What is a libertine, anyway?
A person who espouses or practices libertinism (q.v.)., which is:
1. Defiance in thought, word, or deed of the prevailing sexual mores (q.v.).
2. Sexual activity as such -- that is, without unwelcome admixtures such as the violation of another's freedom -- conducted in rejection of what others think is proper as expressed in laws, social mores, or codes of religious purity; licentious sexual behavior. The pejorative tag is "liberty without virtue," although that tag falsely implies that all people who practice libertinism in this sense lack virtue.
3. The view that sexual intercourse outside of marriage is acceptable.
4. The view that one is morally free to engage in sexual activity without incurring marital obligation, whether first or afterwards, with as many willing people as one wishes.
Isn’t libertinism the same thing as promiscuity; being a slut?
Similar, yes. However, many libertines have actively chosen this lifestyle, unlike many promiscuous people who merely drift into such behavior without much conscious thought or choice. The difference in outlook being that, for many people, promiscuity is a manifestation of other issues going on in that person’s life, whereas, for the libertine, it is a matter of philosophy and a way of looking at the world that goes beyond mere sexual expression.
What’s the difference between a libertine and a sex addict?
Choice and control. The libertine has chosen sexual freedom with a clear conscience and is in control of with whom, when, where, and how they choose to have sex, whereas the sex addict is acting out of compulsion and feels much guilt. See my blog entry “Libertine vs. Sex Addict” (30 Aug) for a more in-depth comparison.
Are libertines polyamorous and/or swingers?
Though all three have sex with multiple partners, libertinism isn’t the same as polyamory or swinging. Both forms of non monogamy are too structured to be true libertinism, where the emphasis is on unrestrained sexuality.
Polyamory stresses love and generally involves limiting oneself to a set number of partners. Swinging, on the other hand, generally doesn’t limit the number of sex partners, but swingers are usually legally married and are emotionally monogamous.
Libertines do not like to limit themselves either emotionally or in their availability to having new lovers. Rather, libertines prefer to remain open to all possibilities.
Do libertines have long term love relationships? Or is it all about the sex?
Libertines can fall in love just like anyone else. Unlike monogamous people, who confine their sexual expression and romantic love to a single partner, libertine relationships run the full gamut of possibilities, usually with several, of different levels of intensity, going on simultaneously.
The types of relationships typically include one night stands, fuckbuddies, sexual friendships, and love relationships. There may be one or several of each type going on concurrently, though the typical pattern is to have fewer “in love” relationships and one night stands, and more fuckbuddies and sexual friendships. Fuckbuddies and sexual friends are quite similar, differing mainly in frequency and feelings. Fuckbuddies are now and then lovers, at the emotional level typical of acquaintances, where one may love (but not be “in love” with) a sexual friend and usually sees them on a more regular basis.
Of course, every libertine manages it differently; some are indeed, “all about the sex”, where others lean more toward the polyamorous end of the spectrum. Any way is good; the key component being individual preference.
Can one be a libertine and be celibate? Monogamous?
Yes. Being a libertine isn’t only about behavior; at the core, it is an attitude, a philosophy, a way of looking at the world.
Though no libertine wants to be celibate, sometimes libertines are obliged to be celibate by circumstance: sickness, old age, etc.
Similarly, there are those who might be married and have many unavoidable responsibilities and do not have the time to pursue libertinism at certain points in their lives.
There are active libertines, and there are also libertines merely by belief.
Do libertines make promises they don't intend to keep just to get someone into bed?
Jerks come in all types, libertines included. So, the less ethical among us might do that, but anyone who’s been successful as a libertine for any length of time has learned that honesty is the best policy and prevents most types of hassles.
What about STDs?
The first thing to remember is that all forms of sexual expression carry risks; the only thing that is 100% guaranteed to be safe is abstinence. And for nearly everyone, that isn’t a workable or acceptable option. That being said, it is true that those of us with active, non monogamous sex lives do have a greater risk of contracting STDs, and it is important for us to be aware of and practice safer sex methods, especially with new lovers and those of short duration.
Condom usage and periodic testing for STDs is important, as is taking some care in choosing partners. Of course, this isn’t foolproof, but it does reduce the likelihood.
Life itself comes with risks -- driving a car is risky, flying in a plane is risky, crossing a busy city street on foot is risky. Consenting adults all have to decide for themselves what is an acceptable level of risk to have in their lives, and then take responsibility for their choices and any such consequences that may result.
And again, honesty is essential. Before getting involved with us, potential new lovers deserve to know that we are not monogamous in order to be able to make an informed decision whether to consent to sexual involvement. Giving others the opportunity to assess their own personally acceptable risk level is the only ethical thing to do.