Should I Disclose the Number of Sexual Partners I’ve Had In the Past?

Should I Disclose the Number of Sexual Parthners I've Had In the Past?

I’ve been reading for a while, and I find myself hopping on your blog whenever I meet a new guy or am faced with a new situation. But have yet to find something to address my question, given all the differences in the way men and women view sex and relationships and communication: What are the rules about disclosing your number of sexual partners and should it matter?

Now of course I think about this more so in a safety sense, not that I need to know how many girls a guy has slept with but more so I want to know that he is safe for me to sleep with. Inevitably though, this question of numbers comes up and I always hate when my number is higher than his or significantly lower. I know it sounds silly but it’s hard to know what a man is thinking when you share this type of thing. Is it better to just keep it to yourself? Do numbers really matter?

Megan

Dear Megan,

LOVE YOU for asking this question. As always, my opinion is just my opinion. Feel free to disagree. (And I know you will!)

So, like the whole “Who Pays” thing, there are different rules for men and women. Mainly because the sexual double standard is alive and well. I don’t endorse this. I report this.

The average number of partners a man purports to have in a lifetime is around 11. The average number of partners a woman purports to have is closer to 6. Of course, this is not true.

Says Dr. Norman Brown of the University of Alberta:

“Every time a man has sex with a woman, a woman has to have sex with a man. So either there are some very lucky joes out there or someone is not getting their numbers right,” Brown said.

I know I haven’t answered your question, Megan, but I thought I would puncture a hole in the “men are promiscuous/women are chaste” thing. If a man’s sleeping with a woman, a woman’s sleeping with a man and everybody’s numbers are going up. So there.

And as far as I’m concerned it is NOBODY’S BUSINESS HOW MANY PEOPLE YOU’VE SLEPT WITH.

And as far as I’m concerned it is NOBODY’S BUSINESS HOW MANY PEOPLE YOU’VE SLEPT WITH.

Similarly, it’s none of your business how many people he’s slept with. This is a classic “don’t ask, don’t tell” situation, on par with “Are you dating anyone else right now?” and “Have you ever had a drug fueled orgy with six Polynesian dwarves?” If you say yes, you’ve got a lot of explaining to do, and frankly, you shouldn’t have to explain….

Before you jump all over me, this is not the same as “Do you have any STDs?” That is a pointed and specific health-related question, where full disclosure is essential. But some guy can sleep with 100 women and not get herpes and some woman can go down on one guy and get herpes. And although one’s odds certainly do go up with multiple sexual partners, a number doesn’t necessarily reveal any greater truths.

Take me. I’ve had a pretty decent single run (more than 10, less than Wilt Chamberlain), but have NEVER had unprotected sex with a non-girlfriend. Is that better or worse than a guy who has slept with eight women but never used a condom?

I recall one well-meaning woman who asked me on our first date what my “number” was. I laughed and told her it was none of her business. She playfully said that she could handle it. I playfully told her that it was irrelevant: I was with her at this moment, and my past history bore little relevance. The more I refused to answer, the more she dug in. Finally, she said, “Whatever you say, it won’t bother me. As long as the number is less than X.” And when I gave her a look that revealed that her guesstimate was low, her jaw dropped. Way to not judge me!

Years ago, my best friend went out with a woman in her mid-30’s who confessed that she’d been with over 30 men in her life. My friend FREAKED out, because his number was lower than hers, and because he couldn’t bear to picture her being pounded by 30 different guys. I told him he was being ridiculous. If this woman was never married, never dated a guy for more than a year, and was exclusive with a new boyfriend every six months, she will easily top 30 men at that age. Sleeping with fifteen people in the year after your divorce is a lot more promiscuous than sleeping with thirty people in your whole life.

Thus, a man has no right to know your number, lest he judge you by a different standard than he judges himself. If he insists, give him a little white lie. It’s none of his business and he doesn’t deserve the truth. Seriously. As long as you’re not sleeping with anyone while you’re dating him, whatever you did in your past is between you and your conscience.

As long as you’re not sleeping with anyone while you’re dating him, whatever you did in your past is between you and your conscience.

So Megan, it’s not that numbers don’t matter. It’s that they can be deceiving. Questions about numbers only beget more questions and create more insecurity. The only thing you need to know about his sexual past is whether he’s disease free. If he is, judge him for his merits, his efforts towards you, and how he treats you.

But certainly don’t get on his case because he had a successful sex life for the fifteen adult years before he met you.

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Comments:

  1. 181
    Sparkling Emerald

    How about instead of telling “the truth”, just preferring not to share it ?
    I find it irritating that people want  with someone with “no baggage” and then want to pry that baggage open.
    Leave it alone.  I don’t care how many women a man has had BEFORE me, it’s what he does AFTER me that I care about.  (As long as he has a clean bill of health)
     

  2. 182
    The_Soothsayer

    Sparkling Emerald #186
    I quite see your point. However, I am only judging on my day as a teenager in the late 50′s. I don’t think things have changed that much. The main topic of conversation for men over a beer was sport and how many women he had bedded. In most cases the description of the girl was very explicit. Unfortunately, this led to specific girls being targeted, not because they were attractive, but because they were an easy lay. From my observations, I don’t think bedding guys was a particular topic for women. What I am trying to illustrate is guys look at sex as another notch in their gun, to brag about. Amazingly, all these guys still wanted a virgin for their wife. I think it just comes down to a different prospective for males and females. As Cat #184 stated, men tend to inflate their true numbers, where women tend to deflate theirs. Doesn’t this sort of illustrate that women expect a high number with males where males expect a low number with females.

