How many previous sexual partners are the norm?
October 13, 2004 11:29 AM   Subscribe

What's a "normal" number of previous sexual partners to have had? Or, more to the point, if I can count mine on one hand with some leftover fingers, does it make any sense to be a little freaked out by dating someone who can't put an exact number on his?
posted by anonymous to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (47 answers total)

I'd get him tested for STDs, and once he comes out clean, just forget about the nebulous number. If you don't think you can do that, part ways don't want bitterness over this kind of thing to carry on for your entire relationship.

(And no, there is no "normal" number.)
posted by ChrisTN at 11:37 AM on October 13, 2004

Ther are a lot of statistics out there for number of sexual partners, google if you want to know what's normal. As for being freaked out, that's perfectly normal too; You should try to figure out why you're having this reaction. Are you afraid you won't be experienced enough and therefor not good enough at it? Or are you afraid this means the person in question is unlikely to make a long-term commitment? Or are you just impressed by the large number, either for numerical or social reasons? If you're afraid of not being good enough, don't worry. Being attentive, communicative, and caring are a lot more important for your partner's enjoyment than any amount of experience. If you're afraid they won't stick around very long, that's a possibility, depending on the context of the previous huge amounts of sex. Decide if you're willing to take that risk or not and act accordingly, but don't obsess over it, it won't get you anywhere.
posted by fvw at 11:42 AM on October 13, 2004

There is no normal number. As long as your partner has a clean bill of health (and is willing to prove it,) forget the number. Heck, if your partner turns out to be especially good in bed, be glad for the experience s/he brought to the relationship.
posted by headspace at 11:42 AM on October 13, 2004

I don't think you should be too freaked out as long as he's been tested.

Also, don't have unprotected sex until you've been with him for six months and he's been tested again and come back clean. That's the gestation period for a lot of nasty bugs, according to my doc.

For men and women it's very different (Assuming you're female.) ... men will tend to have sex with a lot more people in their lifetime than most women will have. Yes, there are exceptions to the rule ... but at 25, I've had sex with more than one hand's worth of people, although there are still a few fingers on the other hand. I'll be on to my toes pretty shortly at the rate I'm going. My friends, all of whom are in committed relationships, have had very few partners compared to me. In fact, my number comes out to quadruple or more compared to most of them.

I can remember of them most of the time, but occasionally I forget one. The big reason for the relatively number as compred to my friends is that I enjoy sex and I don't really like big, drawn-out, committed relationships. I'm very focused on my business life right now, and very NOT focused on finding a mate, so I tend to sample the hours d'oveurs whenever I feel it's appropriate.

Either he's been in a similar boat for a while, he had a very active party life in college, or he's trying to sound more experienced than he actually is. ;) On the bright side, though, experience with lots of different types *really* does help in the sack.

There is no 'number', however, there is a number that's relative to yours and your friends experiences.
If you're freaked out about it ... either Get Over It(tm) or keep him from adding you to the list. ;)
posted by SpecialK at 11:43 AM on October 13, 2004

It's just a number. Don't dwell on it because its irrelevant.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:50 AM on October 13, 2004

Some people will be alone forever, myself included. Count yourself lucky and judge your lover by his character.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 11:53 AM on October 13, 2004

Sure, it makes sense to be a little freaked out. To go off the deep end? No.

Think about it this way: If you are not in a relationship or tend to have a number of mini (say 3 mo.) relationships, and you fuck one person every three months, that's four people a year and you'd have 36 partners at the end of nine years of sexual activity (say 16 to 25). Now, if you went through a one night stand phase for a couple of months and fucked ten people, you're nearing fifty. That isn't a terribly large amount of sex all told, but the number can sound scary.

But if it freaks you out, tell him to get tested. It's smart at the start of any relationship and besides, it weeds out the assholes: anyone who isn't willing to get tested isn't worth being with.

