I have a friend who is in his fifties who travels a lot for work. So, he’s on planes every week. He told me that he was bored on a flight one time, so he decided to get a pen and a piece of paper and write down every woman he’s ever had sex with. He said the number was over 75 and he thinks he left out some women. The first word that came to my mind: gross. I then told him he was lucky he didn’t catch any STDs. “How many people have you slept with?” he asked me. I wouldn’t answer the question and I’m not going to answer it in this article, but, it got me thinking, ‘As people get older, in dating and relationships, do numbers really matter?’
First, let’s talk about the numbers. Why do some people have one sexual partner throughout their entire lifetime, while others have two or three, some have a few, and others have dozens? Here are some possible reasons:
1-3 partners: People who got married young and/or married the first person they fell in love with, people who are religious, people in arranged marriages, people who don’t take sex lightly.
4-8 partners: People who had a couple long-term relationships and then got married, or maybe a few casual encounters and then got married.
9-15 partners: People who got married later in life, maybe had some relationships-both serious and casual, and maybe a couple flings.
Over 15 partners: Samantha Jones types, who enjoy the physical act of sex, or people who enjoy being single and unattached, those who have had several relationships—both serious and casual, possibly some flings.
I am not writing this article to judge ANYONE for how many people they have slept with. The decision to have sex with someone is personal and individualized. What I do judge are men and women who have casual sex without protection. STDs are very very serious, especially HIV. It is much more common than one might think, and I think people are naïve when it comes to their chances of contracting something.
According to an article in U.S. News, a 2018 report from the Centers for Disease Control found that in adults over age 60, diagnosis rates for herpes simplex, gonorrhea, syphilis, hepatitis B, trichomoniasis and chlamydia rose 23 percent between 2014 and 2017. (HIV was not included in this analysis.) That’s compared to an 11 percent increase among the entire population over age 13.
But even protected casual sex can be damaging, in my opinion. I think both men and women might think they will feel OK having a sexual fling, but then afterwards experience regret, low self-esteem, and emptiness. I also think that women especially, have a hard time separating and emotional attachment from sex, and a woman having casual sex might feel used and hurt and unfulfilled emotionally. She might secretly hope the relationship turns into something deeper (like it usually does in a romantic comedy movie or novel) and when it doesn’t, she might feel frustrated and disappointed. That’s just my opinion. It’s not the same for everyone.
I do know that when you’ve been married for years and years and years, and then you get divorced and start dating again, the thought of having sex is TERRIFYING!! Reasons include: fear of intimacy, fear of getting naked and having a new person see your body, fear of getting hurt/involved, fear of rejection (maybe the person will never call again after the sex) and fear of vulnerability. And yet, some people get divorced and end up sleeping with several people, and enjoy the freedom and the confidence they realize came with being older and tougher.
So when it comes to sharing your numbers with people you date, do people really care how many men/women you’ve slept with? Some yes, some no. I am of the opinion that if the number of people someone slept with is important to someone, they need to explain why that is. Are they religious, do you they just want to get to know the real you? Or, are they being judgmental, and if someone says, “OK, I’ll fess up, I slept with 50 guys,” they’ll dump that person on the spot?
When I was dating (both before marriage and after divorce) I did think it was important to talk about past relationships, including sex in some cases, especially if the relationship was becoming semi-serious. I didn’t really need to get into details, or know the exact number of my date’s past sexual partners, but I think when two people are getting to know each other, past relationships are an important part of that process.
I do think issues can arise when people say nothing and there’s this attitude between the couple that talking about their past sex life is taboo. If you are falling in love with someone, don’t you want to really know and understand that person? Their love experiences are an important part of that, in my opinion.
That said, too much information can be dangerous, as well. Maybe if the person has too many past partners, the other will feel insecure about that person’s ability to be monogamous. Or, maybe the person will lose respect or feel like their new guy or girl is or was too promiscuous (which I disagree with, but it happens.)
In my opinion, each new relationship is a chance for a person to show his or her best self, which is why the past really shouldn’t matter. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t think twice if your new guy has been arrested for soliciting a prostitute 3 times or if your new girl says she enjoyed group sex on a regular basis for 5 years. But when it comes to asking the question, “How many people have you slept with?” you might benefit from the conversation to which it leads.
The question should be asked in a non-judgmental way–whether the answer is a really low number, a really high number or somewhere in between. Asking that question can also lead to a funny and fun conversation and bring the couple closer together.
Lastly, I bet when you read this article, you said a number in your head right after you read the title. Please, please don’t judge yourself. We all make decisions we regret—people we feel we shouldn’t have slept with, and people we wish we would have slept with. We learn from our past and we become better, wiser people from it. And if you think about it, “How many people have you slept with?” probably isn’t half as important as “How many times have you been in love?”
Like this article? Check out, “Naked and Terrified: Why There’s No Need To Fear Sex After Divorce”