Promiscuity isn't a bad thing

20:20, May 13 2012

Ever since Colin Craig came out with his "New Zealand women are the most promiscuous in the world" line, I've been waiting for someone, preferably someone with a bit of clout, to point out the obvious: so what?

Promiscuity is not necessarily a bad thing, in a man or a woman. As long as no-one's being hurt, and the sex is consensual and safe, sweet, go for it.

If promiscuity bothers you, fine. Your call. Just don't pretend, as Colin Craig did, that you're basing that on anything other than your personal beliefs or values. Especially, don't pretend your concern is actually about pregnancy rates or STIs or costs to the taxpayer. Because promiscuity doesn't cause pregnancy or STIs or costs: unsafe sex does. They are not the same thing. One instance of unsafe sex is more dangerous and costly - and much worse, in my view - than 10 instances of safe sex.

I need to clarify, too, that promiscuity doesn't mean cheating on people. Cheating: bad. Unsafe sex: bad. Promiscuity? Not good, not bad, just an option.

But instead of making that distinction when Craig had his wee brainfail, we all fluffed around, denying and outraging, and questioning the validity of the Durex survey Craig quoted. Which is fine - except that when that survey came out, the story ran all over the place with variations on the headline "Kiwi women most promiscuous". Bit of a turnaround there. It seemed to me like we all knew his statement needed to be challenged - that there was something inherently wrong about a politician critiquing womens' sexual choices - but we weren't sure exactly how to do that.

I think we need to challenge the most basic value judgement Craig made: that promiscuity is a very bad thing. No-one's done that, so far as I can see. Which worries me, because maybe that means everyone secretly agrees with him.

In fact now I'm nervous about this blog post going up, because of the assumptions and judgements people might make about me. But I'm not going to defend myself. My whole point is that I shouldn't have to.

What was your reaction to Colin Craig's statement? Do you see promiscuity - as opposed to cheating, or unsafe sex - as a bad thing? And do you think a promiscuous woman is any worse than a promiscuous man?

Catherine Woulfe is the deputy editor of Sunday magazine.

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