A 22 year-old New Yorker wrote to tell us about her sexual awakening, though she didn’t put it in those terms. “I’m currently fooling around and flirting with a few guys. I’m newly single and having a lot of fun. I sometimes wonder if monogamous relationships are just not for me. I tried it and I get bored really easily. I like getting a lot of attention and I get frustrated with just one guy. I feel like there’s no way one guy can give me all the attention I crave. Is this just a phase because I’m young and selfish or is this just me?”
We would be very unlikely to get a question like this from 22 year-old man. No one (but the religiously deluded) expects young guys to stick to one woman. I think it’s fair to say that we have a cultural assumption that women are supposed to want sex less often and with fewer partners than men, but there’s a lot of evidence that this is culture, not biology, speaking.
(For a really full examination of how women may be evolutionarily suited to multiple male partners, there’s the contemporary classic, Sex at Dawn. Even more recently, Daniel Bergner wrote What Do Women Want?, a book that finds not so surprising surprises about women’s sex drives. There are nice NYTimes articles that digest some of those ideas here and here.)
All of this is an informed and long-winded way of saying, don’t worry about it. Just the fact that we would never get this question from a man means that there’s nothing wrong with you.
Yes, you’re young and selfish. You’re also not wrong. There’s no reason you can’t use your early 20s to have fun and fool around with as many guys as you want. However, as you get a little older, if you find that you don’t meet that one person, do seriously consider whether monogamy is right for you. If nonmogamy appeals to you now, it could be something that appeals to you later. The truth is, though, that many people begin to feel the urge to settle down with one person as they get older, and perhaps want to start a family or create more stability in their lives. For now, though, enjoy what you have, and don’t second guess yourself. If and when you meet the right person, you’ll naturally feel the urge to find a way to make it work with them, whether that means monogamy or not.
Your question was about whether your desire for multiple male sex partners was a phase or just who you are. We can’t answer that because it takes time to know what’s a phase and what’s permanent. And, in fact, permanence may be the wrong way to think about sexuality. Women, in particular, seem to have sexual fluidity, with different desires and behaviors at different times in their lives (browse to the bottom half of the Bergner article).
We bring up this biological/psychological stuff not to turn you into a specimen, but to give you license to feel that you’re not a freak, which seems to be the real anxiety at the root of your unanswerable question. All that said, we don’t really need the science to tell you you’re OK. A 22 year-old is still discovering and defining who she is sexually, and there are so many possibilities: you’ve discovered the freedom of recent singledom; you’re not suited for monogamy; you’ve got the hormonal rush of a 22 year-old; you’ve got the excitement of a recent college graduate making her way in the adult world for the first time; you’re finding the right sexual identity for you. Don’t be afraid to explore and figure it out for yourself. It takes time, but it could be time really pleasurably spent, and you’re in the perfect place for this now.
If you do find that you’re always insatiable, always bored with one person, and always seeking the attention of multiple partners, then you might need to avoid monogamy, and that’s OK. There are a lot of ways that can look. You can be single and a player with a strong network of friends for emotional support; you can be monogamish and occasionally sleep around while getting most of what you need from one partner; you can be polyamorous and have full relationships with multiple people. If that’s what you need, however, do yourself and your partners the favor of not setting expectations for monogamy. Cheating is the most destructive way to get your multi-flavor fix.