It’s thought to be relationship rookie mistake to ask your newly minted significant other how many people they’ve slept with; it’s also considered poor form to tell the truth if you’re asked. One Team O’a member recalls, not fondly, the time she told one of her boyfriends how many people she’d slept with – and then mentioned how many people she kissed.
It was oddly reminiscent of this scene from Clerks:
Not exactly a supportive response, which made her keep mum about her number for several years after.
If You’re Not in Love with Your “Number” You’re Not Alone
Reactions such as these, along with cultural proclivity to slut-shaming, means many women feel inhibited when it comes to talking about just how much sex we’ve had. Emily Heist Moss wrote a candid, introspective piece about her relationship with her number of sexual partners. She mentions a conversation she has with a friend on the topic.
“Do you think men ever sit around and think, ‘Shit, I don’t want my number to get above 15, I better get it under control!’?” She asked, before answering her own question, “No, no they do not.” I’m not going to blanket the whole male gender with my speculations on their hypothetical number guilt, but I can say with confidence that this is a conversation, internal and external, that women have over and over and over again. How many is too many? What will he think of my number? What will my friends think of my number? Hell, what do I think of my number?
We think Emily’s final question is the most important one: what do YOU think of your number? Do you feel confident about it? Ashamed? And most importantly, why do you feel that way?
If we can look at our number without emotion, and analyze why it induces certain feelings within us, we’re approaching this topic with a sense of controlled decision making. And when we claim control of our feelings, we can decide how we want to feel.
You’re Also Not Alone with Whatever Your Number Is
Just because we, as women, are taught to NOT talk about our number, but rather to act like “ladies” and walk the line between prudish and promiscuousness with grace and ease, we RARELY discuss the number of partners we’ve had with our current sexual partner.
Which is weird, because much like how salary transparency empowers us all to ask for more in the workplace, sexual transparency empowers us to say, “yeah I’m sexually experienced and this is what I like”. It allows us to stop pretending.
Refinery 29 did a really fascinating slide show on the number of sexual partners a variety of women had. While no women agreed to be named, they did share numbers between 0 – 47 (and we know women who celebrate numbers higher too, so there is no set range people!) and how they felt about their sexual experiences.
We did internal research at O’a HQ. We discovered that our own range varied from 8 to 39 and that numbers mattered little to us, whether we were on the high or low point of the spectrum – the juicy stories of the highlights of those experiences is where it’s at. In sharing our perspectives, an interesting question came up: do some women think their number is too low, and wish they had more adventurous sexual experiences? We’re doing some digging down that rabbit hole to see what we can come up with. More to come on that topic in a future post…
Our Numbers Don’t Define Us
The O’a team member from the top of this post felt really ashamed as she watched her total number of partners climb for years, until she realized something rather empowering:
The number of sexual partners she had was part of the fabric of who she was. She was adventurous, curious about people, and looking for the right person to share her life with while being open to how that would happen along the way.
The only reason she felt bad about how many sexual partners she’d had was because society told her it wasn’t acceptable – and because the men she dated were insecure enough to be affected by it.
Her life story was not about how many people she slept with. As Lea Rose Emery put it in her Bustle article, Does Your Number of Sexual Partners Matter?:
Say you are 25 years old and have been sexually active since you were 15, and your number is 20. This could mean you’ve never had a serious relationship, but despite being single you’ve only sex with two people a year, which eventually added up to 20. Or it could mean you’ve been a monogamous relationship for 9 years, but that one year you were single you had a hell of a Full Moon party on your trip to Thailand. Those are two very different attitude towards sex. Everyone’s history and their relationship with sex is individual. I’ve had friends that have only had sex with one person and they’re some of the horniest bitches I know, others have had sex with way into the double digits but now their sex drives have slowed down and they have very little interest in sex. A number isn’t going to tell you very much.
There seem to be two options when it comes to your number: feel badly and beat yourself up about it and pretend you’re not a wonderfully whole, sexual human being. Or, offer yourself loving-kindness and acceptance to be exactly who you are in any given moment.
And both those statements feel much more definitive than a number. In the end, you get to decide how you feel about your number of sexual partners – and how you feel about yourself.
So, What’s Your Number?
Kidding. Well, kinda. We at Team O’a err on the side of wanting you to embrace every fabulous piece of yourself. With that in mind, we suggest the following short exercise:
- Whether you know your number, or can just make an estimated guess, think about it right now. Visualize it in your mind.
- When you’ve got the number picture clearly, take a deep breath, hold it, and exhale any negative feelings you have about that number.
- Let the number sit in your heart and surround it with love.
Yes, it sounds kind of woo-woo, but part of loving all of yourself is taking the time to do so.
So, darling readers and O’a community members, what do you think of your number? Is it “too high” in your opinion? Too low? Do you share it openly if someone asks – why or why not?