• Ernest Furchtgott
Part of the The Springer Series in Adult Development and Aging book series (SSAD)


Sex is frequently classified with hunger and thirst as a basic or biological motive. For example, Wigdor (1980), in her review of drives and motivation in the aged, discusses sex in the section on basic drives, though she notes that “this drive is most subject to learning and the influence of social conditions” (p. 247). Beach (1956), one of the major figures in psychological research on sexual behavior, believed that it was inappropriate to equate sexual behavior with hunger and thirst as a primary motive. First, abstinence from sex does not cause death as does the absence of food and water. Second, food and water deprivation and the associated hunger and thirst sensations produce depletion of body tissues, but this does not occur in sexual deprivation; on the contrary, it is sexual behavior that may cause exhaustion. Finally, at least for primates, though there is some evidence for it even at lower phyletic levels, sexual behavior is determined to a much larger extent by environmental or social factors than are most of the other so-called biological motives. The gerontologist Comfort (1980, p. 887) points out that the importance of social factors in primates precludes any generalizations from animal to human sexual activity. We saw already in the previous chapter that even the animal studies on hunger and thirst provide little guidance for the analysis of human eating and fluid intake. This caveat is even more applicable to sexual behavior.


Sexual Behavior Sexual Activity General Social Survey Penile Erection Sexual Motivation 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ernest Furchtgott
    • 1
  1. 1.Late of the University of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA

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