|Loose Language: The Term "Promiscuous" is Not Used Consistantly in Academic Journal Articles|
|Lisa L. Fowle, Christina Hartley, Sarah Jane Alger. University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, Stevens Point, Wisconsin, United States
Despite its use in a wide variety of journal articles, the word "promiscuous" does not have a clear definition when applied to mating systems of animals (including humans). It is used to describe polygamy, polygyny, polyandry and more. It is unclear whether promiscuous is tied to mating with multiple partners, lack of mate choice or lack of a relationship with a sexual partner. We searched the Web of Knowledge for journal articles from 2015-2016 with a variety of mating keywords and looked for uses, attributions, and definitions of each. We also searched for evidence of number of sexual partners, mate choice and a relationship between partners. Animals were given the attribution “promiscuous” significantly more often when they had more than one partner at a time (24%) compared to one partner at a time (17%) or to one or more partner at a time (10%; p=0.007). This effect was more pronounced when discussing female animals compared to male animals. Although the attribution “promiscuous” showed a trend of being used more when there was a lack of evidence of relationships (p=0.058) and mate choice (p=0.077), the presence of this evidence did not prevent the attribution of “promiscuous”.