To all the girls I've loved before
December 13, 2005 8:34 PM   Subscribe

When is it time to lie about how many people you've had sex with?

When looking for a partner: do you think there’s an (in)appropriate number of people to have slept with for a particular age/gender/orientation?

Or does it not matter to you? And should you lie or what?

For the record: I don't ask or care, but I still get asked by dates. I guess 10 < x < 30 is not an acceptable answer on several counts. For a straight woman under 30. What to do.

Bad sex and vacation sex don't count, right?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (69 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you are getting asked this question by men or women who are just casual dates and not someone you are in a relationship with, I'd politely tell them that it's really none of their business. The appropriateness of the number of people you have slept with is something that you have to decide for yourself. Other people shouldn't get to make that decision for you.
posted by chiababe at 8:41 PM on December 13, 2005


You should never lie about this! If it matters enough for someone to ask, it matters enough for them to receive a truthful answer. And why does bad sex or vacation sex not count?
Everyone has different issues, and for some people it makes no difference how many people you've slept with (for some experience is everything), and others are squeamish about their partners having had multiple bed-mates. In either situation, lying to make yourself more desirable to someone is BAD NEWS and will ultimately cause pain, either to him or to yourself. Don't do it!
posted by purplefiber at 8:44 PM on December 13, 2005 [1 favorite]


Lying will prove a mistake. Tell the truth or don't, but don't lie. But yeah..."dates" are asking you? None of their business.
posted by cribcage at 8:49 PM on December 13, 2005


Ditto. The answer in almost all cases is the wrong answer. If it's too high you become a bad person. If it's too low, then surely something must be wrong with you. Either that or it will make the other person feel like shit.

My husband and I have never discussed this. My opinion is that he's slept with who he's slept with, and whether or not he thinks some of those encounters were worthwhile or mistakes, there is nothing he (nor I) can do about it now. My guess is that knowing would upset me far more than not knowing, which doesn't upset me at all.

My philosophy on this also extends to past relationships in general, the details of which are far gorier than I want to consider. We are together now, and what's in the past is passed.

The only exception to the rule, IMO, would be if there was some health-dependent factor. You don't want to be spreading stuff around, do you?
posted by Brittanie at 8:51 PM on December 13, 2005


I'm a straight guy and I would ask the question but I don't really want to know specifically how many people you've slept with but rather whther you've a) slept with an outlandishly huge number of people or b) hardly any or none at all, both of which would pretty much freak me out.

A vague answer in the middle somewhere like yours would be kinda comforting.
posted by dydecker at 8:52 PM on December 13, 2005


unless the two of you are actually considering having sex and/or getting serious i think it's totally inappropriate to ask that

between 10 and 30 isn't a big deal ...
posted by pyramid termite at 8:53 PM on December 13, 2005


1) What difference does it really make? None. Lie within reason. If you've had lots of sex and you're pretty sure the person is looking for a low answer, I probably wouldn't go under 3 or 4, but there's no need to tell them about all 50 of your exploits.

2) Assuming you're not a pron star, how will they ever actually find out for certain?

Some people are prone to jealousy, and telling them the truth to a question they shouldn't be asking only feeds it. In fact, if they really press you on this, you might want to reconsider the relationship—as they'll never truly be satisfied—but that's just me.
posted by trevyn at 8:54 PM on December 13, 2005


Don't lie, but chiababe is right, it's really none of their business, and only you can decide what's appropriate or inappropriate for you. Next time it comes up on a casual date, ask them why they want to know. They'll probably say, "Oh, just curious," and you just smile and nod and repeat, "But why?"

Personally, I think anyone who asks a question like that of someone they're not even starting to get seriously involved with, well, they've got some screwy priorities/issues and are probably very insecure. If they're so intimidated by how much experience you have that they need to grill you ahead of time, don't let the door hit them in the ass.
posted by Gator at 8:56 PM on December 13, 2005


30 is kind of a lot, for most women at 30, but it wouldn't freak me out. In fact it would make me think I had a better chance of "getting laid".
posted by delmoi at 8:56 PM on December 13, 2005


Why even ask that question? Who cares?
posted by cmonkey at 8:58 PM on December 13, 2005


Sorry, why even ask "how many people have you slept with?"

