How Many Peo­ple Have You Fucked?

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In a nice way, that is! A UK re­search project found that both men and women are sus­pi­cious of sex­u­ally suc­cess­ful (some might say pro­mis­cu­ous) peo­ple. So, with Valen­tine’s Day around the cor­ner, we have to ask: how come they keep get­ting laid? By Anne Sex­ton For­get the bat­tle of the sexes. Men and women are a lot alike. For one thing, we’re all hyp­ocrites — es­pe­cially about sex.

A study pub­lished late last year in the Jour­nal of Sex Re­search found that both straight men and women thought that three – yup, three! – was the ideal num­ber of former sex­ual part­ners a po­ten­tial lover should have. For long-term ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ships, the re­spon­dents wanted an even smaller num­ber. For true love to bloom, ap­par­ently, you’d ide­ally have to have two pre­vi­ous paramours and no more.

So far, so sim­i­lar — but here’s where it gets in­ter­est­ing. By and large the men and women sur­veyed did not live up to their own ex­pec­ta­tions. On av­er­age the women had just less than six former sex­ual part­ners, while the men had over eight. If that’s not a case of “Do as I say, not as I do”, well, I don’t know what is.

It has long been thought that het­ero­sex­ual women were less con­cerned than het­ero­sex­ual men with a part­ner’s past. This study, which was con­ducted by Not­ting­ham, Bristol and Swansea uni­ver­si­ties, up­ends that be­lief. As well as hav­ing an av­er­age of just un­der six former part­ners, six was also the cut-off point for women. The fe­male re­spon­dents said they’d be less at­tracted to a man with any more former lady friends. The men were a lit­tle more gen­er­ous, al­low­ing women up to eleven ‘exes’ be­fore writ­ing her off.

“Con­trary to the idea that male promis­cu­ity is tol­er­ated but fe­male promis­cu­ity is not, both sexes ex­pressed equal re­luc­tance to get in­volved with some­one with an overly ex­ten­sive sex­ual his­tory,” ex­plained Dr Steve Ste­wart-Wil­liams, one of the re­searchers.

The team thought that this was be­cause a part­ner with a colour­ful sex­ual past was seen as “a poor bet as a faith­ful, com­mit­ted longterm mate.”

A few months back I was do­ing a spot on the ra­dio about the nig­gling is­sue of the num­ber count. It’s not some­thing I care about, although it is some­thing I used to be cu­ri­ous about when I was younger. When I re­vealed on-air that I had no idea how many former part­ners my lovely boyfriend has had, the dis­be­lief was pal­pa­ble over the air­waves. Don’t know, don’t care, but I sus­pect that he passed the ideal num­ber of three be­fore turn­ing twenty.

I’m not the only one who doesn’t care. I know, cause I asked around. Ais­ling, a bi­sex­ual woman in her late twen­ties felt that the past was im­por­tant, but not the num­ber.

“I’m in­ter­ested in my part­ners’ past, in the sense of get­ting to know them bet­ter. But it’s never oc­curred to me to ask for a spe­cific num­ber,” she said.

Stephen, a straight man in his early thir­ties agreed. “For me there is no num­ber that is too high.

I wouldn’t ask a part­ner for their magic num­ber. My­self and my girl­friend know each other’s num­bers, but we never asked the other. It just kind of nat­u­rally hap­pened over time.”

Karen, mid-thir­ties and straight, reck­oned former ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ships were a bet­ter in­di­ca­tion of long-term po­ten­tial than pre­vi­ous sex­ual part­ners.

“I’d never ask for a num­ber,” she ex­plained, “but I would be cu­ri­ous about what re­la­tion­ships my boyfriend had, and how long they lasted and why they broke up. A man who had never had a long re­la­tion­ship would be a red flag if I wanted com­mit­ment.”

Oth­ers had a more pro­saic view, like Niall, a thir­tysome­thing straight man. “I wouldn’t ask. I would in­evitably feel in­ad­e­quate!” he told me.

And yet, lots of peo­ple do care, it seems. Some of them, un­for­tu­nately, foul up Red­dit. If you have time and men­tal en­ergy to spare, have a goo at the n-count threads on The Red Pill sub­red­dit. It’s full of but­thurt — although sup­pos­edly al­pha – men, com­plain­ing about women hav­ing had the au­dac­ity to have had con­sen­sual sex prior to the glo­ri­ous won­der of meet­ing them.

Some­times, all of this is given a pseu­do­sci­en­tific ex­pla­na­tion with smithereens of evo­lu­tion­ary psy­chol­ogy — pro­mis­cu­ous men are sim­ply en­sur­ing the sur­vival of their ge­netic ma­te­rial. How­ever, women who sleep around have “low ge­netic value” — as if healthy, strong and at­trac­tive women never feel the de­sire to fuck.

If three re­ally is the magic num­ber, this is bad news for re­la­tions with our Brex­it­ing neigh­bours. Ir­ish peo­ple, it seems, are way more sex­u­ally ex­pe­ri­enced than that. A sur­vey con­ducted by The Ir­ish Times in 2015 found that only 22 per­cent of us have had be­tween two and four sex­ual part­ners. Forty per­cent of straight men have had at least 11 sex­ual part­ners, as have 32 per­cent of women. What’s more, 20 per­cent of us have had more than 20 part­ners.

This means that if you are a grown-ass adult in Ire­land, you’re likely to have an n-count of more than three. Good for you! But it may make you feel a lit­tle con­cerned if you are alone this Valen­tine’s Day. It shouldn’t.

Zhana Vran­galova, a sex re­searcher at New York Univer­sity, found that while many of us don’t like the idea of pro­mis­cu­ous peo­ple, we do like ac­tual pro­mis­cu­ous folks. This hy­po­thet­i­cal aver­sion gen­er­ally dis­ap­pears when we meet an ac­tual flesh and blood one.

Vran­galova found that in real life, pro­mis­cu­ous peo­ple tend to have more friends and more close re­la­tion­ships. This is be­cause they are more likely to be gre­gar­i­ous — peo­ple want to be around them, and peo­ple want to fuck them.

There’s more good news. Last year a study pub­lished in the Bri­tish Jour­nal of Psy­chol­ogy found that kind and al­tru­is­tic be­hav­iour sig­nif­i­cantly pre­dicted the num­ber of sex­ual part­ners a per­son has over their life­time. The more gen­er­ous and giv­ing you are to oth­ers, the more likely it is they’ll want to be gen­er­ous and giv­ing to you, both in­side and out­side of the bed­room. It’s hardly sur­pris­ing…

So if you are in the 3+ club, or even — gasp— in dou­ble dig­its, take heart! The hyp­o­crit­i­cal men and women sur­veyed by the uni­ver­si­ties of Not­ting­ham, Bristol and Swansea may not want you, but trust me, plenty of oth­ers will.

Have a happy Valen­tine’s Day!

"On av­er­age the women had just less than six former sex­ual part­ners, while the men

had over eight."

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