When I was younger, I cared a great deal about the number of people I had slept with.

If I got into bed with someone I thought not about how much I wanted to do it, but whether or not having sex with this person would help take my number from acceptable to concerning for a prospective partner down the line. All on the off chance that someone, sometime, might ask me my number and might consider it a dealbreaker.

To make things more complex, I wanted a number high enough that I didn’t wind up cheating on my future partner during a midlife crisis, but low enough that this same imaginary person would take me seriously as a possible long-term relationship.

How fucked is that?

I hate that I and others think this way. Not about what they want to do but what they believe they ought to do to avoid being seen as a certain type of person. But it’s a mentality that’s so ingrained and that can be really difficult to unlearn.

We’ve all heard “You can’t turn a hoe into a housewife” — basically saying that a woman who has a certain amount of sex isn’t marriage material. It’s gross and drills into the idea that the more “pure” the woman, the better. It’s outdated. It’s patriarchal. And it’s bullshit. But it’s cemented for many.

Sure, men’s numbers get judged too. But it’s different. The double standard here is that men’s numbers are flogged around and in some cases celebrated, either by themselves or whoever’s on the receiving end. This is not new information.

Remember when Andrew on Married At First Sight broadcast that he’d had more than 350 partners? A contestant on any season of Love Island? You don’t come out and say that shit unprompted unless you’re proud of yourself. You also don’t count past a certain number unless you have some kind of point-scoring system going on to validate your sexual experience. Surely. 

Bumble recently released a Modern Romance Report which found that 38 per cent of Aussie singles are lying about the number of sexual partners they’ve had, with a similar number feeling judged. That’s a pretty big stat — over a third of respondents — but my bigger qualm is with why people are asking and putting people in this position in the first place.

Does it says more about them — the ones asking? Don’t get me wrong, I’ve asked someone their number in the past when I was a lot younger. My reasons? To make sense of my own sexual journey to date through the typical means of social comparison theory. And of course to riddle myself with insecurity and doubt if they’d had more experience than me. Fun!

In the same Bumble report, 64 per cent said they don’t care or judge based on number of sexual partners, 22 per cent of singles say that someone having too many previous partners is a turn-off, and 13 per cent consider it a positive as it indicates their partner knows what they’re doing.

Discussing the research by Bumble, Flex Mami hit the nail on the head:

“I simply love when research concisely points out the contradiction between what we want, what we say we want and what concerns us. Plus the irony in so many of us perpetuating the exact behaviour that we don’t like. Someone’s number, whether high or low, doesn’t accurately represent their experience, sexual literacy, openness, safety or ability to ask for consent.”

It’s so true.

Someone’s number isn’t indicative of how safe they are with protection, for example. If there is concern around sexually transmitted infections — I understand that — but that’s a very different conversation. 30 previous partners including a condom is different to two without.

Someone’s number isn’t indicative of how respectful or considerate they’ll be in bed. How open-minded or close-minded they’ll be. Whether they’re into eating ass.

In fact, someone’s number isn’t even indicative of experience. We can literally have sex more in one relationship over a couple of years than over a decade of being single. I don’t see anyone asking how many times someone has had sex, though.



Now in my 30s, I haven’t had someone ask me my number for years. And that’s a good thing — not because I’m embarrassed or ashamed of how high or low that number is — but because it’s irrelevant to how I’ll be in either bed
or in a relationship.

And I think as we get a bit older we realise this exact thing. That if someone is going to ask you for your number, judge you on your number or feels the need to tell you their number, they’re probably too stuck in these outdated ideals to be worthy of tomorrow’s sheet wash.

It’s not that we shouldn’t be having conversations about sex — we absolutely should — but just make sure you’re having the right ones.

Chantelle Schmidt is a freelance writer. You can follow her on IG here.