Many times over the years, I have heard in various contexts, in many different variations, basically the phrase/sentiment:

My secret to staying healthy is simply to never smoke, drink or use loose women!

The "loose women" part could also be "bad women" or a whole sleeve of other words. I assume that by "use", they refer to prostitutes, and perhaps specifically "low-class" such (as opposed to "gold diggers").

My guess is that this phrase origins from "back in the day" and that it was assumed that prostitutes ("fallen women") had all kinds of diseases, combined with nonexistent or rare use of protection?

So they basically mean that smoking and drinking are (quite obviously) bad for your health, but so is having sexual intercourse with disease-carrying females, as you run a high risk of also getting whatever illness they have, thus directly affecting your health?

However, it could also mean that the "loose women" cause problems with one's marriage, thus stress, thus also affects your health that way. In fact, it seems reasonable that this could be what is primarily/solely referred to with this phrase. Or maybe that simply having sexual intercourse with anyone will drain you from your energy? (Although I'd think it was the exact opposite...)

The bottom line is that it doesn't seem obvious why exactly these "loose women" are so "obviously" bad for one's health, and it bothers me that I still can't tell exactly what they are referring to.

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    The meaning of "loose women" has been constant and widely understood at least for my entire life. It means a woman who will have sex casually with many men. Though closely related, it doesn't mean prostitute. Mar 3, 2020 at 22:04
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    "Loose woman" is archaic and was a mysogynistic reference to any woman who is of marriagable age, even a widow, who is not married or a nun.
    – Spencer
    Mar 3, 2020 at 23:13
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    @Spencer I think not! An unmarried woman, particularly 30+ might be referred to disparaging as an "old maid" etc, but "loose woman" generally referred to sexually active/promiscuous women, often, although not exclusively, prostitutes.
    – TheHonRose
    Mar 4, 2020 at 0:34
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    @Spencer wrong. It means a woman who has loose morals, will have sex with basically anyone. There are also loose men, though that term is less frequently used.
    – jwenting
    Mar 4, 2020 at 4:39
  • Venereal diseases are obvious answer, but there is also a bad lifestyle (staying late at night, drinking, smoking, gambling, throwing away money etc ...) . Even in modern society it is hard to find promiscuous woman that does not like to "party" late at night, always uses condoms, eats and drinks healthy etc ...
    – rs.29
    Mar 4, 2020 at 7:11

1 Answer 1


Short answer: Gonorrhea and syphilis, neither of which was curable until around WWII (with the advent of penicillin). There were other lesser-known incurable (at the time) STDs as well. Your conjecture that associating with loose women could perhaps affect your marriage and cause stress is undoubtedly also true for married men (imagine bringing syphilis home to your wife, which did indeed happen).

Incidentally, there are now drug-resistant forms of gonorrhea and of syphilis today, plus the added "attractions" of herpes, genital warts, and HIV, so the advice applies even more so today than it did in the past.

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