Promiscuity implies a plurality of sexuality, but what exactly does that mean? People can refer to others as promiscuous, slutty, a player, et cetera, but what are society’s precise parameters for qualification? I think if we can hash this out, we can help demystify some of the language and bad attitudes around sexuality and sleeping around in general.
Promiscuity connotes rapid turn over of partners as well as high numbers of simultaneous partners. And by partners I mean sex partners, not people with whom you flirt or talk. Actually fucking people is essential to promiscuity; you can talk to and maintain romantic relationships with multiple people, but if you’re not fucking, then you’re not promiscuous. You’re merely a flirt.
Promiscuity implies a lifestyle choice, although it is a lifestyle that can be easily entered into and exited. Promiscuity means sleeping around within the same social circle. Overlap of partners is an essential aspect of promiscuity, and promiscuity can be characterized as full of one night stands. In order to be considered promiscuous, one must constantly be plotting the next sexual conquest. Rapidly increasing the number of one’s sexual partners over a short period of time is characteristic of promiscuity. If your number remains stagnant for more than six months or moves merely one or two notches, then that is not promiscuity.
Clearly, anyone in a monogamous relationship cannot be considered promiscuous, although one can maintain a reputation for being promiscuous while in a monogamous relationship due to past behaviors. Rapid succession monogamy can translate to promiscuity, but only if the upper limit for those monogamous relationships are within a short time span, maxing out at about two to three months — which translates to four new sexual partners a year at a bare minimum, although six is a more realistic barometer for standards of promiscuity.
Maintaining multiple partners at once can also qualify one as promiscuous, but they, too, cannot be multiple long-term partners because that just becomes some iteration of polyamory or infidelity. While one partner might be a long-term partner, the other partner[s] must be in constant rotation. Again, if we set four new partners a year as the lower limit for promiscuity, then that can mean juggling among four to six different partners over the course of a year, or being in a long-term relationship while also engaging with at least three to five new partners.
Of course, someone who has had four new partners over the course of a year might not necessarily be promiscuous; four new partners means that the lower limit for having sex over the course of a year is four different occasions. You need to have sex more than four times a year in order to be considered promiscuous.
In order to truly consider someone promiscuous, one’s sexual behavior has to be considered over time. Short term promiscuity, or counting the number of new sexual partners within a three to six month time period, can be used to gauge current levels of promiscuity but cannot be used to determine whether promiscuous behavior is a long-term behavior or merely a short-lived phase. If someone is promiscuous within a less than a six month period, it does not necessarily mean that person can be characterized as promiscuous on a long-term level, but merely exhibits promiscuous behavior in short stages.
In order to accurately gauge whether or not someone is promiscuous in terms of a long-term lifestyle, behavior must be analyzed over the course of a year or more. Ideally, one looks back to the most recent long-term (more than six months) monogamous relationship or from the beginning of the current cycle of sexual behavior (e.g., end of a dry period that lasted more than six months or from the loss of virginity) and analyzes the sexual behavior from that date until now.
Promiscuity is about action, not intention. With these guidelines, promiscuity can be scientifically quantified on both a long-term and short-term basis. Of course, the social implications of promiscuity are a completely different topic altogether. Being qualified as promiscuous isn’t a good basis on which to judge whether or not a person is a moral or amoral human being, but, rather, something that can be quantified and then relegated to the same mental filing cabinet as other personal facts like where that person was born, what that person’s ethnicity is, or what that person’s favorite movie is. Whether or not a person is promiscuous will give you no real insight into another person’s soul, nor will it help you determine whether or not that person is capable of loving you or being in a serious, committed relationship. It’s merely a reflection of how someone socializes sexually. Being able to gauge a person’s methods of sexual socialization can, at best, give you a bit of insight into rudimentary compatibility, but, at the end of the day, it is merely a piece of data. A statistic. A qualifier. Not a person as a whole.
I just want to make sure that when someone is referred to as “promiscuous” that we all mean the same thing, and not that she cheated on her boyfriend one time or this guy you know fucked three of your friends over the last four years but he’s only had three sexual partners in three years. That’s not promiscuity. You want promiscuity? Come hang with me and my friends.
Image: Logo borrowed from the band Promiscuity. Check ’em out.