Stop asking your partner their number.

What’s the correct number? If they’ve slept with “too few” people, you’ll look at them as some kind of chaste prude; but if they’ve slept with a number you deem “too high,” something must be wrong with them.

In my short lifetime, I feel like we’ve made a lot of developments in regards to relationships, sex, and sexuality.

While homophobia is by no means a thing of the past, marriage equality is law in the United States and is becoming more normalized. Sex doesn’t immediately frighten us the way it used to. While most of our other social issues are still wildly out of control (see: racism,police brutality, transphobia, fatphobia, sizeism, classism, xenophobia, etc. etc. etc.), we’re slowly cultivating a society in which we’re capable of discussing these topics openly and free of judgment.

Though that isn’t perfect, it’s an important first step.

That being said, I’d like to open the floor to a discussion I think is long overdue, but somehow still manages to rear its ugly head in our casual conversation as well as our pop culture.

Can we please stop asking our partners how many people they’ve had sex with?

I’m trying to find a way to explain the importance of this without simply typing “It’s fucking 2016, c’mon already” over and over again.

 

Can we please stop asking our partners how many people they’ve had sex with?" Image from Istock. 

Let’s take a moment to address the obvious sexist connotations that come with this idea. While disparaging someone based on their number of sexual partners is something I’ve definitely heard from men and women, this idea is heavily skewed towards degrading and slut shaming women.

Growing up as a cis dude among mostly straight cis dudes, I’ve heard a lot of men make comments about how sleeping with a woman who’s “been around” would lack any pleasure because she’d be “stretched out.” I’ve heard (and made, in my shittier days) a lot of bad jokes about sex with a woman being like “throwing a pencil into the Grand Canyon.”

See all the sarcastic quotation marks I’m using? I hope it properly signifies what bullshit that is.

I’m not going to give you a detailed lesson on how the vagina works. I’m far from an expert on vaginas (ask my ex — ba-dum-TSH!).

Women in the Mamamia office confess to the weirdest things they've heard between the sheets. Post continues below. 

But here’s something you should know, Shitty Dude making Shitty Comments: The vagina actually loosens up during arousal to allow for successful penetration.

If all the women you’re sleeping with are super-tight, it’s possibly because none of them are aroused by you, your backwards fitted cap, your pinky rings, or your soul patch.

 

As long as you are using any appropriate protection (and getting tested every 3-6 months —I know, it sucks, but better safe than sorry), let’s stop feeling the need to treat your significant other like you’re saving them from a life of debauchery and bar bathroom quickies.

 

Now that the awkward Sex-Ed lesson is over, let’s talk about the underlying issue with asking your partner how many people they’ve slept with: Why the fuck does anybody care?

I’m not writing this in order to get defensive about my number of partners, by the way. I’ve had sex with around 25 people since the end of 2012, and I’m perfectly proud of and comfortable with that number.

However, asking someone you’re dating about how many people they’ve slept with is a question meant to make them feel ashamed.

What’s the correct number? If they’ve slept with “too few” people, you’ll look at them as some kind of chaste prude; but if they’ve slept with a number you deem “too high,” something must be wrong with them. This idea is a trap, made to shame and guilt people with different sexual experiences and ideologies than you into feeling as though they’ve done something bad.

When I’ve asked people I’m sleeping with why they care how many people I’ve slept with, they often respond with, “If you’ve been with a lot of people, I wouldn’t feel as special.”

First of all, no.

What you’re doing is equating sex with intimacy, and though there’s often a crossover between the two, one doesn’t inherently mean the other. I’ll discuss that in another piece later this week, so let’s focus on another aspect of this problematic idea.

You don’t feel special, just because I’ve slept with other people in the past?

I mean, I don’t want to be all there’s enough Matt Diaz to go around, but there’s at least enough Matt Diaz to sleep with multiple people years apart and still have a romantically and emotionally fulfilling experience every time.

One of my favorite writers, John Green, once described this ridiculous idea using a metaphor that I love but will almost certainly misquote. Here’s the general idea:

Let’s say I start eating Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. As I go along, I try different flavors I come across and think I might be interested: Cherry Garcia, Americone Dream, Chubby Hubby.

Over time I come across Chunky Monkey and decide that this is it — this is the flavor I want for the rest of my life.

However, Chunky Monkey says to me, “You’ve tried 28 other flavors before me — I don’t feel special!”

Well damn, Chunky Monkey. I can’t go back and un-eat all of those ice creams, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate your banana-flavored goodness.

(Shit. Now I want ice cream.)

Image via Girls, HBO. 

Your sexual history does not increase or decrease your worth.

You aren’t a napkin that’s used up and deserves to be tossed aside; you’re a human being, and no number of trips to the boneyard can take that away from you.

As long as you are using any appropriate protection (and getting tested every 3-6 months —I know, it sucks, but better safe than sorry), let’s stop feeling the need to treat your significant other like you’re saving them from a life of debauchery and bar bathroom quickies.

If you and I are in a monogamous relationship, our number of current sexual partners is the same: one. That should be all that matters, because regardless of how many one night stands or prior relationships I’ve had, those experiences do not detract from my ability to love you.

If you and I are in a monogamous relationship, our number of current sexual partners is the same: one. Image via HBO. 

My compassion for you is not a fuel gauge that starts at the beginning of my life and dissipates as the wrong people come into and walk out of my life. My compassion for you is a wick, a flame ignited each time you come into the room and demand to be seen in the light. I am not at risk of running out of love to give just because I’ve given love to others before you.

We shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed of our pasts, just because they’re different from what we want in the present.

Also, I mean, it’s fucking 2016.

C’mon, already.

This story by Matt Joseph Diaz originally appeared on Ravishly, a feminist news+culture website.

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