Have you ever heard that gay men and bisexuals are promiscuous? A lot of people have. But that doesn't make it true.
So what do people mean when they use the word promiscuous? Usually it refers to someone who has multiple sex partners. The dictionary defines the word as "having or characterized by many transient sexual relationships."
But that isn't really a clear definition. For example, is multiple two? Is it ten? And over what time span? A week? A month? Over the course of years? The answer will be different for everyone. It has been said that the real definition of promiscuity, however, is simply someone who has had one more sex partner than you.
Though calling someone "promiscuous" doesn't usually have the same sting as does calling someone a slut or a whore, there are reasons why it too is problematic. The main one is that the word is almost always used in a negative or judgmental way.
We sometimes hear this word used in relation to health issues. For example, you might learn in a health class that "being promiscuous can make it more likely to contract a sexually transmitted infection." A better way to say this would be, "Having unprotected sex with more than one person can increase the likelihood of being exposed to sexually transmitted infections."
But even taking the word "promiscuous" off the table, the question remains, does being gay or bisexual make you more likely to have sex with many different people? The answer is no.
So where does this idea come from? There are a few origins. One is that during the late 1960's and the 1970's what is often called, "the sexual revolution" emerged. During this time, certain values and morals about sex were changing and being challenged, and many people (most of them straight) were experimenting with sex outside of marriage.
At the same time. the gay rights movement was emerging and for the first time ever gay men and lesbians were experiencing some social acceptance. These two factors combined with a time before the rise of the AIDS crisis, lead to more sexual freedom for some in the gay community. But that doesn't mean that being gay makes someone more likely to be promiscuous.
When it comes to bisexuals, people often assume that because there is the potential to be attracted to both men and women, a bisexual person needs to have a lot of sex with a lot of different people in order to be satisfied. Also not true!
Today some GLBT individuals feel free from traditional ideas about sex and marriage and may feel more comfortable having multiple sex partners than are those who feel bound by traditional societal expectations. But again, this is related more to someone's personal values and sexual views, than it does to anyone's sexual orientation.
Ultimately, if you are thinking about having sex whether it is with a long term committed partner or with someone you know more casually, it could be helpful to ask yourself some questions.
Here are a few helpful ones:
- Do you feel like you have to be in a committed relationship to have sex?
- Do you feel safe and comfortable with your potential sex partner?
- If having sex changes or ends your relationship with your sex partner, how would that make you feel?
- Do you know how to practice safer sex?
- Do you feel comfortable seeing a health care provider and getting tested or treated for STDs?
- What is your definition of sex and what types of sex play are you comfortable with?
- Are you comfortable telling your partner your likes and dislikes?
- Would you feel comfortable telling your partner if something didn't feel good?
- If something goes wrong or you have an emergency, do you have an adult who you can talk to?
The decision to have sex is a really important one. So it is helpful for GLBT teens who are considering having sex, either for the first time, or with a new partner, to figure out their own views and values about this issue long before they jump into the sack!