Okay, chale here’s the situation. I’ve been sexually active for 10 years now. With the exception of that unsuccessful attempt at anal, where it felt like I was having a stroke, I’ve tried almost everything there is to try. My mother jokes that I have so many miles on my vagina that if they tried to measure the distance it would stretch from Ghana to Germany. Yeah, I know, my mother is crazy. It’s great because one of the things she passed down to me is not worrying a lot about things to do with sex. But of late there is something that I’ve been tripping about and that is …drumrollllll…my number. Abi you know what I’m talking about: the number of guys you’ve had sex with. Why is it such a big deal for us women?
Chale, I know women who swear they will take that information to their grave. I know women who do algebraic equations: take the true number, divide it by 3, subtract 2 and add 1. I know women who firmly believe that if you’re in your thirties anything between 3 and 10 is adequate, so regardless of the truth they limit themselves to that range. They decide on whether to say 3,4,5,6,7,8,9 or 10 depending on the open-mindedness of the guy who asks them the question. And to be honest, the women picking between 3 and 10 are mostly white women. African women just say 3.
I know women, both from the motherland and the other lands, who come up with creative rules to keep their numbers low: blow jobs and anal don’t count, if it was just the tip, abeg, it doesn’t count, if the guy didn’t come it doesn’t count, and as for one-night stands howwwwwww? If you wandered into a mosque once would you say you are a Muslim???! I even know women who sleep only with their exes when they need a fix, because they don’t want to increase their “body count.” I also know women, mostly feminists, who revel in high numbers and share information with glee — they don’t believe women should be judged for having many sexual encounters and they see every sexual experience they have had, whether it was blissful or tragic, as a contribution to the woman they have become.
These days, at least among my friends from other lands, the answer I seem to encounter the most when I ask women what they say when guys ask for their numbers is “I don’t think it’s any of your business.” Among my motherland sisters they think that saying that to a guy, it is none of your business, sounds like you don’t want to say the number because it is high so they, they just go with the lying.
Me, I can understand both lines of thinking. I personally think sharing the number defiantly and gleefully is the way to go. It’s my personal ting, but I also fully believe that men often ask that question not just out of curiosity but out of an insecurity where they need to know in order to pass some kind of judgment on the chick. If the number is low, or at least something they are comfortable with, then the woman somehow stays “perfect” in their eyes. If the number is high, particularly higher than theirs, they get jealous, judgmental or intimidated. Or they get overly excited because they start to fetishize her as someone who must be down for anything. 15 guys? Oh she’ll let me choke her and come in her nose.
But chale, who gets to decide these arbitrary rules of what constitutes high or low anyway? It’s a bullshit criteria and so it’s a bullshit question when it is asked by a guy who wants to pass judgment. Now, a man who asks about a number is sometimes just the kind of guy with whom you discuss everything under the sun — from the most minute details (do you remember the outfit you wore on your first day of Class One?) to the most intimate (have you ever pictured someone apart from the woman your penis was in when you were coming?). He’s just in the mood to add your number to the trove of tiny, infinitesimal details he would like to know about you because he wants to be the closest person in the world to you. Those men do exist. I’ve dated some. But the men who harbor information about numbers with discomfort, and allow it to help them make all kinds of useless and problematic assessments seem to outnumber the good guys. The men who will throw it in your face during an argument, tell you it is the reason they can’t marry you or say they have to go and fuck six more women before they come back to date you because your number can’t be higher than theirs, are pleeeeeeenty k3k3. The guys who will probe and probe for every detail about every guy you have ever fucked and use it to convince themselves that you must be cold cos any woman who could do that with a man and be able to walk away from him is dead inside and will one day walk away from them, those guys are chaw. So a woman not wanting to talk about her number is fully within her rights, my brothers and sisters. It might not be the most progressive stance in the world. But sometimes it is a necessary one.
I wish they didn’t do it though. I remember when I was in college a bunch of us were sitting around and a guy asked who among us had had sex, and I, at 23 had just had sex. The other girls there had been focking since Kwame Nkrumah’s hairline started to recede. But I was the only one who told the truth. The rest of the girls lied like market women saying the bread is today’s bread, that they were virgins. And the guys believed them and started looking at me with winks and nudges. I still have trouble letting that incident go. Chale, it went me to the nonsense degree. I was soooo pissed. I still don’t know if they were only saving face in front of the guys or if they didn’t even want the other women around to know that they had had sex.
