Promiscuity is the practice of making relatively unselective, casual and indiscriminate choices.
It is most commonly applied to sexual behavior where it means sex that is not in the framework of a steady sexual relationship (instead of that or in addition to that), or occurs in multiple, simultaneous sexual relationships. It is usually selective anyway, but more like e.g. choosing the best one can get on a given evening.
This behaviour requires strict application of safer sex measures, in order not to run a higher risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) including HIV which eventually leads to AIDS. However, consecutive monogamous sexual relationships (serial monogamy) without safer sex measures can pose a similar risk.
In some cases promiscuous behaviour is caused by definite pathology like manic episodes of bipolar disorder, some forms of brain tumors or alcohol and substance abuse.
Some sects, cults and religious orders have a place for promiscuous behaviour. There were special examples of religious prostitution in ancient Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome.
What is socially acceptable in promiscuous behaviour varies widely between cultures, and for different groups within a culture. In some contexts, a woman who has sex with any man other than her husband is considered promiscuous, while the term may not be applied to a man from the same culture engaging in the same behaviour. In other cultures, the term applies only to people who have more than one lover at the same time.
It is difficult to accurately assess people's sexual behaviour, since there are strong social and personal motivations to either minimise or exaggerate reported sexual activity, depending on social sanctions and taboos.
The best statistical evidence of actual sexual behaviour is derived from research into sexually transmitted diseases. Extensive mathematical research has been conducted to model different mathematical models of sexual behaviour and to compare the results generated with the observed prevalence of STDs to try to estimate the probable actual sexual behavior of the population.
Peoples' numbers of sexual partners, both over their lifetime and concurrently, varies widely over the population. Studies of STD spread have consistently shown that a small minority of the population have substantially more partners than the average, and a large minority (including those who abstain from sex) have less than the average.
One important issue in STD epidemiology is whether these groups have sex mostly within their groups (so-called assortative mixing) or at random.
There is a growing modern movement to promote the acceptance of promiscuity in the context of honesty and safer sex. A crucial text in this regard is The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt.
A "dark room" in a bar, etc., takes the promiscuity somewhat further, because the darkness hardly (or not at all) allows selection of a "partner" based on visual appearance and thus on visual aspects of sexual attraction. It complicates practicing safer sex, and if people enter dressed, is also a risk regarding pickpocketing. However, for some people the lack of visual perception has a special charm, allowing one to concentrate more on other senses; it may also provide better opportunities because visual aspects that otherwise form a barrier, including those related to ageing, do not play a role.
To a lesser degree the same applies in a steam room, where visibililty is reduced due to the mist.
Brothels, a business, which consists of employees who sell their sex to clients are also centers of promiscuious sexual activity.
Brothels can legally be operated in many parts of the world, including some areas of Nevada in the United States.
- Geof H. Givens and James P. Hughes, Model validation and assessment of uncertainty in a deterministic model for gonorrhea (http://www.stat.colostate.edu/~geof/documents/nystd7.ps)
See also promiscuous mode, in the context of computer networking.