The Sex Talk: What’s Your Number?

Good morning, darlings. Let’s talk about sex. According to this survey of British students, the average male student has slept with 10 women, but the average woman has slept with seven men.

… Either that or people are just good at lying in surveys. I must admit, I suspect the latter.

Now, I’ve made no bones in the past about my distaste for 99 percent of the content generated by TFM writers, but this article really took the metaphorical biscuit. Let me point your attention directly to No. 40 (for fear that you, too, will spontaneously combust in a fit of rage if you’re left to read the other 49 points). Supposedly, we ladies should lie about how many people we’ve had sex with.

Right.

With this in mind, I conducted a short survey on my own Facebook friends and Twitter followers. Of the 75 participants, 43 percent said they had lied about the amount of people they’d had sex with, and 38 percent felt that a twenty-something woman “should” have had sex with less than 10 people (you can check the results here). However, one surprising side effect of putting this survey out there was that a friend of mine—who we shall call Kat—reached out to me. She said:

                I’ve slept with a lot of guys … I’d say 20-plus … I definitely went through a hard time and had one-night stands with a lot of people because sex is fun and makes me happy. After realizing what I was doing wasn’t beneficial for me in the long run, I stopped being a man-eater and just focused on myself. I did receive a lot of pressure from peers whenever I mentioned my sexcapades. People would ALWAYS remark about the high number. It took me a long time to not be self-conscious about how many people I’ve slept with. Just recently, I broke up with a boy because he was obsessed about me being with other guys. After he found out, he became very jealous and controlling despite me being a loyal, kind person in monogamous relationships.

Kat’s testimony is just one example among many—including my own—that show how society attaches superfluous meaning to our “number.” We seem to judge people—particularly women—based on how many people they have slept with. There seems to be a (non-existent) “ideal” for different people at different stages in their lives. Too high and you’re “loose” or slutty; too low and you’re prudish or “frigid.”

Le sigh. Whenever will we learn. Take note, survey cheaters, TFM readers and darlings alike: Attaching value to your number is nothing more than an outdated cultural myth. It’s time to dispel that myth.

Have you ever thought about shaving off a fraction of your number for the sake of upholding your sexual integrity? Maybe you’re sat down with a new partner and he/she wants to know. Well, they have the right to know about your sexual history—after all, sex is immensely intimate and we should all be concerned about our sexual health. But the number of sexual partners you’ve had is not your sexual history. A girl who has had safe sex with 30 men stands a better chance of being STI-free than a girl who’s had unprotected sex with three (and the only way to know you’re clear is to be tested). What your partner needs to know if you’ve been checked, and if you have made a habit of safe sexual conduct—not how many people you’ve been practising that with.

Let’s assume you’re both all clear of the nasty stuff. Good. Now, as long as you’re wrapping up and not putting your partner at any risk, what is it to them if you’ve done the dirty with one man or a hundred men, if you’ve slept with men and women, or if you’re a virgin? As long as you’re having safe, mind-blowing sex, who cares if one of you has way more experience than the other? As sexual partners, you should be open about what turns you on, what works and what doesn’t. If you’re doing this, then one person’s experience over the other person’s lack thereof isn’t going to matter.

However, while the exact number of people you’ve slept with shouldn’t matter, the reality is that we often find ourselves opening up about it anyway, especially with long-term partners. And, given this situation, I believe that being open about the actual figure, rather than editing your summarised sexual history, is the lesser of two evils.

Why? I’ll just use myself as an example here. I have had sex with more people than my boyfriend. That is to say, my “number” is higher than his, so we deviate from the supposed statistical averages (yes, I have had sex with more than seven partners). I have never lied to my boyfriend, or anyone else, about my number. I am completely okay with it. I’ve always been safe and in control of my sexual endeavours, and I enjoy sex, so I’m perfectly content with the amount of sex I have had in the last five years. It’s not that I would ever strut around advertising my number; it’s a number, yes, but it doesn’t hold any value outside of the figure itself. It’s not something to be ashamed of, nor is it a badge of honour. And, by this maxim, it’s not worth lying about—because lying about our sexual history implies that we judge our worth or value against this figure… and edit it accordingly.

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It seems a shameful by-product of modern cultureone that we see in many other areas of life, too. Suppose your lunch is 500 calories: you might judge it according to that figure alone (as “too little” or “too much”). But was that 500 calories of donutempty, nutritionless energyor was it 500 calories of veggies and fruit? Suppose you weigh 150 lbs. While weight is a factor in judging how healthy you are, depending on how tall you are and how much muscle you have, that 150 lbs. can’t be an indicator of your good or bad health on its own. It’s much the same situation here. We tend to look at figures and seek value in them that lies outside of their actual numerical value.

I’m not only saying this because I don’t want the assholes at TFM (and their ilk) to win. It just astonishes and upsets me that there still seems to be this idea floating around that a man or a woman can be judged by the amount of sexual partners they’ve had. The reality is, there is no inherent value or worth to be found in the number of partners you’ve had; it’s just a number. You’re not a better person if you’ve had sex with less people; you’re not better at sex if you’ve done it with more.

Sex is about being open, passionate and sometimes a little freaky with someone you feel comfortable with, and anyone can achieve this at any stage in their life—be it their first partner or their umpteenth.

So it’s time to let go of that stigma that you might feel attached to your number. It’s outdated, it’s unnecessary, and it’s tiring. Whether you choose to tell someone is your call. And if you’re going to tell them, tell them without reservation, because it doesn’t have to bother you and it certainly shouldn’t bother them. Awesome, kickass girls like Kat shouldn’t feel intimidated or inferior because simply because they’ve had marginally more or less sex than someone else. And let’s be honest: the statistics suck. No-one ever wanted to be average, anyway.

Photo by Ali Green

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