What’s your number?

What people really are asking about your sex life

Whether you meet in class, at a bar, in church or on Tinder, one of the first steps of fostering any potential romantic relationship is asking the guy or girl you’re interested in for his or her phone number.

Then comes the other number.

“How many people have you slept with?”

Some people might ask the question as casually as they might inquire about your favorite food or music artist. Others realize that it’s a personal question, but instead of simply not asking, they tiptoe around the topic.

Why do others perceive your numberas something that’s so important? I can only assume when a guy asks me my number it’s because he wants to conclude something with that information.

So what underlying questions might he be asking?

Are you good at having sex?

There is an obvious notion that those with more experience in bed are inherently better at doing it – why else would cougars such be a hot commodity?

Consider someone who has drunkenly slept with 20 different people, one time each, and compare them to a different individual who has had two sexual partners, each for over a year. The second person has presumably, had more sex while the first person has interacted with a more diverse pool of partners. So who’s better? Truthfully, if there’s no sexual chemistry between you and your partner, no amount of experience will make you think they’re good at having sex.

Are you a slut?

A friend of mine once tweeted that “any girl with over 10 sexual partners needs to get her life together.” Apparently, how promiscuous you are somehow affects every other facet of your being. Regardless of what gender we’re shaming, slut-shaming is an absolutely disgusting practice that needs to be put to an end. This isn’t just a feminist issue, either. Consider the term “man whore,” the widely known masculine equivalent to a slut. The first step to ending slut-shaming is to stop caring about other people’s numbers.

Is it likely that you have Sexually-Transmitted Infections?

It’s good to be concerned about your health, but it’s pretty ridiculous to assume that someone with a high number has an STI while someone with a low number surely doesn’t. Regardless of your number, always use a condom, get tested and encourage your partner to get tested. A conversation about sexual health requires a conversation, but knowing a person’s number doesn’t guarantee any thing.

Are we compatible?

People seem to think sexual compatibility means having the exact same amount of experience, or, in other words, similar numbers. I know guys who absolutely need to be with a girl whose number is lower than their own, and girls who require the exact opposite. People also seem to think people with higher numbers are incapable of commitment, when the truth may be that they simply haven’t found an individual with whom they want to be committed. On the other hand, it might be assumed that people with lower numbers take sex very seriously and, if you have sex with them, they’ll be instantly attached to you.

Even with all of this in mind, some people will still be unable to extinguish their curiosity when it comes to their partner’s number. Maybe they genuinely don’t care about experience, compatibility or STIs. Maybe they’re really not judging you when they hear your number. But they still need to know. If you’re one of these people, then keep a few things in mind.

Defining sex is a difficult thing.

Should I count the guy I tried to lose my virginity to, even though he didn’t get it all the way in and no one had an orgasm? What about threesomes – do you count both people or is it only one time? Do you count oral? Anal?

People don’t always tell the truth.

As Michelle Flaherty (Alyson Hannigan, How I Met Your Mother) said in American Pie, “If a guy tells you how many girls he’s hooked up with, it’s not even close to that. You take that number and divide it by three, then you get the real total.” It’s such an invasive and potentially offensive question that I can even imagine someone lying out of spite. There’s probably a good chance that when you ask for your new love interest’s number they’re saying whatever they think you want to hear.

There is no right answer

If you really think about it, what do you want to hear when you ask your partner what his or her number is? Are you scared it’s too low and that he or she is a prude? Or they’ll judge you for having a much higher number? We’ve already established that these things are silly, and if you’re inclined to jealousy, you’re (unfortunately) going to be unreasonably jealous whether he/she has had one partner or 100. So why even ask?

Jackie Graber is a contributing wrtier and can be reached at jacqulyn@buffalo.edu