The Numbers Game

As if the number of birthday candles women blow out each year isn't enough stir up insecurities, the number sexual partners has become etched into their minds, and possibly hearts, as well. These days, it's hard to determine an "appropriate" number of partners. So how many is too many? Consider your own sex number and find out the averages for both men and women here!

The numbers game: Sex partners


Sexual partners & sex numbers

The percentage of women who have had a lower number of sexual partners (10 or less) is generally higher than men, according to an ABC News' poll, the American Sex Survey. And at the start of the tier of 11 partners and above, the percentage of men increases while the number of women decreases.

 

In other words, comparatively, the majority of men have had a higher number of sexual partners, and the majority of women have had a lower number of partners. Psychologist and Professor Norman R Brown and his colleagues at the University of Michigan report that -- on average -- by the time a man is in his 40s, he has had 31.9 partners, while women have had 8.6 partners.

 

What does the sex number mean?

But women don't need statistics to know that typically a man's number is significantly higher and more socially acceptable. Men can be more open about sexual activity with multiple partners, and it's considered acceptable for them to give precedence to the shape of a woman's legs over her lifelong goals. Who hasn't heard inappropriate comments made about women followed by the universal and pathetic excuse, "But I'm a guy..."

 

Conversely, women's sexual histories and beneath-the-sheets activities remain hush-hush. Unlike weight, there's no BMI to pinpoint a healthy sexual lifestyle. "The number" has morphed into another notch in the bedpost for men -- and a self-deprecating representation of past failures in search of Mr Right for women.

 

Why such a stigma?

Why should our sexual past carry such a stigma that we're reluctant to reveal our number, even to our gynecologists? A woman in her late-20s says, "I think men prefer women to be more pure than they are. It's a turnoff if they think a woman is more sexually experienced. It's a blow to the ego."

This creates a problem if men expect to have sexual adventures when young, yet settle down with "conservative" wives years later. This leads to women being judged for being "prudish" when young -- yet any subjective "high" number insinuates sloppy intoxication, low self-esteem or a need for attention down the road.

A number, however, that seems to get overlooked and under-judged is oral sex partners. Somehow it's become acceptable to have an infinite number of oral sex partners, as opposed to the number of intercourse partners. Fair or not, foreplay has less social and emotional repercussions, besides being defined as a tease. 

Does casual sex carry emotional benefits, not only baggage?

A young woman explains, "I'm much more inclined to have sexual experiences with someone I know I don't have a future with. It's a defense because I don't get hurt." Some women have one-night stands as a way to receive sexual pleasure. Others use it to stave off hurt or gain equal ground in future relationships. Sometimes, sex becomes a spiteful and defensive action against men -- an attempt at unemotional, unattached, hot-animal sex.

One woman explains that a one-night stand for her made her feel powerful for her next sexual relationship, as well as helping her overcome a brutal breakup. Another woman, who refers to her sexual fling as "Mr Z," says that he "helped me to feel wanted again, and gave me the opportunity to a rebuild badly shattered self-confidence," after her fiancé left her.

Although most women would agree that no matter how hard they try to keep sex casual, emotions often get involved -- and attempts at being Samantha Jones from Sex & the City leave them feeling shameful and lonely.

How are women keeping up with the times?

With significant social changes taking place, such as couples waiting longer to marry and an increase in the prevalence of reliable birth control methods, women will increasingly have healthy sexual histories on par with men. To expect men to accept higher numbers and more experiences from potential wives, women should also be confidently comfortable with their own non-monogamous, active sexual lifestyle. Steamy nights might lead to romance or they might fizzle out to be just another hook-up. 

But like turning a year older, another number might just mean more experience and wisdom both inside and outside the bedroom -- which is beneficial to both sexes.

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Comments

Comments on "Sexual partners: What's your sex number?"

Matthew January 12, 2014 | 4:39 AM

I don't understand - why was my question taken down?

