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Many studies explore when and how young people make sexual choices but few empirical investigations link their sexual motivations with their inner conceptions about their sexual identities. We used multidimensional scaling (MDS) analysis to connect young adult participants’ (N = 128) self-descriptions of twelve identities to their sexual motivations and ideals. Identities clustered along two semantically distinct dimensions: Dimension 1 was anchored by family identities on one side and non-family identities on the other; Dimension 2 was anchored on one side by friend/romantic relationships and achievement-based social identities on the other. Those who cited intimacy (e.g., sex as an expression of love) and enhancement (e.g., gratification; to feel good) sexual motivations were more likely to describe their sexual identities and gender identities as distinct from other identities, especially for women. Idealizing physically passionate relationships was positively linked to a higher distinction between sexual and non-sexual identities, and between gender and personal identities and family identities. The mental structuring of identities may inform sexual relationship motives, ideals, and expectations.


This article originally appeared in Social Sciences, available at DOI: 10.3390/socsci3020215

© 2014 by the authors. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution license (



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