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The Perils of Sexual Roundelays

May 17, 2010

A new study has found that nonromantic sexual involvement is associated with concurrent sexual partnerships, or having more than one partner at the same time. Many stories of "hooking up" focus on youth. This study, however, used data drawn from a 1995 survey involving 783 heterosexuals ages 18-59 in the greater Chicago area.

"The goal was to establish the basic association between different kinds of sexual relationships and concurrency," said study author Dr. Anthony Paik, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Iowa.

Overall, one-third of adult relationships were not exclusive, Paik found. Men were more likely than women to have not been monogamous (17 percent vs. 5 percent), and more women than men reported that their partners were not monogamous (17 percent vs. 8 percent).

Sex within the first week of a relationship was linked to a higher risk of nonmonogamy. Compared with people in serious relationships, those involved with a friend or casual partner were also much more likely to have been in concurrent sexual partnerships.

"Establishing the relationship between non-serious relationships and concurrent partners is the key finding," Paik said. "But it's not clear whether this is a causal story or a selection story," said Paik, though he inclines toward believing the latter: Perhaps people who are likely to be involved in nonserious partnerships with a casual acquaintance or friend are predisposed to be nonexclusive, he theorized.

The full study, "The Contexts of Sexual Involvement and Concurrent Sexual Partnerships," was published in Sexual and Reproductive Health (2010;42(1):doi:10.1363/4203310).

Back to other news for May 2010

Adapted from:
New York Times
05.07.2010; Pamela Paul

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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