Playing the Numbers Game


Eventually, there comes that uncomfortable time in every new relationship when the partners ask each other “what’s your number?” (For those of you who are either dense or pretending to be, “number” refers to sex partners in a lifetime.)

It’s a tricky question to answer…. you don’t want the number to seem too high, because that might insinuate that you are promiscuous, but at the same time you don’t want your number to seem too low, because that might insinuate that you are either undesirable or a prude.

So… what are other people saying?

In the U.S., a 2007 national survey had the following results: the median number of committed female sexual partners reported by men was seven; the median number of committed male partners reported by women was four. It is possible that men exaggerated their reported number of partners, women reported a number lower than the actual number, and/or a minority of women had a sufficiently larger number than most other women to create a mean significantly higher than the median. Twenty-nine percent of men and nine percent of women reported to have had more than 15 sexual partners in their lifetimes. (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19374216/)

So there you have it. If you want to seem average if you are woman you say 4, and if you are a man, you should say 7.

We at playgirl, however, see some problems with this data, namely in that as it is self reported, there is no way to determine what individual people are counting as “sex”.

We asked around our own friends, and the definition of what “counts” varies wildly. One person said that if you are both naked, it counts; another counted only penetration, and not oral. Another said it counts if she gives oral, but not if she receives it. Then, there is the wide spectrum of other consensual sexual activity to factor in: Does same sex partnering count? For men? For women? Another factor is “repeating”, i.e. if you sleep with someone once, and then again a few partners later, does it count again? How far back do need to count? What about if you had a particularly promiscuous phase, say, after college, but have been low ever since, your higher number may not be an accurate reflection of your current mindset towards casual sex.

All in all it’s a thorny area. Though we usually advocate honestly with your partner in all things sexually related, we feel on this one, we can give you a pass, at least at first, because what counts as “sex” is what counts as sex to you. Its whatever you are comfortable with, and how much you want to tell your partner about your past sex partners is up to you, just as long as you are always safe and disclose any information that may affect your new partners health!