It doesn't seem like something that should be important.
posted by cmonkey at 8:58 PM on December 13, 2005


Refuse to answer, or tell the truth.

As a straight guy in your general age range, I can tell you that <3 0 is really not a big deal and you shouldn't worry about it.br>
But seriously...a guy who hears the real number, and respects you less for it is the kind of person who you're going to end up incompatible with in other ways as well. Best to get it out of the way at the beginning, else you end up in a Clerks-type situation.
posted by bingo at 8:59 PM on December 13, 2005


clarification: of course I would only ever ask this question like right before having sex.
posted by dydecker at 8:59 PM on December 13, 2005


I have never been asked this question, nor have I ever asked it.

I'd answer it truthfully, I think, if a guy I was in a serious relationship with asked. Before that, probably not. I assume that he's had some experience, I figure he's assuming I've had some experience, and beyond that, it really doesn't matter. We're here together now.

(And if there's a "health-dependent factor," the number of past partners still has no bearing. Asking if you're STD-free or tested covers that; number of past partners doesn't factor in at all.)
posted by occhiblu at 9:06 PM on December 13, 2005


If I'm having sex, or about to be having sex, with person X, I would want to know about how many people he (simplifying pronoun) has slept with. This helps judge a couple of things:

How selective he is. If he says 300, probably he doesn't filter out too many people. I would be less flattered if he wanted to have sex with me than if someone who had had many opportunities but had declined all but 5 wanted to have sex with me. This gives me background information, but doesn't really act as a criterion.

How experienced he is. Am I going to look like an idiot in front of him? Is he going to act like a jaded asshole? Can I possibly compare to the best $whatever he's ever gotten? Will he look down on me if my tastes are too vanilla? This acts as a criterion.

How committed he is likely to be. If a guy has in his 30s and has only had sex with four people because he's been in long-term relationships with them for most of his adult life, this means he digs long-term monogamous relationships. If a guy in the same position has had sex with 100 women, he probably likes one-night stands or isn't so into monogamy. I can use this logic to compare my goals to what I perceive to be his goals.

Posssssibly how at risk for STIs/STDs he is. Yes, you can get something nasty from unprotected sex once, and you can avoid something nasty despite having safe(r) sex 50 times. But every time you have sex, there's a certain small odd that the condom will break, or whatever, and you'll be exposed. I realize that this is not the best logic ever, and I think this reason is subordinate to the others. If we are having this conversation, we are also definitely having the one about testing status and safe(r) sex practices past and present.

I would not ask someone I was not perfectly willing to have sex with, unless it was a scenario like this one ("say, how many people have you...?"). If it's casual, I would leave it with a simple numerical answer. If it's moving into relationship territory, I would still probably leave it. Asking questions about specifics gets ugly fast.

I don't think you have to be exact ("23, unless you count..."). In your type of range, within 10 ("twenty-odd") is good enough, I think. (Obviously, if your number's 0 or 2 or something, within 10 wouldn't really be helpful, and if you're up in the 500s, you can probably be more inexact than 10 either way.)

Is there an absolute inappropriate number for me? I don't know. It really depends on the situation we're in, the circumstances he was in -- it's a tough question.
posted by booksandlibretti at 9:13 PM on December 13, 2005


30 is kind of a lot, for most women at 30...

Uh, community standards may REALLY vary. Apparently I live in the proud slut capitol of the world. Which is awesome.

You kind of mention that in your question: "particular age/gender/orientation." Believe me, gay dudes do not ask each other about number of sex partners. Hoo, boy.

My answer to your question, finally, being: if the truth freaks them out, well, then there's more that's true about you that'll freak them out.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 9:13 PM on December 13, 2005


I remember the girl I lost my virginity with.

We were cuddling, after what was my first time, so I asked her, "How many."

She truthfully answered, "I can't remember."

Thinking I'd give her an easy out, I said, "Well, was it like 7, or 70, or 700?"

"Oh, way more than 70."

I've never asked that particular question again.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:14 PM on December 13, 2005


Meh... it's a daft question which doesn't deserve a serious answer.

(that is, the "how many shags" question, not the "when should one lie" question)
posted by pompomtom at 9:17 PM on December 13, 2005


People are defensive about their "#" because there is a certain negative stigma attached to it. The reason why, IMHO, so many people in this thread are "outraged" that people would ask is because they're afraid of the negative reaction that might follow.

