I'm a woman with a "high" sex number and I'm okay with it

September 28 | Guest post by Jen Nagle

The very reason why I am hesitant in writing this is the very thing that I want to try and stop! But, that is why I am going to share this with you. I want girls to be able to be comfortable in their own skin, regardless of their sexual choices…

Photo via DERBY INK™
Photo via DERBY INK™

A few nights ago I was sitting on the deck with hubby, and we started talking about "the number." You know… that question that we all kinda want to know about our partners, maybe about our friends, and maybe even other people's partners.

How many people have you slept with?

Whenever I asked that question of someone else it was out of pure curiosity. I was curious because sex fascinated me, and still does. I like knowing why people choose to have sex, and how they approach getting sex, or why they choose to not have sex. I am interested in a solely non-judgemental way. I just love how people are different — especially when it comes to sex.

I have no issue with my number, and no regrets of my past. But, given societal stereotypes, I knew that it would cause judgment and fear, especially from someone who did not share a similar past. A woman who has slept with "too many" people, or is sexually aggressive, or dresses in a fashion that people deem provocative, is labelled a "slut" and "whore."

Which is why I felt that I couldn't give my actual number to someone I really liked. But I didn't want to low ball it too much, because my past made me who I was, and that was someone I was proud of. Who cares who I slept with, or didn't sleep with? I hated that it mattered. I hate that it still matters.

When the time came to provide my sex number…

I don't even remember what I said. But, I do remember that it was almost the end of us. The number shocked him, and scared him, and he didn't understand. He asked if I regretted my past. Because the norm is to expect a female with that kind of number to be full of regrets and bad decisions.

Now, at that time I didn't go into a lot of explanation, because I was scared that I was going to lose this guy that I really liked, loved even, and I knew I couldn't do a lot to change his mind if he decided that he was not okay with my sexual past. But, no I did not, and do not have regrets. Yes, I made mistakes and learned a lot, but no regrets.

We did get past it, but it was not something that has come up a lot in our relationship until recently when we sat down and I explained it. I explained why I did it, what it meant for me, and how it in no way impacts our relationship now, or ever has.

I know you're all wondering what my number is

It must be huge if it caused this much angst! But… what is a huge number? 10, 20, 50, 100, 200? This is going to vary for each of you reading this based on your past and your experiences of your whole life, not just sex.

I lost my virginity at 14 to a guy who I was dating. It was bad and terrible as you might expect at that age, but we dated for a while and we did care for each other. I met my husband when I was 24, and in those 10 years between I was mostly single, with a few short term and a few long term relationships thrown in there (1-2 years). And, when I was single I enjoyed having sex.

I was a female who understood the power that I held when it came to sex. I could go out and choose who I wanted to go home with that night, and hardly ever was I rejected. Some of those guys I never spoke to again after a night together. Some went onto building into a relationship, and some became friends with benefits for a while.

Those things combined meant that I had sex with 80-100 people. I can't name them all, I can't even remember them all if I tried. I could pass someone on the street tomorrow, and not remember that we shared a night together.

Judgement and name-calling

Don't worry, I'm aware of what many of you might be thinking… You're a bit of a slut. That sounds like a lot of people. And you don't even remember them all! Was it even worth it?

So, why live that kind of lifestyle? Why tolerate the judgement and name calling? What benefit is there in the end? For me, the biggest benefit was feeling strong by not letting other people's thoughts control what I do. And there was the power. The power that I was given by being able to choose my partner, and the power that I got from being able to turn down people who I didn't want. It also provided acceptance and desire, and those are things that people want on a daily basis and go about achieving in many different ways.

But no matter, when a female lives like this she is judged, and judged much more harshly than any man is.

Sure, I get where those questions are coming from, and people are entitled to their opinions. But I was doing what I wanted to do, I was safe, and my business wasn't hurting anyone else.

