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In human sexual behavior, promiscuity denotes sex with relatively many partners. In human cultures where polygamy is accepted, it is distinguished from promiscuity.

Promiscuity is common in many animal species. Some species have promiscuous mating systems, ranging from polyandry and polygyny to mating systems with no stable relationships where mating between two individuals is a one-time event. Many species form stable pair bonds but still mate with other individuals outside the pair. In biology, incidents of promiscuity in species that form pair bonds are usually called extra-pair copulations.

Human promiscuity

What sexual behavior is considered socially acceptable, and what behavior is "promiscuous", varies much among different cultures, and within a culture different standards are often applied to people of different gender and civil status. It should be noted that while male promiscuity previously had glamorous connotations that acted as an affirmation of masculinity, female promiscuity was seen as a sign of emotional instability, and loose morals in women. In some German tribes in the first century BC (according to Julius Caesar in his Commentarii de Bello Gallico) it was pure scandal for a man to have sexual relations before his twentieth birthday, taking some power away from that old stigma about a perpetual ruling class of proud, promiscuous men.

Accurately assessing people's sexual behavior is difficult, since there are strong social and personal motivations, depending on social sanctions and taboos, for either minimizing or exaggerating reported sexual activity. Extensive research has produced mathematical models of sexual behavior comparing the results generated with the observed prevalence of STDs to statistically estimate the probable sexual behavior of the studied population.

The number of sexual partners an individual has varies within a lifetime, and varies widely within a population. In the U.S., a 2007 national survey had the following results: the median number of lifetime female sexual partners reported by men was seven; the median number of male partners reported by women was four. Be it given that the mean number of partners among men and women must be equal, it is possible that men exaggerated their reported number of partners, women reported a number lower than the actual number, and/or a minority of women had a sufficiently larger number than most other women to create a mean significantly higher than the median. Twenty-nine percent of men and nine percent of women reported to have had more than 15 sexual partners in their lifetimes. Studies of the spread of STDs consistently demonstrate that a small percentage of the studied population have more partners than the average man or woman, and a smaller number of people have fewer than the statistical average. An important question in the epidemiology of sexually transmitted diseases is whether or not these groups copulate mostly at random (with sexual partners from throughout a population) or within their social groups (assortative mixing).

A 2006 comprehensive global study (analysing data from 59 countries worldwide) found no firm link between promiscuity and STD's, with poverty and mobility being more important factors. This contradicts other studies.

Global promiscuity

A 2008 US university study of international promiscuity found that British people are the most promiscuous in the industrialised world. The study measured one-night stands, attitudes to casual sex, and number of sexual partners.

Researchers said Britain's position on the international index 'may be linked to increasing social acceptance of promiscuity among women as well as men'. Britain’s ranking was 'ascribed to factors such as the decline of religious scruples about extramarital sex, the growth of equal pay and equal rights for women and a highly sexualised popular culture'.

The top 10 ranking OECD nations with a population over 10 million on the study's promiscuity index, in descending order, were the United Kingdommarker, Germanymarker, the Netherlandsmarker, the Czech Republicmarker, Australia, the USAmarker, Francemarker, Turkeymarker, Mexicomarker, and Canadamarker.

Another study that looked at promiscuity based on total number of sex partners found that Austrianmarker men were the most promiscuous males in the world with 29.3 sexual partners on average, while New Zealandmarker women were the most promiscuous females in the world with an average of 20.4 sexual partners. New Zealand was the only country studied where women averaged a higher number of sex partners than the men.

One study found that Westerners were more promiscuous than those in developing countries, while the rate of STDs was higher in developing countries.

Male promiscuity

The words "womanizer", "player", "stud", "lady-killer", "skirt-chaser" and "rake" may be used in reference to a man who has love affairs with women and will not marry or commit to a relationship. The names of real and fictional seducers have become eponyms for such promiscuous men. The most famous are the historical Giacomo Casanova (1725–1798), and the fictional Don Juan, who first appeared in the 17th century, and Lothario from Nicholas Rowe's 1703 play The Fair Penitent. James Bond is another famous fictional character that can be considered a womanizer.

