It's not exactly a shock these days that women want and have sex about as much as men. And yet the oh-so-progressive world we live in is far from accepting it, still stigmatizing female pleasure and "slut-shaming" women who embrace their sexuality in "unacceptable" ways.
No wonder plenty of women still struggle with the significance of their "number," aka the tally of men they've slept with.
Certainly, plenty of women are at peace with the number of men (or women, for that matter) they've been with sexually. But there are many who experience self-consciousness, if not all-out shame. A 2014 U.K. survey of over 12,000 college students found that women, out of fear of being seen as promiscuous, are lowering the amount of men they say they've been with. And while 20% of women are dropping their number, 12% of men choose to exaggerate theirs. Another study found young women using narrower definitions for what counts as "sex" than their male peers are, thereby reducing their own partner tallies.
"In my teens and early 20s, I had a lot of sexual partners. I'm a bit older now and I've met a wonderful man but I am so ashamed of my past," a reader wrote in to psychologist Petra Boynton in the Telegraph. "I'm afraid if he finds out how many people I slept with, he'll leave me. And I am terrified of him learning the truth about how bad I used to be."
That small but powerful word, "bad," encapsulates the trouble with how society views sexually empowered women. While men may get high-fives for "scoring," women still face long-discredited stereotypes about being "easy," lacking self-esteem or behaving like men. What's worse, they often face these judgments from other women.
With such negative perceptions all around, it's no wonder some women feel self-conscious of their sexual partner counts. But everyone, even men, can agree it's time to put the stigmas to bed. Mic spoke with a several straight guys to get their takes on the matter of "numbers," and they offered up the kinds of refreshing perspectives this conversation needs.
Yes, there's a different standard for men and women when it comes to sex. But it's totally baseless.
Kevin, 29, dated his now-wife for three years before getting married about a year ago.
"It all started from [damaging norms like] 'men should practice on prostitutes' and 'women shouldn't ride horses too vigorously,' and we are gradually working our way across the spectrum until some day the standard itself will disappear, and sex will be freed of most of its weird, moralistic taboos. We probably won't shake off all the moralizing though, because: rape."
A higher number can be a good thing.
Andrew, 30, is currently in a long-distance relationship.
"Who gives a shit? What I feel is the past is the past and who cares how many people one person has hooked up with? I think it's better if a woman has made love to many different guys, at least you she will know what to do to make a man's toes curl."
Yes, some men think about their numbers, too.
Sam, 24, is currently engaged.
"I've been with one woman and I'm engaged to her. When I was dating, the conversation never came up, because I didn't want it to. I wasn't embarrassed as much as I just didn't want to explain why I was still a virgin then. If it were for religious reasons, people are far more understanding than what the truth was: It just never happened."
It's not about a number at all — it's about self-confidence.
Henry, 27, is currently single but has been in a few serious, long-term relationships.
"I think more is better, as long as she had lots of sex because she enjoyed having lots of sex, of course. I understand why women are nervous about how they are perceived when that number is high; but if I get the sense that they think their number is high based on someone else's perception, then that's weird to me. But if a woman ... is proud of it and enjoyed racking up those number, then hell yes. Experience is always good."
People's numbers really shouldn't be anyone's business.
Christoffer, 33, is currently in a relationship and has been married before.
"I don't think I've ever asked a girlfriend how many dudes she has slept with. It seems personal [and] irrelevant, and I've never really been that curious. I guess I assume that they're ordinary folks with average numbers. Anyway, I kinda feel like a lot of women must have higher numbers than dudes, because it must be so easy to get laid, if you are a woman and in the mood. You know, men are easy."
And if there are still men out there who judge women's numbers, fuck that.
Alexander, 34, is currently single and has never had a serious long-term relationship.
"Personally, I don't know any man who would judge a woman for her number, but I'm also liberal and so are my friends. That being said, I know they're out there and it pisses me off. Who gives a fuck?"