A new movie is coming out at the end of this month called What’s Your Number, in which Anna Faris wonders how many sexual partners is too many. The plot of the movie kicks off when her friend tells her, “98% of women who have been with 20 or more lovers can’t find a husband.” Whether or not that’s actually true, I couldn’t determine with Internet research.
But does your sexual number matter? Are you judged by it? Yes, it increases your risk for both STDs and pregnancy, but does it affect relationships?It turns out men and women are more similar than most people think. A few years ago the New York Times published an article called, The Myth, the Math, the Sex in which mathematicians explained “It is logically impossible for heterosexual men to have [substantially] more partners on average than heterosexual women.” Sex survey researchers agree that the mathematicians are correct, that men and women in a population “must have roughly equal sexual numbers of partners.” So why on surveys do men almost always come out higher and women lower?
A slight difference can be explained by men going outside the population to find partners, such as using prostitutes or having sex while traveling in another country. But, more likely, the discrepancy comes from men exaggerating their number while women underestimate. So men may have more partners than women on average, but not by as much as people think.
As for your actual number and how it compares to other people, it partly depends on where you live. According to one global survey, British men and women are the most promiscuous of any big western industrial nation. Researchers believe “high scores such as Britain’s may be linked to the way society is increasingly willing to accept sexual promiscuity among women as well as men.”
The survey gave each country a score based on anonymous questionnaires that asked about number of partners, one-night stands, and attitudes towards sex (assessed by asking about how many people they expected to sleep with over the next five years and how comfortable they were with the idea of casual sex.
When including all countries, not just the West, Finland had the highest score (51.1) and Taiwan had the lowest (19). Britain ranked 11th overall with a score of 40. One theory is that in countries with more women than men, like Baltic and eastern European states, the women are under pressure to conform to what men like leading to a higher score, and in countries where men outnumber women the reverse holds true.
What do you think? Does it matter how many partners a person has had in the past? Would a person’s number make you more or less likely to date them (assuming they don’t have any STDs or other mitigating factors)? Do you even discuss your own sexual number with new partners anymore?
If you’re comfortable sharing, I’d love to hear your thoughts!