Healthy and Satisfied with Multiple Sex Partners

By Tracy Morris

There was a time when, if you heard “multiple partners” in relation to someone’s sex life, you immediately thought “slut.” That’s simply no longer the case. It’s not necessarily that we’re all having more sex with more partners now — it’s more likely that we’re just more honest about it today.

In our interview with sexologist, Dr. Carol Queen, you’ll read some of the reasons a woman may want to have more than one partner at a time with whom she’s sexually intimate. There are some perfectly sound and healthy reasons; monogamy (especially for singles) is not for everyone.

If you’re one of the many single women who feel there’s nothing wrong with a little (or a lot) of variety in your handy list of partners, no doubt you’ve given some thought to protecting yourself accordingly.

Here’s a basic primer of what you need to know to play safe and healthy in the bedroom (or kitchen or the great outdoors…):

What You Want to Avoid

Sexually transmitted disease

  • Chlamydia
  • Herpes
  • HPV
  • HIV
  • Hepatitis
  • Syphilis
  • Gonorrhea
  • Trichomoniasis
  • Pubic Lice
  • The common cold

Not trying to be cute by mentioning “the common cold,” but it’s a good example of the fact that the more bodies your body comes into intimate contact with, the greater the chances that your body will pick up something along the way — from the benign to the deadly.

One of the most judgment-free, fact-based places to learn about sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s, also called STI’s, in which the “I” is for “infection” — all the same, but with perhaps less stigma) is the U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control (the CDC). There may be plenty of folks in Washington during any given administration who want to tell you how to live in the bedroom, but the CDC is based on the work of scientists who (most of the time) have no hidden agendas. Their website can tell you all the grimy details you need to know, and more.

A slightly less technical but still very factual website is run by the American Social Health Association.

Five quick, must-know facts about STD’s in general:

1. The U.S. is home to the highest rate of STD’s in the industrialized world.

2. Many infections can live undetected in the female body for years, during which time the end results can be infertility due to reproductive organ damage, susceptibility to further and more serious illnesses (like pelvic inflammatory disease and cervical cancer,) and of course, unwitting transmission of the infection to other people.

3. Bacterial STD’s — gonorrhea and Chlamydia, for example — are curable. Viral STD’s — herpes, hepatitis, HIV — are not; however, treatment for the symptoms is available. Once your body has a viral STD, you have it for life.

4. It is usually impossible to tell by look, touch, smell, or taste if someone has a sexually transmittable infection. The only way to know for sure is validated proof of testing.

5. STD’s are transmitted by sexually intimate contact — not just sexual intercourse. The transmission routes are blood, semen, vaginal fluid and, in some cases, skin to skin contact (as in passing a cold from hand-to-hand with the influence of mucus from sneezing. Wash your hands!)

Of course, if you consider the relatively lowly cold virus a sexually transmitted disease, pretty soon you’ll start to feel about as open to sexual contact as a nun.

Wise women look the reality of the situation in the eye, so to speak. Every time you engage in close physical contact with another body, you’re taking some sort of risk. How much risk are you willing to take? You have to decide each time, with each partner.

Lessen your risks with (in non-judgmental order of effectiveness):

  • Abstinence
  • Monogamy
  • Latex barriers (male or female condoms, dental dams)
  • Non-latex barriers (animal skin condoms, for example)

Unplanned pregnancy

Did you know that it takes an average man and an average woman, both of whom are in average overall health with no reproductive problems, having average sex (no special positions required) for an average number of times per ovulatory cycle (anywhere from once to three times a week) about 16 months, on average, to conceive?

Granted, that’s a lot of statistics, and we all know women who got pregnant the first time she tried (or didn’t try) and those who’ve tried with no luck for a lot longer than 16 months. But if you want averages, that about sums it up.

Here’s the catch — unless you’ve had diagnostic testing done to determine your level of fertility, there’s simply no way to know how fertile (that is, susceptible to conception and pregnancy) your own body is, even if you’ve been pregnant before. Bodies change over time, and often, without our even recognizing the changes.

Ever known a woman who could’ve sworn she “must be” infertile because she’d never become pregnant in so many years of unprotected sex? In some of those cases, she may have in fact conceived, not known it, and then lost very early pregnancies in what seemed like heavy menstrual periods. Unless a fertility specialist has given you the green or red light (depending on your perspective and goals,) don’t assume a thing about your own fertility.

That said, the effects of hormonal-based birth control, like pills, patches, and implants, can have more lasting impact on your body than physical barriers like condoms, diaphragms, and IUD‘s. The wisest women who are busy in bed do their research and keep up with the frequent developments in contraceptive technology.

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