The question and answer are fair game in dating though, because they are directly related to how much you date, who you date, and what you do on those dates...would there be any outrage if I asked a woman how many times a man has paid for her dinner? No, because there is no stigma attached with a woman allowing a man to treat.

I've asked the question before...I will continue to ask (just not on a first or second date). But once we've slept together, you (male or female) have opened the door to being asked that question. No one is obligated to answer, of course, but to suggest that it isn't anyone's business is ludicrous. The whole point of dating is getting to know people. That's the essence of the ritual. This information is inherently relevant.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 9:18 PM on December 13, 2005 [1 favorite]


I've had that go both ways. A girl I dated asked me every so often and I told her "a few" because I didn't think that it was really relevant to the current situation. Then I got the whole "Well, I'm being totally honest with you" speech. I tried to think up everyone I've slept with (hey, I was a working & touring musician for a long time) and lost count. Her reaction was of utter disgust and her opinion of me changed afterwards. I told her "I TOLD you it wasn't something that you needed to know, but you pressed the issue." Needless to say, we're no longer together.

I found a wonderful woman who is capable of dealing with the fact that I had a life before her. :-)

And no, I don't think that there's a number that's "too high" - but "too low" is a possibility. Virgins are nothing but annoying to me. Chances are, I won't ever ask anyway, unless we start running into ex-boyfriends that pull the machismo "I had her before you" ass-itude.
posted by drstein at 9:22 PM on December 13, 2005


I get this question all the time and it's a fucking moronic one. My answer is generally "One too few, obviously" (ie, otherwise I wouldn't be on this date), but I'm a pretty confident person so could give a shit if the person's offended by it. When people persist, I tell them it's none of their business, which it isn't. If they insist it is, I walk, because if someone's so lost and misguided to give a shit about this crap, they've got far too many hangups that I don't want to know about.
posted by dobbs at 9:22 PM on December 13, 2005


Why not lie? Unless you're in a relationship with the person, there's little reason to stick the truth. The person asking doesn't want to carefully analyze your sexual history, he just wants a good idea of how comfortable you are with sex. In this light, telling them it's none of his business will likely send the wrong message. If I asked this, (though it's hardly a first date question), I'd be looking to hear (1) a very vague answer along the lines of 'I get around' (2) a joking exaggeration along the lines of 'It' so hard to keep track...' (3) an approximate number, even if it's totally untrue. The goal of such a question is just to determine that you're not totally repressed and have a healthy attitude towards with sex. It's not anything to get worked up about.
posted by nixerman at 9:25 PM on December 13, 2005


When is it time to lie about how many people you've had sex with?

Never.

Better question:

When is it time to care what other people think of you?
posted by frogan at 9:29 PM on December 13, 2005


It all boils down to the same thing, but I would still prefer to frame that information as the average time between lovers, or spent with each lover.

Still sounds pretty skanky if its a day or two, but 30 at age 30 just sounds better if stated as "I've spent about six months with each lover."
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:32 PM on December 13, 2005


When is it time to lie about how many people you've had sex with?

If asked by mom, any time is a good time to lie. But they know.

I would also advise lying immediately pre-coitus and during penetration.
posted by Rothko at 9:38 PM on December 13, 2005


I collect one-liners-- in SF in the early nineties I gathered this precious gem: "I'm not a slut! I just slept with more people than I told you!" Yelled into a phone at a phone booth late at night out side the liquor store.
posted by Mr T at 9:52 PM on December 13, 2005


"The question and answer are fair game in dating though."

Wow. I really find this a surprising attitude to find here. I'd like to know whether the people that feel this way are a) male of female; and b) whether they are pre- or post-HIV.

I know that I've talked with my partners about how many people I've slept with and how many people she's slept with. But only after we had already had sex ourselves and were in a committed relatsionship. It has never, ever, been some question I felt I had a right to ask or an obligation to answer. Apparently my partners have felt the same way.

And I've had partners with a variety of sexual experience. My number of partners is something like 15 or so. That's a lot relative to some of my partners and very little relative to others. People's standards about this vary so widely that this alone is a good reason why it shouldn't be considered a question you should ask or answer.

