(Re)Defining Promiscuity: An Exclusive GMP Survey
According to AskMen.com, that is the number of sexual partners which magically transforms a woman from saintly into scandalous.
Like my good friend over at Dirty in Public, I took umbrage with this factoid. At best, it lacked context. Surely the same standard of expectation shouldn’t apply equally across the generations: an active twenty-one year old is unlikely to have accumulated the same number of sexual partners as someone twice their age. Shouldn’t there be a sliding scale of salaciousness?
At worst I found this number not just facile and unrealistic, but sexist and misogynistic. In the year 2011 A.D., could such Victorian attitudes on sexuality still permeate our collective consciousness?
From some of the comments on this article, apparently the answer is: yes.
From the latin word prōmiscuus, the original definition for promiscuity carried a base meaning of “indiscriminate (sexual) choice.” This would imply that (at least originally) promiscuity was meant to apply not so much in the quantitative–the actual number of people engaged sexually, as in the qualitative–a lack of careful choices regarding sexual partners.
As a point of reference, my best friend is married to a rockstar, and before matrimony, he behaved as celebrities are wont to do. Rockstar privilege allowed him to explore the kind of opportunities that are reserved for precious few, but despite wanton indulgence, circumstance allowed him the ability to be extremely discriminating when choosing bedmates.
Does his behavior still qualify as promiscuous? By the above definition, I’m unsure.
Which raises the issue of the double-standard. Despite the (seemingly) universal desire for sex, society still lionizes heterosexual men for the same licentious behavior women are stigmatized for. This creates a cultural paradox: a premium is placed on female sexuality which is meant to be admired but never enjoyed. The resultant conflicting messages create a culture of confusion: be sexy, but don’t actually be sexual, or you’re subject to public lampoon.
While I’d like to believe we’ve made actual progress towards gender equality, the scientific method dictates that first you collect data, then you form hypothesis. So what makes someone, male or female, promiscuous?
Take this exclusive, anonymous Good Men Project survey, and tell us. We’ll report back on our findings in a week.
photo: Flickr Creative Commons