But no matter, when a female lives like this she is judged, and judged much more harshly than any man is. And, this judgement cause females to be unsafe, and hide their desires and wants, and sneak around to do something that they enjoy. This judgment and secrecy that society causes means that females cannot feel free to do what they may want to do. And, for those who do have a lot of sexual partners they often feel ashamed, like they aren't "good enough," or that they "deserve whatever they get."

And, it is here that the problem lies…

We need females to feel empowered, we need society to stop being so judgmental about sex, we need men and women to accept people's choices when they are not hurting anyone.

I've had people ask me if I want my daughters to go out and sleep with lots of people? As if that would be for sure a bad thing. It doesn't have to be a bad thing, it can be a really great thing if they understand what they are doing, are being safe, and are not doing it in a vengeful or hurtful way. And, if that is what they choose to do they will have my support 100%.

Let's build our girls up instead of tear them down by slut shaming and name calling. Sex is sex, it is a physical act. It does not change a person's worth, it does not make a person better or worse than anyone else, it does not deserve to be judged.

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  1. Good for you!

    I had slept with more than 80 people by the time I was 25 years old (loads more now) and proud!
    I had an ex who couldnt deal with it (and I LOWERED the number, like LIED through my teeth cos he was insecure), that's his issue.

    I dont think it should matter to be fair. People paint their own beliefs and paradigm over everything but nothing is black and white.

    14 agree
    • I could not agree more with you! That was his issue and doesn't make you any less awesome, or faithful, or a good person! Keep on rocking it Arina!!!

      3 agree
  2. "We need men and women to accept people's choices when they are not hurting anyone."

    So much this! It amazes me that in 2016 we still live in a world where anything that is different from "normal" is automatically judged and elicits a knee jerk (and sometimes violent) reaction. Society as a whole needs to find a way to move towards realizing that the differences in people is what makes the world beautiful.

    10 agree
  3. A woman can have 100 one-night stands, or have only had sex in a monogamous relationship, but more INSTANCES of sexual encounters, and the women having one night stands is considered "loose" both morally and vaginally even if she has ACTUALLY had less sex than the other woman.

    17 agree
  4. I'm demisexual, and need to have a really strong emotional bond with someone before sex becomes appealing. The idea of sex-based, short term relationships involving ME is weird and confusing. But I'm really glad that you have a relationship to sex that makes YOU happy and works for you. I sometimes have to remind myself that judging other people's actions by my own preferences is both unfair and silly. Thanks for the insight into why your choices have made and continue to make you happy!

    15 agree
    • Thanks. 🙂 I get that sometimes it takes work to understand other's choices when they vary from yours

      2 agree
    • I am also demisexual. I have had three committed relationships, and I have had three sexual partners.I am 41 and getting married, so I do not expect that number to go up at all. I understand that they are my sexual choices and that I cannot in any way use my choices to critique someone else.

      I have a 23-year-old son and an (almost) 16-year-old daughter. I have taught both that the words "slut" and"whore" have no business in their vocabulary. If they choose to have sex with 0 people or 5,000 people, they should never let anyone make them feel bad about those choices.

      8 agree
  5. I don't think I'm as high as 80 or 100. To be honest, though… I don't exactly know. But I know that I don't remember and wouldn't recognise all of the guys I've slept with. Some were long-term relationships, some were friends with benefits, some were one-night stands. Occasionally, someone finds me on social media and reminds me of what we had together.

    I don't regret any of the sex, it was safe, and mostly good for me. Yes, I opened myself up to being hurt, because I did feel connected to these men, that's my main trigger for wanting to sleep with someone. I know I also hurt some people. And I do regret that part of it.

    You're right it is deeply unfair women are being judged like that when a man with a similar history would probably be deemed a 'stud'. Thank you for your honesty, this is a conversation we need to have.

    6 agree
  6. The man asking if you regretted your past really stuck out to me. If he'd been told my answer (1 or 3, depending how you count), would he have still asked that? But I do regret most of the people I "had" sex with. Mostly because two of them were people I was dating who took advantage of psychotic episodes to talk me into sex.