I absolutely don't agree that this specific information is something someone has a right to ask or a responsibility to answer. A more general question like "have you dated a lot of people?" is much more reasonable. You can get an idea of how "experienced" someone is (or isn't) without asking for some silly exact number which you don't have any particular right to know.

But I'll go farther than that. I'll put aside any relativistic nonsense and say outright that I don't think that anyone, ever, has any reason to be ashamed of having had a large number of sexual partners or a small number of sexual partners and if you suspect that your level of experience might be a problem to the person you're dating then you you have every right to break-up with them because of that, or lie to them. You have zero responsibility to tell them the truth.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:53 PM on December 13, 2005


People are defensive about their "#" because there is a certain negative stigma attached to it.

No, not at all. I just don't see how it has any bearing at all on the relationship at the current point in time. Now, if it were "so, how many people have you slept with since we started sleeping together"...that would be a valid thing to know.
posted by cmonkey at 10:00 PM on December 13, 2005


I'm totally with the Bligh that is Ethereal on this one. I believe the only obligation you have to a current sexual partner in regards to revealing the details of your sexual past is to be honest about your STD status.
posted by scody at 10:22 PM on December 13, 2005


I guess 10 < x 30 is not an acceptable answer several counts. for a straight woman under 30

I don't think that's unreasonable. My personal number is in there and I generally assume that the women I'm interested in have gotten around a little more than me. This is because men have to play the pursuer and I'm not that great at that. And I tend to like attractive women, and attractive women get play. I actually have no problem with an experienced woman and quite prefer it.

So I have no idea, really, why you'd lie. Except that many men have a little islamic fundamentalist inside them who considers a liberated woman to be "stained" somehow.
posted by scarabic at 11:17 PM on December 13, 2005


What BooksandLibretti said. Also, I find people who hit junior high around/after Rock Hudson died tend to consider this kind of question relevant and valid. It's those who are now around 35 or older who likely pale at the thought. YMMV.
posted by acoutu at 11:34 PM on December 13, 2005


The Salon.com advice guy's current question relates to this very topic.

I would personally avoid answering this question until I had ample evidence that the person was not going to run some kind of double-standard purity trip on me about it.
posted by ottereroticist at 11:38 PM on December 13, 2005


Umm, do blow jobs count? Hand jobs? Hooker sex? Not that I've had a lot of any of those, but the answers would affect the total. As a man, I'd have to know before the next time someone asks me.
posted by faceonmars at 11:42 PM on December 13, 2005


I love all this feigned outrage.

You're fine with swapping sex fluids, but... gasp!... you want to know something personal and private about me? How dare you!

It's a perfectly reasonable question. But the answer doesn't really mean much. As someone said above, 30 partners by 30 years of age is 1 every 6 months or so from the time you started dating. If the answer is more than a couple hundred, you might want to get a few tests done before dipping your pen into a potentially poisoned well. Forewarned is foreskinned and all that.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:50 PM on December 13, 2005


It IS a reasonable question, and by answering it honestly you'll be able to tell something about the other person by how they react. I remember when my girlfriend and I revealed our indivdual tallies and it was quite refreshing (though not unexpected) to find that, even though there was a huge discrepancy between the numbers, neither of us were affected at all by knowing what the numbers were. (that said, it's also reasonable to refuse to answer the question - I think it's better than lying about it)

If it's just a casual thing, though, and you think that lying will give you a better chance of getting laid (and you're happy to lie in order to achieve such an outcome) then lie away, but lying about anything in an "important" relationship is always fraught with danger, right?
posted by bunglin jones at 12:07 AM on December 14, 2005


Thanks for giving me another reason to be glad I'm gay! My partner knows my history. I have to be who I am, and that's part of me. Truth is, I lost count when I was 13, somewhere around 30. I have no idea how many. I'd probably be surprised if I knew. But my partner was a virgin when we met. He had to understand me in the context of my background.
posted by Goofyy at 12:33 AM on December 14, 2005


I don't think it's an unreasonable thing to ask. Unless you are going to severely judge the person if the answer isn't what you expected.

Don't lie about it though. If you don't want to tell, then don't. And I don't think "dates" really need to know.
posted by grouse at 1:18 AM on December 14, 2005


Pre-relationship I think it's a bit much to ask, unless it came up as a tangential thing. But if the question was direct I would be considering the underlying personality there - obsessive? jealous? etc.