Truth January 05, 2013 | 9:50 AM

People read, watch tv, listen to music. ALL of those things in the past 20-30 years have gotten worse. sells, sadly it also kills relationships. Heather below said "it just shows insecurty and contol problems!". No it does not, that is more BS fed to people. There is NOTHING wrong in wanting a relationship with someone who has self control. If a woman or man has more than 8-10 partners, then throw them away. They have no self control, they have no value for life and mostly no value for them self. I know not everyone can be a "virgin", but I also know people should have some self control of needing to give themself away so easy. If you are all about and wanting to knock off a nut (guy/girl) then do it. Just do not be upset in the future because no one would want to have a long term or marriage to you. If I know a girl has "been" around, I ditch her. I want a woman not a -----, people should stop buying into what is sold to them from media. Be a human, have common sense.

ann December 31, 2012 | 9:18 PM

After our fifth year of marriage my wife had with 3 men that i know of and probable that many more that I did not know about. For some reason it did not bother me at all.I told her that 10 was o k

Cielo November 06, 2012 | 10:03 PM

This article paints women in a poor light. I don't need to have with someone to reaffirm my attractiveness, nor to have debaucherous hookups to distract myself from intimacy. The people I choose to share my body with also get a piece of my mind. We have real conversation, real emotions for one another, and real enrapturing. I don't date monogamously, and yet I share this level of respect, care, cherishing of another human being without fear. Long term relationships have a lot more to do with the professional pursuits of an individual than most of us (especially us ually close-minded Americans) are willing to admit. A long term relationship has to make a lot of real-life factors work out. Hooking up, however, allows for the chance for you to get to know someone else without having to love every aspect of their life. (Use your better judgment on this one and don't ignore things that are glaringly NOT okay...) But the number of partners really says nothing about you. It's the nature of these couplings that do.

El September 23, 2012 | 6:24 PM

Why ask the question in the first place? Almost all people male or female is going to lie. Personally I did not start having till I was 21. by the time I was 28 I had been with 27 women. The longest relationship being 11 weeks. I am now 45 and have been with two women in the last 17 years, with years between each. The bedroom does not determine whether a relationship will work or fail. good rule of thumb, don't ask don't tell, unless you've done porn, then just shut the hell up and hope it never comes back to bite you in the ass.

SM Basher May 23, 2012 | 11:07 PM

Indeed, important article for man and woman

James July 18, 2011 | 10:24 AM

It's funny how normal women fall for this BS and really believe the average number of men women sleep with is 10.5? Lmao. Dont they realize all these relationship websites and magazines are written by lonely childless skanks?

Some guy April 30, 2010 | 7:27 PM

Stumbled upon this article, and I completely disagree with Heather. If a guy has had a large number of partners, it's hypocritical to judge anyone else. Some of us come from different backgrounds and have different values. I think it is arrogant to assume that a person who judges someone based on ual history (e.g. a male or female who has had multiple partners/lived very liberal ual life). has insecurity or control issues. Actions represent who you are. My wife and I both fell in love in college and got married. We were both previously virgins. If she had a previous partner, would I still have fell in love with her? Yes. If she had a dozen men before me? Unlikely. It's not about security nor control. It's about holding someone to the same standard you hold yourself.

King of Pain January 03, 2009 | 11:00 AM

Ask yourself these questions. Would you be ashamed for any member of your or your man's family to find out the full details of your ual history? Would you be ashamed for any of your or your man's friends/peers/co-workers to find out the full details of your ual history? How would you feel about your children knowing the full details of your ual history? I personally have exprienced all of this. After 15 years of marriage, the truth about my wifes debauched and ually deviant past caught up with my wife and it spread like wildfire. Now, no one I know can look me in the eye or seem to have any respect for me,including my sons. The nicer ones pity me and the rest joke about it. My only sin was ignorance.

bob smith October 19, 2008 | 11:33 AM

the reason men on average have more ual partners with the opposite is prostitution. In the WW2 generation men went to war and were station in hawaii europe phillpines etc.. They had bar/brothals that employed young women. I'm a gen xer, so the grandfathers of my classmates bang 5 chicks(avg.) 4 of those were hookers. Its funny the most USED woman they ever had were the grandmothers of my classmates. (give birth to 4 + kids). So the best lay george bush sr and bob dole had were probably hookers when they were 20 YEARS OLD!! When the pill came out that set the stage for the way things are today. There are 30 year old women who can still ware their panties from 10 yrs ago. Reason they have not had their babies. However, they migth have has 5-30 men. I would hate to be my grandfathers when they were 30 yrs old.

heather August 02, 2008 | 11:47 AM

all i need to say, is that if the number of partners you have had is going to make or break your relationship, than you are in the WRONG relationship, and need to get out fast! it just shows insecurty and contol problems!

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