Promiscuity is the practice of engaging in casual sexual activity frequently and with different partners. A common example of promiscuous behavior is participating in "one-night stands," in which two (or more) people engage in sex strictly for the purpose of physical pleasure, with no previous commitment or expected obligation after the act. Exactly which sexual behaviors are considered promiscuous varies widely from one culture to the next, as well as by gender, age group, etc. Many modern cultures are known for holding men and women to separate and unequal standards of promiscuity. Men who have many sexual partners are often glamorized as a "player" or "stud" and admired for their sexual prowess. Conversely, women who enjoy many sexual partners are often labeled as "loose" or "a harlot" and treated with disrespect. A similar double standard frequently applies between heterosexuals and the LGBTQ+ community.
Using the Sociosexual Orientation Inventory (SOI) to measure promiscuity
Determining a country's level of promiscuity is often challenging. Most data are self-reported, and strong social or personal motivations can skew results heavily toward minimizing or exaggerating sexual activity. Some of the most widely respected work in the area of nation-to-nation sexual habits has been done by psychologist Dr. David P. Schmitt, Founding Director of the International Sexuality Description Project. Schmitt's 2005 study, "Sociosexuality from Argentina to Zimbabwe: A 48-nation study of sex, culture, and strategies of human mating," compiled interview responses from more than 14,000 people and is the most comprehensive and most frequently referenced clinical study on the subject of promiscuity.
Schmitt's research distilled each person's responses to a detailed interview into a single measure called the Sociosexual Orientation Inventory, or SOI. A high SOI indicates a person with an unrestricted (non-monogamous) mating strategy, and a lower SOI indicates a more restricted, or monogamous strategy. Once complete, the study revealed that the countries with the most promiscuous sexual partnering behaviors were Finland, New Zealand, and Slovenia.
Top 10 Most Promiscuous Countries in the World (by SOI, 2005)
- Finland - 50.50
- New Zealand - 47.69
- Slovenia - 46.26
- Lithuania - 46.10
- Austria - 45.73
- Latvia - 43.93
- Croatia - 42.98
- Israel - 40.95
- Bolivia - 40.9
- Argentina - 40.74
Alternate studies of sexuality and promiscuity
A 2008 U.S. university study evaluated the promiscuity among countries around the world based on one-night stands, attitudes towards casual sex, and the number of sexual partners the average person enjoyed. The study found that Finns have the largest number of sexual partners in the industrialized world. Additionally, British people have the largest number of sexual partners among western industrial nations. This study further showed that the top ten OECD countries on the promiscuity index are the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Australia, the United States, France, Turkey, Mexico, and Canada.
Condom-maker Durex has conducted multiple surveys that measured sexual behaviors including promiscuity among nations. Durex found that Austrian men had the highest number of sex partners of males around the world of 29.3 partners on average. New Zealand's women had the highest number of sexual partners with an average of 20.4. In general, people from developed Western countries have more sex partners than people in developing countries; however, those in developing countries have higher STI rates. Additionally, the "most promiscuous" countries do not have the highest fertility rates; those are typically also seen in developing countries. For Western countries high on the index, especially in the United Kingdom, their positions can be linked to increasing social acceptance of promiscuity among women and men.