Sex and Statistics: “So how many people have you slept with”?

Currently reading the column “Ask E. Jean” in the May 2011 edition of Elle (USA version) and a couple of statements E. Jean made jumped out at me ‘cos they fit some random and not so random thoughts that have been running through my mind.

“…women may have more consorts than men do. I’m not certain young women should leap into bed before they’re mature enough to understand men (around the age of 33)…”

In Jean’s initial statement she’s referring to the number of sexual partners women have had versus the number of partners men have had. The general consensus amongst the people who like to research these kinds of statistics is that, women underreport the number of sexual partners they have had, and men over report. Now you and I both know the reasons why. Right?

Earlier this year I found myself having to answer that dreaded question. “So how many people have you slept with?” “I have to count…” I said, so I took a couple of seconds to count. Does everyone have a technique for how they count the number of sexual partners they have had? That’s assuming you’ve had more than you can count on one hand J I like to count in order…but then I find I forget some people and discount others. Like the man whom I almost feel I slept with against my will. Or the one I forget because my experience with him wasn’t very memorable. And of course it depends how you define sex. Penetrative? Involves a penis? How about oral only? Or sex toys only? Damn it can get complicated but of course the real discomfort with the number of people you’ve slept with is what it says to the society around you. And the central message is that “you’re a slut” or as some of my male friends in Ghana like to say “she’s a shashi”.

The bottom line though is, although I recognise that this judging of women according to the number of men (or people) she’s slept with is a double standard I still don’t want to be thought of as a slut. I want to be thought of as the smart, attractive, holistic person that I am. Until I turned 26 or so I could count on one finger the number of men I had slept with (of course I wasn’t counting my boarding school liaisons or the Uncle who made me put his dick in my mouth when I was 5 or so) but after my marriage ended I consciously decided that, “me too I want to sow my wild oats” and that’s a decision I am completely happy with.

Now to my second random thought which is linked to the second half of E. Jean’s statement:

“…I’m not certain young women should leap into bed before they’re mature enough to understand men (around the age of 33)…”

I kinda agree with her. One definitely needs emotional maturity in order to be able to have a good sex life. I know we all mature at different rates but I get concerned when I chat to young women and they’ve been there and done it all where sex is concerned. I can’t help but worry. A number of thoughts run through my mind…

She’s only 21. Should she really be sleeping with this person who is 30 something…

Maybe she’s really looking for a mother [father] figure”…

I know she’s really smart and mature for her age but…”

I dunno. I’m probably being hypocritical but I worry about some of my little sisters and sex.

So a couple of questions I would love to hear your thoughts on:

1.     Do you answer honestly when someone asks how many people you’ve slept with? And if your user name is gender neutral can you state which gender you are please.

2.     How do you keep count of the number of people you’ve slept with?

3.     If you’re a woman who has slept with both men and women do you include the number of women you have slept with in your stats?

4.     Any other thoughts?


13 comments On Sex and Statistics: “So how many people have you slept with”?

  • 1) I always answer honestly when someone asks me how many people I’ve slept with. I feel no need to lie. I don’t want to be with a man who i’d have to lie about that to.

    2) I just count and remember.

    3) I think if I did, I would. Sex is about achieving a certain level of intimacy.

    4) I find both men and women lie about the number people they’ve slept with. If I suspect it, I just loose a little of respect for the person.

  • It’s perverse to even think about your uncle and sex in the same breath… Did you out him?

    1) Have no clue, on some level I don’t think it’s important.

    2) Can estimate, sort of an average per year x number of years of peak sexual activity

    3) N/A

    4) Your secondary school liaisons should count. The only way the count is supposedly important is with regard to disease transmission… If you are going to be a playa, play safe… 😉

  • When it comes to issue sex, I’m always very reserved and wouldn’t talk to a 3rd party about my experiences but I think, I do find this article well written enough to share my 2pesewas on.

    1. Honestly, I do answers whenever I’m asked about the number of people I’ve slept with. I see no reason give wrong information about that. I’ve always been open and straight-to-point with whoever it is I’m with; so NO need to lie.

    2. In most cases, its all about the experiences and sessions you can’t just forget. Those that, you wish you could have again. There’s no model for measurement or whatsoever.

    3. In this case, I’m not a woman therefore; jumping to next Que.

    4. People who for some unknown reason aren’t open about their sexual desires need to be tamed. I hate it when a lady really want to sleep with a guy and yet; she’s playing up some attitude game. Whether to give in or not. If you want it, just go for it.

