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What's More Enjoyable: Promiscuity or Monogamy?

What’s more enjoyable, a monogamous sexual relationship, or promiscuity (sleeping with whoever you want)?

Most entertainment media seems to lean towards the latter. Why is this? Does promiscuity really make more sense?

This week I finished writing a book to teenagers about sex that will be released at the end of this year/early next year. It’s a book addressing some pretty candid questions about sex and intimacy. In a world full of explicit lies, this book shares the explicit truth.

One fun aspect of this project was showing what current research reveals about sexual satisfaction in relationships. In other words, in a world where very few people seem to care what the Bible says, it’s fun to see if Biblical concepts like monogamy actually make sense.

Funny… that old book seems to know what it’s talking about.

Most the reports I examined used words like happiness or sexual satisfaction. So just to be clear, I looked a little deeper at what those terms mean. Let me give you an example.

Mark White, Ph.D., offers some good insight into perceived “happiness” in his Psychology Today article, “Maybe It’s Just Me, But…” He starts off the article declaring, “it doesn’t take much to see that monogamy and promiscuity can each give a person happiness, albeit likely two different kinds.”

In other words, Dr. White is saying that both monogamy and promiscuity can make someone “happy.” But each produces a different kind of happy.

Take a look at what he discovered and determine which kind of ‘happiness’ you want.

Promiscuity- thrill of the moment
Promiscuity, or “nonmonogamy” as he calls it, brings “excitement of variety, the thrill of the unknown, and the pure physical bliss of sex, untethered by any emotional attachment or anxiety.”

Monogamy- longer lasting fulfillment
On the other hand, monogamy provides “a deeper, longer-lasting, and more fulfilling type of happiness that enhances any other aspects of one’s life.”

I can’t say I disagree with his premise. It’s almost like he’s saying, “Sin is fun for the moment.” His observation basically surmises that if we go around having sex with anyone we want, we’re going to experience the “bliss” and pleasure that sex brings, without the hassle of emotional attachment, for those who find it a hassle. We’d be fools to deny the “temporary” and quick thrill of sin. If it wasn’t fun, we probably wouldn’t do it. Sin can be fun… for the moment. It’s the consequences that hurt.

So the question I like to ask young people is, What are you truly looking for? In other words, are you looking for the quick thrill, or to use White’s words, “the longer lasting, more fulfilling type of happiness”?

White goes on to talk about finding this thrill and pleasure within marriage:

Recognizing these two types of happiness may help explain the appeal to some of adultery: in the adulterer’s mind, he or she may be trying to retain the security and deeper type of happiness with his or her spouse, while enjoying the sheer animality and thrill of uncommitted sex with someone else. Of course, the ideal would be to find the more hedonic, animalistic pleasure with his or her spouse or partner instead of looking for it outside the marriage or relationship, and to a certain extent that can be done.

I can’t help but agree with White’s “ideal” sexual situation, when a married person gets to enjoy the thrill of sexual pleasure with their spouse. But sometimes that doesn’t happen. The sad fact is, being completely honest, some marriages stink. When selfish people are just seeking to fulfill their own needs, their spouse is going to be left hanging. People in those relationships often look to other people for that fulfillment. That’s probably why some people claim affairs are so fun. If someone isn’t getting any sex in their marriage, then a quick sexual encounter is going to feel exhilarating for the moment. No denying that.

The question is… what about the next morning?

What about hurt feelings?

What about divorce triggered from a cheating spouse?

What about the kids who are left in the fallout?

What about unwanted pregnancy?

What about sexually transmitted diseases?

What about guilt, shame or regret?

Hence, why most studies find monogamous couples to have a longer lasting more fulfillinghappiness. When husband and wife are committed to each other they can enjoy some amazing sex. The most enjoyable sex, in fact.

This is just a snippet of the research I included in the book. Fun stuff.

For the last 20 years as a minister, I’ve not only worked with youth and young adults, I’ve counseled young couples, performed a handful of marriages and acted as a lay leader for a young-couples class and a class for parents of teenagers. In all my years dialoguing with young couples, I’ve never, not even once, heard someone say, “I’m so glad that I slept around when I was younger!”

It’s never happened.

Quite the contrary, actually. Couples with promiscuous pasts often have to work through issues of jealousy, comparison and other forms of hurt that arise.

It’s almost like the human heart just wasn’t created for multiple partners.


I’ll keep you posted about the book’s release as it gets closer. We’re releasing one for teens, and one equipping parents for these conversations.

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Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Guy's Guide to Four Battles Every Young Man Must Face; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources on TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. Jonathan and his wife Lori live in Northern California.