One would think that sharing the number of sex partners you have had would be much easier with other women because it would come without the baggage of managing men’s fragile feelings. But because of a culture of slut-shaming I have realized that most women employ the same tactic of giving “alternative facts” when discussing their number with other women. This breaks my heart. If you can’t be honest with your girls who can you keep it 100 with? If women police each other’s pussies what hope do we have in telling men not to judge us? I mean I know you can’t dismantle the master’s house with the master’s tools but you don’t have to sharpen the cutlass for him and be on hand with the tool belt around your waist just to hand him the pliers when he asks for them.
Like I said earlier, I have always shared my number. I share every sexual detail someone asks about (apart from very rare cases where the person is a guy who is being deliberately creepy). It is part of my personal mission to make sex less taboo. But more often that not these days, I am self-conscious about my number. You see, the sad truth is that I have slept with exactly two men. Yep. Mienu. Deux. 1,2, Finito. I knoooooow. For as much shit as I talk.
None of it is a lie, in those two relationships I have let my freak flag fly at full mast 27.31 hours a day, 7 and a half days a week, and I do know an unhealthy, almost perverse amount about sex. I have receipts for every piece of advice I give or any topic I analyze. But I have only had two guys inside me. And yeah it wasn’t complicated with them cos I was also the first guy’s first so we had being picky in common, and the second guy was just honored to be added to such an exclusive club. But I think this news is going to raise some eyebrows with the next guy. I’m 33 now and I’m usually the first to bring up sex and I can’t help but think that a guy will think I’m all talk when I tell him about numero dos. Or that he’ll make an assumption about me being more religious or conservative than I actually am. Or worse, he’ll think sex means something really important to me and I have to be in love to do it and I won’t be able to separate dancing naked adowa from having feeeerins. I worry that the numero dos will give him a little trepidation about fucking me or trying the adventurous things. The worst possibility is that he’ll be the kind of guy that will be impressed by the mienu and then he’ll think I’m somehow more valuable once I tell him, like in his head it will elevate me to wifey material. Of course I’ll discover this when I tell him and then I’ll have to vomit in his lap and never fuck him again. And then I would have lost my dignity and my supply of the D.
I’m even more shy about revealing my number in groups of women because there is this trend among women where women with lower numbers are valued more, or respected more, or have this air of superiority or judgment. And sometimes it’s hard to convince fellow ladies that my pickiness isn’t some kind of commentary on their sexual choices. For some reason society has taught women to be ashamed of sex that is just sex for its own sake, and most women, because we live in a world that doesn’t prioritize female pleasure, have had bad sexual experiences and feel regret about a lot of the sex that they have had. They wish it hadn’t happened and they feel as if acknowledging that it did and counting it somehow makes those unfortunate incidents real. Undeniable. Unforgettable. Women, because of the coercive nature of sex in our society, have had a lot of sex that didn’t leave them feeling the way they wanted to feel emotionally; it left them feeling used or cheated or deceived and to acknowledge those sexual experiences brings up a whole lot of pain. The fact of the matter is that societies do have hierarchies when it comes to sex. So yet again I can understand women who lie or refuse to disclose the truth even to other women.
With me it’s sometimes hilarious when my number comes up in conversation with other women or with men I’m just friends with. Everyone starts looking at me like I’m a fraud. How can I know so much about sex if I’ve tried so little of what is out there? I feel like a fraud sometimes because I wonder how it could come to be that I have sampled so little of God’s infinite bounty. Look at all the dicks God has put in the world! I am wasting my vagina; it is like I am spitting in God’s face. When I was a teenager and imagined myself at 33 I thought I’d be some femme fatale with many dicks under my belt. Sadly, this has not come to be and it’s just another disappointment my teenage self can feel for my current self. I mean, fine: no masters, no house, no full bank account, no New York Times bestseller and no man. Sigh. Dorlu but not totally yawa. But no dick too? “Chile, bye.” I can picture 13-year old me saying that to current me with a flick of her wrist and a disdainful expression on her face.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a big deal. Hopefully by the time that topic comes up with the next guy I fuck he will know me well enough to not make any assumptions and treat me like the secretary of the Scripture Union. In groups of women I can just add my disclaimers “Please I am not judging anyone oooo. I wish I had slept with more guys.” And actually, seeing as how we have the benefit of anonymity here and no one knows who you are and can’t scream “Ashawo!” and throw stones as you walk down the street, what is your number? Do you ever tell the truth about it? If you do engage in the mathematics of alternative facts, how different is the number you say from the real number? Give me the gist. I know everyone wants to know.