Young men who engage in similar behaviors are not thought of quite the same way. A “womanizer” is a man who actively pursues women sexually; but this term is used almost always in a context where the man has been betraying someone with whom he is in a committed relationship. A single young man who sleeps readily with a number of women would probably not have any label attached to his behavior. The more recently defined term, “sexual addict,” refers to compulsive sexual behavior, usually on the part of a man.
Promiscuity, that is, casual sexual behavior in women, is no longer viewed
quite as negatively as it used to be. The principal reason for this change in
attitude is the much longer period of time women date before settling down and marrying. There is more time for more sexual involvements.
Usually, when you hear of someone being promiscuous, it is the woman herself who describes her behavior that way. And she is usually referring to a
particular time in her life. For the most part, no one is promiscuous over the course of a lifetime. Commonly, the woman has a ready explanation for why over that particular time she engaged in such behavior.
During high school and college years: “I felt insecure,” is the usual reason. “I needed to feel that men were interested in me.” Being insecure is not uncommon for young women. Why does someone engage in sex to reassure herself when others do not resort to this device? It is fair to say that these particular girls and women have fewer emotional resources to rely on when coping with the very common feelings of inadequacy that probably everyone feels from time to time growing up. A few of these women had families who were notably not caring and not supportive.
For girls who grow up without fathers, it's not unusual to act out sexually and look for validation in all the wrong places. Promiscuity is often observed as a common practice among "daddyless daughters" and is just one possible effect of not having a father figure. It's also something Dr. Steve Perry, founder of Capital Preparatory Magnet School, has seen in his work with fatherless girls, leading him to a startling definition of promiscuity as a whole.
"Promiscuity is the main thing," Dr. Perry says in "Oprah's Lifeclass," on
the topic of daddyless daughters. "It's rarely seen as self-mutilation, but that's exactly what it is."
Iyanla Vanzant, a prominent voice in the discussion on both daddyless
daughters and fatherless sons, agrees. "Absolutely. It's violence against
the self," she says.
Dr. Perry continues, "Often when we look at young girls who are dealing with
pain, we think of self-mutilation as the cutting. That, too, but promiscuity
is the self-mutilation of allowing someone to physically enter you."
"Wow, that's a big one," Oprah says. "Self-mutilation comes in the form
of promiscuity and it's violence against the self. I never thought of it
that way before."
For Harlem Children's Zone founder Geoffrey Canada, there's something even more troublesome about promiscuous girls. "The thing that shocks me with these young girls is that... they don't necessarily even like the guys that much," he says. "I'm like, 'Why did you do that? You don't even like the guy?'... They don't know."
Dr. Perry has heard the justifications -- "He was nice to me," the young
women often say -- and Dr. Perry believes that the presence of a strong male role model combats this line of thought and the promiscuity that comes with it. He explains, "What a father or a very important father figure does for the young ladies with whom I work is it sets the standards for how a young lady/daughter should be treated and what she should and should not accept."
Promiscuity is one of the more dangerous and life-altering behaviors
associated with the sex and love addictions, because the consequences are often extreme: pregnancy, abortions, AIDS, murder, rape. Few men can forgive themselves for passing on an STD to their faithful wife. Few women can ever let go of the lifelong guilt that comes from having an abortion, or from giving up their children for adoption. Other consequences of promiscuous behavior include STD's, getting robbed, blackmailed and more. Even when such consequences are never realized, those engaging in promiscuous behavior must still deal with the emotional drain that comes from maintaining numerous relationships, worrying about possible consequences, guilt/shame (when infidelity is involved), etc.
Promiscuity plays an important role in people's lives...most commonly, it
allows those with a low self-esteem, or those who have been emotionally
neglected to feel like they are needed, desired, useful. For others, it allows
them to relive past abuse situations and still others, promiscuity fulfills
nothing more than a masturbatory-like sexual release.
Common Behaviors Associated with Promiscuity:
- Multiple long-term simultaneous affairs
- Numerous short-term affairs (may or may not be
- Multiple (more than one) sexual partners on a
- Multiple (more than five) sexual partners over
the course of a single year
- History of multiple sexual encounters with people
you've known less than a month
- Indiscriminate sexual encounters with others
after getting drunk/high
- Actively searching for sexual encounters when
traveling on business
- Establishing "a woman/man in every port"
- Engaging in prostitution (when the reasons for participating involve anything beyond financial — like a desire for attention/emotional pleasure from pleasing others)
Elements Frequently Associated with Promiscuity:
- Sensory Stimulation (especially physical)
- Accomplishment (when searching for a partner and when engaging in sexual activity)
- Danger (especially women getting involved with complete strangers)
- Poly-addiction (especially alcohol/substance abuse)
- Orgasm (more frequent for males than females;
especially male-to-male encounters in public settings)
- Past (especially when sexual abuse/emotional neglect is involved)
- Alcohol/Substance abuse
- Past history of sexual abuse (especially incestual abuse)
- Past history of emotional neglect (either parental, or long-term partner)
- Low self-esteem
- Emotional imbalance (especially depression, loneliness)
- Opportunity (people, places, times and things)
- Safety (involving STD's, pregnancy, potential violence)
- Self-respect (guilt and shame are often extreme when attempting to engage in sexual behavior with committed partner)
- Intimacy (in all but the rarest occasions, the intimacy that can be experienced with the spouse is sacrificed for the passion and intimacy experienced with the promiscuous partners)