Motivational pursuits in the context of human sexual relationships

M. Lynne Cooper, Lindsay L. Barber, Ruixue Zhaoyang, Amelia E. Talley

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


The current article examines how close relationships combine with individual differences in sex motives (Cooper, Shapiro, & Powers, 1998) to shape sexual experience. We first provide an overview of the motivational approach as it relates to sexual behavior and then describe 2 broad mechanisms (1 transactional, the other interactional) by which motives and relational context combine to shape behavior. Drawing on our past research, we review evidence showing that people select relationship contexts based partly on their motives and that these contexts in turn shape future motives and behavior; that partner motives shape sexual experience above and beyond one's own motives; and that both the broader relationship context and partner motives moderate the effects of one's own motives on sexual experience. We conclude that the nature of motivational pursuits cannot be adequately understood in the abstract, but rather we must take into account the relational context in which one's needs are pursued.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1333-1368
Number of pages36
JournalJournal of Personality
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology


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