What!? You asked?!
“I stopped counting once I needed more than two hands,” said a girlfriend when the topic of numbers came up. You know—numbers. Depending on your stance, numbers is that topic you dread going over in a new relationship, joke about over drinks with friends, brag about or agonize over alone to yourself. Regardless of where you stand in regard to your numbers, I am sure you stand somewhere. Perhaps you constantly rationalize them—if it lasted less than a minute it didn’t count. If I can barely remember it, it didn’t count. If it was with two people at once, they cancel eachother out! I once had a male friend tell me “if I didn’t come, it didn’t count.” I shot back, “well in that case the only person I’ve had sex with is myself.” (Not true, but nearly!) I had another male friend tell me he (gag) keeps a Word document of the girls he had sex with so that he “remembers.” Here I have to assume that there have been so many ladies in his life (bed) that there is no way he could keep track without organizing them. However, it is probably a great way to track an STD, should he ever get one.
Anyways, there is definitely a stigma regarding numbers. The more women a man has been with, the more studly he is—that’s why most men round their numbers up. And for a woman, the more partners she has had, the trampier she is—which is why women generally round their numbers down. You ever heard of the term recycling? I am not talking cans here. I mean when people sleep with their exes or old flings because they want to have sex but don’t want to tack another number to their list. Due to the stigma around numbers, it is women who recycle solely for the reason of keeping numbers down. Talking to some male friends, I garnered that mostly if they are going to sleep with someone they have already been with, it’s because it is easier than going out and finding someone new. It’s good old fashioned guaranteed lazy sex. I am sure women find this appealing too, but from my research (and by research, I mean asking my friends really personal questions halfway through happy hour), I didn’t come across one guy who was at all concerned with keeping his numbers low. I’m a big fan of recycling, as long as you’re still on good terms with the ex and it ended amicably. Otherwise, my rule of thumb is don’t swim in a pool you already pissed in.
A study by Lavalife.com polled singles to find out if this stereotypical standard was true. The results revealed that 79% of single men and 94% of single women agree there is still a gender bias going on here. To make matters more interesting, when asked if they were comfortable dating someone who has been with more people than they have, 7% of men and 77% of women answered “yes.” Yikes! Who has insecurity issues here?
I remember a really awkward conversation with an ex when he asked how many people I had been with. We had been together for a while now, and this conversation had been looming over my head. Normally, I am not at all uncomfortable with laying my numbers out to someone I have been dating, because I believe them to be modest and am secure with myself and the choices I make. However, this issue was bothering me because I knew how many people they had been with—one. Me. So even if I had only been with two people, that is already doubling their numbers. It wasn’t going to be a fun conversation. When I told them, their eyes got all big and they sputtered “Wow.That’s a lot.” I tell you, it was NOT a lot! Don’t you look at me like that! Still, it was pretty awkward.
The bottom line here is if you don’t want to know the answer, don’t ask the question. And what if someone pops that question on you? Well, I only answer when I think it’s their business. When is it their business? If we are going to be sleeping together. But, if you aren’t comfortable, or don’t think they have a right to ask, you can avoid the question by addressing what the underlying concern is—or should be. “I am diligent with contraceptives and have been tested, so if that’s what you’re concerned about, then don’t be.” (Because you ARE diligent and HAVE been tested, right? RIGHT!?!)
Or, you can get their answer first and then tailor your response to theirs. But honesty is the best policy here, people. I have a girlfriend who always lies about her numbers. She tells people she has been with six or seven people when I can think of sixteen or seventeen people that I KNOW she has been with. If you get caught out in a lie, you’re screwed. And not in a good way.