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Study shows promiscuous women may face social stigma

Category: Sexually Transmitted Diseases

In the battle against the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, there are many weapons. For example, people can abstain from sex or practice safe sex and regularly use STD testing services to help eliminate or reduce their risk of contracting or transmitting an STD on to others.

For years now, researchers have been working to determine the best ways to encourage young people to be responsible when it comes to engaging in sexual activity, but it has been a commonly held belief that in order to do this, healthcare officials have to first combat a culture that encourages kids to have promiscuous sex in order to be popular. However, a recent study conducted by scientists from Cornell University has found that among young adults, having multiple sex partners may leave people searching for friends.

It's not cool to sleep around
Scientists found that college-age women are less likely to be friends with women who they define as promiscuous - in this case meaning they had 20 sexual partners by their early 20s - than those who have had fewer sexual partners.

Researchers surveyed more than 750 college students about their past sexual experiences and how they felt about casual sex. Then, the participants were given one of two near-identical short stories to read about a male or female peer, with the only difference in the stories being the number of sexual partners the person had - two versus 20. The scientists then asked the students to rate the person in regards to friendship factors such as morality, emotional stability, warmth, competence and likability.

All female participants - regardless of their own sexual history - said they considered the sexually promiscuous woman less likable than the one with fewer sexual partners.

As for men, they tended to either show no preference between the sexually promiscuous or non-promiscuous man, or were more likely to want to be friends with the man who had many sexual partners.

According to the scientists, these findings highlight the differences between what is consider acceptable sexual behavior in men compared to women. Furthermore, they hint at a potential problem - since women with multiple sexual partners should want to turn to other women who have been in the same situation for support - not ostracize them.

"For sexually permissive women, they are ostracized for being 'easy,' whereas men with a high number of sexual partners are viewed with a sense of accomplishment," said researcher Zhana Vrangalova, a Cornell graduate student in the field of human development. "What surprised us in this study is how unaccepting promiscuous women were of other promiscuous women when it came to friendships - these are the very people one would think they could turn to for support."

Promiscuity is generally frowned upon
According to a report published by Scientific American, a past survey of more than 19,000 U.S. undergraduates had students respond to the statement: "If women hook up or have sex with lots of people, I respect them less." The survey found that half of the respondents agreed to this statement and were likely to feel the same way about promiscuous men as they do women.

These findings may be relevant for healthcare workers who are trying to reduce the spread of STDs among young adults. This research suggests that promiscuity may not be considered "cool" after all, so healthcare workers may want to stress to young adults that they shouldn't sleep around to gain popularity. This strategy may backfire on them as well as put them at a higher risk of contracting and spreading STDs.

Individuals who have had multiple sex partners should be sure to use STD testing services to make sure they are healthy.

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