A while back, I wrote an post about the lesser-known benefits of BDSM. It’s true. There is actual real-world evidence that BDSM is good for your health. It’s one of those things people automatically assume is deviant and unhealthy. While it’s easy to see why people would think that, the real world tends to never be quite that easy.
So I thought it might be interesting to look at another assumption that most people in the western world have about sexual mores: the impact of sexual promiscuity. Like BDSM, a good chunk of the population has a certain set of assumptions about those who are sexually promiscuous. I could spend 10 blog posts describing them.
Someone is promiscuous? They must have issues at home. They must have horrible self-esteem. They must have been abused or something.
On top of that, there’s an egregious double standard with respect to sexual promiscuity. With men, they’re expected to be promiscuous to some extent. People look at a young man and assume, “That man wants to fuck every girl in his zip code.” It’s not necessarily an accurate assumption. The intensity of the male sex drive is often vastly overestimated, but society tends to structure itself around this assumption because it’s men who seem to commit most of the sexual crimes. It’s true that men do tend to commit more crimes in general, be they sexual or otherwise, but the rate for women is not zero. According to the FBI, women do commit their share of crimes.
That doesn’t stop the blind assumption that women who have a lot of sex must be “damaged” or something. How can anyone want to do something that feels so good and is such a vital part of life and not be damaged? That last sentence was sarcasm by the way. Society has progressed in recent years to see sexually active women differently. Comedian, Amy Shumer, even made a successful movie around it.
Even with this progress, however, there’s still this perception that sexual promiscuity is a bad thing. There’s a good reason for that. There’s even some history behind it. For most of human history, particularly in western land-owning cultures, promiscuity made it difficult to know for sure that your children were yours. If they weren’t, then passing down land and wealth became exceedingly difficult.
Then, there’s the disease factor. For most of human history, we didn’t have effective treatments for various STDs. That made promiscuity legitimately dangerous for many parts of the world, especially those living in cities and slums. However, modern technology has done a lot to change that. Most of the terrible diseases of the past have been wiped out or are easily treated by modern medicine. Some are still incurable, but the progress of modern medicine is still progressing. There will come a day when even those diseases are cured. So our understanding of sexual promiscuity needs to change.
So what is the psychology behind sexual promiscuity? Well, it’s a fairly new field of study to say the least. Research is still developing so the picture isn’t clear, nor should anyone expect it to be. Sexuality and human biology are complex, despite what some in the media would have us believe. What works for some people is not going to work for everyone. Human beings are just too diverse.
That said, Psychology Today did an in depth analysis on the research surrounding sexual promiscuity last year. It’s aptly titled, “What are the Psychological Effects of Casual Sex?” It’s an interesting idea that will definitely undermine some of the things we were taught in sex ed class as teenagers, but it has major implications. One of the most defining quotes of this article is this one:
If casual sexual activity doesn’t violate your moral code, your sense of integrity, or the commitments you have made to yourself and/or others, then it’s probably not going to be a problem for you in terms of your psychological well-being.
This seems to imply that the effects of sexual promiscuity have a lot to do with our assumptions about it. It’s sort of a classic self-fulfilling prophecy. If you think it’ll be harmful, then it’ll be harmful. If you think it’ll be good for you, then it’ll be good for you. Religion, culture, and upbringing all play a role and we’re just starting to understand it. As that understanding evolves, it will likely effect the way we tell stories about sexuality, which will in turn affect my stories. So I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on this topic.
Also, as they did with BDSM, the fine folks at ThinkTank did a video about the possible benefits of casual sex. I value their insight so I’ll let them make their case as well.