Love Wood vs. Morning Wood

Many years ago, back in Pennsylvania in a local bar, a male friend intimated that his girlfriend wouldn’t have sex with him in the morning if he woke up with morning wood. She complained, “It’s morning wood, not love wood, and it has nothing to do with me.” Love wood, eh? This became a running joke between my sister and I for years, but this story brings up an important point about individual meanings and motivations for sex.

In 2007, psychological researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found that college students identified 237 different reasons why they have sex. This was obviously a very detailed list, such as: The person was a good kisser, I wanted to enhance my reputation, I wanted to feel connected to the person, and I wanted the person to love me. The themes that emerged included physical reasons, goal attainment, emotional reasons, and insecurities. So the motivation for sex could be for a physical release, while other times it is a desire for intimate connection. It could also be for self-validation or as an accomplishment. Sometimes it could be many at once, in the same person. The point is that while we tend to think that our partners should have the same reasons for wanting sex as us, it makes sense that motivations vary from person to person, and through time and context.

If you have a regular sex partner, do you know their motivations for having sex? What about your own? Whether you are in a relationship or single this is a great question to consider when reflecting on past relationships and current sexual encounters. We tend to make a lot of assumptions about why others have sex with us but don’t openly discuss it; this can lead to hurt and misunderstandings. Morning wood might just be a physical reaction and not relevant to the specific bed partner. But a little creativity and communication can make this situation ripe for intimate connection as well. I suggest, either alone or with a partner, writing down as many reasons you can think of for why you have sex, in the four categories of physical, goals, emotional, and insecurities. No doubt you will glean some personal insights into your erotic patterns and growth!

Jennifer Gunsaullus, Ph.D.

Sex Therapy & Relationship Counseling in San Diego