The frivolousness of my last post aside, having multiple sex partners is a question that all of us deal with at one point or another. Several schools of thought would have us believe that promiscuity is morally abject, and society seems to approve of this stance—at least from a superficial perspective. But I fail to see the inherent moral destitution of sticking your penis inside more than one person.
However, that’s not to say I think monogamous minded people should start dropping trou every chance they get. For many people, monogamy provides them with exactly what they’re looking for. It’s a little bit like food: some people have their standard set of meals that they eat all the time, never caring to try new things, while others prefer to dabble in different types of cuisines, finding favourites across a wide range of cooking styles. Still others tend to eat the same meals, but occasionally feel the need to experience the taste of something different.
There’s a huge spectrum out there in terms of eating habits, and there is nothing wrong with falling on any point in that spectrum. As your palate dictates, you will follow, and society understands those needs.
The same holds true with several other aspects of human life: those who watch one genre of film or listen to one genre of music versus those who have an eclectic taste in film and music; people who always go on holiday in the same place versus those who travel to a new destination each time; working adults who stick to a career versus those who enjoy finding jobs in different branches. Why, then, the double standard when it comes to our sexual lives?
There’s some leeway when you’re single, although men seem to “get away” with more than women do. Be that as it may, the leniency dries up with a vengeance once you’re in a standard monogamous relationship. Suddenly society expects us to dedicate our sexual existence to one person, till death do us part.
This arrangement is fine for some. But look at how many people cheat on their partners—clearly, a significant percentage of society only pay lip service to monogamy because it’s what’s expected of them.
I agree that promiscuity can be the cause of many problems. But a desire to be promiscuous can be triggered by many things, and it’s those triggers that determine whether one’s promiscuity is morally lacking or not, rather than the act of promiscuity in and of itself.
In truth, I’m not sure there are many triggers for promiscuity that I would actually deem immoral. Perhaps some that are less deserving of praise than others, but immoral? Not really.
Take, for example, singles who sleep around. Sex is one way of relating to people, of conversing with other humans and expressing who we are. We can learn a lot about a person by having sex with them, and that physical act can be the start of a solid friendship. We exchange ideas freely in conversation, which helps us grow; the same can be true of corporeal connections.
On the other hand, I know firsthand that such noble pursuits are not always in our thoughts when we’re out boning some random person. Sometimes you just want or need a random shag, for any number of reasons. Of course, there are those that pretty much live on those empty fucks. Does that make them immoral? No. Shallow perhaps, but that’s not any different than the shallowness of automatically excluding people because of their economic status or dress style.
And there certainly is a level of shallowness to random hook ups that never evolve into friendship. After all, the only thing you really have to go by in the beginning is the physical appearance of the person. But just like we all enjoy the occasional shallow film, so too is there nothing wrong with having a shallow sex date. It’s just silly to let them rule your life.
I think we can all agree that sleeping around behind your partner’s back would fall more on the immoral part of the spectrum. But couples who are honest with each other about their extramarital needs are in my opinion about as far away from the immoral part of the spectrum as you can get.
Obviously, the variations on consensual sex outside of the relationship are as many as the day is long. But if properly arranged by all partners involved, the relationships can be enriched by the experiences of the two individuals. I’d recommend The Ethical Slut to anyone who wants to take a closer look at just how these variations can work.
And that is not to imply that sex with the partner at home is bad, just as the conversations with my partner are not bad simply because I enjoy conversing with others. I go home and share with my partner the new thoughts I’ve had as a result of conversations with others, and the greatness of the conversation we have is enriched by it. This is also true of sexual experiences. It’s like going out to try a new restaurant with a friend and then ordering the same meal you had as take away for your partner at home. Not because the partner is a bad cook but because he or she will also appreciate the tastiness of the meal.
Here is where I made a mistake with one of my exes, Ramiro. We had an open relationship, and we told each other when we had sex with other people. But rather than come home and physically share those experiences in bed, I tended to hold back. A typical Madonna/Whore complex: I could do all sorts of things with other people, but I couldn’t necessarily do them with Ramiro.
Which is fair if that’s how your arrangement works. Looking back, I can see that I still had some hang-ups to work out regarding how a relationship should look. Hell, I’d be lying if I said I had expurgated all of those hang-ups for time and eternity. Society beats them into us at an early age (think Disney), and it’s hard to see beyond them at times. In reality, both of us would have thoroughly enjoyed playing the whore, but it was I who shied away and forced him onto a quasi-Madonna pedestal.
I didn’t fully realize that I really could see and liked seeing both aspects in him until after we broke up. We started having sex again after a grace period, and I finally understood how intimacy can seriously enhance the pleasure of getting down and dirty with a sex partner, because though our relationship status had changed we still had a close, intimate relationship. Unfortunate that it took the loss of the status to come to that realisation, mais ça c’est la vie.
That being said, an equivalent level of intimacy can also arise with someone that never was and never will be your partner. I have a fuck buddy I’ve been meeting up with for going on seven years, and even though we never see each other except for when we’re going to have sex, when we meet up we also spend time really talking to each other in between romps, and in fact have a very intimate friendship. Yet I would never pursue a relationship with him, because that wouldn’t suit us.
I think this is also key to understanding the positive side of promiscuity: we can have different connections, different levels of intimacy with various people without seeking to destroy our other relationships. Ramiro knew I was screwing this other dude—in fact I had been fucking Chris before I met him. But Ramiro never felt threatened by my fuck buddy because he knew my relationship with Chris wouldn’t push past its boundaries, that it couldn’t replace the joy of what Ramiro and I had.
Woefully, there are those who argue that sex isn’t meant to be enjoyed, that sex is intended for procreation purposes only. And that’s just horseshit. True, we wouldn’t be here if someone hadn’t fucked or made love to create us. But we also wouldn’t be here if we didn’t eat. I don’t see anyone calling gourmands immoral because they enjoy their smorgasbord of culinary delights, and the same should apply to those of us who delight in the carnal and even see it in some of its forms as another possible avenue to the spiritual.
Finding the right balance is fucking difficult, I’ll give you that. But then again, so is finding the right balance with anything meaningful in our lives. As long as we’re safe and honest with our sex partners – and stick to the rules that we ourselves help define if we’re in a committed relationship – then there is nothing keeping sexual encounters with multiple partners from being positive experiences. And nothing at all to suggest that such encounters are inherently immoral.