We’ve been taught that promiscuity is bad – especially for women. Men might be able to be dashing and exciting while putting it about, but anyone female-seeming who is sexually available and enthusiastic can find themselves slut shamed. They can find that if they are raped, people will say they were asking for it. Is there anything inherent to promiscuous behaviour that justifies this?
Obviously the more sexual partners you have, the higher the apparent risk of getting and spreading an std. However, unsafe sex in fairly committed relationships can also do that. People who aren’t sexually responsible don’t need to have a lot of partners to harm themselves or others by spreading disease. Only having a few partners does not guarantee your safety. Disease is not an inevitable consequence of promiscuity.
Promiscuous people might be seen as greedy, but so what if they are? Financial greed is killing the planet, sexual greediness actually won’t do that. The desire for pleasure isn’t harming anyone.
It’s not really the case that promiscuity will destroy society, even though that’s often the fear. Small family units are not the only way of having a stable society. The idea that small family units are the basis of society does a lot of harm to LGBTQ folk. It excludes anyone not breeding. There is a relationship between breeding and capitalism, and people who have sex for fun may not be busily making extra workers, or extra believers for your religion. The failure of people who have sex for fun – especially queer sex – to breed workers and believers is why capitalism and religion alike tend to frown on this.
Promiscuity is only a moral failing if you believe that monogamy is a moral virtue. There’s nothing inherent in either state that makes them good, unless you are obsessed with making ‘stable’ units for baby raising. See above. A promiscuous person can be honest, and honourable. They can enter into sex with clarity about their intentions and are not necessarily going to hurt anyone.
What promiscuity does, without a doubt is to undermine the idea that the goal of our lives, is a faithful one man one woman baby making unit. If there are people who seek sex for fun, no strings attached, it makes it harder to convince people that they should stay in unhappy and unsatisfying situations. Queer sex and acceptable promiscuity might have women questioning whether being units of production for capitalism and/or religion is really the point of their lives. Destroying the underpinnings of capitalism, patriarchy and religion would not actually destroy society, it would just requite us to cooperate with each other on different terms.
Sex is always about power. It’s about how much power your state has to dictate who you can have sex with and on what terms. There is power intrinsic to how much say your culture has over whether you are allowed to be comfortable with your own impulses. It shows us whether we live in freedom, or whether we live in the shadow of imaginary evils that have been pinned to activities that don’t actually hurt or harm people.
Promiscuity is morally neutral. So is monogamy, and polyamoury, and chastity and being non-sexual. These are not morally informed states of being, they’re just different ways of being in the world. The only moral bit in all of this is how we treat each other, and that includes whether we shame and hassle people for being different.