Which Comes First – Promiscuous or Crazy?

March 13, 2012

New Gawker personality Anonymous Therapist is male, a father, and a therapist of many years who primarily treats teens and couples. He responds to questions about his practice, sharing the insights he’s gleaned and also some pretty outrageous stories. I was especially intrigued by his views on sexual promiscuity. (H/T: Stuart Schneiderman)

Gawker: Do you find that females who “experiment” are prone to self-destruction?

Anonymous Therapist: A resounding yes. Forget about the spoon-fed knowledge that promiscuity and experimentation lead to a higher risk of sexual assault, STDs, and unplanned children. Women that experiment—both heterosexually and homosexually—have, in my experience, faced higher levels of guilt and a lack of identity as their lives begin to settle down. Understand that this is a chicken-or-egg scenario, because sexual promiscuity in women in is one of the three major symptoms of internal anger and self-hatred, along with substance abuse and self-mutilation.

SW: Anonymous Therapist doesn’t specify a particular number of partners, but zeroes in on the motives for having casual sex as indicative of poor mental health. Here correlation, with or without causation, suggests that slutty behavior is a package deal, born of a desire to harm or punish oneself.

Gawker: That seems harsh. How so?

AT: I had a female patient once. She was very attractive, had three kids and was married to a prominent figure around town. She admitted to me that as a teen, she was extremely sexually active due to some feelings of unattractiveness and abandonment. Once she had kids, she felt guilty that her kids would one day—and I’m quoting here—”realize that they were birthed from a ‘whore,'” and that there was no special physical connection between her and her husband because he was like, the 70th man she’d been with. She felt unworthy of her social prominence because no one knew who she truly was. Since she could not separate from her past and never truly dealt with the core issues of her inadequacies, she began to self-destruct with substances, a spending addiction, and oftentimes engaging in communications that would jeopardize her husband’s career.

  • Self-destruction stems from guilt or a sense of unworthiness, and if you are not punished by someone else then, in your mind, you must punish yourself. 
  • Experimentation is also socially driven: It is now commendable in our society to be promiscuous. 
  • For both men and women, any type of promiscuity or experimentation, what you feel at the time is not always how you will feel about it later. 

In my opinion, any type of promiscuity or “phase” is fulfilling some type of need or emptiness inside that person at that specific time. Later on, that need may be fulfilled, but the behavior has occurred and the person may not be able to intellectualize the rationale or forgive themselves for fulfilling that need in that venue.

SW: Interestingly, AT begins by speaking about female promiscuity, but ends by generalizing that promiscuous behavior for both sexes comes from a place of inadequacy rather than emotional health.

What AT doesn’t address is the role of peer pressure, culture, and pluralistic ignorance on college campuses. Recently the Harvard Crimson interviewed Lisa Wade, Ph.D., a Sociology professor at Occidental College who studies the role of sex, sexuality, and gender in society. Wade dishes out a lot of feminist blather about “teh patriarchy” but at least she’s honest about what’s going on in hookup culture:

Crimson: What role do you think that television and the media’s very casual attitude toward sex has played in shaping society’s views on sex?

LW: It certainly contributes to the pluralistic ignorance and the idea that college is going to be constant sex with attractive people and that that’s how you have fun in college. We get the idea that someone who is cool and interesting and exciting is someone who is doing it and doing it with whoever, whenever, however…. The media seems to be saying that students who don’t participate are just irrelevant and off the social map altogether, and that’s a pretty harsh punishment to someone who objects to what’s going on or wishes it were different.

…What the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s gave us is the opportunity to say “yes” to sex. But what it didn’t give us was the opportunity to say “no.” So students feel comfortable saying “yes” to sex, but they also feel like it’s increasingly difficult to say “no.” They feel like they should lose their virginity and have casual sex, and they feel bad about wanting to say “no.”

…When students arrive on campus their first year, they are very excited about what they think is going to be lots and lots of sex and lots and lots of fun. They often start getting disappointed right away and find themselves getting disappointed with so little pleasure and feelings of empowerment. But they don’t feel like they can change the way it is. The majority of students hook up now and then, but they have mixed feelings about what’s going on—they’re excited about the opportunity to be sexual but they’re also frustrated. Over the four years of college, students spend less and less time hooking up.

Clearly, there’s more going on here than self-hatred, though it seems reasonable to assume that the disappointment and frustration students feel after hooking up might create or exacerbate those feelings.  One young woman told me that when she got very depressed about the hookup scene and her role in it at her small, private college she went to see a school counselor, who reported that most of the requests for counseling related directly to the hookup scene and kids’ struggles to find their place within it or outside it.

There was one other remark from Anonymous Therapist that I know will interest you:

Gawker: So do you think couples should reveal how many people they’ve had sex with in order to alleviate guilt?

Absolutely not! Once you know that number, you begin to dwell on it and then the mind begins to go places it shouldn’t go and then start to rationalize and over-think the numbers—i.e., how many were one-night stands? How often were feelings shared? Does that make it better or worse? And so on. It’s just a useless piece of information that tends to eventually, more often than not, impact the relationship either on a conscious or subconscious level. So keep it to yourself.

SW: It’s an interesting observation. If one’s number of past sexual partners predicts future behavior, and there’s some reason to think that it does, then it’s important information. Yet it does not come without a price, as it may require forgiveness or compromise very early in a relationship. It may also prevent the heartache of being cheated on or dumped later. There’s no way to know up front. As long as sexual behavior remains unrestrained by societal norms, the “number” is going to be an important point of discussion.
P.S. Speaking of fidelity, Vox Day is gathering some stats in a Fidelity Survey at Alpha Game.  He’s already got over 150 responses, but a really large sample will provide better data. He’s interested in both male and female takers, so check it out HERE