Promiscuity refers to sexual behaviour of a man or woman who engages in sexual relations with multiple partners on a casual and/or regular basis.

Most religions disapprove of and discourage sexual promiscuity, though some allow for promiscuous practices, such as religious prostitution in ancient Mesopotamia and Greece.

Human promiscuity

What's considered socially acceptable sexual behaviour, and what behaviour is "promiscuous", varies much among different cultures. In some cultural contexts, a woman who copulates with a man or men other than her husband is considered promiscuous, while in another culture a married or unmarried man's extra- and pre-marital like behaviour may not be considered promiscuous.

In some cultures, the term is applied to any man or woman who has more than one lover at a given time. In some industrialized societies, it is likely used only, and derogatorily, in describing women who have many sexual partners, seemingly chosen indiscriminately. In such a case, no set number of sexual partner delimits the promiscuous from the not promiscuous.

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 behaviour comparing the results generated with the observed prevalence of STDs to statistically estimate the probable sexual behavior of the studied population.

A person's numbers of sexual partners, both in a lifetime and concurrently, varies widely within a population. In the U.S., seven women is the median number of lifetime female sexual partners; four men is the median number of male partners for women; 29 percent of men and 9 percent of women report to have had more than 15 sexual partners. 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 venereal 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 sexually transmitted diseases. This contradicts other studies .

Male promiscuity

The words womanizer (Br Eng: womaniser), wencher, playboy, philanderer, player, '''ladies' man, man-whore, manslag, ladykiller, stallion, Cad and rake' (rakehell) refer to a man who has love affairs with women he either cannot or will not marry or commit himself to. Typically, the love affairs are sexually motivated, with slight emotional connection and attachment. The names of real and fictional seducers have become eponyms for such promiscuous men. The most famous are the historical Casanova (1725-1798), the fictional Don Juan, who first appeared in the 17th century, Lothario'' from Nicholas Rowe's 1703 play The Fair Penitent, How I Met Your Mother's Barney Stinson, and perhaps most famously, Ian Fleming's literary and film character James Bond.

During the English Restoration period (1660-1688), the words rake hell and rake were 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 as negative 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 Bedlam.

Female promiscuity

Since at least 1450, the pejorative words slut, harlot, whore, skank, loose girl describe a sexually promiscuous woman. In great contrast to the glamour of rake for men, slut is unglamourous and also historically refers to an unhygienic woman who is personally dirty and unkempt.

In the animal world

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.

Among primates, chimpanzees and bonobos, humans' closest living relatives, are promiscuous.

See also

Index: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

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