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The Ethical Whore

Cain Parish

In This Article:

Promiscuity is a bad thing. Until it isn’t. And then it is again. Is it possible to sleep around without judgement, shame or hurt feelings? I certainly think so. Let’s find out how.

A man shaking hands with a crowd of adoring women, demonstrating an ethical whore

Table of Contents

Everything in the world is about sex, except sex. Sex is about power.

If I told you I’d slept with twenty different people this year, would you think that I was too promiscuous? What if I’d said ten? What if I’d said two?

The real number is somewhere between two and twenty, but if I’m entirely honest, I don’t think it matters. There’s no right answer, but there’s certainly a lot of wrong ones.

Sexual history is a funny thing. There’s a distinct fascination with our romantic and sexual past in current dating advice, almost bordering on obsession. And to an extent, some of the enthusiasm is sensible. If you’re applying for a job, your prospective employer has a lot to gain from understanding what happened in your past jobs, how you acted and how your previous bosses viewed you. To date someone, especially long term, it helps to get a complete picture of their past, to inform how they may act towards you.

Unfortunately, the past is not a guarantee of the future. We are not ensured that history will repeat itself. And it is far too easy to let something as trivial as a number of sexual partners dictate an opinion of someone. Sleep with a hundred people, you’re a slut or a fuckboy. Sleep with only one or two, and you’re a prude or a virgin. Most people have a range they’d find acceptable, and that range depends entirely on their past experiences, their beliefs and values, and what they’re looking for from the other person.

I sometimes get asked how many people I’ve slept with. A long time ago, I made the decision to refrain from answering that question, or even hinting at the number. Whilst I find it enjoyable, valuable even, to talk about past experiences and to share the things that I’ve taken from my time with romantic partners, a simple quantity is something I see no value in.

The people asking are most often women that want to try to understand me better, to use a number to help them categorise me. Their intentions make sense. For some, promiscuity is a deal breaker. I don’t try to hide my promiscuity. My refusal to give an exact figure isn’t out of a desire to be misleading or to disguise myself. It’s because once I divulge that information, your opinion of me is concretely established.

Your feelings about sleeping around, about body counts, about a number of partners are projected directly onto me. And like I said before, there’s often no right answer. Too high, and I’m a sexual deviant that likely despises commitment and won’t settle down. Too low, and I’m an undesirable virgin with irrational confidence. Why take that risk? Why can’t my feelings, my intentions and my personality be the indicators of my romantic potential? My resume is not all-encompassing. I am not my CV.

Those that disagree with my ideas often say that I’m withholding information, that I somehow don’t trust my partners enough to be honest with them, or that I’m not allowing people to understand that I might be outside the scope of their preferences. On both points, I disagree. I’m an ethical whore. My partners know who I am. They often are aware of my work. In an environment where all my beliefs on relationships are published for the world to see, I would find it very difficult to mislead someone into thinking I am someone that I’m not.

Choosing not to be specific about my history is absolutely not the same thing as discussing preferences, attitudes and boundaries. Part of the reality of my life is understanding that conservative, traditional women are likely to find me less desirable, simply because of my attitudes, beliefs and actions. In fact, I’ve been rejected and dumped on many occasions purely because our desires don’t align. That is not a failure of my choices. That is a reality of human compatibility. The type of person that would immediately disregard me for the sentiments I’ve expressed in this article is not a person I’m interested in dating.

So, to that end, sexual history doesn’t bother me. I don’t view it as an excuse to categorise or judge people. Having said that, those beliefs come with some caveats. This is the ethical part of the ethical whore.

In most cases, a sexual or romantic relationship comes with some degree of trust. Part of that trust is the implicit belief that your partner will not harm you in any way that isn’t consensual (wink). Harm can be caused intentionally and unintentionally. To be ethical when sleeping around, you have to do your utmost best to minimise your potential harm.

This means practising safe sex, to preclude things like unwanted pregnancies or sexually transmitted infections. This means being upfront with your relationship preferences and beliefs, to minimise incompatibility and the potential of emotional distress. This means setting clear boundaries, to discourage miscommunication and allow for clarity between the people involved.

Each of these things is individual and personal to you and your partner. Safe sex to one couple may mean multiple forms of contraception and a guarantee of certain limitations with external partners. To others, it may simply be the trust in one person’s reliable contraception, and the faith that each partner is safe, healthy and responsible. Things like kink, relationship types and power dynamics change how these boundaries are navigated. Intention matters a lot.

To me, this is the cornerstone of my sex life. To be promiscuous is not the same as being unethical, harmful or a lesser person. We sluts can hold our heads high knowing that we are doing our best to leave our partners better than we found them.

To do that requires effort. Leaving a positive impression on someone is a very intentional act. It’s not enough for men to sloppily paw at a woman, get their nut and leave out the door, just as much as it’s not enough for women to lazily lay back and starfish their way to a conclusion. Both in the bedroom and outside it, we must take responsibility for our partner’s satisfaction, not for any selfish reasons, but because a culture that feels responsible for the other person is one where your partner chooses to be responsible for fulfilling your needs.

In all our other relationships, it is a foregone conclusion that we need to be selfless towards others every now and again. We sacrifice of ourselves to our friends and family because we care about them. Regardless of how often you do it and how much significance you ascribe to the act, sleeping with someone should involve the same sacrifice. The impressions you leave upon people when you truly care about their experience are mind-blowing, and the relationships to be developed from that are entirely of a different breed.

In many facets of life, you cannot have both quality and quantity. Sexual experiences are not one such arena. You will be inside that room, with that other person, at your most naked and vulnerable, one way or the other. Your quality of experience matters a lot, and by extension, so does your partner’s. The irony is that you have the most influence over their experience, just as they have power over yours. An ethical whore should relish that power. It is your opportunity to give someone a gift, to share something with them they would otherwise miss out on.

This attitude is where my confidence stems from. I genuinely feel that my sexual relationships are more than the sum of their parts. To simply look at me through the lens of my sexual history and to estimate my value based on that is to do both of us a disservice. So I choose not to share it.

Unfortunately, you’re then forced to judge me on my personality. Arguably, that might be even worse.

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About

Cain Parish

Cain Parish is the owner of cainparish.com. A prolific writer, educator and relationship coach since 2019, he specializes in dating, relationships, emotional intelligence and social skills. He is also the author and creator of the world’s largest and most comprehensive database for dating and relationship advice, which can be found on his website. His first book, I’m Sorry I Egged Your House, is due to be published in 2024.

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