On preview: Damn slow loading. They all said it better (yet I post anyway...)
posted by dame at 11:54 AM on October 13, 2004

If one has had more he or she will appreciate the other who has had less. And the one with less with learn from the one who has had more. There will be less competition and it helps to establish roles; which are good things in loving relationships. It's actually the best combination for many.
posted by Peter H at 11:55 AM on October 13, 2004

There is no normal number. However, there's nothing like having an intimate chat with a close friend or lover and telling them how many people you've slept with and have them say "Really?!?!" while you think to yourself " that a really high number, or a really low one?" Peter's statement about the disparity often being a good combination is right on the money, in my experience.
posted by jessamyn at 11:58 AM on October 13, 2004

SpecialK: Counting only heterosexual sex and ignoring stuff like people dying, the average number of sexual partners for men and women in an isolated population must ofcourse be equal. However it's been pretty conclusively shown that men tend to overestimate the number of sexual partners they've had.
posted by fvw at 12:00 PM on October 13, 2004

I wonder why most people in this thread are automatically referring to the person as a "he."
posted by adampsyche at 12:02 PM on October 13, 2004

As said above, there is no "normal" number. A couple of my good-looking friends who I figured got laid often and variously have less than five. One friend who is rather scary looking claims "just shy of thirty". Of the girls I've slpt with as an adult, some have had two and one claimed fifteen, but later admitted over thirty.

Some people don't have many relationships; some people sleep around, and some are, as I like to put it, "serially monogamous" - they're faithful for the period of time they're with someone, exclusively, but they change relationships like bars of soap.

FVW, I think the numbers skew funny...if by average you mean "mean", your asertion is correct. But if you take the median, the numbers can be different.
posted by notsnot at 12:06 PM on October 13, 2004

the average number of sexual partners for men and women in an isolated population must ofcourse be equal

Yes, the average must be the same. And many guys inflate. But I suspect the charts would show most men bunched in the middle numbers and the women would be bunched at the ends.

And girls at the promiscuous end, thanks for all you do to keep those averages even!
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:09 PM on October 13, 2004

adampsyche: because anon said "his".
posted by Eamon at 12:09 PM on October 13, 2004

What is it they say? Take whatever a man says and cut it in half, and take whatever a woman says and double it to get the real number of partners..

That said, I remember dating a girl who had slept with over 40 men, and she was only 24 and was neither a porn-star nor trailer-trash. I was a little concerned, but got over it.
posted by eas98 at 12:26 PM on October 13, 2004

Oops, didnt' see that at the end.
posted by adampsyche at 12:29 PM on October 13, 2004

fvw: Median, not Mean ... Or, on preview (since I didn't refresh for a while), what Mayor Curley and notsnot said.
posted by SpecialK at 12:35 PM on October 13, 2004

As a wise person said, don't worry about his previous lovers, worry about his next one.
posted by zadcat at 12:37 PM on October 13, 2004

At once or you mean...

Never mind.
posted by damnitkage at 12:51 PM on October 13, 2004

Yeah, just make sure he's tested. And yes, 6 mos is the gestation period.

Otherwise, forget the number. I *hate* when women ask this question. It always leads to arguments and I don't understand why anyone thinks it's important or any of their business to find out what the number is.

Do yourself a favor, boys and girls: a) get them tested; b) test yourself often; c) don't ever ask your lover about the number of people they've been with. Ever.
posted by dobbs at 12:57 PM on October 13, 2004

More food for thought...

In my 41 years of experience, it is the men who have had lots of sexual experience with many partners that make the best lovers. I'm not sure if that holds true for women as well. Perhaps a guy can chime in with an answer to that one.

And, yes it would take a lot more than my fingers and toes to count the number of lovers that I've had in my life.
posted by Juicylicious at 12:59 PM on October 13, 2004

I'll admit that any girl under 30 whose partners numbered in the double digits would probably freak me out, somewhat.
posted by jonmc at 1:02 PM on October 13, 2004 [1 favorite]

What's a "normal" number of previous sexual partners to have had?

14. Any more, he's a slut. Any less, he's a wuss.

The best treatment of this topic I've ever seen is Chasing Amy (though from a man's point of view).
posted by signal at 1:07 PM on October 13, 2004 [1 favorite]

And the polite way to phrase this question is:

"If all your ex-lovers held a convention and decided to charter some form of transportation to get there woudl they rent:

a) A VW-bug

b) A van

c) A bus

d) A fleet of buses

e) They'd just chip in with $10 each and build a convention center someplace centrally located."
posted by signal at 1:10 PM on October 13, 2004 [1 favorite]

Should you make distinctions between the number of people you've been sexually active with—you know, doin' stuff that involves you and/or your partner's rude bits—and the number of people you've actually had sex with? Or should you lump them all together so as to inflate the numbers?

posted by emelenjr at 1:14 PM on October 13, 2004

I guess we know how many people signal's been with, ;)
posted by Peter H at 1:27 PM on October 13, 2004

Peter H: assuming I am neither a slut or wuss, that is.
posted by signal at 1:29 PM on October 13, 2004

anon, this question is a trap.