    Asking for the number seems to be a stand in for a conversation about feelings, ideals and reactions to sex. All of which can vary wildly between different people, even if they have the same number.

    8 agree
    • That man is my now husband of almost 9 years. His thoughts on this subject have definitely evolved over the years! But, I am willing to bet anything under 10 people for him wouldn't have prompted that question at the time.

      I agree that the number isn't really about the number, but often reflects what we think and feel about sex instead, and the number just reflects how we have acted on these feelings 🙂

      • Sorry, I didn't mean to imply anything negative about him. I think many people would think the same thing, including myself, if we don't take the time to explore these questions.

        1 agrees
        • No offense taken. I was happy that him and I have reconnect over this subject recently. It has allowed up to open up communication about many other topics too that don't get spoken about free a decade together! And yet still he questioned if I wanted this info public knowledge about me when I told him it would be on here. We need to keep talking about it!

          1 agrees
  7. Thank you so much for writing this. It's high time women with a high number stop being ashamed. And, what you do prior to getting into your relationship is really no business of your partner. Your past has made you who you are, and if they like the person you are…who cares?

    9 agree
    • I totally agree! I think we need to be better as women at liking who we are, despite typical stereotypes! talking about these things will help that 🙂

      1 agrees
  8. Sex means different things to different people. Sex even means different things to the same person at different times or with different partners! Sometimes sex is fun, sometimes it is an emotional expression, sometimes it is utilitarian, etc. I think my biggest issue with keeping track of a "number" places false equivalency on all sexual encounters.

    I've always been more concerned about the quality of sexual encounters of my friends- was it consensual, was it safe, did you have fun? Yes, yes, and yes? Awesome!

    21 agree
  9. I am similar to you, though I have no idea what my "number" is. I do know that I'm splitting from someone who doesn't even want to know about my past, and that's a problem for me. If a partner can't handle hearing about the things you used to do, the life you lived before them, the relationships that made you who you are, and everything in between, then they won't have the context to appreciate who you are now, and your decision to be with them. Context of past to present is important in connecting the dots and understanding a person, in my opinion. It's okay if my partner is scared or doesn't understand "sleeping around" but it's not okay if they reject my past altogether and don't want to know how I got here. It matters in that you are who you are because of what you learned from experiences. And I will not be shamed for having a strong appetite for connection (whether it's connecting physically with a virtual stranger, or connecting over sharing your history with your spouse).

    6 agree
  10. My only concern about this post is the idea that you can be completely safe while having multiple partners. I don't equate sex with sluttiness or believe there has to be an emotional connection to have a sexual encounter, however, I kept my number lower because I felt that in order to be safe I had to be picky about who I slept with. It had to be someone I could trust not to hurt me physically and someone who was a low risk for STD's. There is no way to be completely safe, you always put yourself at risk once you leave a public space with a stranger and in my experience many people are unaware that condoms do not protect against all STD's. So while you are out there having and eating your cake, just make sure you are aware of all the risks and are being as safe as you possibly can be.
    http://www.self.com/story/these-are-the-stds-that-condoms-dont-protect-against

    4 agree
    • This is one of the reasons I like the idea of partnering up monogamously, but I was religious about protection when I was single too. You're right that I doesn't keep everything at bay, and you can never be 100% safe though (even in a relationship – just look at the rate of cheating). It just ups your chances of safety to pair off. But I'd rather be a little riskier if it means being authentic to myself.

      7 agree
      • Unless each of those partners is getting tested before having sex and that's how you're selecting them, then statistically you're at a higher risk the more partners you have regardless of how "selective" you are. Not shaming here — part of being a responsible person is owning the level of risk you're engaging in.