  3. 183
    Cat

    @186 – there was no “prying” in mine & my husband’s discussion. It was pretty uneventful. All of my friends know their husband’s “number” – it’s not uncommon at all. 

  4. 184
    JB

    @Cat188 All of my friends know their husband’s “number” – it’s not uncommon at all
    Anyone only knows the “number” someone tells you which I can assure you probably isn’t the truth. It’s a number everyone lies about thus making it meaningless. Why? It could never be proven.

  5. 185
    cat

    @JB – Very true, there is no way to verify the actual number. My point was more about the fact that everyone I know has had the discussion with their S.O. at some point or another. Whether everyone lies or doesn’t wasn’t my point. I was also pointing out that most people that I know didn’t view the discussion as an invasion of privacy or totally off limits or that it was “prying”. Just stating it is very common.

  6. 186
    The_Soothsayer

    @cat #190 Congratulations Cat! Wish my wife was like you and the people you know.
     

  7. 187
    The_Soothsayer

    Surely, asking the number, isn’t that confirming it is important to the individual? If it is not important, it would not be mentioned.

  8. 188
    True Blue

    Agree with the non-disclosure part. My new girlfriend told me not only how many men she has been with but proceeded to tell me in great detail what she did with them. This one did x to her in a car, this other did x with her at work. She called this guy up and they did x. The straw that broke the camel’s back was hearing—as I had my arms around her watching TV—about how many times she hit the big O with a guy she picked up on the internet.
    Ugh.
    Told her she has a problem with over sharing, but the damage was already done.
    Back to the article—well done by the way—I think that some people are sexually modest. I am a man who is 45-ish and has only had five partners my whole life. Monogamy is my world. 
    As such I would prefer to be with a like-minded woman. Not because I am prone to jealousy, but because it shows me she is looking for something that lasts more than a short while. There are a lot of serial daters out there. Which is fine, but it is not for me.

  9. 189
    Scott

    I would not want to marry a virgin.  But I don’t want to know my wife’s number, either.  As others have stated, the only number that really matters is the number of people you expect to sleep with while you are married.  That number had better be 1.  For both of us.  Or I don’t want to be married to that person.  Any other number is irrelevant to my marriage. YMMV.

  10. 190
    The_Soothsayer

    Let’s be realistic. If a person is promiscuous before partnering or marriage, they are very likely to be after. Partnering is not a magic wand that changes a person’s personality. That only happens in fairy tales!

  11. 191
    Abby

    I must comment. The author of this article is very very very (I could go on) wise. This is your opinion but I agree 100%. Thank you for this advice. 

  12. 192
    Eva

    Whoa ..wait a sec ..what about love?  Why would anyone spend time with someone unless they love them.   When i read this ..it feels like everyone is living in their ego’s.   And, not in a higher state of consciousness.  What i mean really is that having multitudes of partners whether at the same time or throughout one’s life feels like filling a void of some sort.  Everybody judges or a better word is discern.  We all have the right to discern.  We all have the right to feel whatever way we feel.   I think will power is important.  Saying no..i don’t want to do this to myself because i have dignity.  What about people’s feelings?  Are all of you Americans or is this an international thread?  Just curious.  I read a study recently that said that Americans are too dominate in bed and were listed at the bottom for being great lovers.  It is really true in a way.  The Spanish were listed at the top.  I am an American and can relate to being with guys who were this way ..all of them.  After traveling around the world and culturally speaking, being intimate with someone is important.  And, learning how to be in relationships is important.   If someone has 50 partners ..is that a sign or wake-up to being a little over sexed?  Relationships can be superficial ..i guess ask yourself do you want that?  It is not about pride is it ..because that is the ego ..or is it a guessing game or why should i tell you ..i don’t have to tell.. and what is the difference if you are making love to someone and also making love to another person who gives you more love than the other and dating them at the same time..why can’t we all do what we want.   And, isn’t everybody looking for the perfect one?   When men have a casual attitude and women also carry that same casual attitude ..why spend time in bed when you can get to know each other in so many other amazing ways that builds intimacy first then jumping in bed with them.    I guess i feel really lucky that i have slept with the love of my life , my high school sweetheart who lasted for 10 years ..then i found my husband.   And, inbetween i was very selective because i had had such a loving relationship ..i knew nothing would compare.   It is best to know the truth and tell the truth..being honest , brutal honest goes a lot further  to develop real intimacy.  My point is don’t lie..tell the truth..it is not about the ego and pride ..it is about being upfront and honest in the beginning.  Be honest with everyone.  Life works a lot better ..trust me!   Love to you all!!    Eva

  13. 193
    Brandon Green

     The question are you seeing anybody else right now is none of your partners business ?Are you kiddin me ? That’s a perfectly legitimate question. If i were told “its none of your business”  or they did not answer to this question i would drop her like a bad habit or let her hang on  and drop her one day out of the blue without cause and i mean now.As far as promiscuity goes i generally don’t worry about it because i will not marry again
     
     

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