Here's why - at some point in a relationship almost every guy has been asked this question. It often sounds like a deal breaker - you give too high of a number, BAM trouble. Too low of a number BAM you're strange.

Vague number...less problematic. You'll seem a little detached from people who once shared your bed, but not as horrible if you say a number that's several times your number (let's say she's slept with 6 people and you say 20.)

There was a period of a couple of years where I was seeing someone for six months...and then someone else. over five years that adds ten to my count.

So look - do you really care? that's the real issue. Are you holding a statistics contest?

Chasing Amy is a really good example: I don't care if she was once known as "fingercuffs." Just as long as she's interested in me now.
posted by filmgeek at 1:40 PM on October 13, 2004

I echo all the "get him tested and then forget about it" comments. If you can't forget about it, you need to end it. Love is about the future, not the past. I am happily married, and one of us had many more partners prior to meeting each other than the other, and it just doesn't factor in at all, because we love each other. This isn't to say that love is some magic problem-curer; love is a daily choice, and every day I wake up to the beautiful Mrs. Eusatcescrubb and make that choice happily.
posted by eustacescrubb at 1:48 PM on October 13, 2004

Veronica: Something like 36.
Dante: Something like 36?!? Including me?
Veronica: Um, no. 37.
Dante: I'M 37!?!?!?

posted by chrisroberts at 1:48 PM on October 13, 2004 [1 favorite]

there is no universal "normal" number, but everyone does have their own personal normal number that's just as valid as anyone else. You being freaked out by your boyfriend's tally is absolutely understandable, no matter what the number is.
posted by GeekAnimator at 2:14 PM on October 13, 2004

Kevin Smith as relationship guru...we're doomed, DOOMED! ;-)

(Or, perhaps, considering his wife, it's not such a bad thing. Hubba.)
posted by ChrisTN at 2:18 PM on October 13, 2004

The number is irrelevant. Do you have reasons to feel like this man has a very different philosophy of sex than you do, other than statistics? Do you feel like he's a "sex addict" or "user" or "compulsive Lothario" or whatever label you would like to apply to "person whose sexual ethics make me feel very uncomfortable"?

I think it is very hard for people with wildly diverging sexual ethics and philosophies of sex to have a good relationship. It can be done, but it takes work.

And I've slept one-on-one with more than 50 people in my lifetime--it seems pointless to try to tot up all the people in orgy rooms, jill-offs, or puppypiles--whereas my lovely husband has slept with five, including me. So I would say that "normal" for someone in their late 30s/early 40s is anywhere between 2 and 100.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:19 PM on October 13, 2004

(I also want to say that I was inspired to post to this thread by matteo's callout. I think this "anonymous" business is JUST FINE, even if every single comment turns out to be about love/sex/relationships/scary genital rashes. So there.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:21 PM on October 13, 2004

what's a "jill-off?"
posted by Juicylicious at 2:25 PM on October 13, 2004

It's a group masturbation party for women. (Back-formation from "jack-off".)
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:34 PM on October 13, 2004

Distaff version of jack-off, it would appear. It would seem rather unnecessary - the phrase, not the action, that is.
posted by mojohand at 2:42 PM on October 13, 2004

In this day and age, I disagree with men have more sex parrtners than woman, ymmv.

It's all in the past - only worry if they share their past with you while having or after having sex with you. Since it should have been a special time for that relationship then - not the time you are in now. Because a relationship has its own and separate life as it was or is.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:43 PM on October 13, 2004

Does it make sense to be freaked out? It is very understandable that you might have fears about a mismatch in experience or expectations or whatever. The answers above abotu STD tests are sensible, but is that what you're worried about?

In *my* experience, contrary to Juicylicious, there isn't much correlation between number of partners and ability in bed. And for another thing, there's ability, and then there's chemistry. I personally would rather have raw attraction and imagination over practised skill (although all three would be nice :) . And yeah, I'm running out of appendages too.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 4:04 PM on October 13, 2004

There isn't a normal number.

My mother had 1 sexual partner.
I've had 13.
I have sisters who have had a few (lot) more, and some a few less.