        2 agree
        • I think you don't intend to be shaming, but the argument about STD risk comes with a history of men telling women both that they are responsible for managing risk and that they don't know how (so it's better not to take any risks at all). Having sex is like driving – it has the potential to be dangerous because of your interactions with other people, but there are mitigating actions you can take. Very few people out there on a sunday drive are under the impression that they've eliminated all risk just by putting on a seatbelt, in the same way people who have a lot of sex understand that a condom isn't a universal panacea for STDs. But people still caution women about STDs more than men, and they still run ads telling women not to get distracted by the kids in the back of the car rather than men. I appreciate, with the state of sex ed in the US, there are issues around people being ignorant of risk, but the responsibility is so disproportionately placed on women to manage it regardless.

          3 agree
          • Not sure if it's true about more responsibility being placed on women, but there are STIs that men pass along unknowingly because it doesn't have as much/any impact on them (e.g. certain strains of HPV). Never did I say don't take risks, I said be knowledgeable of the level of risk and it's up to that person to decide if the payoff is worth it.

          • I thought about this more and I think you might actually be right about the responsibility burden. When I initially responded, I was thinking about preventative measures, but the more I thought about it, there's more to it than that. So I think that pregnancy prevention absolutely falls more on women, but what made me change my mind about this is that every annual appointment to get birth control, they run an STI panel (regardless of the fact that I've been in a monogamous relationship for 7 years). I know that my partner does not have this testing annually, and definitely not as part of his standard appointment.

            4 agree
          • It's an insidious thing, and I think I only really noticed it when I was looking to change BC a few years ago and realised that the information provided was so much about me and my risk (and risk to my potential future children) than about the other half of my relationship.

            There's an article on the Guardian about birth control and depression that's really nailing it for me at the moment as well:

            Considering that women are fertile just six days per menstrual cycle and men are fertile every single day, that the burden of avoiding unwanted pregnancy falls to us, regardless of the burden that might have on our health and wellbeing, is nothing short of sexism.

            2 agree
    • You may have slept with one person all your life, but,don't forget that each time you do, you're effectively sleeping with everyone your partner has ever had sex with. Monogamy does not equate 'safe sex'. Nor does serial monogamy.

      7 agree
    • There's a lot of truth to this, though. I'm torn because on one hand, people should do whatever they want. But on the other… I'm now with a guy who had a LOT of partners before me (he's older than me, and hasn't had many relationships that lasted longer than a few months… I don't know the exact number, and I don't think he does either or that he could remember them all if he tried) and frankly, I've just had to accept the fact that if I didn't already have (subclinical) herpes, I probably do now, because statistically he's definitely been exposed (and condoms don't prevent that shit, though I know his sex wasn't always especially safe either – he's been tested for everything else, but herpes and hpv are trickier to test for usefully and can be passed around without visible lesions.) I also got my first abnormal pap/positive hpv test about 8 months after we stopped using condoms, and while it's possible I picked it up somewhere before him, it seems unlikely (I had been monogamous with my previous partner for nearly 10 years, and all my partners before him had been virgins, since I was pretty young. The hpv could've been dormant all that time, but the timing is admittedly suspicious.)

      I don't blame him for that- sleeping with him was a risk I decided to take, after all. I hadn't intended to go unprotected with him – a condom broke, so we got tested and moved on from there. But still, it was my risk to take. I can definitely see where sleeping with someone who has had relatively few partners does have a bit of a benefit, there, though. Most serious STDs can be tested for/treated/dealt with, but when you're dealing with some of the usually-less-serious-but-still-annoying-and-easily-spread junk, it's still kind of a numbers game. Bleh.

      5 agree
    • I 100% agree, even sage sex isn't guaranteed. For me the benefits were worth it though. I'm not perfect and never will be 🙂

      1 agrees
  11. You basically write that you could have anyone you wanted. I think the judgment of others comes from their jealousy and insecurity. As a society, I think there is way, way, waaaay too much obsession and hypocrisy around sex. I'm not talking about having it, but the desire to control the sexuality of others. So much of our entertainment and advertising is built around sexual themes, then we want to tell people either they can't have sex or with whom, how, and when they can have it. As long as it is consensual and there are no children involved, I really don't give a shit what other people are doing or have done. I've begun to think maybe people who are trying to control others do so because their own sex lives are not satisfactory. Maybe if folks spent more time on improving their own sex lives, they'd be too busy to judge others. OK, what I just said is judgmental too but I never claimed to be perfect.

