Your number of sexual partners can be a contentious issue. Even today, in our more sexually liberated world, views of what’s appropriate and what’s not still exist, leading many, especially women, to feel a mix of negative emotions. How many sexual partners are normal today? More importantly, does it really matter?
Almost a decade ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveyed more than 13,000 people, aged 15 to 44, about their sexual history. The study found that women were more likely to report having just one partner, while men were more likely to report having more than 10. However, around the same time, a study published in the Journal of Sex Research revealed that when men and women were asked the same question, but this time connected to a device they believed was a lie detector, the difference in the number of sexual partners became significantly smaller.
In a 2014 Australian study on sex and relationships, men claimed to have on average 17.9 sexual partners during their lifetime, while women had 8.1 sexual partners. While more recently in 2015, dating website Match.com’s Singles in America study showed that the average number of sexual partners for a US woman was 8.41, however of those interviewed nearly one in five later confessed to having lied about the figure they had given by dropping a digit to create a ‘more respectable’ figure.
So why is there so much stigma surrounding this issue? Will there ever be a safe and unjudged number of sexual partners?
Some sex and relationships therapists believe that as long as it is safe and respectful, our ‘number’ should never come into the equation. There is absolutely no need to disclose the number of sexual partners you have had, in the same way there is no need to disclose how many meals you have had. Men and women are still judged differently for such information, so the playing ground is still not equal. This is where problems arise – from the implied meaning, not the number.
It’s no one else’s business how many people you have slept with unless you want to tell them.
It’s up to you
The number of sexual partners someone has is ultimately personal information and whether or not you share it is a personal decision. More important questions for your partner may be if they have practised safe sex and been tested regularly to help prevent the spread of STIs and blood borne viruses like HIV. In the end, it’s up to each of us how many partners we have and individuals should be allowed to engage in the safe and respectful sexual pursuits they desire without any negative feelings.