“I don’t know. I feel like my emotions weren’t all out of control like this before I started messing with him.”

My girl and I were getting ready to go out and were doing our routing glam and gab. She was telling me about the new guy she was dating and how things had started to fall apart. It wasn’t so much that their relationship had changed- it was her emotions. Hearing her speak, I couldn’t help wondering if she was right.

This week, it turns out that others are debating this very question. In this week’s New York Times, conservative columnist Ross Douthat advocated the need for monogamy among American youth. Douthat writes that young adults who participated in abstinence programs were

“…more likely to save themselves for somebody, which in turn increases the odds that their adult sexual lives will be a source of joy rather than sorrow.”

Douthat cites the work of sociologists, Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker who studied premarital sex in the US. As they conducted interviews, the pair found that there was

“…significant correlation between sexual restraint and emotional well-being, between monogamy and happiness — and between promiscuity and depression.”

But what exactly is the correlation?

That was the question Andrew Oswald, a behavioral science professor at the University of Warwick, asked in 2004. His study was the first to examine the link between happiness and sex. Oswald’s finding was so simple it caught many off-guard:

“the happiness-maximizing number of sexual partners in the previous year is 1.”

Translation: in the year that he conducted interviews across America, the happiest people Oswald found were those who had only slept with one person. And while his study has been used by many to defend monogamy, Oswald says that the number 1 can have many different stories behind it.

“As a statistician and behavioral scientist, there is no compelling reason to think that larger numbers of sexual partners are truly ‘causing’ less happiness. If you have found the right person in life, you are content and cheery. I find Ms. Right; she makes me happy; I then don’t need to look for any other sexual partners.”

I think that as women we often relate sex to our happiness for better or for worse. It is either something that lets us touch happiness or it is what pulls joy out of our hands. Freak numbers or body counts aren’t what our emotions depend on. As it turns out, the real downer isn’t the sex we have, but the searching we all have to do.

Tell us what you think Clutchettes: is there a correlation between sex and depression?

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  • Keyanna

    While I think that multiple partners does not cause depression, I think that some consequences of it does. Let me make some clarifications first. One, having more than one sexual partner does not make you “promiscuous.” Two, monogamy does not equal happiness. Three, multiple partners does not mean its unsafe sex but usually that’s what people think. I have a vast sexual history varying from men and women (yes, I’m a recovering bisexual!), but in my sexual activities I felt free, happy and open. I didn’t feel like I had to be restricted to a person or a gender. However, I made the mistake of telling my current boyfriend about my sexual history. While some of you will think that he would say “okay, thanks for telling me..lets move on” it wasn’t that way. In fact, he made me feel embarrassed and ashamed of my history. That within itself is what made me feel depressed. It made me feel like I was beneath everyone else. We are so conditioned to be with one person. Why can’t it be okay for anyone to be with multiple partners? I can assume the responses will be “because its gross” or “because there are diseases out there.” But, that’s not what I’m talking about (See clarification 3). So, no Leslie, I don’t think that there is a relationship between the two. You can look at statistics and say there is a correlation between any two things. I don’t trust the external validity of the study.

  • When a woman have sex she is not only receiving the males body part whe is also receiving part of his soul and spirit which only make sense that if a male have a soul and spirit that the intermingling in a deep penetrative way would impart it to her. (the biblical knowing in a sexual or fasting of bodies). Now saying that a female is meant to have one mate. Maat is order. If a female have multiple partners and get pregnant can she know who the father is naturally without the intervention of testing. If a man have several faithful females can the determination of who the father be determined. This is the law and wisdom.

  • I do believe there’s a correlation between multiple sexual partners and depression. I think by making a conscious effort to not engage sexually with people makes us feel like we’re making good decisions and have a lot of personal agency. The feeling of good decision making and agency in returns increases our self-esteem which influences our mood and emotions. Also, we can’t act as if society’s views on sleeping with multiple men doesn’t affect the way that we see ourselves, thus our self-esteem, thus our susceptibility to depression.

    Of course, you have some women who feel perfectly happy with sleeping with multiple men but, I personally would say, “just wait.” At some point they’ll be alone and realize that they had sex with 50 dudes and still alone and the shit don’t make them feel good about their self.

  • buzz

    Multiple partners does lead o depression. Look up the hormone oxytocin. It is released during orgasm and when a women gives birth. It is meant to burn emotional connections into the brain. The more partners you have, the more connections are made, but these are each different connections. So, when you do find “the one” you will have all the previous connectios made, thus making it more difficult to truly “be there” during sex with the one you love. I encourage you to look to sites with sex therapists, even the most wildly open sex therapists will admit that to have the “best and most enjoyable sex” monogomy is the way to go. There are too many headtrips going on in todays society to make it hard on yourself sleeping around. I am no saint, and will admit I’ve slept with 10 women, but now I carry their memories, and the connections made through oxytocin, for the remainder of my life. I regret the actions, but appriciate the lessons. Live and learn my friends.

  • Multiple sex partners means cheating and immorality when all are not informed until n unless its polyamory. It will lead to complications and conflicts and hence depression.