    13 agree
    • And I don't write that from a conceited point but rather that most women, if they wanted could also have pretty much whomever they wanted for sex. Not to stereotype males, but in certain settings (bars for example, or online sites) the advantage is with the women looking for male partners.

      5 agree
      • As the rare woman who I am quite sure could not have sex with whoever I wanted (weird joint issues – the way I hold my silverware is apparently freaky enough that I've had people tell me it makes them sick, and my hands work quite normally compared to some of my joints), it's really fascinating seeing this perspective. I don't see myself as jealous and insecure, but it does annoy me when my friends are going on about their sex lives. I hadn't viewed it as all that much different from when they won't shut up about their new favorite TV show, but maybe I should. Thank you for this.

        3 agree
      • Oops! I didn't mean to imply that you were conceited, just that others would be envious. Although I think you are correct that women have the advantage, many women don't realize the power they have or are afraid to use it – so feelings of jealousy towards those who do.

        8 agree
  12. This! Very similar to my story, lost my virginity at 13, didn't marry until 30, some relationships in between and plenty of single time… did I make some poor choices in that time, sure but I also made some great memories, learned lessons and enjoyed myself, and I don't regret any of it. I am fortunate in that my husband and I agree that our past and number aren't relevant to our relationship, although I do admit he occasionally gets jealous of some former lovers, who are still friends, but otherwise we leave the past where it belongs and love our lives.

    4 agree
  13. Numbers can be deceiving, and it's all about how you frame it, right? How about some quick math:

    100 partners over 10 years = 10 partners per year (less than one partner per month.)

    Even if you had sex with each partner 3 times, you would have had sex approximately 30 times per year, which seems like a very LOW number to me, considering my husband and I do it on average 3 times per week (which works out to 156 times in a year).

    8 agree
  14. This goes against my religion and personal preferences (my number is 1 and it was touch and go–or touch and stop–whether or not it would be zero) but I've been around enough to realize that for some folks people are their books, and for a number of those sex is how they open the pages. That's how they learn important human lessons. It's not my way, but who am I to blame you if it is yours? If I stopped you, what lessons might not happen, to both your detriment and that of society? I know what's best for me; I don't know what's best for you.

    17 agree
    • LOVING this comment, both in terms of this subject and just in terms of your tolerance and celebration of others' values.

      9 agree
  15. When I was dating this one ex-boyfriend, he asked me my number and was utterly shocked to hear that (at the time) it was…
    7. Including him. That was many years ago, and my number is now stopped at 15 (and barring catastrophe/bereavement, will almost definitely stay there because I only want to have sex with my lovely wife for as long as we're both able to have sex).
    As we firmly believe in having a sex-positive household, I freely told my stepdaughter what my number was when we had the first round of sex education talks. (The second round of talks included her now-fiancé, but that's a story for another time). I also told her not to ever let a partner shame her over her number. While it will be a few years before it comes time to start having serious sex ed talks with my stepson, he will also hear of my number, and I will drill it into him that a partner's number and sexual history in general is not something to ever shame them about.
    And while my wife and I have never explicitly discussed our respective numbers with each other, we know the other has a fairly extensive sexual history (this is her third "and last" marriage, and this is my first "and only" marriage) and that's okay. We're not old fogies yet but we're also not spring chickens so it's not as though either of us are going to be even remotely "virginal"…

    1 agrees
    • This is awesome. My children are young still (4 and 6) but understand the basis mechanics of sex and that is how babies made. I look forward to many more talks and getting into more age appropriate details as they grow. I want them to be strong females with a healthy understanding of their bodies and a great self confidence to be who they want to be.

