Last Updated on June 4, 2020 by Shuvani Sanyal, MD
It’s STD Awareness Month!
Today’s myth: ‘Only promiscuous people contract STDs’ and why that’s so false!
We’re implementing The STI Project’s month-long myth busting series: So True, So False! Yeah, we think we’re as cool as E! Promoting awareness, education, and acceptance doesn’t always have to be super-serious.
Really, though, these myths often perpetuate big problems, because they keep people from getting tested, talking to partners, practicing safer-sex, and all around being conscientious about their sexual health. So, this is kinda serious stuff too!
For our ‘So True, So False’ series, we’re doing the research and debunking some of the common myths we hear all of the time about STDs, so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.
Only Promiscuous People Contract STDs
As much as this myth tends to frustrate me nowadays, I have to admit, I thought this once too. Of the many reasons why I think I contracted not one, but a couple of STDs over the course of being a sexually active individual, this misconception remains at the top of the list.
At 16, when I contracted genital herpes, I had only ever heard about STDs briefly – once during our abstinence-only sex-ed class, and another time when a friend of mine was telling me about her neighbor who had recently contracted herpes. That infamous neighbor was said to ‘have slept with everyone in the trailer park’… And since I wasn’t sleeping with everyone in the trailer park – or many people at all, for that matter – I thought I had nothing to worry about.
Risk is not dependent upon the number of people you sleep with.
That I don’t think of myself as a ‘slut’ or a ‘whore’ is one of the reasons I’m not a fan of this assumption, but more factually, it’s just not true.
Sure, promiscuous people can contract an STD as easy as the rest of all sexually active people, and if someone has multiple partners or many consecutive partners, they can be at a higher risk of contracting STDs. But, married people (I’m not talking about cheaters here), people in monogamous/committed relationships, and those who’ve had very few partners or very little sexual history contract STDs all of the time.
All of the time.
A lot of my readers don’t fit into that ‘promiscuous’, ‘slutty’, or ‘whores’ category – as subjective as that category is to begin with, and the reason for that is simple.
All sexual activities come with some level of risk. Couple the inherent risk of sharing your body intimately with a less than stellar comprehensive safer-sex regimen, and your risk increases. This is why there are some very promiscuous people who never contract an STD and some who contract an STD after being with only one partner – safer-sex or lack therof.
The Facts Don’t Support the Assumption
Why don’t we add in some numbers to further back this up?!
It is estimated that upwards of 65 million people in the US are living with an STD and in the United States alone, more than 20 million people contract an STD annually.
I’d wager my first cat (since I don’t have a first born) that all 20 million of those people diagnosed every year aren’t ‘sluts’ and ‘whores’! And there’s no way 65 million people (a number higher than the entire Hispanic or African American population) are promiscuous. I don’t care how sexualized our culture has become, that many people aren’t out being promiscuous. Logical deduction here, folks. 🙂
Even more, the estimate right now is that 1 in 2 people will contract an STD by the time they reach the age of 25, and around 80% of all women will have contracted an HPV infection by the time they reach the age of 50.
Half of all young adults and 80% of all women (by the age of 50) aren’t ‘sluts’, ‘whores’, or promiscuous. That’s just ridiculous, really.
Are half of all the people or 80% of the women you know slutty? I think not.
Why is this such a common misconception?
Even though we live in a highly sexualized culture, people are still very keen on dictating the type of sex you’re having, with whom you’re having it, and how often you have it. Perpetuating this myth is a way to shame people. It’s just another way to behaviorlly influence someone by using fear of social and physical repercussion as a motivator to alter their actions.
Saying that only promiscuous people contract STDs is a great way to scare you into being (or not being) sexually active, and it’s a great way to shun those who have an STD as being ‘bad’ or ‘naughty’ – like, ’tisk, tisk, you had sex with too many people; now you’re paying for it.’ Try telling that to all of the people who contracted STDs after just one partner, or from oral sex and who hadn’t had actual intercourse yet. It doesn’t go over very well, nor does it make sense.
Needless to say, anyone who is sexually active is at risk of contracting an STD.
Whether you are promiscuous or not makes less of a difference than whether you engage in and adhere to a sexually responsible safer-sex approach.
All different kinds of people with all different kinds of sexual histories contract STDs all of the time – not just the promiscuous ones.
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Have you heard this before? How did you learn about this myth and what was your opinion before reading this post? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!