I do think it's a natural thing to be curious and I would have thought most couples 'deal' with it somewhere along the line. I wouldn't lie but I wouldn't be insisting my partner tell me - it would all have to be casual. It's no big thing but it's - like SeizeTheDay said - part of who we are and we naturally like to know about each other.

I suppose I would outrageously lie and say 2000 - in an obvious/extravagant way - were I to be asked by a prepartner, just to project my sense of disdain for the question and my sense of humour towards the subject.
posted by peacay at 3:03 AM on December 14, 2005


would there be any outrage if I asked a woman how many times a man has paid for her dinner? No, because there is no stigma attached with a woman allowing a man to treat.


Well, I'm not a woman, but I think that would be rather rude.
posted by pompomtom at 3:51 AM on December 14, 2005


I don't think that anyone, ever, has any reason to be ashamed of having had a large number of sexual partners or a small number of sexual partners and if you suspect that your level of experience might be a problem to the person you're dating then you you have every right to break-up with them because of that, or lie to them. You have zero responsibility to tell them the truth.

What he said.

It's a perfectly reasonable question. But the answer doesn't really mean much.

If the answer doesn't mean much, why is it a reasonable question?
posted by languagehat at 5:31 AM on December 14, 2005


The correct answer is 17.
posted by jon_kill at 6:01 AM on December 14, 2005


I wouldn't be outraged if anyone asked me, but I would be a little perplexed because as stated again and again above, there's such a wide variation in circumstance and experience that the answer is effectively meaningless.

So I probably would tell the truth, but would also probably reconsider my opinion of the person asking it. Or at least try to get in their head about why they would ask it.

I would be more interested in hearing about how many LTRs the person had been in, than the no. of sexual partners. Also, consideration of the age of the people involved. For example, when I was in high school/college I had sex with maybe 30? guys. Since then (10 years later) I've had sex with 3. Which is the more relevant number?
posted by gaspode at 6:20 AM on December 14, 2005 [1 favorite]


"The correct answer is 17."

I'm tempted to say that where x=age, the correct answer is (x-14)/2, no matter what the reality-based answer might be. But that would be just my subjective judgment—not just coincidentally descriptive of my own experience—masquerading as social norm.

I'm flabbergasted that some of the people here think that it's an okay question to ask and that it's a question you have a responsibility to answer truthfully. I'd like to believe that those who think this way do so because they believe the question is value-neutral—that is, there's no reason to think you'll be unfairly judged depending on how you answer—but, if anything, the world post-AIDS makes this even more unlikely than it used to be. You very likely will be unfairly judged; and, specifically, you'll be unfairly judged according to the other person's standard that's more a function of their own personal experience than it is wise and rational.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 6:27 AM on December 14, 2005


Wait, I thought it was x / 2 + 7.... oh, wait, nevermind.
posted by jon_kill at 6:45 AM on December 14, 2005


Never lie about this -- it is a life or death issue, whether you personally think so or not, and whether you perceive your disease status correctly or not. It is also a character issue -- did you not think that the carefree days would not sometime have consequences? You're trying to outsmart the natural if-then circumstances of the world just because you think it's rude? Pssh, find your own relationship, you just failed this one, sucker.

To Ethereal Bligh(t): It is an absolutely essential question to ask! Feel free to judge me a prude, but at least I'll still possess an immune system. If you're judged, it'll be because the person is cautious about their extremities, which would be starkly contrary to the carrier's and not make a good match in the first place. It's like failing to mention to a potential partner that you have a wang-severing device tucked in the crevices. Um.. thanks, I'd like to know that!
posted by vanoakenfold at 6:55 AM on December 14, 2005


I wouldn't talk to anyone about this unless we were already having sex. If it was a pre-sex discussion, I'd probably think their wanting to know made us incompatible. That said, I'm always curious in the way ikkyu2 describes ["Is it 7, 70 or 700?"] and I've had some partners I've asked and some I haven't. How people answer the question is a lot more interesting than what the actual number is, to me.
posted by jessamyn at 6:59 AM on December 14, 2005


