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The Need to Mate


Explanations > Needs > The Need to Mate

Need | Example | Related to | Discussion |  So what?




We have a deep driver to have children. This requires:

  • Finding a mate who is capable of producing children.
  • Beating any competition for the potential mate's attention.
  • Wooing them so they want to mate with us.
  • Going through necessary rituals such as marriage.
  • Mating itself.
  • Ensuring the children grow to maturity so they can continue this process.

The act of mating is, by design, pleasurable with an intense climax that ensures we keep going until the act is complete.

There is a general need to mate and an immediate need when aroused. The general need drives much of our interaction with the opposite gender. This drive does not fade and even old people will flirt. When aroused, the drive to mate can be overpowering and take priority over other needs and values.


An advert for a fast car shows an attractive woman walking up to it and caressing it, as if it was a desirable man.

A man pulls up in a Porsche by a group of women, who immediately start posing and flirting with him.

A young woman wants a man to help her. She gazes directly at him, smiles, parts her lips and plays with her hair. The man, although initially unwilling, soon falls for it and spends some time doing as she asks.

Related to


Part of Related to
Identity, Arousal Beauty, Confidence, Status



Mating is the basic drive to propagate the genes. Without this motivation, any species would soon cease to exist.

Animals often have a short period each year available for their mating season. Humans are always ready and willing, which perhaps helps explain over-population.

While we are often socially monogamous, we have a polygamous motivation and extra-marital affairs are common. Much socializing is really a prelude to sex -- the major difference is just a question of when. Men want it now (let's make babies) while women want stable relationships.

The male need in mating is different to the female need. Women are highly involved in childbirth and consequent child rearing and so need to find a mate who will both produce healthy children and then provide for the family thereafter. They are attracted by men with resources and a kindly yet protective nature. Looks help, but are less important when choosing a mate. They choose mates slowly and with care and are often slower to become aroused, a tendency that helps reduce the chance of unwanted pregnancy.

Men have relatively little investment in the birth and the natural force on them is to spread their seed widely. In any relationship or encounter, they are ready for sex quicker, and more likely to seek casual sex. Balanced against this is the need for their children to grow and be able procreate, so there is also a force to keep them loyal. This can cause significant inner conflict. Men seek mates who seem likely to be able to produce healthy children and use many visual clues. They seek big bosoms (to feed the child), wide hips (to enable birthing) and signs of health such as clear skin and bright eyes.

Women are driven to look attractive and much use make-up is used to give the appearance of health and youth. Clothes also are used to exaggerate the bosom and slim the waist. Even when they are not seeking a mate and right into older age, women pay attention to how they look. Likewise men continue to enjoy demonstrating power. Both will continue to flirt and interact without specific intent other than to gain assurance that they are still attractive (and hence say 'you could still mate').

Mating often uses rituals, both in the animal and human species. A classic pattern is one of a flirting approach followed by a retreat to see if the other person is attracted enough to make a reciprocal move. This pattern repeats often, with each time the partners getting closer and more aroused (unless it is just a game, where one or both are effectively practicing their skills in this).

In situations where gender balance is tipped either way, the minority sex tends to rise to the competitive challenge by exaggerating their display. Even with a little nudge, men will display more power (eg. by spending more) and women will put more effort into looking attractive.

Mates also have social value. If a person has a high status (which often comes from having power), then their partner gains socially from this. For men, an attractive mate demonstrates power to other men, although it also runs the risk of ongoing competition to keep her from being wooed away by other males.

All this also helps explain why 'sex sells'. Despite our need for fairness that points us at equality, our species is naturally male dominant, as indicated by the larger, stronger male. Much sexual advertising supports this when it tells men and women they can be attractive and achieve their partnership needs.

Of course it is not this simple. We have needs other than sex. Yet a surprising amount our relational interaction has sexual undertones.

So what?

Advertising makes huge use of the mating drive, from selling beauty products to women to the 'sex sells' approach to using young women in adverts to men.

This can also be used in general persuasion when persuading a member of the opposite sex, for example by dressing attractively and flirting with them. Men in particular are susceptible to flattery from younger women. For same-sex interaction, you may want to increase or decrease your attractiveness, depending on the status game you want to play (eg. 'I'm better than you, so do as I say' or 'You're so powerful, please help the harmless little me').

See also

Status Games, Evolution, What Men and Women Want


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