September 30, 2011 catherinetownsend

What’s Your Number?


Anna Faris says she slept with five men at a premiere for What’s Your Number; I wrote a piece for Fabulous Magazine about how ridiculous it is that we are still asking the question. It has to be the ultimate sexual catch-22; where pillow talk can quickly turn from cuddly to confrontational when the question is asked. On one memorable date, I decided for once that honesty would be the best policy when the guy asked me to tell him how many men I’d slept with, insisting it would bring us closer together. I told him to guess. He guessed six. I told him to add a zero. He fled into the night and I never saw him again. The age-old dilemma has even been given the Hollywood treatment in new movie What’s Your Number?, out later this month. In the film, Ally Darling, played by Anna Faris, hits her sexual limit at 20, and desperate not to clock up any more, she decides to track down all the guys she’s slept with in the hope she’s overlooked The One.

While I’m sure the film will be fun, it’s got me wondering why our number is such a source of fascination, especially for the opposite sex? Why does it matter how many people we’ve slept with before we settle down, and why do we compulsively lie about it?

In all honesty, I’ve no idea what my exact number is at the moment. I stopped counting a long time ago, but it’s definitely into the triple digits.

I know that will make some of you choke on your cereal – not only at the volume of sexual encounters I’ve had, but because I have the audacity to admit it! But I refuse to lie any more. I have a well-notched bedpost and I’m proud of it.

Since my school days in Georgia, USA, I’ve been aware of the hypocrisy surrounding The Number.

Girls I knew would do everything, and I mean everything, but have sex with a guy (including things that are illegal in some countries). They were teens behaving like porn stars, but still insisting they were virgins to judgmental friends and potential boyfriends. The hypocrisy continued into adulthood.

I have a female friend who crosses out “anything under three seconds or over three drinks”, and a male friend who conveniently forgets “hook-ups on foreign soil or with actual hookers.”

I’m shocked that in these supposedly sexually enlightened times, The Number is still a relationship milestone. In my opinion it’s meaningless. It can’t tell you if your partner has a history of cheating, or a clean bill of health – that’s not guaranteed, whatever the number.

And when it comes to sexual history, we all lie, even if we don’t realise it.

Boys VS girls

Norman R Brown, a Professor of Psychology at the University of Alberta, US, has conducted studies of sexual partners, and found that men consistently estimate they’ve had at least double, often quadruple, the number of sexual partners as women.

He says this is because when women are asked their number, they try to actually remember every guy from their list. This leads to underestimation. Why? Because we leave out the guys who aren’t so memorable in the sack! Sorry, chaps, some of you just don’t leave a lasting impression!

Men, on the other hand, don’t try as hard to be precise, and instead of personalising their number they simply guess how many women they’ve slept with in a year, then multiply it by how many years they’ve been having sex.

As the slut/stud double standard still operates, it’s little wonder women play down their bedroom activity while men shout about theirs from the rooftops.

My own sexual history has plenty of holes in it, because I only remember the wonderful, awful and totally bizarre.

I lost my virginity to my high-school boyfriend when I was 15, and I remember that Stairway To Heaven by Led Zeppelin was playing – and we finished before the guitar solo did.

Then there’s the scuba-diving instructor holiday fling in Turks and Caicos. He made me orgasm through oral sex for the first time (amazing!), and I remember an occasion, during the seven years I spent living in London, when I woke up in a flat with a boa constrictor. But that’s another story.

I could lie and say I’ve been damaged by my promiscuity, but the truth is I wanted to experience lots of sex, in lots of different ways, before I settled down.

I’ll put my hands up and say that not all the notches on my bedpost are significant. Some were completely meaningless. Some were drunk dials to friends with benefits at 3am after a night out. Some were after a really boring date when, despite finding the guy duller than dull, I still wanted to have sex.

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Comments (2)

  1. Oh my god, amen to that sista! It’s about time that I read a good article on this topic. It’s so ridiculous that people feel like they have to lie in order to be accepted, or avoid the question– although my boyfriend and I have simply decided that it doesn’t matter and that it really is pointless to share, because we are with each other and that is all that really matters. But it’s so selfish for those to care so much about others while putting them self (and lies) on a pedestal. I see it happen time and time again,and it’s twisted!

  2. ken hughes

    Do men ask then? I thought women volunteered their past dissatisfactions without prompting !

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