If its health issues you're concerned about.
"How many people have you been sexually active with in the past 6 months?" is appropriate. Anything else doesn't matter.
posted by MrMulan at 7:23 AM on December 14, 2005


If the concern is health issues, the relevant questions should be "Have you been tested for X Y and Z? When was that? How many sexual partners have you had since then?" Even if I've slept with 200 people in my past, if I've been tested for the gamut of STD's, and haven't had any sex since then you're okay. And even if I've only ever had sex with one person, it's possible that I've got a disease. Number of partners past sexual partners is not a good measure of sexual health.
posted by raedyn at 7:34 AM on December 14, 2005


Ever will continue to be my inquiry, and if it's shameful to you, then good freaking riddance. My standard of health will remain fine tuned, regardless of whether it is perceived as prudish. In the interest of maintaining realistic and trustworthy relationships, complete revelation should be given.

It would be just as cruel to me, to reveal later in the relationship that, oh, guess what, I didn't want to have children. Oh, you wanted twelve? Sorry I didn't mention that.

It is a big deal to the person who asks it, and by avoiding the issue makes (a) your trustworthiness sink with warp speed, and (b) means you're more concerned with your pride than my health, which I am obviously concerned about by asking it. The issue is not whether you're comfortable with telling me, but with whether I'm comfortable jostling your elders. Capisce?
posted by vanoakenfold at 7:35 AM on December 14, 2005


vanoakenfold, this question is not the same as questions concerning whether you're drug/disease free.

You very likely will be unfairly judged; and, specifically, you'll be unfairly judged according to the other person's standard that's more a function of their own personal experience than it is wise and rational.

EB, you say that like it's a bad thing. The entire process of dating can be summed up as one person making irrational, unwise judgements about another person based on far too little information. This is one of those questions where it's more important how you answer it rather than the actual answer you give. And if the number you throw out is too high and your date is disgusted with you--that's a good thing. Would you rather not answer the question and find out weeks later that your new boyfriend is a prude? On a date, completely blowing off the question with 'it's none of your business' is likely not a good move. Lying, or even making a joke of it, would be far more effective.
posted by nixerman at 7:40 AM on December 14, 2005


Yes, there are people who ask this question out of genuine health-related concerns, or a desire to get an idea of how compatible they are. But there's also a fuckload of people who ask the question out of insecurity about their own level of experience, a desire to find out if the person is a "slut" who doesn't conform to their outdated notion of how much experience someone else "should" have, etc. If you're asking this question on a casual date with someone you're not even close to being seriously involved with, I'm guessing you fall into the latter category of askers.
posted by Gator at 7:41 AM on December 14, 2005


"Lying, or even making a joke of it, would be far more effective."

Yeah, and I support that conclusion partly on the basis that people will judge you unfairly about this. That's why you don't have a responsibility to answer it truthfully.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:47 AM on December 14, 2005


Yeah, and I support that conclusion partly on the basis that people will judge you unfairly about this. That's why you don't have a responsibility to answer it truthfully.

-Emphasis mine.

Let me get this straight. Any information that might be judged "unfairly" (meaning, not agreeing with YOUR concocted definition) is now open for lying? Well shit, I'm afraid that my low income might be judged unfairly because my date might see me as lazy or stupid; therefore, I'll lie and say that I'm a freaking millionaire. That's only fair, right? Since my income is being judged "unfairly"?

This is why I haven't responded to your comments in this thread Bligh...they're founded on defensiveness and rationalization to misdirect your date for the evening, instead of honesty and direct communication. As I said above, unless you've already had sex, the question is innappropriate, but even then, if this issue is important to you, as one half of the date, you should be allowed to ask the question.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 7:56 AM on December 14, 2005


If its health issues you're concerned about.
"How many people have you been sexually active with in the past 6 months?" is appropriate. Anything else doesn't matter.


Not at all. You can get an STD (herpes, HIV, HPV) the very first time you have sex and you'll carry it for the rest of your life. You could have contracted chlamydia a year ago and not know it. 6 months means nothing.