During the English Restoration period (1660-1688), the term rake was used glamorously: the Restoration rake is a carefree, witty, sexually irresistible aristocrat typified by Charles II's courtiers, the Earl of Rochester and the Earl of Dorset, who combined riotous living with intellectual pursuits and patronage of the arts. The Restoration rake is celebrated in the Restoration comedy of the 1660s and the 1670s. After the reign of Charles II, and especially after the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the rake was perceived negatively and became the butt of moralistic tales in which his typical fate was debtor's prison, permanent venereal disease, and, in the case of William Hogarth's A Rake's Progress, venereally-caused insanity and internment to Bedlammarker.

Female promiscuity

Since at least 1450, the word "slut" has been used, usually pejoratively, to describe a sexually promiscuous woman. The terms "slag","whore", "trollop", "skank", and "ho" are also used across the English-speaking-world to describe sexually promiscuous women. In and before the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras, terms like "strumpet" and "whore" were used to describe women deemed promiscuous, as seen for example in John Webster's 1612 play The White Devil.

Nature versus nurture controversy

Evolutionary psychologists propose that a conditional tendency for promiscuity is inherited from our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Male promiscuity, they say, was advantageous because it allowed males to father more children.

Primitive promiscuity

Primitive promiscuity or original promiscuity, is the 19th century hypothesis that human race originally lived in a state of promiscuity or "hetaerism".

Extra-pair copulation in animals

In the animal world, some species of animals, including birds such as swans, once believed monogamous, are now known to engage in extra-pair copulations. Although social monogamy occurs in about 90 percent of avian species and about 3 percent of mammalian species, investigators estimate that 90 percent of socially monogamous species exhibit individual promiscuity in the form of extra-pair copulations.

Two examples of promiscuous animals are the primates chimpanzees and bonobos. These species live in social groups consisting of several males and several females. Each male copulates with many females, and vice versa. In bonobos, the amount of promiscuity is particularly striking because bonobos use sex to alleviate social conflict as well as to reproduce.

See also



Notes

  1. New survey quantifies the sex we’re having MSNBC
  2. Westerners 'are more promiscuous' BBC
  3. Promiscuity fuels spread of HIV/AIDS BBC
  4. Relation between sexual promiscuity, drugs abuse and HIV infection in Buenos Aires, Argentina. study available at National Library of Medicine
  5. http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/relationships/article5257166.ece
  6. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/3536598/Britain-is-among-casual-sex-capitals-of-the-Western-world-research-claims.html
  7. http://www.upi.com/Health_News/2008/11/30/British_top_promiscuity_study/UPI-98281228072500/
  8. http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/relationships/article5257166.ece
  9. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/3536598/Britain-is-among-casual-sex-capitals-of-the-Western-world-research-claims.html
  10. http://www.upi.com/Health_News/2008/11/30/British_top_promiscuity_study/UPI-98281228072500/
  11. http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/relationships/article5257166.ece
  12. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/3536598/Britain-is-among-casual-sex-capitals-of-the-Western-world-research-claims.html
  13. http://www.upi.com/Health_News/2008/11/30/British_top_promiscuity_study/UPI-98281228072500/
  14. New Zealand women most promiscuous The Sydney Morning Herald
  15. Westerners 'are more promiscuous' BBC
  16. Westermarck, chap. 3 p. 103-4
  17. Bachofen, Das Mutterrecht, pp. xix-xx, 10
  18. Bachofen, Antiquarische Briefe pp.20-
  19. McLennan, Morgan, Lord Avebury, Giraud-Teulon, Lippert, Kohler, Post, Wilken, Kropotkin, Wilutzky
  20. Bloch, Iwan Sexual Life of Our Time, pp. 188-194
  21. Reichard, U.H. (2002). Monogamy—A variable relationship. Max Planck Research, 3, 62-67.
  22. Research conducted by Patricia Adair Gowaty. Reported by


References




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