the couples' relationships over an extended time to see how partners' match of motivations affects their satisfaction with their relationships. He believes partners' "match" of sexual motivation has a significant effect on how fulfilling they find their relationship.
Hill's AMORE questionnaire both extends previous projects undertaken at the Kinsey Institute and complements current projects, in particular the investigations being conducted by Erick Janssen, an associate scientist at the institute, and Dr. John Bancroft, the institute director, into inhibitions of sexual response (see "Reconceptualizing Sexual Arousal"). Kinsey