For the record, I've never been offended when someone's aaked me this, I've asked it myself, and if some is shocked by my response, then I frankly don't need to get to know them better.
posted by tristeza at 8:05 AM on December 14, 2005


I would want to discuss this question with a partner, not because the number is important, but because my answer would reveal some important things about me, and likewise about my partner. Things like: I grew up in a "no pre-marital sex" religion and held to it until relatively recently, so that directly influenced (hampered?) me most of the time that I've been old enough to care about dating. I've only ever had sex in a long-term relationship. I don't think that casual sex is Evil, but I have never connected "casual" with "sex" in my own life.

So, along with a discussion of STDs/birth control/etc., a bit of discussion about whether this means that we're in a relationship or whether you treat it really casually... I'd like to know. Of course, that's a bit of a different question, more of a "let's make sure we're on the same page here" than a "select a number between 0 and 500 and I'll judge you on that."
posted by heatherann at 8:09 AM on December 14, 2005


I asked my boyfriend how many people he'd slept with after we'd been together for a couple of months, and I asked purely in the spirit of genial curiosity. No judgement, just a desire for us to share our life stories with each other. His figure was about mine x four, and I was completely unbothered. He was a bit awkward about answering at first (perhaps fearing an outraged response? I dunno), but was relieved and I think quite pleased in the end that we were able to talk about it honestly.

I knew it was a bold question, and I gave him the option of not answering, but I am still a little bewildered as to why you shouldn't ask, or honestly answer, this question of someone you're in a relationship with. For me it was just more information about someone I liked a whole bunch and wanted to get to know better.
posted by hot soup girl at 8:14 AM on December 14, 2005


"...(meaning, not agreeing with YOUR concocted definition)"

No, meaning unfairly. You have no more right to ask this question "because this is important to you" than you have the right to ask if someone has slept with a person of another race "because it's important to you". You're wrong to think it's important. Period.

By the way, you implicitly accuse me of dishonesty because my argument is "founded on defensiveness and rationalization [...] instead of honesty and direct communication" even though, tellingly, I'm one of the only person in this thread who's directly and honestly stated the number of people I've slept with.

Here's how this works: if it's important enough to you that you feel that you need to ask this question, then you don't have a right to ask this question.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:14 AM on December 14, 2005


"I am still a little bewildered as to why you shouldn't ask, or honestly answer, this question of someone you're in a relationship with. For me it was just more information about someone I liked a whole bunch and wanted to get to know better."

Yeah, and in that context where the question isn't value-laden and unfairly intrusive it's entirely appropriate to discuss and be honest about. But that's not the context of the original poster's question nor the context of the people who have defended a person's "right" to know the answer. Their context is glaringly, starkly, value-laden and judgmental.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:21 AM on December 14, 2005


I'm with hot soup girl on this one. I only ask this sort of thing in the context of a relationship (ok, maybe some of my close friends too), and it's strictly a curiousity thing. I like sex, I like talking about sex (in the right context, with appropriate people), and I never judge anyone based on their counts - and I've heard numbers that span the ranges already discussed. Well, maybe not 700.

And when I ask, refusing to answer or giving a vague answer are valid responses. Because you're right, it is none of my business, but it can lead to interesting conversations.
posted by flipper at 9:01 AM on December 14, 2005


I guess, E_B, that I'm just trying to temper some of the more vehement responses here. Like most interpersonal conundrums that people bring up here, the real answer is: it depends. The OP's main question is, "When is it time to lie about how many people you've had sex with?". My first response would be: why bother lying? We are who we are. At the same time, yes, it's an intrusive question that no one's obliged to answer, and may not be appropriate for a first, second or third date. Then again, maybe it's fine. It depends.
posted by hot soup girl at 9:25 AM on December 14, 2005


the context of the people who have defended a person's "right" to know the answer . . . is glaringly, starkly, value-laden and judgmental.

E_B, seriously, what do you think about my explanation for asking? I didn't think asking or answering would be such a big problem for so many people at all.
posted by booksandlibretti at 9:35 AM on December 14, 2005


Yeah, that's pretty much what I'm saying. If it weren't unfairly important, then there wouldn't be anything wrong with it being important—or not important—and the usual rules of honesty and trust would apply.

I think a thoughtful response to my point of view would be that if it's important to the other person, even unfairly, then honesty should still trump its unfairness and you should either answer honestly or right then and there "realize" that you are not compatible. But that's unrealistic, I think, and not quite attuned to the complex ways in which relationships work.

