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Into Murky Waters: How Many Partners Is It Healthy To Have In A Lifetime?


Category : Womens Issues

Okay, that was pretty tall order for me to try to tackle when I said I would go and estimate the lifetime number. For all I know, anyone can change their ways and either commit to a single partner for the rest of the days or go totally berserk as of tomorrow. But the title is filed and confirmed by the editor, so I better give it my best shot. For now let’s just assume that by ’lifetime’ a person’s life until today is meant. Along the lines of, ‘how much okay is it to have as many notches on my bedposts as I currently have’.

And here is a little warm up before we go all out on counting your past blessings. This one used to make me laugh back at school, and now it doesn’t but only because my sense of humour evolved. Why else. So facing the notorious ‘how many’ question, a girl lapsed into a long and meaningful silence. When it became awkward, her partner felt obliged to ask if he had impetuously hurt her feelings. ‘Not at all, sweet cheeks, I’m just busy counting’. So now, our calculus class begins.

Why even bother? Still, we do


We all know the question is downright pointless bordering on stupid, and yet you find yourself at five to three in the morning suddenly wide awake and wondering, like, how do I stack up in this department. Similarly, you know all too well how immature it is to ask your partner what ordinal number he pinned on you, and yet somehow you let it get the best of you.

So what is it that drives return to this question time and time again, despite of its utter dysfunctionality? I would like to think that it is the signal from our subconsciousness, whose ways are subtle and unbeknownst to our conscious selves, and by requesting this essential datum it tries to figure out the risk of STDs, capacity for commitment, and experience level. At least such would be the motifs for my curiosity, meow.

And perhaps there is a wee tiny bit of something else to it, like wanting a proof that you are not the dirtiest one in the relationship, or perhaps the other way around. Whatever are the reasons for your asking, my advice is to ask yourself why you want to know and give as honest answer to yourself as you possibly can. This is a good practice in general, but it is a whole other story so let’s move on to the fun maths.

Who sets the standards for what is ‘okay’?

I promise that the figures you get from different resources in answer to this question will have a yawning gap between them. To bring you all along with me on this one, I suggest asking one of your friends. If you are feeling adventurous, go ask your mom or dad. The figures will dwindle as you move one generation up, but if I were you I would spare your great-grandma’s third cousin, twice removed the turmoil of having to answer this one, so strike out the drive to the nursing home in Marfa, Texas.

Not only that, apart from the age and your relation to the respondent, there is a bitchload (no pun intended) of circumstances that will affect the opinion expressed by the person asked. Throw in cultural background, upbringing, religion and religiousness, personal experience (or a lack thereof), current relationships status, day of the menstrual cycle, the list could be perpetuated into eternity. Some of the persons asked would even hold those double standards for what to say depending on who asks. In short, ask no questions, and you’ll be told no lies.

The only person it is worthwhile to check with is yourself. It is only you whose opinion matters when setting the limits, both for yourself and for the person you are with. In the second scenario, however, you would be better off leaving some room for manoeuvre, in case you cross paths with someone you will want to compromise for.

Wait! Are you a boy or a girl?

I am wickedly grinning my sexi(e)st grin. Yep, if you wear a skirt to the church service on Sundays, the approved number for sexual partners drops like a cast-iron pan on the foot of a butterfingered culinarian. You do realize that guys can get away with much bigger numbers. But I don’t even begin to feel bad about it, you know why? Because be it boys or girls, the number is about as meaningful to me as the number of cups of milk I spilled in my thirty-something years of age. It all bleeds down to ‘why’, not ‘how many’. I will explain this approach in the paragraphs that follow on. Make no mistake though, both men and women would cite different numbers, hopping on the bandwagon of the irreparably skewed alignment with a bias towards males.

Time to come up with some real life statistics though. According to the results of a survey by SuperDrug Online Doctor resource, among 2,000 people polled in U.S. and Europe, the average ceiling count for partners was 15 for dudes and 14 for ladies. Bam. After that magical number, you risk to expose yourself to slag-shaming. So you’d better get wary lest you max out your shots.

On the brighter side, only 8% of respondents expressed their readiness to call it quits because of the number of notches on the partner’s belt.

