(MONEY Magazine) – When I first heard one of the grabbiest results of MONEY's annual Americans and Their Money survey--that men think about sex far more than money and women think about money much more than sex--I was immediately suspicious. It's not just because I've been thinking a lot about sex lately (and feeling guilty about it, because if I was thinking about money, I'd be working harder, paying my bills and reading mind-improving books on things I don't care about, like Social Security reform). No, it's because the results are so...comforting. After all, in our society, men are supposed to think about sex, and women are not. Men think about sex because they can afford to; women think about money because they can't afford not to. In fact, you could ponder MONEY's finding and decide it represents 30 years of no progress whatsoever in gaining equality between the sexes.

However, after conducting my own informal survey, I'm happy to report that the picture is not as bleak as I'd imagined. My biggest fear was that some folks would have the nerve to ascribe men's sex-over-money bias to the tired old Spreading the Seed theory--you know, that men have this biological urge to have sex, and thus think about it at all times. Dick Morris notwithstanding, only two men believed this theory--my father, who doesn't count, and a screenwriter I'll call Hank.

"Duh," Hank said. "They needed a survey to figure that out? I'm always thinking about sex."

"When was the last time you had sex?" I asked.

"Oh, maybe two months ago. But I'm glad you called. Why don't you come over for a cold martini and a hot bubble bath?"

"Why don't you take a cold shower and write some new pickup lines?" I countered.

So much for Hank and biology. Let's move on to a more plausible theory. It's what I'll call the Short Ugly Man Syndrome. The basic idea is that men use money to get sex, which is what they're really thinking about when they're out in the world making money. "Just write about all those short, ugly millionaires and billionaires," said Nancy, a magazine publisher. "Call them up and ask them why they've worked so hard to make money. It's the only way they can get sex, and they know it." Derek, a young investor, confirmed this. "Men think that if you drive a Porsche, you'll get the best girls. And it's true that if you have money, bimbos and models flock to you."

If there's one good reason why women think more about money than sex, I thought, it's guys like Derek. But women buy into the Short Ugly theory too. Consider this from Sarah, a successful, single, female lawyer in her late thirties: "Men who are rich and powerful are sexy. Money and power are a turn-on for women. If women are thinking about money more than sex, what they're thinking about is getting a rich husband." In other words, men use money to get sex, and women use sex to get money.

Theory No. 3: the If You've Got It, I Want It syndrome. As Peter, an editor, put it: "It's harder for men to get sex, and it's harder for women to get money, so people think about what they can't have. And a lot of men feel angry because successful women now get money and still have sex."

Oh, really? "I'd like to think about sex all the time too," says Karen, a freelance writer. "But it's hard to think about sex when you're worried about having enough money." Susan, an entrepreneur, added: "Look, I've got two mortgages, my own business, a three-year-old daughter and a husband who plays basketball three nights a week. I don't have time to think about sex." So when it comes to sex, women are also more practical than men. That's right, says Marina, who runs a publishing business: "I don't have time to think about sex; I just have it when I have time. money is practical, and sex isn't."

And that, I think, is the crux of the matter. "You know, it's funny," says Caroline, a 37-year-old TV producer. "I have moments when I'll have just met a guy and we'll be dating, and I'll be thinking about sex, or fantasizing about marriage and kids, but then the inevitable happens--he won't call or he'll make a rude remark about women, and suddenly, the whole thing's over. And then I'm thrilled that I have something truly satisfying in my life--my career."

If women are beginning to act more like men in the pursuit of power and money, does that mean we'll eventually see more older, successful women thinking about sex and going out with 25-year-old himbos (the male version of a bimbo)? I think not. Men may use money to leverage their sex lives, but women use money to be free from the obligations of sex. And if men aren't getting as much sex as they'd like, maybe it's because they're attracting women for the wrong reasons. When you use money to get sex, you can't ever be assured that your partner is deeply, truly and passionately attracted to you sexually. No one knows this better than women, having been forced in the past by a lack of their own money to choose men who are "good providers."

And that's why, no matter how rich and successful women become, we're not likely to obsess about sex the way men do. Us, used for our money? No way.

Candace Bushnell is a columnist for the New York Observer and the author of the new book Sex and the City (Grove Atlantic, $21).