If the person you're dating asks "do you think I'm fat?", how should you answer? They very well might argue that a) they want and have a right to an honest answer because the answer is important to them; and b) they have a right to an honest answer because honesty itself is important. Even so, an honest answer could be the wrong answer.

On preview: booksandlibretti, I meant to agree with your point of view and perhaps I was not clear. Wanting to know how many lovers a person has had for the reasons that you describe is justifiable. But because the specifc matter you're asking about is so overloaded with value judgments and bias, it's better to find the answers to your questions from another direction. And I think that doing so is possible.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:42 AM on December 14, 2005


Not everyone feels this way, but for me, sex is a really big deal. It's a big enough deal that I need to know my partner's sexual history and vica versa before I'd feel comfortable in a sexual relationship. That doesn't mean every nitty gritty detail but it does mean # of partners, protection, etc. Part of it is th health perspective and the other is the emotional perspective - I want to know who else she's shared this part of herself with if I'm going to do this.

No one has any business asking this question or getting an answer before the relationship reaches this level, though.
posted by Happydaz at 10:24 AM on December 14, 2005


E_B, I do feel a little uneasy about what I'm doing now. I mean, I'm using "How many?" to extract possible answers to "Is he picky? How attractive does he think I am? Is he going to act like a jaded asshole? Can I compare to the best sex he ever had? What is he probably looking for? Is he good at monogamy?"

These, obviously, are not questions I'm comfortable asking directly (except for maybe what he's looking for, if relevant). So I'm not quite sure how I could approach it from another direction, but now I feel guilty for being sneaky and for being unnecessarily demanding (according to some).
posted by booksandlibretti at 11:20 AM on December 14, 2005


it is a life or death issue, whether you personally think so or not

The # of people one's slept with is not a life or death issue. Whether they have STDs can be but the questions are mutually exclusive. I know people who've gotten STDs (or pregnant) the first time they've had sex. I know people who've slept with hundreds of people and never had.

It is a big deal to the person who asks it ... my health

I don't think anyone's arguing it isn't. The point is that it shouldn't be as the answer is irrelevant to your health.

Note that I don't agree with the people who said to lie, I just say it's none of their business, which it isn't. It's also none of your business if I've slept with someone of the same gender, had multiple partners at the same time, been celibate for a decade, or any other scenario you can think of.
posted by dobbs at 11:41 AM on December 14, 2005


Doesn't the appropriateness of this question say a lot about the compatibility of the two people in question.

Think about it.

People can:

-think the question is appropriate
-think the answer is appropriate

So, two people who don't think the question is appropriate won't ask it.

One person who does can ask the question, and the answer will be, "That's not appropriate."

Two people who think the question is appropriate can have the conversation, and then the asker can decide if the answer is good for them.

And it goes on like this. It's so subjective, but the appropriateness of the question to the person who is aksed is just as important as the answer.

So, ask away. And answer honestly.
posted by jon_kill at 11:41 AM on December 14, 2005


followup from anon:

"I’d like to thank everyone for their honest and helpful answers. I appreciate your support, your forthright disagreement with me, and your sharing of experiences. I would have posted my name, but I didn’t want anyone to feel inhibited saying exactly what they thought, positive or negative. To clarify: I meant people who I have gone out with 1-3 times, and I live in RJ’s sometimes surprisingly conservative ‘burg. In the future, I will honor the proud slut capitol by deflecting for a few months and (if it’s a big deal) moving on to the next person who won't judge me either way. I am grateful to get so many opinions from a variety of different people. Thanks, AxMe."
posted by jessamyn at 3:05 PM on December 14, 2005


take the real number, or a close estimate, and then double it.
posted by mcsweetie at 8:27 AM on December 17, 2005


Interesting answers here..

I'm a 31 year old guy.. and I ponder how I myself will answer the question.

I am a guy thats had a half dozen relationships (long ones) and have slept with them all. Never had any one-night stands really, BUT I've slept with a 100 hookers.

Shit.

What to do? The new woman I am in love with is a virgin for pete's sake...

She's probably not going to be accepting, hasn't asked me yet, but I've given thought to this inevitable question.

My answer is going to be 6 -- the serious relationships and drop off the hookers.

Is that fair from a woman's persepective?
posted by bhenry at 10:21 AM on December 25, 2005


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