On Promiscuity and self esteem
Untangling the issues.
Do poor self-image and promiscuity go hand in hand, it's an excellent yet unfortunate question. The easy answer of course is yes, however I believe there are serious and strong societal factors that have led many of us to this belief. Here is my view.
First and foremost, let's be very clear about the terms I will be using.
Mirriam-Webster defines promiscuity as:
1 : miscellaneous mingling or selection of persons or things : indiscriminateness
2 : promiscuous sexual behavior
In this instance, indiscriminate is defined as follows:
a: not marked by careful distinction : deficient in discrimination and discernment
Here is the first problem with how this particular issue is discussed. There is often the assumption that a woman who has multiple sexual partners must not be discriminating in choosing those partners most likely because she has issues.
In this conversation I take serious issue with the assumption that a woman who has multiple sexual partners is assumed to be suffering from a low self image or that she cannot make smart and healthy decisions to keep herself from contracting STI's or having unwanted pregnancies.
In my mind this discussion needs to be reframed without the slut shaming and with a different vocabulary.
Instead of assuming that the woman with mulitple sexual partners is in fact being (as the dictionary defines it) promiscuious, I believe it would be far more valuable to simply state that someone has made the decision to have multiple sexual partners.
In and of itself, having multiple sexual partners can be done in a smart and healthy way. If someone is educated about safer sex, committed to regular STI screenings, and has the ability to establish for themselves what is right is just fine. All too often the issue of how many partners someone may or may not has, gets tangled with the bigger issue of how they are choosing those partners, whether or not they are engaging in safer sex and what their motives may be.
I believe that we have to untie that particular knot to really get to the heart of the issue which is, women who engage in unsafe behaviors because they have a poor self image.
Personally I believe that a poor self image is the larger and more pressing issue.
When it comes to women who are engaging in unsafe behaviours due to low self esteem, I very firmly believe that education is the key. Women need more than ever these days to love themselves.
Everywhere we go in (I'm using American society as I am an American) our society, it's right there. You are not good enough. Perhaps you're too fat, you're breasts aren't big enough, your skin isn't right, you don't drive the right car etc etc. Until we can start making a serious and concentrated effort to reject those messages and start realizing that we are valuable and capable, then we will start repairing the damage.
Many women once they figure out that they are worth respect and love, sexual choices become clearer.
I also believe that for women to feel better about their sexual choices and decisions, we need education. We all need to learn that regardless of what sexual choices we make those do not devalue us as human beings. If you make a choice, and that choice is not shamed or judged to be incorrect, I will bet money you're next choices are going to be ones that are good for you.
As the adage goes, knowledge is power.
When we have knowledge we can make informed decisions. When we know our worth, we can make good decisions. Unfortunately it's not just an inward process. Society is not working with us on this, we're not working with each other as autonomous human beings on this.
After all that, I do believe that some women think so low of themselves that they will allow anyone to do anything to them, that they believe that their self worth is wrapped up in who will sleep with them and this is a tragedy. I think women who's self image has led them to this place don't need to carry around words like promiscuity and indiscrinateness on their backs. I think they need help.
Being that too often things like therapy are not within the reach of many people for economic or cultural reasons, I think it's important that we share resources. I think instead of just shaking our heads when someone is doing something we might not do, we should talk. We (when I say we I mean men, women, those in-between and neither) should start teaching each other.
To sum up, yes I believe there can be a correlation between low self image and promiscuity as framed by the original question.
I also believe that promiscuity as framed here can be a small part of what's going on with someone and that it's far more important to deal with their low self esteem rather than who they are having sex with.
And I also believe that if a woman makes a conscious decision to have multiple sexual partners that there is nothing inherently wrong with that.
Low self esteem can drive us to do many terrible things. Eating disorders, plastic surgery addictions, bad relationships, self harm, depression just to name a few. And we have to help each other, we have to learn how to love ourselves enough to make those good decisions no matter what they may be.