What's your number? Whether you think it's an incredibly telling indicator of a person's character and values or you consider it about as significant as their favorite color, chances are you've been asked your "number"—that is, the number of people with whom you've been sexually intimate—more than a few times.
In fact, discussing your sexual history is an almost inevitable part of a new relationship. But is your number really "normal"? And how does divulging it affect other people's opinions of you? Well, Superdrug had some of the same questions, which is why they surveyed more than 2,000 people in Europe and the United States to get more insight into the human experience of sexuality and our attitudes toward it. Here's what they learned.
Asking someone their number doesn't necessarily mean they're going to tell you the truth.
But according to this survey, 67.4 percent of women and 58.6 percent of men always tell the truth about their past sexual experiences. Interestingly (though not surprisingly), 17.5 percent of men who lied inflated their number, while 18.6 percent of women who lied decreased their number.
This would suggest that, on some level, men and women still associate a higher number of sexual partners with promiscuity in women and sexual prowess in men. And while it's true that women are more permissive when it comes to a partner's number, the difference is small enough to be almost negligible. Men believe that 14 sexual partners is the threshold of sexual promiscuity, while women put the limit at 15.2.
But what about the other end of the spectrum? Is there a point at which a partner becomes too sexually conservative to be desirable? Turns out, there is. For men, 2.3 partners suggests an undesirable level of sexual conservatism; for women, that number is 1.9.
So, we know how many partners is considered too many, and how many is considered too few. But what's the magical Goldilocks number—the ideal number of partners? Turns out men and women are in almost perfect agreement on the ideal number of lifetime sexual partners: Women cited 7.5 as the ideal number, while men bumped that up to an even 7.6.
Curious how this stacks up to the average number of sexual partners people have in their lifetimes? Well, it's not far off the mark. Women average 7 sexual partners in their lifetimes, while men average 8.8 partners.
Another crucial element of the sexual history conversation is timing.
It can be awkward to have that discussion with a new love interest, especially if you're afraid that a misalignment in your pasts could end the relationship before it even gets off the ground. That fear was reflected in respondents' ideal time frames for having this discussion, with 36.3 percent of women and 35.3 percent of men saying that one to four months was the appropriate length of time to wait before disclosing this information.
Surprisingly, 10.9 percent of women and 11.3 percent of men didn't think it was ever important to disclose that information to a partner. (Let's just be clear about one thing: Those people are 100 percent wrong and playing with fire.)
The majority of people believe it's important to share relevant details of our sexual history with a partner, yes. But when you consider the fact that most new couples will have intercourse within the first month of dating, waiting between one and four months to have that conversation becomes a dangerous risk.
But, really, how likely are you to get an STI from a new partner?
Of respondents to this survey who'd had between five and nine sexual partners (the average number of partners for both genders falls well within this range), 8 percent reported having been diagnosed with an STI. And, as the NHS says, "You only have to have sex without a condom once to catch an STI that could affect you for life."
Is there a chance your new crush might end your relationship because they can't accept your sexual history? Sure. But it's a lot less likely than you think. Only 9 percent of people consider themselves "very likely" to end a relationship because their love interest had had too many sexual partners; only 2 percent considered themselves very likely to end a relationship because someone had had too few partners.
Bottom line: If someone can't accept your past, they aren't the right person to share your future. Stay in control of your health by getting tested and always discussing relevant details of your sexual history before you take your clothes off. The right person for you is someone who will love you for who you are—not judge you for who you were. Be safe, be smart, and don't let anyone else's opinion convince you that you are unworthy of love.
Want more insight into your relationships? Find out the two types of passion (and which one is good for your sex life), then learn the real meaning of conscious lovemaking (and how to do it).