adj: Having casual sexual relations frequently with different partners; indiscriminate in the choice of sexual partners
While the society frowns upon free sex, and institutions like marriage are created to ensure that monogamous relationships do not lose their acceptability, promiscuity always has and always will exist, there has been no time in human history when it did not.
The reasons for people to seek multiple partners can be varied and many. The emotional need to stray from a single partner relationship sometimes comes from a low sense of self-esteem. This need to seek approval from members of the opposite sex translates into offering sex for affection, and in many cases both partners are in the same situation. For some men (and women), having multiple sexual partners makes life exciting, and in some cases, even adds to their social quotient, especially in younger age groups. The equation works at one level but leaves behind a lot of residue. The risk of getting into this behaviour pattern is higher in adolescents, since the peer pressure at that age is quite daunting and teenagers continually feel the need to prove they are better, or at least, impressive. Their age makes them more vulnerable to risks of physical and emotional scarring, and specially girls, who are both physically and emotionally extremely vulnerable at this age. Teen promiscuity can lead to disorders that prevent normal healthy relationships at a later time as mature adults, even scarring marriage.
While the emotional side effects of this behaviour are well understood and often treatable, it is the physical aspects that can be dangerous, even fatal. Medically speaking, having a number of sexual partners and starting sexual intercourse from an early age has huge risks. Changing partners every so often, for whatever reason, ups the risk of the HPV infection, the most well acknowledged, known cause of cervical cancer. Not only cervical cancer, but this behaviour makes a woman prone to a number of sexually transmitted diseases, some of which are life-threatening, such as in the case of cancer or HIV/ AIDS infections. This high-risk behaviour, is at par with if not any worse than heavy drinking or gambling.
In India, while the society frowns upon multiple sexual partners, there is no dearth of sexually aberrant behaviour. In fact, in a country like India, the risk of contracting infections from multiple sexual partners gets much higher, when one takes into consideration the socio-economic structure. With a population of over 365 million sexually mature women over 15 years of age, the risk of spread is higher in economically weaker strata, where sexually-transmitted diseases are common. In 2008-9, almost 1,32,000 cases of cervical cancer were diagnosed and with over 76,000 cervical cancer-related deaths in the country each year, India accounts for almost 26% of the global cervical cancer death toll. The HPV type 16 and 18 strains account for more than 75% of cervical cancer incidences in the country. Not surprising, at any given time, almost 6% of all Indian women are carrying the HPV infection either by direct sexual contact or through their spouses and partners. Early sexual contact, bad genital hygiene and multiple sexual partners, are some of the environmental factors. Obviously, conditioning plays a big part in this situation. Early sex is socially acceptable only within the bounds of marriage for women, but this limitation does not apply to the men, As a result, it is often the young brides that suffer infections. Besides, hygiene and sexual problems are not discussed as women do not talk about sex. Ignorance is very common, often the deciding factor between life and death.
Finally, in a counry like India, the fall-out of promiscuity does not just stem from a sense of morality, but more importantly has huge implications on the health of our young generation. Knowing that every fourth death in the world caused by cervical cancer occurs in India, and that number can increase to 75% in another decade, is a scary thought. Regular gynaecological check-ups, proper genital hygiene, sex education & counselling, and of course, limiting the number of partners, are just some of the solutions that might work. Bottom-line though is that promiscuity is not just a moral dilemma, but more of a health hazard.
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