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Promiscuity (from the Latin prōmiscuus “common” , to miscēre “to mix”), less often promiscuity , is the practice of sexual contact with different partners who change relatively often or in parallel with several partners. The adjective promiscuous or promiscuous is also used for “sexually permissive” or “open-hearted”.

Promiscuous behavior is generally tolerated in Western culture as a manifestation of sexual self-determination , which as a form of relationship anarchy is attributed to the autonomous social behavior of the people involved. It has found its way into the legal systems of most western democracies primarily through the decriminalization of sexuality . In Germany, this was done primarily by abolishing the criminality of adultery and largely limiting the criminal offense of pimping . This is justified not least with reference to the constitutional goods of the general right of personality and the general freedom of action , which above all subject state interference in the intimate sphere to narrow limits. Promiscuous behavior can therefore lead to disregard for the self-determination of the other partner due to a possible disparity in the expectations of the sexual partner . However, this is beyond state control.

Promiscuous behavior increases the risk of infection with sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV , hepatitis or human papillomavirus , especially if “ safer sex ” is not practiced.

In the animal kingdom, promiscuity means that males and females mate with more than one sexual partner in a season.


Kisses guess in the " French times " (early 19th century)

Promiscuous behavior is mostly undesirable in traditional societies, both in monogamy -oriented Christianity and in traditionally polygamous societies. In the latter, however, promiscuity found a place in the context of certain cultic practices. As religious affiliations wane, promiscuity and acceptance tend to increase.

At the time of National Socialism , promiscuous behavior was punished (see youth concentration camp , sexually neglected ). In the Federal Republic of Germany it happened up until the 1970s that young women in particular were admitted to care for deviations from sexual norms .

In modern western societies, promiscuous behavior is rarely sanctioned by the state due to the principle of sexual self-determination . In Germany, the Federal Inspectorate for Media Harmful to Young People saw the public “glorification” of promiscuity as harmful to young people for a long time; corresponding media were therefore indexed. Recently, however, the BPJM has taken a different position.

Take recent positions to accept multiple sexual relationships in the context of honesty and the practice of safer sex . The dualistic concept of being able to have either short-term sexual relationships or love relationships is abandoned in favor of polyamory (although polyamory in the narrower sense emphasizes long-term multiple relationships). Lesbian and heterosexual non-monogamous women in Germany described themselves as sluts in a political campaign ( Schlampagne ) . This use of the word represents a re-evaluation (reclaiming) of a disparaging term.


Promiscuous behavior can also be a symptom of borderline personality disorder or narcissistic personality disorder . However, this feature alone is not sufficient to justify a diagnosis. Even people with mood swings or bipolar disorder (manic-depressive) , if they are in a hypomanic state, can behave promiscently against their values.


The Romanist Victor Klemperer repeatedly uses the term promiscuity in his diaries I want to bear witness to the last in the meaning of “mixing” or “messing” to describe the loss of privacy that additionally burdened the residents of the “Jewish houses” during the war years , for example: "There is a lot of promiscuity, which will hopefully stay smooth, but of course also easily get on your nerves."

The acronym HWG for h REQUENTLY w echselnde G eschlechtspartner was in the GDR in the people's police and the Stasi in use.


  • Dossie Easton, Catherine A. Liszt: The Ethical Slut . Greenery Press, San Francisco 1997, ISBN 1-890159-01-8 (English).
  • Tim Birkhead: Promiscuity . Faber and Faber, London 2000, ISBN 0-571-19360-9 (English).
  • Larry Kramer: Fagots . Grove Press, New York 2000, ISBN 0-8021-3691-5 (English, first edition: Random House, New York 1978, ISBN 0-394-41095-5 ).
  • Jason Edward King: Faith with benefits. Hookup culture on Catholic campuses. Oxford University Press, New York 2017, ISBN 978-0-19-024480-4 .
  • Jennifer Erin Beste: College hookup culture and Christian ethics. The lives and longings of emerging adults. Oxford University Press, New York 2018, ISBN 978-0-19-026850-3 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Promiscuity  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Federal testing agency for media harmful to minors: Immorality. ( Memento from July 13, 2010 in the Internet Archive )
  2. Federal Testing Office for Media Harmful to Young People Immoral Media. Publication without date.
  3. ^ Dossie Easton, Janet W. Hardy: The Ethical Slut. 1997, German sluts with morals.
  4. Umm ...: The wordlessness for the structure of relationships. In: Grassroots Revolution. No. 245 / January 2000.
  5. Victor Klemperer: I want to give testimony to the last. Diaries 1933–1945. A selection. Berlin 2007. (SpiegelEdition23), ISBN 978-3-87763-023-5 , p. 104.
  6. Ruth Hoffmann: Stasi children: Growing up in the surveillance state. Propylaeen Verlag, Berlin 2012; Sonja Suess: Politically Abused? Psychiatry and State Security in the GDR. Ch. Links, Berlin 1998, p. 269.