I agree on the chemistry, it's important that you have some amount of attraction, otherwise what's the point?
Imagination is always good too, and being practiced doesn't exclude using it. Hopefully!
posted by kamylyon at 4:50 PM on October 13, 2004

I'll admit that any girl under 30 whose partners numbered in the double digits would probably freak me out, somewhat.

You get over it. People are allowed to be people, and frankly, the only reason to be freaked out is if you yourself haven't had as many. As long as the person is committed to you, their past is irrelevant.

It's far scarier to be with someone who's had NO previous sexual experience. Then you're always worried that they need to get "it" out of their system.

Oh, and guys, get used to this. Women just have far more opportunities than men do, and eventually when sexual mores equalize, you're going to see this reflected in more "experienced" women than men. It's already starting -- kamylyon's comment reminded me of this.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:30 PM on October 13, 2004

You get over it.

I'm sure you do. But that's not the point. A major component of a relationship is compatablity, and if there's a huge gulf in sexual experience or values that's a pretty big potential conflict. It's not a moral judgement, just an observation. And it applies equally to males and females, as far as I'm concerned.
posted by jonmc at 5:57 PM on October 13, 2004 [1 favorite]

Let's be clear. Despite what you've been reading there is in fact a normal number (and I won't put "scare quotes" around it) and it's ashame that no one will come forward and share this with you--what's up people? are we just trying to be tight little secret clique like Skull & Bones???

The number is: 27.

But secret number aside, the whole deal--really the WHOLE deal-- is all about communicating openly with your partner and opening up, being vulnerable, talking . . . and making sure at the outset that you've created (by saying so explicitly) a space to feel safe and talk.

In my experience that's the whole ball game and it's how you create intimacy and also get comfortable in opening yourself up. There is no normal. At least not on that matters. Note that you didn't ask for what is "average" . . . average is (IMHO) an unintresting target, aim for what you want. If you can do that I bet you'll get it.
posted by donovan at 8:24 PM on October 13, 2004

a lot of experience can mean such a variety of things. One guy I know has a very high number but it's not so much that he wants to be a playa - he just keeps getting dumped. He gets out on the prowl right away, but he wants to stay with these girls - unfortunately, the "relationships" rarely last more than a few weeks or months (and I am not sure that he has ever been the one to stop calling or give the speech).

Actually, my other 'really high number' friend, who's female, has suffered from the same set up - all she wants is to settle down, but guys keep breaking it off, but she goes right back to nerve, or wherever, and starts up again. So, a lot of sexual partners can mean sexually adventurous but can also mean unlucky in love... We all have greater opportunities these days if we want to take them up.

Anyway, think how many times you've had sex, rather than with how many different people. And if you were in longer relationships, you might have become much more intimate and open about discussing what works and what doesn't, which might be more useful than simply having been with a lot of people.

But I think signal got it right - whatever your number is, is what seems right.

jonmc, I think that attitude will make it hard for you to not be freaked out by most of the women in your city... I am not sure I know a single (uncommitted, that is) NYer who wasn't up to ten by thirty, though most are under twenty.
posted by mdn at 7:16 AM on October 14, 2004

If he needs to be freaked out about his number, I'd say you should be freaked out about your own, too.

While I don't see a high number of partners as particularly desireable, I see virtually no partners as genuinely problematic. Little experience, narrow repertoire, not to mention the insecurity that comes with all that. If you keep worrying about this, it won't be long before you're obsessing about whether you're not providing something exotic he's probably experienced out there... My only point is that if you're worried, perhaps you're worried about your own #, not his. Sort that out, accept yourself, and you'll be fine.

If you're otherwise happy with the sex, don't knock the life experiences that made him what he is. That's trouble in many departments, not just the sexual.
posted by scarabic at 9:01 AM on October 14, 2004

AFAIK: isn't this the plot of Chasing Amy? And doesn't the guy regret being freaked out by her past, and letting that lead him to reject someone he's otherwise perfectly in love with?

"Big potential conflict," sure, but you don't have to actively make it one.
posted by scarabic at 9:04 AM on October 14, 2004

jonmc, I think that attitude will make it hard for you to not be freaked out by most of the women in your city

NY is a big city, mdn. The scene downtown is not neccessarily the same as say, Marine Park. And it's all moot since I'm out of the dating pool. And again it's not a moral judgement just an admission of how I've felt in the past and would probably still feel today.
posted by jonmc at 2:25 PM on October 17, 2004

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