just a number

Reader S. P. asks:

Should you tell your significant other how many people you’ve slept with?

Dear S.P.:

What do you mean, “how many people you’ve slept with”? It should only be one, right? Him/her?

Just kidding.

If you’re an Amurkan like me, we live in a time and place where sleeping with more than one person is no longer grounds for public humiliation or stoning, and you should be very, very grateful for this.

Pick a number, any number

You probably won't need one of these in this instance. Image: Paul / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

However, this does not mean that everyone is completely accepting of our sexual liberty, nor do they all want to hear about it. So whether or not you tell your S.O. the number depends entirely on your relationship with your S.O.

Of course, I hear my mother’s voice in the back of my head warning me to be cautious about my reputation. Facts are facts, and sometimes (not all the time, of course), girls can be treated differently if “certain things” are known (or assumed) about them. We’re not a completely sexually liberal society yet, and yes, there is a double standard still in place that makes girls “sluts” and guys “studs”.

My first advice is to err on the side of caution in revealing your number. I’m going to call it a personal  sleep number. Like those beds you can customize. Only it’s your sex life. Keep your sleep number to yourself in most cases, unless you are directly asked for it. And then my question for you is: do you want your S.O. to know how many partners you’ve had?

For the most part, the issue about not wanting to know can stem from jealousy, or an over active imagination on the part of the hearer. I have many friends who simply do not want to imagine their significant other in a past relationship, or they don’t want to think that they could be compared to a previous lover. This is completely understandable. So if your S.O. doesn’t ask you directly for the information, you don’t need to provide it of your own volition. And, in fact, I wouldn’t recommend offering it up unsolicited.

Let’s take a minute to discuss the golden rule, too. This is one of those “do to others as you would have them do to you” moments. If you would get jealous or have issues with it if he told you his personal sleep number, then I wouldn’t bring it up.

If your S.O. has already told you their personal sleep number, and it bothers you for some reason or another, you clearly need to have a chat about it, and possibly counseling. I don’t think knowing about your partner’s past is ever a bad idea, but jealousy can wreck a relationship. If it really, really bothers either of you, there are probably underlying issues (insecurity, past relationships) that you need to deal with before you take them out on your unsuspecting S.O.

I suppose the next question is, should you ever lie about your sleep number?

And my answer is, why would you? It’s part of your personality, who you are, even if you think it was a mistake or you were just experimenting or any of those excuses you could use to explain why it’s so high (or so low, I suppose). I know that, as girls, we are often taught to be ashamed of having slept with someone(s), so you might feel the urge to say your number is lower than it is (and I believe many studies agree with my own findings). I say don’t do that. If you’re going to share at all, be honest. If your partner honestly can’t handle how high or low your number is, things weren’t going to work out between you two anyway.

Personally, I find knowing my partner’s sleep number interesting, and important to how my relationship with him is going to work out. If we have a similar number, we’re more likely to view sex in the same light. If he’s significantly less experienced than me, I tend to think he takes sex a lot more seriously than I do, and vice versa. I usually ask this question casually pretty early in a relationship. Only once has a guy declined to answer, which bothered me because I took it to mean he felt he had to hide things from me. (It didn’t work out between us, FYI. Mostly because he did hide things from me. A LOT OF THINGS.)

I’ve also found that while I’m fascinated by this stuff , most of the time the guy won’t return the question volley once I’ve served it. In my experience, a lot of guys just don’t want to know how many people their girl has slept with. That’s fine by me. It’s my personal sleep number, after all. It’s a very intimate thing for someone to know about me, and I don’t advertise it. In fact, most of my closest friends don’t even know my sleep number, and they probably never will.

So my overall advice is: be gentle with your S.O.’s feelings before you go telling them every detail of your sordid (or vanilla) past.


6 Responses to “just a number”

  1. 1 Aristoi
    October 4, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    My friends and I decided the best way was to be honest, so we all made up complicated word problems for the answers.

    How many girls have you been with?

    “Well, a train leaves Seattle traveling west at 78 mph and turns 38 degrees north after one hour then continues for 3 more hours and stops. A 2nd train leaves Albuquerque heading north east at 69 mph, after 20 minutes that train reverses and travels at half the speed back to toward Albuquerque then stops. If you lay a 5’4″ girls down head to heel connecting the first train to the second then divide that number by the number of condoms in a jumbo pack of trojans you’ll get the number of girls I’ve shtupped.”

  2. 2 Nick
    October 4, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    This is one of those questions I have to ask but hate to hear. There is never a right answer, ever…..ever. If I don’t ask I’ll always wonder, and if it’s an order of magnitude greater than mine I’ll always wonder if I measure up (take that as you will, heh). For this reason I tend to ask it early, have the talk, and go from there.

  3. 4 MBS
    October 4, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    Kat, now I want to know your number! 🙂 I’ll show you mine if you show me yours

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