Contrarily to the wishful thinking of people polled, female participants of the survey reported to had outrun the opponent team by 0.6% in their actual number of sexual partners: 7 against 6.4. My head snaps back like dang, buggers can make do with a 0.4% of a partner, that explains it.

A sappy contrast to harp on was observed between two American states, Louisiana and Utah, averaging at 15.7 and 2.6 partners, respectively.

In Europe, the old Italy turned out to be the most prudent – 5.4 partners to cap it all (talk about good Catholics), and the densest concentration of respondents of easier virtue was found in the U.K. (blame it on the weather).

What is behind the number of your paramours?

Do you even know it? No offense intended; simply because if you are in your dirty thirties or fighting forties, and well after your roaring twenties, no matter if your sexual morals have been tight or loose, you know of better ways to apply your calculus abilities than counting your friends with benefits.

A more important question to ask yourself is: am I happy with whatever number I can come up with, racking through my memory? And if this is a ‘no’, think of ‘why-s’. Of course, you should do this not for the fun of poking a sore, but to try and figure out how you stand. Just taking time to process what has been happening in your sex life might give you a pretty accurate idea about internal issues that better be solved. We are talking extremities here, either too big or too small number (according to your own judgement) will let you assess your sexual behaviour as compulsive or elusive.

I will stress, the key here is what you feel is normal. As long as you just live up to your motto, be it ‘diversity is the spice of life’ or ‘keeping it Christian’, never mind what everybody else has to say about it.

But if, according to you, it’s too slutty a numbercould it be that you are trying to distract yourself from emotions that appear to you too hard to process? Feeling lonely might send you off the deep end, headfirst into relationships before you’ve had time to make sure the person is right for you. For some, sexual partners are seen as a proof of being worthy of attention, albeit fleeting. If this is so, it is definitely time for a dry spell, deep breath and discovering self-worth which is inherently yours, so that next time you are with somebody new, you actually want them to stay in your life, possibly being you final score (a gross pun intended).

What if you feel like it’s too few? Check with yourself, where does that FMO come from. What are your own reasons for being where you are? Sometimes, it takes really loosening up on it for it to happen. Don’t try so hard, join Blue Apron, and chances are that you might fry something bigger than that fish. Kidding. But seriously, letting go of obsessive yearning for something releases the energy needed for achieving that something. Think of that. Or don’t. It’s just that some things shouldn’t be rushed, and sex is definitely one of them, suspense making it all the more thrilling.

What really matters!

To concluded it all, here is another little story that I cannot possibly credit to anyone but my personal trainer whom I heard it from, but I’m sure he referred to one or another sitcom. A guy devotes himself to remember and write down the name of every girl he’s been with, up to his present relationship. This he does, but slippery as his memory is, after the last name on the list, which is, correctly, his current SO, he remembers and adds on yet another name that has escaped his memory at the moment of the, ehm, head count. Shit hits the fan when his girlfriend finds the list, and rather than feeling appalled by the total number, understandably becomes enraged by this one name that brings up the rear right after hers.

The morale behind this is that it is never the number that matters, it’s a truckload of other factors that matter, the most important of which is honesty about it. If polygamy is your choice, make sure you do not mislead anyone into believing it’s otherwise. Same goes for serial monogamy with no long-term commitment. The only ethics that are applicable in matters of intimacy is proceeding from a point where you are comfortable with your numbers and respectful to each number on the list.

Respect means a lot of things; inter alia, practicing safe sex. This incorporates many aspects, such as the use of contraception, including reliable barrier methods of protection against STDs. It is also a must that you keep your sexual health in check by regularly having blood screening tests and visiting your doctor. If you appreciate total confidentiality and anonymity, you might want to check out online pharmacy services like Canadian e-drugstores, which on top of everything are loaded with useful information related to sexual health and related topics. In trusted pharmacies like that it is possible to stock up on contraceptives and drugs of any kind at a steal price (they cost so much less in Canada that it’s a lifesaver for people on a budget, present company included) and even receive free medical consultation online.

The big take-home message here is this: no one should tell you how many buddies is too many, as long as the number is okay with you. Stay healthy, stay happy – that’s all that matters!