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Promiscuity is the practice of making unselective, casual and indiscriminate choices.

It is most commonly applied in relation to sexual behavior, then also called free love, for example if that is not in the framework of a sexual relationship, or if someone has more sexual relationships at the same time.

This behaviour, coupled with not applying safer sex measures, is often linked with a higher risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) including AIDS. However, consecutive monogamous sexual relationships without safer sex measures can pose a similar risk.

In some cases promiscuous behaviour is caused by definite pathology like manic episodes of bipolar disorder, some forms of brain tumors or alcohol and substance abuse.

There is a place for promiscuous behaviour in some sects, cults and religious orders. There were special examples of religious prostitution in ancient Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome.

What is socially acceptable in promiscuous behaviour varies widely between cultures, and for different groups within a culture. In some contexts, a woman who has sex with any man other than her husband is considered promiscuous, while the term may not be applied to a man from the same culture engaging in the same behaviour. In other cultures, the term applies only to people who have more than one lover at the same time.

It is difficult to accurately assess people's sexual behaviour, since there are strong social and personal motivations to either minimise or exaggerate reported sexual activity.

The best statistical evidence of actual sexual behaviour is derived from research into sexually transmitted diseases. Extensive mathematical research has been conducted to model different mathematical models of sexual behaviour and to compare the results generated with the observed prevalence of STDs to try to estimate the probable actual sexual behavior of the population.

Peoples' numbers of sexual partners, both over their lifetime and concurrently, varies widely over the population. Studies of STD spread have consistently shown that a small minority of the population have substantially more partners than the average, and a large minority (including those who abstain from sex) have less than the average.

One important issue in STD epidemiology is whether these groups have sex mostly within their groups (so-called assortative mixing[?]) or at random.

There is a small modern movement to promote the practice of promiscuity in the context of honesty and safer sex. A seminal text in this regard is The Ethical Slut[?] by Easton and Liszt.

See also : chastity, polyamory.

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