If you've ever been called a slut or been scared of being called one, then you know what it feels like to experience the double standards surrounding promiscuity. We've all grown up watching TV shows and films that paint promiscuous women as sluts, and promiscuous men as players. But it doesn't just stop there. Promiscuity is viewed in different ways, positive and negative, for loads of different groups of people. And, you guessed it, those stereotypes don't have a lot of truth behind them.
According to the dictionary, promiscuity is defined as, "having lots of different sexual partners or sexual relationships, or sexual habits involving a lot of different partners." Basically, it's a way of saying that someone enjoys having a lot of sex. However, "promiscuity" is often used in a derogatory way, depending on who is being talked about.
GENDER AND PROMISCUITY
Double standards between men and women when it comes to promiscuity are nothing new. For example, while unmarried women are still thought of as "spinsters," their male equivalents are "bachelors." And for centuries, women's virginity has been prized in a way that men's hasn't. Women were expected to remain virgins until marriage, and are still expected to in many cultures around the world. Even the white wedding dresses that many women still wear today are left over from a time when the white of the dress symbolized virginity or purity.
Meanwhile, women who are sexually promiscuous or are perceived to have a lot of sex or sexual partners are still referred to as "sluts" and "hoes," while men who have a lot of sex are often celebrated as "studs" or "players." Thankfully, some of these double standards are shifting. Recently, we've seen men who are known for being disrespectful towards sexual partners called “fuckboys" and called out on their behavior, rather than being praised.
However, having sex with a lot of partners respectfully and consensually still shouldn't be something to be looked down on for, regardless of gender.
SEXUALITY AND PROMISCUITY
Lots of identities within the LGBTQ+ community are often stereotyped as being "promiscuous." For example, gay men have historically been labelled as more promiscuous than people with other sexual orientations, with no facts behind this. On top of being hurtful, stereotypes like this can have harmful effects on the perception of a community. For instance, gay men’s stereotyped "promiscuity" was often wrongly blamed for the spread of HIV during the AIDS crisis in the 1980s.
Meanwhile, bisexual and pansexual people are also stereotyped as being promiscuous, simply for being attracted to more than one gender. This results in harmful sweeping comments like bisexual and pansexual people being "greedy" or unable to choose one gender. Newsflash: bi/pan people don’t fancy everyone! (And most likely not you).
The stereotype of bisexual people as promiscuous also reveals plenty of biphobic attitudes, especially when it comes to bi women. Bisexual women are often told that they’re secretly just straight and are performing being attracted to women for the gratification of men—and this isn't helped by every girl-on-girl porn scene and film scene that is obviously made by the male gaze. Meanwhile, bisexual men don't receive the same treatment, and are often told that they’re simply just gay.
NATIONALITY AND PROMISCUITY
Even some nationalities and ethnicities around the world are seen to be more promiscuous than others. While often, associations between certain countries and promiscuity are simply down to more stereotypes, there are culture differences that might make some countries seem more promiscuous.
For example, in countries like The Netherlands, a more open and relaxed cultural attitude towards sex can make the people seem more promiscuous, in comparison to countries that are more reserved about sex. At the same time, countries like Japan have recently gained a reputation for being extremely reserved when it comes to sex.
However, there are also harmful stereotypes when it comes to nationality, ethnicity and promiscuity. Often, Latinx women are viewed as being especially promiscuous, and this stereotype is seen in films, TV and music videos, which perpetuates the over-sexualization of Latinx women in the media.
Having sex with a lot of partners can be a great thing, if that's what you want to do (and you do it consensually), and it's absolutely not something that's determined by your gender, sexuality, nationality, ethnicity or anything else.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com/uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.