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love out loud: let me count the lays

As much as I love telling people what to do, I try to use this column to share funny and ridiculous anecdotes, and make observations about my love life and those of my friends, rather than as an instructional guide. But whether it’s because my writing this column means that people assume I have the answers to their love dilemmas, or simply that they’ve learned I’m always right, there are a number of people in my life who use me as their go-to girl for advice on relationships.

One such person recently asked me a question that has polarised those I have asked about it since: does your partner have a right to know how many sexual partners you’ve had?

To most, the answer seems obvious. But whether that answer is ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is less obvious. For my part, I think the real question is, what does this really tell you about a person?

This is an argument I’ve been having for years. The (male) friend of mine who most vehemently protests that he would absolutely have to know how many sexual partners any girlfriend of his had had prior to meeting him argues that if he’s going to spend his life with someone, he wants to know everything about them. And, granted, “number of sexual partners” does fall under “everything”. But there is no conceivable way of knowing every single thing about another person (I’m not even sure it’s possible to know every single thing about yourself) so there is still some kind of hierarchy within this as to what is important information and what is not.

It thus stands to reason that the number of people someone has slept with tells you something important about them; something that you can’t deduce by means of asking them any other question.

Except that that’s not true.

There is really nothing about a person that you can definitively know just by finding out how many people they’ve had sex with. Sure, someone who’s had sex with a lot of people might be more outgoing because they’re more likely to approach others in a flirtatious/predatory/whatever way than is a shy person, but you can probably find out that they’re outgoing just by, you know, talking to them. If someone’s never had sex and is waiting until they’re married, you might assume that they’re religious or otherwise feel that sex is something that should only be shared with one person. Or you could just ask them whether they’re religious, or feel that sex is something that should only be shared with one person.

There’s a perception that we can get some kind of inside info about a person by finding out their “number”, but even after having given this an unhealthy amount of thought over the past 8-odd years, I’ve had to conclude that all you find out by getting this information is indeed how many people they’ve had sex with. That’s it. I could provide a stupid number of examples of women I know who have been presumed by others to be wholesome/slutty (*cue eyeroll*) who have actually had sex with far more/less people than is widely thought.

So what should you do? Well, my little grasshoppers, that is entirely up to you (much like everything else you do, really).

Julio has never asked me how many people I’ve slept with, and if he did, I’d probably ask him why he thinks it’s important to know (or I’d possibly just tell him because I don’t believe he’d be asking for any reason other than curiosity and he’s awesome and I’m not sure if I could be bothered getting on my feminist soapbox over this with someone whose values are so aligned with my own). I really don’t think it’s anyone else’s business how many people you’ve had sex with, and I would totally support your decision to lie about it to whomever you please because a meaningless question doesn’t deserve a meaningful answer.

But in the interest of progress (and honest relationships), I would suggest that you have a conversation with your partner (or whoever else asks) about why this little number is so necessary. If they’re asking what is quite an invasive question, then they should be able to at least tell you why they want to know.

(Image credit: 1.)

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