  16. If I could go back and do it again; my number would be much much higher. I love sex, always have. I should have at least made the offer more often, worst thing they can say is no.
    I'm now married and we're choosing monogamy so I don't see my number getting higher.
    I have fibro and EDS type 3; as much as I may want to have sex, sometimes my body won't let me because of sheer pain.

    2 agree
  17. One thing that always comes to mind for me in discussions like this is what we even define to be sex. I used to think that only PIV "counted" (I was young and sheltered!), and was convinced that I would wait for marriage to have sex with anyone. And then I started dating a lovely man when I was in my 20s (like I said, sheltered) and we did lots of stuff that wasn't PIV, but certainly felt like sex, and then I wasn't sure what to think anymore. Fast forward to now, over a decade later, and I'm married, poly, and identify as queer and kinky. My number is very different if I count only the people with whom I've had PIV than if I count all the people I've had sexual and/or kinky encounters with! But then, where do I draw the line? If I was mostly clothed and there was no contact with genitals, etc, but my partner did kinky things to me that turned me on, is that sex? This is why I mostly don't even bother to count.

    2 agree
    • I had this very conversation with a friend the other day. I think it is up to the individual as what they count as "sex". I did count PIV for the purposes of this, but that doesn't mean that you have to!

  18. Agree with that comment 'having many partners is not the same as not being selective' In fact, I ALWAYS practiced safe sex, and that was my requirement. That and an emotional connection. I believe we are all energy beings, so that's important to me. Interestingly, despite my 100+ partners, I have never had a one night stand with a stranger. Not that I disagree with that, just pointing it out as my friends suggested that is interesting.

    1 agrees
  19. My number is similar to yours author, and at 31 and single it's going to keep climbing the rest of my life, at various speeds. I have had partners that didn't like it, but they didn't leave me because of it. My sexuality from age 18 was a big confidenxe booster for me in the ways you described, in terms of power and independence.
    Ive dealt with the risks of multiple partners by being tested regularly and using protection. I've not been perfect though and I have had stis, luckily none that have had long term effect. Being sober has helped me make better decisions about protection too, in that I will stop and say no if there are no condoms or it breaks etc.
    Its interesting how my number can change the dynamic when people find out and it definitely has intimidated some casual sex male friends in the past. They feel they need to compete with me. Those with a similar number feel more respect for me as an assertivr woman. To me I don't care about someones number, so long as they are honest about their sexual health.
    Also, I have kept a list. When I was 14 and first kissed a guy, I remember thinking I would be a slut if I ever forgot who I had kissed. I'm not sure why I thought this. I then just kept a list of who I slept with, and changed my mind about sluts. I no longer think of the term as real. I never use it. But I kept the list out of habit, and now its fun to analyse my data. I wo der about using some sort of epidemiological software or making a version of "the list" from the L Word, though it would be more like a sex web than a list.
    Thanks for this post 🙂

  20. My number is somewhere around yours. Maybe a little higher. I could sit down and make a list that I'm pretty sure would have everyone on it. But I quit really counting years ago. I am a bit proud of my high number in a way. I've done some really fun things and always tried to be careful both with protection and feelings, though not 100% successful on either count ultimately, I have to admit. Better on both as I get older and wiser. My husband had a similar sort of past as mine, which we enjoyed in each other, so there was never any problems with our pasts in that way.
    I read something recently that talked about how people who are single and sexually active are judged by (some) people who are in monogamous relationships, but that some of those people are engaging in "rapid fire serial monogamy" which isn't much different. Nothing against monogamy, but it has been held up as the ideal standard for the last while to the exclusion of anything else, especially for women.
    It's taken me nearly 40 years to figure out how very little my opinion matters. Whatever the life is that you want to build, if it makes you happy, is consensual and not coerced, and doesn't (truly) harm anyone, it's no one else's business.

    2 agree

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