Promiscuity, generally defined as indiscriminate, frequent sexual behavior with multiple individuals, plays an important role in a person’s health.
According to Recovery Nation, promiscuity may be a way for those with low self-esteem or those with emotional stress to feel needed, desired, useful and wanted by others. Feelings of accomplishment from obtaining multiple sexual partners can be addictive; however, the positive feelings associated with promiscuity are usually short-lived, and feelings of depression, low self-esteem and low worth eventually resurface. Thus, promiscuity becomes a vicious cycle.
What leads to promiscuity?
Promiscuity is about more than just having sexual relations. While some individuals simply enjoy sex without commitment, many people, especially young adults, may become promiscuous as a result of underlying emotional stress.
Sex can become an outlet as easily as drugs or alcohol, indicates the Aspen Education Group, and just like with drugs and alcohol abuse, there are a number of health consequences of being promiscuous.
“Promiscuity is one example of a class of high-risk behaviors,” Deirdre Lee Fitzgerald, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic, told Everyday Health. “It is comparable to, and may coincide with, behaviors such as heavy drinking, gambling, and other thrill-seeking behaviors like driving too fast.”
Individuals who are promiscuous often:
- Have multiple long-term affairs
- Have multiple short-term affairs
- Have multiple partners in one day
- Have more than five sexual partners over the course of a year
- Have a history of sexual encounters with individuals they have known less than a month
- Have indiscriminate sex after using alcohol or drugs
- Engage in prostitution
- Have routine sexual encounters in public places
According to some experts, another reason individuals may engage in promiscuity —knowingly or unknowingly—is when using it as a weapon/defense. In this situation, multiple sexual encounters are a way of preventing control from another person, such as a parent or significant other.
Specific health risks of promiscuity
Not surprisingly, promiscuity brings with it all of the health risks associated with sexual activity.
Individuals who have sexual relations with multiple partners are at an increased risk for sexually transmitted diseases, and Everyday Health indicates more than 19 million new sexually transmitted infections occur every year.
Of the infections to be most concerned about, being promiscuous puts an individual at high risk for contracting HIV/AIDS.
Other health risks associated with promiscuity include:
- Prostate cancer
- Cervical cancer
- Oral cancer
- Heart disease (when combined with other risky behaviors such as smoking and drinking)
- Domestic violence
- Unwanted pregnancy
- Birth defects
Some individuals may become addicted to sex, and this all-consuming drive can ruin relationships, careers and family life.
Emotional risks of promiscuity
The emotional toll from having multiple sexual partners can be very detrimental. Adolescents in particular, are not mature enough to handle promiscuity, and therefore often end up harming themselves in the long run.
“The impact of these high risk behaviors on one’s emotional health includes making dangerous choices that lead to more and more risk. This cycle can lead to problems with self-concept, ineffective relationships, and even depression,” Fitzgerald said to Everyday Health.
The main emotional effects of promiscuity seem to be the very symptoms many people are looking to escape through sexual activity. Promiscuous individuals often experience feelings associated with depression, and promiscuity itself can be a symptom of depression. Eventually, for those who are promiscuous due to emotional trauma, feelings of worthlessness and guilt associated with risky sexual behavior always resurface.
“Because of social conditioning and stigmata, pre-marital or extra-marital affairs may foster fear and guilt. Shifting partners often may cause a person to lose confidence in his or her abilities to sustain a healthy relationship, and lower self-esteem,” stated Dr Suman Bijlani, a leading gynaecologist and obstetrician consulting at the SL Raheja Fortis and Kohinoor Hospitals, on sify Health.
Bijlani indicates not all promiscuous people are suffering emotionally, and changes in cultural norms must be looked at when assessing promiscuity. There is a great drive in the modern world for self-gratification, and for some individuals, having multiple sexual partners is nothing more than a form of pleasurable release.