Dear Baroness, . . . my new partner wants to know how many people I've slept with . . . .
I’ve been dating this great guy for about a month and the inevitable question of how many sexual partners we’ve each had has come up. I pride myself in being an honest person and want to be with him, but I’m afraid that if I tell him the truth about how many men I’ve slept with, he’ll be horrified. (I was a bit of a wild one in my 20s.)
First of all, please don’t refer to yourself as slutty. Would you call a man who had slept around a slut? Not likely. We have another word for men who sleep around . . . stud. Stud not a shameful or derogatory word, it’s a boastful one, yet it means the same thing as slut, technically. Ahhh, sexism. It’s everywhere. Just because you slept around and (hopefully) enjoyed it, you are not a slut. You are a woman who went out and got what she wanted. This should not be shameful. Perhaps if we stop focusing on the numbers and insisting on labeling and judging everyone and their behaviors and everyone minds their own damn business, we won’t have to use words like slut or stud. I would like that very much.
Moving on . . . Your instincts are right on as far as knowing that this might be one situation where total honesty might not be the best policy. A friend’s mother used to say, “Seven.” Seven is the right answer to this question. Why? Because you are still under the universal average of ten (for men AND women) and seven is a good, unthreatening number. It says, “I’ve been around enough to know what goes where and liked it enough to do it more than once, but we could still learn things together.” It’s a swallowable number.
Yes. I’ve just encouraged you to lie. But I’m doing it to help you. Trust me. NO ONE REALLY WANTS TO KNOW THE TRUTH ABOUT THIS. Unless of course, your number really is seven or under ten. Then feel free to boastfully share your cute little single-digit number to the world.
Why do we need to ask this question? Why is it so important to us? What is it about? Control? Jealousy? Competition? I don’t have the answer but I’m terribly curious.
He may say, “No really, I can handle it. It won’t change how I see you.” He really means this. But he wants, even needs, you to answer, “Seven”, not “Fifty-three”. Fifty-three is NEVER the right answer.
No one wants to think about how many people their partner has been with, not just because of the ick factor of where his/her bits have been, but because, whether we admit it or not, we are human beings and we do have feelings and emotions and sometimes we even get attached to someone and maybe even fall in love. I have heard of this happening, but have never experienced it, because it seems quite messy and exhausting to me. But it is true that when we really like someone, chances are, we don’t relish the thought of picturing them nakedly enjoying themselves with another. There are exceptions to this, of course. I know a man who loves thinking about his woman being with other men, but this is a fetish of sorts and for the most part, people don’t want to know.
I suggest making a list. This is a perfect time to do it. Sometimes you may not remember some names. It happens. In that case, you can write ‘guy in red hat behind the dumpster homecoming weekend’ etc . . . the point is to get it all out. Create the taxonomy and then, burn it. Make it a ceremony of sorts. An event. Invite others to join in. I did this in my 20s with my best friend and we had one hell of an evening telling sexual exploit stories and making fun of each other’s poor decision making. And then we burned them. It was awesome. I think I need to do it again.
So darling, I think you now know how I feel about this. I’m all for honesty. Mostly. If you really like this man and think this relationship might go somewhere you can either lie, change the subject, discuss why it’s important for him to know this information and/or tell the truth. Just remember, you can’t unhear or unsee something. So if you’re honest and you have numbers that are considered high for a woman (check out this handy calculator to see how you stack up against others! What could be more fun!) be prepared for the consequences.
Stop using the word slut and start embracing the fact that you are a grown-ass woman with needs and you don’t owe anyone an explanation. (For anything.) If you choose to tell him the truth, please write and tell me. I’m dying to know what happens.
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