Sexual opportunism

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Sexual opportunism is the pursuit of sexual opportunities to take advantage of certain situations.

At times, they are performed for selfish reasons.

From Collins dictionary: noun

   the practice of adapting your actions, responses, etc, to take advantage of opportunities, circumstances, etc   ⇒ "The Energy Minister said that the opposition's concern for the environment was political opportunism."

Sexual opportunism can sometimes be defined as the use of sexual favours for selfish purposes quite unrelated to the sexual activity, in which case taking a sexual opportunity is merely the means to achieve a quite different purpose. In example, to advance one's career or obtain status or money.[1] This may be accepted or tolerated, or it may be criticized because the concerns of others are not adequately taken into consideration (or because it is contrary to authentic sexual love).

To the extent that the feelings, wishes, intentions, purposes, interests or norms of others are not adequately considered in the pursuit of sexual gratification, it then conflicts with some or other principle for appropriate behaviour, and it may involve deceit or dishonesty (for example, the deliberate exploitation of sexual innocence). In that case, the sexual opportunist is considered to lack sexual and/or personal integrity.

Sexual opportunism has always been a much disputed concept, because:

  • moral norms for the legitimate pursuit of sexual desire are often not agreed upon, or influenced by different religious, cultural or spiritual beliefs. The range of sexual behaviours tolerated or not tolerated can vary greatly across time and place. In some cultures, for example, there are very strong social sanctions against "sex purely for the sake of sex", in other cultures this is regarded more as a private or personal matter, unless it involves unlawful activity. Inversely, the use of sex for a purpose or function unrelated to the sexual activity itself may be tolerated in one context or place, and proscribed in another (see also prostitution and sex tourism).
  • because a discrepancy between motives considered appropriate, and purely selfish or self-serving motives, may be very difficult to establish, even for the people involved, particularly if an allegedly "opportunist" sexual advance is validated by its acceptance by a potential sexual partner, who responds positively to the opportunity out of personal free will. Thus the exact boundary between "seizing a sexual opportunity" and "sexual opportunism" may in practice be difficult to distinguish. Often sexual seduction involves precisely the "disguise" of sexual motive, and an attempt to persuade a potential sexual partner that more, or other (honourable) motives are involved than just sex, which may or may not be true—without this being easily verifiable—even for the persons involved themselves. The complicating factor is that the motivations or intentions involved in a sexual attraction may not be clear even to those who are party to it.

In a clinical or scientific sense, sexual opportunism is often straightforwardly described as observable sexual promiscuity or the observable propensity to engage in casual sex, whatever the motive. Such an "objective" description is used, because:

  • it may not clear or provable that such behaviour conflicts with relevant principles (unless it demonstrably involves unlawful behaviour).
  • what matters for medical, juridical or scientific purposes is primarily that it occurs, irrespective of what the motives are, or how those motives are morally judged by the people involved or by others.
  • because the judgment that the motives involved are "selfish" or signify "irresponsibility" depends on one's point of view and cannot, or not easily, be objectively or scientifically established.

Promiscuous behaviour or the pursuit of casual sex can occur in varying degrees, or be circumstantial, but can also be motivated by some kind of sexual addiction or hypersexuality in which the opportunist actively "preys" on people who are most likely to satisfy his sexual desires, or are easily available for sexual activity ("an easy lay"). The practice is normally considered pathological only if it significantly harms the sexual opportunist himself, and/or significantly harms his (potential) sexual partners – in a physical or psychological sense – or if it involves unlawful activity (see also catholic sex abuse cases). The definition of "harm" involved may however be contested, insofar as it is not obvious and open to interpretation.


  1. ^ Graham Scambler, "Sex Work Stigma: Opportunist Migrants in London". Sociology, vol. 41, no. 6, December 2007, pp. 1079-1096.