How Important Is Your Sexual "Number," Really?

Photographed by Natalia Mantini.
Chances are, the topic of your "number" will inevitably arise at some point in your relationship. While it's natural to be curious about your partner's sexual experience, some people put far too much thought into figuring out or defining the point at which someone's sexual number becomes "too" high. How many (or how few) people you've slept with should have no bearing on your worth as a person or a partner, yet this inevitable number talk continues to cause a lot of needless anxiety.

And now, a new survey shows just how relative the ideal "number" really is. The survey, which was done by U.K.-based medical service Superdrug Online Doctor, polled 2,180 people in the U.S. and Europe to explore attitudes about sexual history. In an attempt to define the "ideal" number of previous partners, respondents were asked how many partners they would want their partners to have had.

In the end, the survey found that on average, women wanted their partners to have had an average of 7.5 sexual partners in their lifetime, while men wanted their partners to have an average of 7.6 partners. What's interesting about this, though, is that those numbers were also very close to the number of sexual partners the participants themselves had, with women averaging 7 partners and men averaging 8.5.

What this suggests is that what really matters to men and women is that their partners' experiences align with their own.
Photo: Courtesy of Online Superdrug
This (the idea that we just want our partners to be similar to us) is a far more palatable interpretation, but it doesn't mean we don't have progress to make. The rest of the survey suggests that we're still putting far too much stock into our "numbers" and what they say about us.
For example, women in general were more flexible in their opinions of their partners' numbers than men were. While women said that they would consider their partner to be "too promiscuous" if they had 15 or more sexual partners, men would think their partner "too promiscuous" with only 14.

On the flip side, women said they would think a partner was "too conservative" if that person's number averaged 1.9, and men capped off their "too conservative" number at an average of 2.3.

Participants, for the most part, said they wouldn't end a relationship if they thought their partner was too conservative; more than half of those surveyed said they were "very unlikely" to end a relationship over a lower sexual number.
Photo: Courtesy of Superdrug Online Doctor
But when asked about partners with a higher number, the answers were a little more varied: 33% said they felt "neutral" about their partner having "too many" sexual partners, 9% said they were "very likely" to end the relationship, 21% said they were "somewhat likely," 20% were "somewhat unlikely," and 17% were "very unlikely."
Photo: Courtesy of Superdrug Online Doctor
The survey also found that people are mostly honest about their own numbers, but when it comes to having that conversation with a partner, men tend to inflate their numbers while women are more likely to downplay their sexual histories.

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