  • @Chrys – So you have a running count going in your head? Like ‘okay, that’s number 7 now?”. Hahaha, I’m only teasing you girlfriend 🙂

    @Kofi A – Sigh. Did I out him? Hmmmm, not really. Sometime last year it came up in a conversation with my Mum (which was surprisingly easier than I expected) but I made her promise not to tell anyone. I know, I know…but there are some things I prefer to leave locked up in boxes. Re secondary school liasons – those were so infantile I seriously think they shouldn’t be counted. I’m talking kissing, touching, fingers…come on now. Hahahah. Oh and I agree that count is so important cos of STDs. And I am NOT a playa so there (sticking my tongue out at you)

    @MJ – Fair enough. I totally under why people are reserved about sex so thank you for sharing your 2 pesewas worth 🙂 Much appreciated

    Oh and there was another Kofi whose comment was a link to a blog that I am already aware of. Kofi please comment fully. I cannot guess what you were trying to say by just posting a link. Are you saying I should check out the blog? if so I am already aware of it. I don’t approve urls with no context so make a full comment in future. Thanks

  • A lady never tells 🙂

    • @Merrymary – So if a prospective partner asked would that be your response? I’m curious…

      @Mike – Hmm, I don’t think we can definitely state that by age x women become mature enough to handle the various emotions & responsibilities that come with being a sexually active adult especially in a context where we without comprehensive sex education and family planning.

      I can understand why you would refuse to answer the question especially if its one you would not ask. I so agree that in the majority of cases the other party is trying to assess your ‘slut scale’. For me when I have asked that question its because the other person has asked…

  • I don’t agree with E. Jean’s statement you quoted and I think 33yrs is about 10yrs too high. Women are mature enough by 20. Not guys though.

    Personally, I don’t see how useful that information would be to anyone, so I wouldnt answer if asked how many people I’ve slept with.
    Same reason why I wouldn’t ask.
    I might be wrong but isn’t it mostly used to measure a person’s rank on the slut scale?

    If you are reading this and have asked people that question, please help me out and share why you asked.

  • female- It depends on who’s asking (I am not obligated to telling the truth). Although I can count them with one hand despite ppl thinking otherwise, I like to flirt. Anewz, I’ve come to realize that I rarely take a male seriously when asked that question. I believe that, if someone is overtly sexual then that is no one business once he or she is protecting oneself. However, I believe once two people believe they’re going into a monogamous relationship is to come to an agreement of getting tested for all STDs and an overall Reproductive System check, just kidding about the latter.

    N/A I believe sex should be intimate and emotionally beautifully…I just can’t see that happening with a stranger or someone I barely know.


    In regards to the age difference you mention in the article. I believe it has some truth to it depending on the two ppl involve. For instance, if a girl started sex at an earlier age (12, and has had multiple sex partners prior to turning 21 and involve with a 30 something year old man it can happened (they can have great sex). However, if she’s mature, but sexually immature, and puts herself with a guy (30) who isn’t supportive or isn’t there for her emotionally during this transition then it can be disastrous. It just depends. there isn’t a clear answer.

  • This is a very interesting site!

    1) I don’t believe anyone has EVER asked me how many guys I’ve slept with. Those who would be more likely to ask would be women. They are most curious. Men…not so much.

    2) I can’t say that I keep count. When reminiscing with my girlfriends, I try to visualize my partners from current, going backward. Sometimes I forget people, but usually not.

  • To answer your questions:

    I am female. I always answer honestly when someone asks (if I deem a response necessary in the first place), but maybe that is because I haven’t slept with that many people. I must say I can’t recall being asked it too many times though. In an ideal world (free of sexual repression and “slut” shaming), whether a person has slept with 5 or 50 people should be inconsequential to one’s opinion of them; but I digress.

    I have a pretty elaborate system for keeping track of people I’ve been sexually involved with. Separate running (written so I don’t forget) lists for guys and girls; chronology is irrelevant. I also mark hookups on my calendar so looking back I can tell the exact date they happened (OCD anyone? You can laugh but I won’t be scratching my head someday wondering who the father of my baby is hehe). Members of each list are grouped according to how “far” we went. For guys the groups are: kissed, head, almost sex (the one guy who couldn’t keep it up), and penile penetration. For girls its kissed, breast play, below-the-belt play, and both-naked-everything-and-the-kitchen-sink play. There also other minor considerations like who did what to whom that determine what group a person ends up in. I suppose this system begs the question of what constitutes “sex” with guys versus with girls which probably warrants an entire post of its own: is orgasm (either party’s) necessary? is penetration? does oral count? do toys? I agree with Chrysalis that ultimately it should be about intimacy – however that is achieved.

  • Sappho, that isn’t OCD, that’s intelligence. I do the same thing and have done so since long ago. I was charting that before I ever started charting my menstrual cycle!

  • Hiya!!

    Nana a prospective should have no business asking me about numbers. I dont want to know how many people they have been with so they shouldnt as me.

    now after they have moved on from prospective to the next step they can ask but Im still not telling. I might give a range but i dont see what that has to do with the price of fish in the relationship… unless they want to know whether thye need to step up thier game or hold back a bit depening on what they may pre-judge my experience to be ( or not) based on my partner(s).


  • I know the exact number and like chrys I have a running count going in my head.

    My answer usually depends on the person who’s asking. if the person is the type i think will judge me i usually don’t say but if I’m cool with the person, i don’t mind divulging the truth

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