More and more people are keen to know more and more about promiscuity, polyamory and pan-sexuality ad, rather than ways of living that are frowned upon by the morally high-browed, they have become celebrated in the mainstream. Brigette Bard, asks: ‘If you’re all safe and consenting, why the hell not?’
The song from the 1934 hit musical goes: “In olden days a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking but now God knows… anything goes.”
Really? Things have changed a lot since then haven’t they? In 1934 it was illegal to be gay in the UK, there were no contraceptive pills and magazine articles advised people: “Don’t drink too much as a man expects you to keep your dignity all evening” or ”Don’t be familiar with your escort by caressing him in public.
Now anything really does go.
I for one am glad we live in a country where people are free to explore their sexuality and find the right relationships for them – whether fleeting, long term or multiple. And rather than judge people I think it’s time to have a healthy and informed conversation on the topic.
I think it’s also really important to get the facts right around the definitions.
- Polyamory is a philosophy and lifestyle based around the forming and sustaining of relationships with multiple partners in an open, honest and non-possessive way.
- Swinging comprises couples in committed relationships, who occasionally or regularly swap sexual partners, indulge in group sex or visit sex clubs for couples.
- Promiscuity is the practice of casual sex frequently with different partners or being indiscriminate about who you have sex with.
- Pansexuality describes people that are non-discriminate about those they are sexuality – men, women and / or those that do not define themselves as either male or female (intersex people or androgynous people for example). People who define themselves as pansexual are, of course, not by definition polyamorous or promiscuous.
It’s really hard to get a figures on how many people fit into these loose brackets.
There are no reliable estimates of how many people are swingers but experts think there are significant numbers. One in 100 couples are active swingers or have some other form of open relationship and it’s thought one in four couples dabble in an open relationship of some type, whether it’s swinging, polyamory, a threesome once in a while or something else. In terms of polyamory, there aren’t any figures for the UK but it’s thought there about five million people who are openly polyamorous in the US.
It’s also thought that nowadays as much as 30% of sex takes place without any romance, dating or relationship – but what goes on behind closed doors is notoriously difficult to measure.
But in a world where open mindedness is on the increase things that would have been shocking back in the 20th century are normal.
But this normality comes at a price. According to a study by a Dutch sexual health experts, found partner-swapping swingers could be bringing sexually transmitted infections into the general population.
Of 9,000 sexual health clinic patient consultations in this study, 12% were swingers, with an average age of 43. Putting this into context combined rates of chlamydia and gonorrhoea were just over 10% among straight people, 14% among gay men, just under 5% in female prostitutes and 10.4% among swingers.
More than half (55%) of all diagnoses in the over 45s were made in swingers, compared with around a third (31%) in gay men. One in 10 older swingers had chlamydia and around one in 20 (4%) had gonorrhea.
And in a massive news story before Christmas, actor Charlie Sheen publicly blamed his own promiscuity for his contracting HIV.
My thoughts: If you and your partner (or partners) want to experiment with other people, if you don’t want a partner and want to have sex with loads of people – or if you want to be in a loving open relationship with several lovers – that’s so great.
It takes a lot to be open about your sexuality and know what makes you happy.
Just remember a few things.
- Talk to all of your sexual partners. Be really clear about what you want and make sure you’re honest with them and they understand, support and agree with your position. If they’re not on the same page as you, feelings could be hurt in one or both parties.
- Take precautions. Sex between consenting adults can be exactly what you both want it to be, but the more people involved, the higher the chance of sexually transmitted infections. Make sure to use protection – condoms are the only sure fire way to prevent pregnancy and STIs.
- Get tested. If you’ve had a lot of sex with various partners (especially if you don’t know them very well) then it makes sense to get an STI check. There are loads of options and you can find out more here: LINK
I’m a massive supporter of sexual liberation. I think we should be more open about what we think and feel, breaking stigma and taboo to eradicate judgement and bigotry, but as sexually transmitted infections are on the increase, we have a responsibility to both ourselves and our partners to be safe and confident. Remember – it’s your body, your life and your choice.
Brigette Bard is founder of BioSure UK, the company behind the Europe’s only CE marked self test for HIV.