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Interesting - my first thought was that the the term promiscuity itself seems to have an inherent negative bias, and that this might speak more to societal mores and expectations than to any individuals' sexual proclivities.
But then I looked it up. Promiscuous is defined as being indiscriminate in choice of sexual partners, lacking standards of selection, acting without careful judgement, and showing little forethought or critical judgement, e.g. promiscuous use of the word "populism."
In other words, someone could have an astronomical number of sexual partners without being promiscuous if they are selective in their choosing. My guess is the popular understanding of the word doesn't take this into consideration and considers anyone who's sexually frisky as promiscuous.
I'm okay with the reality of promiscuity, since my wife and I did some spouse-swapping. She was as enthused as I was. As predicted by the more experienced folk, we came home from parties more turned on than when we'd been when we went.
I'm also okay with the numbers.
However, academia has a problem that many religions have. IF (I intend that word to be in caps) research of this kind considers motivations, it consistently mentions mating strategies and as consistently ignores the reality of sexual pleasure.
It may also be a good idea for the Vatican to impose this test on potential priests.
Yeah, it's a tongue in cheek remark, but beggars can't be choosers. In the Catholic schools I went to, nuns all but begged boys to enter the priesthood and girls to enter the convent. The Church made it easy; the seminary was a half mile away and the convent was across the street; the high schools were miles away.
In fifth grade I was the only boy who refused to become an altar boy.
The attention to mating strategies could be an attempt to explain how we got to the point where we have the observed mixture of people inclined to be monogamous or nonmonogamous. Yes, we pay attention to sexual pleasure -- as we should! -- far more often than consciously planning how to have lots of kids and grandkids! But inherited factors affecting sexual temperaments are more likely to be passed on from people who have more descendants.
The Catholic Church would have an easier time recruiting priests and nuns if they were allowed to openly have sexual relationships! (And if women could become priests, bishops, etc.)
GC, I referred above to academic research, not to what people say or do.
The research papers I've seen that considered motivation ALL told of a reproduction as a mortive. NONE told of a pleasure as a motive.
Research requires funding: salaries, computer time, publishing, and more. Try to get government (taxpayer) funding to research pleasure.
Using the terms "monogamy" and "nonmonogamy" would have expressed the researchers' meaning more precisely and without judgmental connotations. Bertold, you're right; someone could be quite selective in swinging or in polyamorous relationships, and still be labeled "promiscuous" despite the dictionary definition.
there are biological correlates ... which results in a spectrum of sexual temperaments. A society that imposes rigid conformity on sexuality ... may cause harm
I know a number of people who are happily polyamorous, in healthy relationships, and who have varying degrees of being out or not, depending on their circumstances. Being inclined to be monogamous, or not, does seem to be an orientation.
Just today on NPR there was an interview with two polyamorous couples in Portland. One point they made was exactly that - imposing rigid conformity on sexuality is a real harm. And yet again, surprise, surprise, it's a harm which yields absolutely no benefit to anyone except subscribers to preposterous religious beliefs. The only reason expressions of sexuality outside of the marriage-sanctioned missionary position for purposes of procreation are bad is that enough people think they're bad.
One needs to look from an evolutionary perspective
Biologically, promiscuous behavior has a higher genetic payoff for males than females. Number of gene copies goes up almost linearly for males with the number of matings and partners. Females are limited by time and health in the number of offspring they will produce, so lots of matings will not increase that number significantly.
It should be no surprise that many men are more than willing to mate with any reasonably attractive available female (because that can only help their genetic distribution), whereas women face far more reproductive constraints. Hence they are more selective if promiscuous at all. Indeed many men find the idea of a mating opportunity with a new strange female a major turn on, whereas many women, even if sexually active, want to wait and evaluate potential partners. From evolution, this makes complete sense.
There are a couple of points here.
First, social pressure has an effect on men (and their honesty about their feelings--even if opportunity is lacking). Some animals seem to be monogamous, but not most mammals and certainly not primates.
But consider that we have evolved some multiple (somewhat conflicting) instincts. Humans are faced with young born very helpless and, unlike other mammals, take years to attain independence. This can be very taxing on a female, so there appears to have been a simple change in female behavior. Unlike typical mammals where females have no interest in males except at mating times, human females now remain sexually receptive at other times than estrus. The effect of this is to keep the male around and greatly increases the resources available to the young.
The 'price' males pay for this is increased female jealousy (resources must be protected) so a second set of behaviors, much younger, has evolved. Interestingly quite a few men display both behaviors, a primary mate that occupies much of their attention as well as opportunistic matings.
In the book Sex at Dawn, which described hunter-gatherer times before agriculture (and the resulting owner ethic), authors Ryan and Jetha describe benefits to women that were more significant than a genetic payoff was for men.
The more partners a fertile woman had, the more men provided for her children.
Certainly true. As my note above, human female sexual behavior seems to have been modified to serve as a resource mechanism.
At times structured monagamy (marriage) functionally achieves this end. But it's not the only approach. At the other extreme we can see prostitutes, and a large mid range of opportunistic matings with (preferentially) influential or wealthy males (consider how many wealthy men have stunningly attractive girlfriends -- sex appeal functions to keep resources) as well as 'trophy wives'.*
*The trophy wife arrangement can, under some circumstances, benefit both parties, aside from resources for the woman (and her children whether they belong to the husband or not), both can gain a boost in status from the arrangement. And as social primates, status means a lot.
I think everyone is more comfortable with monogamy and because of it we have been programmed to get our feelings hurt if it doesn't always go that way. In fact, we are programmed to insist upon it or there must be a divorce. Real life and movies as well have confessing spouses crying as they admit they had sex with some other person at a weak moment. We are not the perfect model of things that we let on we are in our society. Why not just keep your mouth shut and stop causing this pain. After all, sex with another or not, you are still the same person when you wake up in the morning.
As a young theist this subject worried me to death. What I've written in the above is my take on it today.
...we have been programmed to get our feelings hurt[???]
Many swingers dispute that generalization, Michael, although some who try swinging find that they didn't know they'd been programmed.
The authors of Sex at Dawn dispute it for hunter-gatherers.
They say "ownership" of females by males and "ownership" of resources by females arose with agriculture.
No one owned the game that hunters sought, but with agriculture the males who could assert ownership of land and defend their ownership could claim ownership of the food grown on the land.
Any programming that took place would seem to result from this ownership.