Recovery Workshop

Assessing Promiscuity

What is it?

Consider a woman who remains celibate until her wedding night, then sleeps with ten men in the first year of her marriage. Or the husband who, after seven years of faithfulness, begins a string of sexual encounters with other men in the local park. Or a young girl who sleeps with over thirty boys before she even graduates from high school. All of these behaviors are considered to be promiscuous. In the context of this workshop, promiscuity will be considered any sexual activity that involves another human being and resembles any of the behavioral patterns described below.

Promiscuity is one of the more dangerous and life-altering behaviors associated with the sex and love addictions, because the consequences are often extreme: pregnancy, abortions, AIDS, murder, rape. Few men can forgive themselves for passing on an STD to their faithful wife. Few women can ever let go of the lifelong guilt that comes from having an abortion, or from giving up their children for adoption. Other consequences of promiscuous behavior include STD's, getting robbed, blackmailed and more. Even when such consequences are never realized, those engaging in promiscuous behavior must still deal with the emotional drain that comes from maintaining numerous relationships, worrying about possible consequences, guilt/shame (when infidelity is involved), etc.

Promiscuity plays an important role in people's lives...most commonly, it allows those with a low self-esteem, or those who have been emotionally neglected to feel like they are needed, desired, useful. For others, it allows them to relive past abuse situations and still others, promiscuity fulfills nothing more than a masturbatory-like sexual release.

Common Behaviors Associated with Promiscuity:

  • Multiple long-term simultaneous affairs
  • Numerous short-term affairs (may or may not be simultaneous)
  • Multiple (more than one) sexual partners on a single day
  • Multiple (more than five) sexual partners over the course of a single year
  • History of multiple sexual encounters with people you've known less than a month
  • Indiscriminate sexual encounters with others after getting drunk/high
  • Actively searching for sexual encounters when traveling on business
  • Establishing "a woman in every port"
  • Engaging in prostitution (when the reasons for participating involve anything beyond financial — like a desire for attention/emotional pleasure from pleasing others)
  • Hiring of prostitutes/call-girls
  • Routine same-sex sexual encounters in public places (e.g. rest rooms, parks)

Elements Frequently Associated with Promiscuity (from the Wheel of Sexual Compulsion):

  • Sensory Stimulation (especially physical)
  • Accomplishment (when searching for a partner and when engaging in sexual activity)

Other Behaviors Commonly Found in a Ritualistic Chain where Promiscuity is the Primary Behavior:

  • Danger (especially women getting involved with complete strangers)
  • Suspense
  • Poly-addiction (especially alcohol/substance abuse)
  • Orgasm (more frequent for males than females; especially male-to-male encounters in public settings)
  • Fantasy
  • Past (especially when sexual abuse/emotional neglect is involved)

Frequent Cues/Triggers Often Associated With Promiscuity

  • Alcohol/Substance abuse
  • Past history of sexual abuse (especially incestual abuse)
  • Past history of emotional neglect (either parental, or long-term partner)
  • Low self-esteem
  • Emotional imbalance (especially depression, loneliness)
  • Opportunity (people, places, times and things)

Boundaries Frequently Violated By Promiscuity:

  • Safety (involving STD's, pregnancy, potential violence)
  • Honesty
  • Self-respect (guilt and shame are often extreme when attempting to engage in sexual behavior with committed partner)
  • Intimacy (in all but the rarest occasions, the intimacy that can be experienced with the spouse is sacrificed for the passion and intimacy experienced with the promiscuous partners)
  • Family

If you have experienced similar behavior as described above (or have experienced additional behaviors that were not mentioned, but fall under the category of Promiscuity), please include them in your responses below.

My History with Promiscuity

First Name and Last Initial:

E-mail address:

Describe your history involving promiscuity. For this exercise, include not only sexual encounters that involve direct physical contact, but also those behaviors that include sexual contact with others involving other communication devices (e.g. e-mail, phone calls, chat rooms, etc.):

Think for a few minutes, then list all of your most common triggers for this type of behavior:

List any concerns, unusual circumstances that you currently have regarding this behavior. For instance, any bizarre rituals that you perform, dangerous objects that you use, frequency issues, etc.

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