“How many sexual partners have you had?”

# heartThis is a deadly question to ask someone you’re dating. Whatever he says will be wrong. If he’s had fewer than you think is appropriate, you’ll think he’s inexperienced. If he’s had more — perhaps way more — than you think is acceptable, you’ll think he’s a slut.

And what if he asks you? Same problem. There is no way to answer this early in the relationship without some judgment being made, until you’ve been together for a while and can share this information without fear of judgment.

At a party yesterday, a midlife, never-married woman shared she’d had 60 lovers. Some of the rest of us couldn’t remember the count, as some were long ago in college. She had made a list.

Does it matter how many notches are on your bedpost? People assume that the more lovers you’ve had, the more experienced you are at various ways to please your partner. What if you had only one or two but learned a lot?

My suggestion: Don’t ask, don’t tell. If your date asks you, skirt around it with something like, “Enough to know how to make my partner happy.” That could apply even if there was only one.

What do you think of this question? How have you responded when asked? And if you’ve been the one asking, what did you think when you heard his number?

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9 Comments on ““How many sexual partners have you had?””

  1. Christine Says:

    This is absolutely number 1 on my list of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”!!! I believe in honesty, yet I’m not sure I’m obligated to tell on myself after a lifetime of adventure!

  2. Catherine Says:

    Ugh! I dread this question! It clearly falls into the “too much information” realm. Unfortunately in these days of STD’s it does have some relevance, can you answer “more than a handful, less than a sports team”? Or would that just add fuel to the fire? I haven’t been faced with this question in a while, but I think I would smile and say “A Lady Never Tells, but you have nothing to worry about in the disease or pleasure department.”

  3. Barry Says:

    Questions like this are such the spice of a conversation and getting to know someone! Since it is a question about such an important and intimate part of our lives, it should be handled with the same tact, no more and no less, than any other similar question and certainly as honestly and openly. As significent as the content is the timing of the question and who and how got you to the issue. How long are you going to talk about work, politics, art and stuff that is basically academic, though nice. Since sex is so important to you, I think that you had better talk about it honestly and openly. And the issue is almost never about sex, anyway: it is about how you treat yourself and treat others, it is about personal space and trust or lack of it, it is about patience and interest in pleasing your partner or being able to be pleased. You stand to have the chance of having a genuine experience by being open about sex and you may be in for some exquisite or at least interesting surprises with someone. Otherwise, it is just a same old unconscious repitition mistaken for sex.

  4. Sam Says:

    My answer to this question is so horrible I hate to be asked. Even though I am only in my mid 30’s I don’t remember. every time I try to recount i forget about 5 or 6.

    what can I say. some lovers just aren’t worth remembering. I don’t ask. Really what does it matter? As long as they aren’t a virgin or successful rockstar/actor I don’t care.

  5. Christine Says:

    I, too, see talking about sex as an important part of a relationship. I’ll talk about sex, no problem. But talking sex and devulging the number of partners I’ve had is two different things. Nobody’s business who, what, where, when, why with any other guy!

  6. hunter Says:

    …mostly, men that ask, “how many partners before me?” are somewhat inexperienced…..they may be looking for answers…

  7. bookyone Says:

    Hi DG,

    For me this falls under the category of “don’t ask, don’t tell” also, as IMHO it can only lead to problems down the road, (been there, done that, gotten the T shirt). 🙂 Nowadays, I answer this question with a smile and a quick change of subject. Unless the guy is really dense, he usually takes the hint. And if he continues to dog the subject? Then I know for sure that’s he’s either dense and/or insecure, and guys with either of these less than desirable traits are not my cup of tea.

    Best wishes from bookyone 🙂

  8. August Says:

    I have been fighting with myself on this one. Curiosity has me so desperate to know.. but at the same time I wouldn’t want to give away my number because I’m not proud of it at all.

    Disease is a big concern, especially when you’re gay. You may trust your lover but everyone makes mistakes. I figure we’ll just go get tested together to ease that worry. Our sexual escapades have taken an exciting turn lately and we both regretted it and worried after the fun was over… That’s not a good feeling.

    So as far as numbers go, if I find that I still need the information later on I will ask if I know that our relationship is strong enough that we’re not going to hate the other for fucking up (and around) in the past.

  9. Brittnany Says:

    I do hate this question but I feel like I need to ask it. I’ve often thought about not needing to bring it up. I’ve also thought that you learn a lot from a person and their previous situations. I just asked the guy I’ve been dating. I like him but I want to know how he is with relationships and women. Pretty much Im trying to figure out if he just breezes through the heard. Obviously if the number is high, I think he rushes into things or isn’t good in long-term relationships. If someone tried to avoid this question with me, I would automatically assume the worst. Your screwed if you do answer and your screwed if you don’t.

    Now things like what you liked to do with you exes or who was your favorite are all no-no’s. specific details are never good on a relationship.

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