Your 'number' is something like your age: It doesn't hold any weight … until you say it out loud. And while it's a bragging right for guys to boast about how many women they've been with; the shoe doesn't fit quite as nicely on the other foot.
For women, bragging or even televising how many guys you've taken home (or how many have taken you home) could be a major turn-off — and maybe even the reason that could-be love-interest turns into just an acquaintance.
A few years ago, I guy I'd been dating off and on for little more than a year decided once and for all that he'd never be able to "honestly be with me" because I'd been with a handful more dudes than he'd been with ladies.
It frustrated me to no end: I was (and still am) a woman who knows what she wants, enjoys having partners and genuinely likes having sex. To think that I was being punished because of my extra-curricular was demeaning and totally judgmental. Even now, as two or more years have passed since he walked away, the scar tissue's healed over but the sour taste in my mouth remains.
Is it really fair to judge someone based on how many people they've slept with? Is it even a fair question to ask someone you're dating? We spoke to the guys to find out how they handle their potential partners' sexual pasts.
Yes, It Matters
"It matters for me, personally. I'd rather not be dating a girl that's been with a lot of guys before and feel like I'm just another to add to the list," admits Gavin, 33. "Especially at this point in the game, I'm ready to settle down with someone who's serious and ready to make a long-standing commitment with me." Honest, right? My only problem with his admission is the fact that Gavin equates a rise in sexual partners to a lack of domesticity. We learn from an early age that judging a book by it's cover, no matter how many men its been with, leaves you in the wrong every damn time.
"I guess it depends how recently she's been with all these guys, but that's not something I'd ever outright ask her," Jason, 27 tells me. "If she's been with a lot of guys over a long period of time, then I guess it's not really a big deal — and really, who am I to judge? But if she's sleeping with lots of other guys while we're casually dating, I'm definitely not into that."
"With someone who's had a lot more sexual partners, they come with a lot more hang-ups," says Kyle, 28. "They're way more experimental, honest and open about what they want in the bedroom and how to go about getting it. As a guy, that's a little forward for me. Maybe it's not for all guys, but for me, it is."
No, It Doesn't
"As you get older, you want someone who's more experienced in the bedroom and I think that part of that learning process is being with — and knowing —more sexual partners for girls and guys," says Rob, 30.
Pete, 28, believes that curiosity isn't a bad thing and how you ask is more important than what you ask. "I'm definitely curious about how many people a potential partner has been with and I'd be really careful about how I asked. It's one thing to know because you're genuinely interested — it's another to ask because you're going to judge them. Girls aren't stupid, either. They can tell when you're asking because they want to hold it against you." He warns, "So, I'd tread carefully."
"I don't want to slut-shame. I don't want to be that guy," says Cole, 22.
"I think the more partners in bed, the better. As far as she can move away from society's conditioning of her to think of herself as a slut and to be ashamed of her sexuality, the better off she is," says Jamal, 24. He adds laughingly, "It's an adventure!"
How Many Is Too Many?
"If a girl in her 20s told me she had 30 sexual partners — I'd think that was a little extreme and intimidating," Aleks, 28 says. "For one, 30 is a lot more partners than I've ever had so I'd always be wondering how I measured up (and that can be a really anxious feeling). That said, I would definitely expect a girl who's had more sexual partners to be a little bit more uninhibited in the bedroom. That can be really exciting for a guy."
Keep It To Yourself
In college, I learned an incredibly valuable lesson from a colleague who was much older than me at the time. She told me that one of the highlights of her marriage was the fact that she and her partner chose to keep some things (ie: sexual history) out of their relationships. "They're my stories," she told me, "and his belong to him."
Makes sense, doesn't it?
More juicy stories from YourTango: