How Many Pre-Marital Lovers Is Too Many?

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I find the topic of Sex so confusing, intriguing, beguiling, embarrassing and hilarious that I’ve written entire plays about it.

My friend Maggie (who gave me permission to write this) is a volunteer at her children’s elementary school in Seattle, Washington. She’s on the crunchy-granola side, makes all her kids’ clothes, bakes the most delicious, homemade rustic loaf and corn bread. Her beauty is natural and understated, there’s rarely a trace of make-up on her face and she’s been a dedicated wife for seventeen years.

Maggie does not exude Sex Goddess, yet recently she told me she’s had “somewhere between 30 and 40″ lovers in her life. And her husband, Mark, has had three, including Maggie.

Which made me think, She’s had too many lovers and he hasn’t had enough.

Maggie told me Mark doesn’t judge her, but he also doesn’t want to know the exact number of lovers she’s had. He said he can understand her sexual history based on where she came from; a small, West Texas, blue-collar town where booze and boredom were rampant. A home where her parents divorced when she was fourteen and she was left pretty much to her own devices.

It’s clear that, like me, Mark thinks 30-plus lovers is too many for a woman to accrue by the age of 35. That there should be some kind of excuse for it.

Maggie must have sensed my judgment, even before I knew I was judging her. She explained that she wasn’t “just slutty,” she was looking for “the one” and just made bad choices in men. She told me she saw each lover as a potential boyfriend and there were no one night stands.

That’s when I became consciously aware I was judging her; my kind, sweet friend who is an enviably fantastic wife and mom. I decided to stop, step off my pedestal and look at my own sexual history.

In my 20s I went through a promiscuous phase, but I don’t automatically search for what was wrong with me, like I did with Maggie. Because my number is smaller than hers, (Mom, Dad, Henry, look away), between 10 and 20.

When I stopped to check my unconscious, judgey, little brain, I discovered that I think my number is more romantic than Maggie’s. More tasteful. I see myself as a sexual adventurer. A libertine. A sewer of wild oats. A notch-on-the-belt kinda gal. And someone who’s had enough experience to be married now without wondering What if?  

Then, last night, while on the phone with my college roommate Jill, I was talking to her about Maggie and me and told her exactly how many lovers I’d had. Silence. Then, “Wow, Shan.”

Wow, Shan? Really?  

“Well, how many have you had?”I asked, suddenly feeling like a slutinka.

“Three,” she said in a voice that suggested that was a much more reasonable number and that I was, indeed, a strumpet.

So I wonder where I fall on the Sex Judgement Belief Spectrum:

I think more than 30 lovers for a single woman past 35 is kind of shocking.

I think less than five lovers for a single man past 35 might signal repression.

I’m harder on women than men when they’ve had more lovers, and harder on men than women when they’ve had less lovers despite my feminism. Apparently my subconscious isn’t immune to cultural prejudices.

I (hypocritically?) don’t want my daughters to have as many lovers as I’ve had for many reasons, unwanted pregnancy, disease and broken hearts are at the top of the list. Still, I’m glad for the experiences I had. Even the really lame ones (and there were some) are stories I can’t help laughing over now. Or maybe I laugh now because I’m in the safe harbor of a man who really loves me?

So I’m taking a poll to see where my judgements fit in. What do you think?

1.  Is there such a thing as Casual Sex without casualties?

2.  What number of pre-marital lovers is too many for a woman? What number is too few? Is it possible to have too few?

3.  What number is too many lovers for a man? What number is too few? Is it possible to have too few?

4.  Do you still judge women who had broad sexual histories more than you judge men?

5.  Does a man feel like less of a man if his wife has had more lovers than him? (Henry doesn’t want to know my exact number, either.)

You may skip to comments now, or read an excerpt of a monologue from my One-Act Play, But That Wasn’t Sex, written while I was trying to understand my promiscuous phase.  The character is describing an unusual sexual encounter.

MAUREEN: One time, after, when I’m craving that shower, just hot water on my body, him gone please. Well this guy is laying next to me all spent and everything and I’m thinking, Would he take off for Chrissakes? When I feel his fingers real gentle on my eyelids, real soft, just barely touching. And then he kisses each eye, just once and tears slide out onto my cheeks. I couldn’t stop ‘em, I didn’t know they were comin’ from me. And he says, Just be sweet little girl, just gentle down, like I’m a horse or a creature of nature or somethin’. That was the only time my heart hurt a little, this burning achey pain way down deep, let me know somethin’ was sliding right by me. Somethin’ I couldn’t reach … couldn’t get to.  I wanted to … but I just couldn’t get to it … But that wasn’t sex.
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95 comments

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  1. Anne
    Anne 26 October, 2012, 09:54

    You would think I’m repressed, but I’m content with my number. All my oats are tame.

    Reply this comment
  2. Shannon
    Shannon Author 26 October, 2012, 11:11

    Tame oats are so tasty!

    Reply this comment
  3. Trina
    Trina 26 October, 2012, 11:14

    My number is smaller than your friend but more than 3. lol My husband likes to tease me about it cause his number is around 3. I had two longer relationships in college and when those broke up I took the opportunity to find out what dating is like. Broke my heart a few times, but I feel like it was good for me to date different types of men.

    In the end, I wish we could stop judging women for their # of partners. Sometimes women just want sex and that should be okay. We don’t judge men who play the field, but when it’s a woman we do. As long as everyone is practicing safe sex and has consenting partners it’s all good. ^_^

    Reply this comment
  4. Carol D
    Carol D 26 October, 2012, 11:14

    Well, I’m 53 and my number is between 20 and 30. I wouldn’t dream of telling my husband that number, he would be shocked. I think it just depends on the person. I didn’t have any one night stands and like your friend, I went into each encounter thinking they would be “the one.” My, was I ever wrong. Finally, when I was in my late forties, I met my husband who is “the one.” Yippee!!!

    Reply this comment
  5. Jennifer
    Jennifer 26 October, 2012, 11:22

    I don’t think the number is as important as the quality of the romps. :)

    Reply this comment
  6. Florinda
    Florinda 26 October, 2012, 11:53

    If my first marriage hadn’t ended ten years ago, my number would be 1. And although I seem to have a pattern of marrying the men I sleep with, I think I’ll be OK if the count stops at 2.

    Reply this comment
  7. Meredith in SA
    Meredith in SA 26 October, 2012, 12:26

    1.Yes! Casual sex requires completely honest communication (or anonymity, which is the same in a way). And since our attitudes are fluid, a pair who have a casually sexual relationship need to re-evaluate their own feelings from time to time. Separately, of course.

    2. I think each woman is different, so the right number of sexual partners can only be judged by that woman. I don’t regret any of my (scandalous number of) partners, and am very glad some of them never turned into boyfriends. It was fun, and nobody got hurt (badly). On the other hand, I confess to thinking that my friends who’ve only ever slept with their husbands have missed out. Then again, I’ll never know what it’s like to be them – one lover might be perfect if it’s the right lover.

    3. See above. Since sex is territory that each couple navigates together, there is value in mapping every part of it. Inexperience only lasts so long. If I found that my partner was repressed, but willing to explore new attitudes, then we’d have fun opening up to each other.

    4. No. The concept of sluttiness is so damaging – to both the label-er and the labelled – in that it creates a system where women are the guardians of virtue and men are the louche corruptors. I find it distasteful, except in role-play.

    5. A man might feel that way, but he’d never know because I’d never tell. :) It’s none of his business.

    I’ve been happily monogamous for 12 years, and I think that my husband has had fewer partners than I, but am not sure. We’ve never compared lists. At this point, I don’t think I could remember all the names!

    I will say that my promiscuity was part of some emotional emptiness I felt, and was not totally healthy. But I don’t regret it – I had to find my own way, after all. I will tell my daughters that sex isn’t love, although it is one expression of love. It’s not something you give to a boy or man (or woman); it’s something you do with another person to bring each other pleasure and joy. And it carries many heavy responsibilities.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 26 October, 2012, 18:00

      Meredith — I am printing out your comment and keeping it to read to my daughters when they’re of age. I love your beliefs and attitudes around sex. They seem so natural and down-to-earth. I also have to look up the word “louche.” I love when comments make me think more deeply about what I’ve written and show me the unexamined places in my life.

      Reply this comment
      • Meredith in SA
        Meredith in SA 27 October, 2012, 10:13

        Shannon – Aw, shucks! I’ve been reading your blog for almost a year, and I look forward to every update. Your writing is a pleasure to read! I especially love your feelings about beauty – and how women feel about their own bodies. I wish to have your courage.

        Reply this comment
        • Shannon
          Shannon Author 27 October, 2012, 10:30

          Hi Meredith — when it comes to body image I’m definitely a work in progress. But thank you so much for letting me know you enjoy my blog. It means the world to me. My site went down for about four days a while back and I missed it the way you miss a child. Well, not quite that much, but that’s when I realized this is really a labor of love.

          Reply this comment
    • Choppy
      Choppy 11 September, 2014, 22:37

      Actually your comment…

      4. No. The concept of sluttiness is so damaging – to both the label-er and the labelled – in that it creates a system where women are the guardians of virtue and men are the louche corruptors. I find it distasteful, except in role-play.

      …is wrong for many reasons. While it is not true for some woman a lot of females who sleep with many partners before marriage may continue with this slutty activity after marriage. It absolutely is the business of any current sexual partner no matter what trash you talk. Keeping sexual secrets only shows disrespect for you partner and begins a future of lies and deception. If you can not be open with your partner about your past how can you even expect honesty in the future. If you have been nailed a hundred times he needs to know. I guarantee eventually he will find out and that is no different than a lie. Grow up!

      Reply this comment
  8. karen
    karen 26 October, 2012, 13:52

    Well, I have had many a romp in my college years. These all happened in the 2 years between my “highschool boyfriend of 2 years” and my “college boyfriend-now husband of 14 years”. He doesn’t know how many and would be shocked if he did. After reading your post I’m sort of shocked at myself! *cough*slut*cough*

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 26 October, 2012, 17:53

      I agree with you. I don’t think we should judge women on the number of lovers they’ve had YET I DO IT. In my case, a double standard.

      Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 26 October, 2012, 17:58

      Once I was walking on the beach with my mom and we were counting her lovers. She was telling me their names, when and where. We both couldn’t stop laughing. She married most of her lovers (4), but there were a few more from her backpacking days in Europe. As she moved into the water to swim in the ocean I meandered back to my towel when suddenly I heard her shout something. “Antonio!” The one she’d forgot. I laughed so hard I peed. Favorite memory with mom.

      Reply this comment
  9. Denise
    Denise 26 October, 2012, 14:03

    All my oats were sewn after my second marriage separation. I went from 2 to 6. I did this in the span of 4 years. I thought I was missing something. I am glad I did. I love sex but, being a bit old-fashioned, I convinced myself that I had to have a deep connection to be intimate with the men. For me, sex obscures a real soul mate. I think he’s the one because of the intimacy. Silly me. At 61, who’s counting?

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 26 October, 2012, 17:56

      Denise you are bold to share. I’m always curious about other people’s thoughts and ideas about sex.

      Reply this comment
  10. Catalina
    Catalina 26 October, 2012, 18:30

    I don’t think the number should matter for either a man or a woman. As long as your having safe sex and you take care not to share something you shouldn’t then that number should be whatever you are comfortable with.

    Reply this comment
  11. Loreen
    Loreen 26 October, 2012, 20:48

    I had a girlfriend that just plain loved sex so she was always on the prowl I never told her she was a slut But there were times that I thought whoa girl you are a nymphomaniac !
    Of course I never trusted her around my boyfriends either. I thought my sexuality was much more acceptable than hers. I like to think of myself in terms of that Jimmy Hendrix song “Are You Experienced” What are my numbers ? I plead the fifth.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 27 October, 2012, 10:25

      I had a girlfriend like that too! I had to keep my boyfriend on Lojack.

      Reply this comment
  12. Lisa
    Lisa 26 October, 2012, 22:10

    Many many years ago I made a list of all my lovers up ’til then – and it was a very long long list. Longer than any man’s list I have known – and no, I don’t share it, but sometimes bring it out and smile to myself. For me the sexual experience was like religion – such a mighty high, such ecstasy, such visions! Men are like a delicious fruit – their smells, their skin, their lips, their penises – how could I not want to eat them and enjoy them all? Sex is always a joyous thing to me – lots of fun and laughter – never a complicated thing. To please and take pleasure – a lovely time and costs nothing. For me it was never wrapped up in morality, or coupled with ‘commitment. I never understood people who placed conditions on sex – it is such a basic need, like eating and breathing. I always saw it as my ‘needing to rut’. And I agree with Meredith – labeling women who truly enjoy sex is very damaging – harking back to men’s fear of women’s sexuality – “if women enjoy sex we will lose control of them” – Hell yeah! PS – I do believe in serial monogamy – the best sex of all.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 27 October, 2012, 10:28

      Lisa — I love your frankness. I don’t know if women are as lusty as men, having never been a man, but I can attest that there were many years where the thought of celibacy just because I didn’t have a significant partner never crossed my mind. I wish I’d been a little less guilty about the casual sex I had so that I could actually enjoy it more. Hindsight.

      Reply this comment
  13. Tal
    Tal 27 October, 2012, 10:21

    After being married for 17 years I had a lot of practice before I married my one true love. It does not matter if your number is 1 or 100 it is how you live your life and raise your family when you settle down. Not sure why you and Jill never wanted a 3som with me?????

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 27 October, 2012, 10:31

      Oh Tal how I love you. Jill and I discussed having a threesome with you, but your self-confidence was already too big! Among other things. xo

      Reply this comment
  14. Jamie@SouthMainMuse
    Jamie@SouthMainMuse 29 October, 2012, 06:47

    My worry with how seemingly promiscuous the younger crowd is these days — is once you are used to sleeping with whomever might fit your fancy, how are you ever really content with monogamy? Just a question.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 29 October, 2012, 09:22

      I think it’s a really good question. Speaking for myself, I’ve noticed the longer I’m married the better the sex because there’s more trust to try new things without feeling judged.

      Reply this comment
  15. Deborah
    Deborah 29 October, 2012, 10:59

    The best advice I ever got from my mother was, “Don’t ever tell a man how many lovers you have had.” I am pretty sure that she meant I should tell each new person I was a virgin, but I took it to mean I should lie and lie big. Twenty years ago, the man I am currently married to asked me how many partners I have had. I said, “Counting you?” and then I started throwing up fingers and asking questions, “Do threesome count as one or two? How about orgies? What about the premature ejaculators–does it count if I didn’t get off? What about drunken one night stands that I don’t really remember? Do female partners count? What if I got paid, but I didn’t enjoy it?” Then I declared, “ten. no wait, twenty-five. Okay, forty-seven. Less than a hundred…maybe more than a hundred…okay, okay. I was a virgin when I met you, I never had sex with my ex-husband.” My TRUE count is 7, but my husband still doesn’t know that.

    Reply this comment
  16. Karen
    Karen 30 October, 2012, 11:08

    Ah, what a complicated topic. I’ve married all the men I’ve slept with (2) and my husband says I’m his first. We’ve been married 22 years. I sometimes wish one or both of us had some more experience. After all these years, it still seems like we don’t know what we’re doing. Sure, we’ve got the mechanics down to a T, but the rest is questionable. I think in my next life I’ll live a bit more. And yes, I do tend to judge women with higher numbers more harshly than men. Thanks for making me realize that. I’ll work on changing that immediately. Thanks for always making me smile when I read your blog. The Woman Formerly Known as The Good Girl (TWFKATGG).

    Reply this comment
  17. Alicia
    Alicia 1 November, 2012, 10:30

    Hm….I’m somewhere around 100. I’m not proud but it doesn’t bug me that much either. My best friend was at 120 in our second year of university. In our social circle, that was totally normal. Being in a relationship with the same man for 3 year sort of makes me feel like I’ve erased what I had become.

    Reply this comment
  18. Lynda
    Lynda 2 November, 2012, 20:50

    **sigh** What if the number is 10 and ALL of them were lousy? Geez – like looking for the winning lottery ticket.

    Reply this comment
  19. Delfin Joaquin Paris III
    Delfin Joaquin Paris III 4 November, 2012, 08:18

    When I was single I learned that banging chicks wasn’t really where it was at. Or at least it never gave me the fulfillment I needed. Some guys never learn this. But most do.

    Reply this comment
  20. SouthernMan
    SouthernMan 4 November, 2012, 20:37

    I have to admit, while reading this article, I had the same questions as Deborah… What has to happen to count as a lover? Honestly, true P to V contact? Then, count me as a big fat 2, married both. In sequence, not simultaneously. My first wife, she started counting while we were dating, but I found that I really had no interest in knowing at all. Seemed like it was going to be a big number. I kind of liked that she chose me, at least for 20 years. My second, well, she told me and I believed… we are a bit more matched in the number of individuals. What does it mean? I think nothing, except they both wanted me. I was happy with each of them, and do not feel I have missed a thing. My question for Shannon is, how many more do you think you may have? I hope I never have another.

    Reply this comment
  21. holly banks
    holly banks 9 November, 2012, 12:07

    Why are we thinking about this? It aint none of our business. Stop judging other people everyone.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 9 November, 2012, 13:23

      You know it just came up in casual conversation with a group of ladies one night. And when my friend mentioned her number we were all a little struck by it. I realized I had some subconscious judgements about it. This wasn’t meant to be a bitchy, catty article, rather one that points out how automatically we’re programmed to judge. I agree we should stop.

      Reply this comment
  22. Shelley Myers
    Shelley Myers 9 November, 2012, 14:35

    Shannon, you know where I stand on this subject. I am neck in neck with your number (maybe one or two more, lol). I don’t regret a thing and I consider them valuable, rich, and necessary experiences, given that I hooked up with my hubby Tom when I was 23!

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 10 November, 2012, 22:56

      I’m glad to know you’ve out-notched me. But boy you worked quick! Miss you!

      Reply this comment
  23. Rick
    Rick 5 February, 2013, 13:29

    Sorry for getting to this late, but I just was directed to your website via the HuffPost

    1. Casual sex may induce casualties, depending on who is being casual and who is not.

    2. There is no such thing as too few or too many lovers for women, in my view. It just depends on the person.

    3. Same thing for men. My number, as a 57 yr old man is about 50 before I married, about 10 more during. But that really means nothing as to today.

    4. It doesn’t matter to me how many sex partners women have had, I judge them by who they are, by their character.

    5. If a man feels insecure about himself regarding the number of his wife’s lovers, then he has lost sight of himself as a man. He should be very very happy instead.

    Interesting subject. My wife says she had about 10 before marriage, and another 10 or so during our marriage. Which is fine. Quality, not quantity. And shouldn’t we all be more open about our sex lives?

    Reply this comment
  24. Toby
    Toby 28 March, 2013, 21:06

    I am 52 y.o man and married 20 years. Our respective numbers are 1 & 1.

    Long time ago I would judged you all so much. I believed in Madonna/whore syndrome. Now I know better and think multiple lovers for women is the right thing. I would prefer my daughters not to do what we have done. Because reading these comments fills me with regret as much as I love my wife and have lots of sex with her.
    Sex is a need just like food and should be enjoyed within the boudaries of safety and consent as many others have mentioned. I would be happy if my wife had lovers before me as I feel have limited her life experience and pleasure. More than me would be fine as long as I had had a few as well.
    I think there such as thing as too few lovers for most people , because eventually you will wonder about what was missed. Like I have felt in recent years.
    Does any body have any suggestions. Not sure if she would be into swinging although she does seem to want to have other men find her attractive as a kind of affirmation.

    Shannon
    Just stumbled across your blog today and looking forward to reading more. You have had an interesting life.

    It’s sad that there still is a double standard on this issue.

    Finally to Rick

    Did you increase your post marriage count via swinging. Was that an easy decision for you both

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 28 March, 2013, 21:52

      Hi Toby — sex is , no pun intended — a sticky issue. I’m grateful I sowed some oats, having said that I’ve realized the more safe I feel in my marriage the more freedom in the bedroom. When the kids are gone. Which isn’t very frequently. But still.

      Reply this comment
  25. Itzli
    Itzli 3 June, 2013, 14:46

    haha.. I’m gonna give it a go… Don’t judge me. ;-p

    1. Is there such a thing as Casual Sex without casualties?
    *Honestly I don’t think thats true because for some God forsaken reason our human beings have this hard wired emotional bonding that comes with sex either from one parter or the other or both. We don’t separate emotion like animals can. Well, some men can do that but we let’s not discuss that..

    2. What number is too many lovers for a woman? What number is too few? Is it possible to have too few?

    * Honest, I’ve had way more than I should even mention starting from a way younger age than is appropriate so I don’t think I’m in any place to judge. Lets just say, the “right” number should be when she feels completely sexually confident x2 just to be sure.

    3. What number is too many lovers for a man? What number is too few? Is it possible to have too few?

    *My current boyfriend (don’t judge me… lol) has had way much more experience than me.. he was extremely promiscuous once. But they say the rule of thumb is take the number a man gives you and divide it by 10 and… I think thats it. I’m not good with math. He’s just really great in bed.

    4. Do you still judge women who had broad sexual histories more than you judge men?

    Sometimes depending on the details. If once a stripper that used to pole hop in Vegas, I might be more judgemental than someone normal like me who had one too many drinks on the party bus. Just saying.

    5. Does a man feel like less of a man if his wife has had more lovers than him? (Henry doesn’t want to know my exact number, either.)

    * Only if he’s insecure. I never tell my number. Ever. Even if they ask. Then lie. Or make a hellova chicken parmesean for dinner. They’ll drop the subject eventually I think.

    Reply this comment
  26. Chacky Jan
    Chacky Jan 8 August, 2013, 00:02

    At 33, I have traveled the world, and racked up between 450(minumum estimate) and 600 (maximum estimate). My wife claims 4 slept with, 8 dated. I can completely relate to people saying they would rather leave the past alone. Sex parties, one night stands, multiple girls at once…When in the midst of the act it seems…AWESOME. Now looking back, I don’t know that there is enough space here to express the regret. Oddly, I still had the nerve to get testy when she said she had slept with 4 guys. It took a lot of personal reflection, and self-forgiving to come to terms with my sexual past, but I did. Now I am happily married. As a “good looking guy,” who has actually been with some of her friends (before we ever met), It’s a pretty good bet she dosen’t know how obscenely high my potential number is, but, I am sure she knows it’s high. She never asked, and dosen’t care, and that is what works for us.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 8 August, 2013, 00:57

      Chacky I hardly know what to say except to say the last one is the best one. So glad you’re happily married regardless of the past.

      Reply this comment
  27. Mrs. Wiggles
    Mrs. Wiggles 31 August, 2013, 05:04

    I myself have racked up a huge number, and I can say (I HAVE NO REGRETS!) I am also married now, and my husband also has a HUGE number. We don’t discuss it, but it’s known on both ends. I feel like this, I had fun, I am happy in my marriage now. So for me, I have no urges to party, or stray or “sow my oats.” I have sown the hell out of my oats. I have sown oats, stitched oats, quilted oats, and microwaved quaker oats! Don’t feel back if your number is high, just be faithful to the person you are with NOW. If you aren’t a sex addict, it shouldn’t matter.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 31 August, 2013, 10:50

      Exactly. I have no regrets.

      Reply this comment
    • Mikey
      Mikey 4 November, 2014, 10:20

      I hear what you are saying. However, my sex life before marrying my wife was very minimal and absolutely horrific on the rare occasion when it did happen since I had no idea of what I was doing. My wife, on the other hand, had tons of lovers and started experimenting sexually when she was 12. I said to her once that I felt like when she agreed to marry me that she probably thought to herself “Well, I’ve had all the hot, juicy sex I could want with all the bad boys and now I’m ready to settle down with a nice guy who will treat me well”. She actually said that was one way of looking at it! Imagine what that does to a guy’s ego when he realizes she’s had all the best, hottest sex she’s ever had before she met you, but you are a nice guy who will treat her nice so she’s ready to settle down with you. If you are a woman, you can’t begin to imagine how devastating that is to a guys ego. Based on that statement she made, I know that I am not, nor ever will be, the best lover she’s ever had, and there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it. Granted, she married me instead of one of her “bad boy lovers”, but somehow that is of little comfort to me.

      Reply this comment
      • Shannon
        Shannon Author 4 November, 2014, 13:31

        Hi Mikey — this is such a vulnerable, heartfelt comment. Sometimes as a woman I forget how vulnerable men can be and I think we, as women, need to remember our men need our approval and support. And Mikey — I can GUARANTEE you that a lot of the sex your wife had before your marriage was not as hot as she remembers. There’s something about loveless sex that really sucks and we women probably remember it more fondly than we did at the time. It’s our way of acting cool, edgy and like we don’t really need a good man. But we really really do need a good man. And your wife’s lucky to have you.

        Reply this comment
        • Pete
          Pete 29 November, 2014, 03:11

          Really, Shannon?!

          After all the talk on this thread about not regretting any sex you had, and how women should have as many lovers as they feel, you change your mind and say that women really do need good men and that they’re not all too happy with casual sex?

          This entire thread makes me feel the exact opposite. It feels like women just want a lot of sex, then they’ll lie about or obscure their number to the nice guy when they want to settle down. 80% of the comments on this thread make me feel like a little less of a person worthy of someone who will think sex is actually special. But I think as women gain more economic power and men less (studies show that women are now more employed than men for the first time in America’s history), and taking into account that women are in control of sex and reproduction, that women will consider men’s feelings and thoughts less and less when making decisions about their love life. Men just have to deal with whatever women will give them, whether it be their hearts or their fidelity, and if a man is not happy with what he gets, he will be labeled insecure. It sounds like men are quickly becoming the housewives of the 60s.

          It feels like what Mikey’s wife said to him is what the majority of women on this thread are saying to men in general: We’ve had hot sex with tons of other men, so now that I know what hot sex is, I’m ready to settle down with YOU. I KNOW I’ve had more sex than my wife, yet, listening to all these women talk makes me feel marginalized some how. Like my heart doesn’t count for anything.

          Reply this comment
          • Shannon
            Shannon Author 29 November, 2014, 18:25

            Hi Pete — It seems I need to revisit this thread before I respond. Will try to do that soon.

        • Jake
          Jake 12 December, 2014, 04:43

          Hi,

          Sometime ago I overheard a conversation between to guys in there early thirties in the dressingroom of a gym. They were talking about single women. One guy set to the other that nowadays single women have sex with just about everyone but only when they are in their thirties and the biological alarmclock is ringing they find themselves a sucker (read “good man”) to help them change diapers. There is not much reward in being a good man is there? But this depressing view of mine is way too pessimistic and their view is very much oversimplified. I sincerely hope it is otherwise I would recommend “good men” to become bad guys.

          Reply this comment
          • Shannon
            Shannon Author 12 December, 2014, 07:23

            Hi Jake — Some of what you say is true. There are women who decide it’s time to get pregnant and make that a priority over finding a genuinely healthy relationship, but I doubt it’s as common as not. And it was true for me that I was attracted to “bad boys” for a time, but boy did I get over that. I do think a “good guy” (and by that I don’t mean someone who is a doormat) will win out in the end. Sending wishes for a good woman to come your way. xo

  28. Stef
    Stef 23 September, 2013, 11:00

    Hi Shannon–love your posts and your…real-ness. My husband and I both have the same number: One. We both had crazy-promiscuous friends in highschool in the anything-goes 80s, and we both didn’t want that (not for lack of being pressured repeatedly by both sides of the opposite sex, or maybe BECAUSE of it). We were both surprised to find this truth about each other when we met (me at 17, him at 19), and we were each other’s first and only, and we’ve always been happy about that–plus, at this point, we really know what works and what doesn’t, and you can’t believe how fun and crazy you can be, when you’re in bed with your sexy best friend, with no “rules”, but that’s all I will say…about that. ;)
    We are lucky, though. We have been together 26 year, married for 22, and we still are crazy about and for each other, so we find ourselves as a smaller and smaller statistic every year. He is my soulmate, my hero, and the sexiest man alive, to me, and I am always endlessly glad that I never shared more than some back-of-the-car-why-won’t-you-have-sex-with-me moments with anyone from my younger years. I never wanted to be a notch on anyone’s belt.
    Of course, having been with him since age 17…I skipped the whole single-in-your-20s (or 30s) stage, so I can’t tell what I’d have been like for THAT. I do remember once, though, during a time when we broke up for a couple of months, when I was 20, having the thought suddenly just…occur to me: “I could sleep with ANYone if I feel like it.” And that was like this whole revelation to me. I remember sort of standing there, staring into space, like – wow. But, I didn’t take myself down that road, though there was a phone call/invitation from an old high school crush during our breakup period that I knew would have ended with us in bed together–Except I declined his invitation. I guess there’s always a bit of “what if” in our lives, but it gives you something to smile about later, doesn’t it?
    As I’ve come into my 40s and learned to be comfortable with my body and myself, I like to think oh sure, if I were single, I’d probably feel more relaxed about casual sex and consenting adults and all that, and I’d be that older woman who can take lovers simply for the pleasure of sex and ask nothing more from them. But part of me definitely ties sex to the very deep intimacy that I only share with him, so, again…hard to judge somewhere I’ve never been.
    Sadly, my previously wild and crazy 80s friends are ALL divorced, with some remarried and some single at this time, so I can’t say that high numbers worked out OK for them. Some still play a wide field and deal with the endless drama of dating in our 40s–EVERYone has baggage at this point, baby. I almost cringe anymore, hearing their dating stories, because they all end up the same. They all are still looking for The One, and they ALL wish they’d found someone like my husband in 1987 and just…STAYED with him.
    I love every one of them, and their experiences, whatever they’ve been, because they’re my friends. I have enjoyed a vicarious peek into that life, through them, but have always been glad I missed it, for myself. They love me and the fact that I’m still “innocent” and have a husband who worships me AND still looks like a movie star.

    So, as to numbers, I think it’s different for everyone, and yes, why should it be a different standard for men and women? As long as you’re happy with yourself and your past (or you have moved PAST your past), then you’re in a good place, right?

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 23 September, 2013, 14:17

      Hi Steph — okay milady, you are one of the lucky ones. To meet and marry THE ONE so young and to continue to feel as passionate about him as you did in the beginning. It reminds me a bit of my brother and sister-in-law’s story. They were both virgins when they married and are perfectly satisfied with never having experienced anyone else. There are so many different roads to love.

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  29. Jen
    Jen 6 November, 2013, 14:20

    I have had too many. I know I have…
    When I was in elementary school I developed early (grade 5). Boys liked me and wanted to make out and fool around. I thought this meant they liked me… and I liked the attention as well as the pleasure. When I was 12 I had a boyfriend that had sex with my best friend when I was away at camp. My next boyfriend after that was 15 and he wanted to have sex and really pressured me to do it. We didn’t, but he cheated on me with two other girls.
    I had this idea in my mind for SO long that if boys wanted me for sex and I gave it to them, they liked me. I had a really messed up view of sex for a long time.
    I travelled a lot in my early 20’s and so had many of my lovers on the road. By then I though I was adventurous. Then I married young and was quickly dumped. Then I REALLY thought I was only good for sex. Each of my encounters post marriage further and further depleted my self-esteem until I firmly believed I was unlovable and good for only one thing. The fact that I loved sex and wanted to be adventurous and experimental with it didn’t help. It perpetuated the idea that this behaviour was ‘ok’.
    By the time I hit 30, I had a very messed up idea of sex and love. I thought if I couldn’t arouse a man it’s my fault and I’m not desirable enough. I thought that if we weren’t having sex, our relationship is no good.
    I found a great partner that has never asked me about my past… he’s never had any other partners. I feel incredibly guilty about my (over 40) partners.
    Thing is though. We care about each other and even though we aren’t at the ‘hot sex’ part of our relationship I know he really really cares about me and it has nothing to do with my sexuality. That feels really healthy and it’s really helped me feel appreciated for who I am.
    Um, hope this is a helpful perspective. I definitely don’t think I had a healthy number of partners. Some of it I’m really grateful for, most of it would have been avoided if I had better self-esteem and guidance.
    But I never should have felt bad for my past.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 6 November, 2013, 15:49

      Hi Jen — thank you so much for sharing a story I think must have made you feel very vulnerable. Sex is such a complex topic. There certainly is no black and white. We learn so much about ourselves through our sexual mistakes and our sexual joys. And it’s really no one else’s business to judge our learning curve. Best to you and so glad you found a man who loves the whole woman. xo S

      Reply this comment
  30. Jon M
    Jon M 14 November, 2013, 17:48

    Interesting topic. I don’t know where to begin, exactly. I had a mother who met all nine criteria(DSM-4) for borderline personality disorder. She was a violent, shaming and critical mother figure. My father…I don’t know if it would be accurate to say he was “weak” because he had a lot on his plate and always worked very hard at his job. But he had tons of issues himself. He was shamed by his father while growing up. There were a lot of times when he wasn’t a very nice person. I could literally write a novel about how f**ked up my childhood was…the thing is, I don’t think there are too many people out there who understand what it means to get hit by a “perfect storm” of unfortunate events. For instance, on top of everything else I have Asperger’s syndrome. I’m on the high functioning end of the spectrum and I’m also 44 now, so over the years I’ve learned to adapt and remodel my behaviors, etc. But all in all I think I’m very lucky because I have such a naturally laid back temperament. I think if I’d been more aggressive and extroverted with, say, a more sour disposition, some really bad, violent things might have happened.
    Anyway, on to women: I had unfavorable experiences with females for a very long time. I tried my hardest to be nice and a gentleman and all that, but my self esteem had basically been annihilated. Between the ages of 18 and 23 I didn’t have a single steady girlfriend and only one sexual contact. One thing did happen that was fortunate: I finally met a woman and was married in 1994. We had two daughters and I’m very proud to say I was a good father to them and I never took my personal problems out on them. I did my inner work over the years…ultimately, my marriage didn’t work out. My ex and I were such different people. In 2012 we were divorced, and I met the woman of my dreams. I love her and she loves me but our discussion of sexuality has not gone well at all. Actually, neither of us has been promiscuous. She’s been with seven other men besides me, I’ve been with four other women besides her. So we’re fairly close in that regard. I guess the thing is, when I say I was with four other women, there really isn’t a wealth of experience there…apart from my ex-wife. So my girlfriend thought it was ok to talk about her experiences. As pathetic as it sounds, I was too “inexperienced” to effectively see my own vulnerability and I kind of got drawn into a lot of the conversations. I was really not ok with finding out about a lot of the things I found out. You have to remember, my experience with sexuality is not “normal” in a developmental sense. God did we end up getting in some arguments. We managed to sort things out but I still feel “weird” about it sometimes. Here’s the thing: not to sound like a bragger, but I’ve had to work so hard at so many things in my life and I feel that I’ve always tried really hard for women. And I love women. And I don’t mean that in a stupid Hugh Hefner sort of way. But like with my girlfriend: she had difficulties of her own, but the guys she met/dated were all like guys at the bar. Now you have to give her credit(sorry, here’s my values bias coming into play): she spent about six or seven years in the bar in a college town and ended up sleeping with only seven guys. It’s really not that many considering the exploits of a lot of other people, especially in the bars. But basically these guys sound like nothing but a motley crew of losers and creeps. I guess what I’m saying is this: we guys take a lot of heat from women, saying all we care about are good looks and sex. I’m not saying women are wrong on that score. But what is it women look for in men? I’m sorry, but women reward men who don’t really deserve to be rewarded, or reward them for shallow achievements, ALL THE TIME, almost everywhere you care to look. Now I’m not saying I feel I should’ve been the one who was first in line with all the women I’ve met over the course of my life…that’s ridiculous. Am I saying nice guys finish last? No, not exactly. I’m saying that sexuality can be really, REALLY complicated for a guy depending on his personality and his life experiences. It can be incredibly complicated…and I think it gets overlooked because women kind of own the discussion about sexuality and they insist that it’s way more complicated and profound for them. I think a lot of times it is, but not always. There’s men out there who’ve had complicated, profound experiences regarding sexuality as well. Thanks for listening, anyway:-), Jon

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 15 November, 2013, 11:53

      Hi Jon — first let me say I’m so sorry for your difficult upbringing. It’s really painful when home isn’t a safe place. And of course, when we grow up, all of our relationships are impacted by our childhood experience. Especially our sexual relationships. For a very long time I thought I just enjoyed sex and so it was okay to have casual sex with attractive men (for my husband’s sake I won’t put a number on this), but invariably I discovered there were all sorts of psychological underpinnings to why I had sex and with whom. I have no regrets. Each encounter was a learning experience and I think, finally, I understood what I truly wanted in a sexual relationship (which, for me, is commitment and loyalty), but it took a long time to figure out. I was attracted to “bad boys” because they were irresistible to me. My mother’s second marriage (the one that made the biggest impression on me bc it happened when I was 3 to 10 years old) was with a handsome “Bad boy” cop. That relationship imprinted on me and it took a long time to shake. My two longest relationships prior to my husband were to men very much like my stepfather. Calling Dr. Freud! This is all very deep, tricky stuff to unravel. I send you all my best wishes. It sounds like you’re on your path. Just keep trucking. xo S

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  31. MC
    MC 20 November, 2013, 12:41

    I have this inner dialouge with myself ALL the time. I’m in my mid-twenties and not married. I am single and have not been in a serious relationship in almost three years. My best girl friend has only been with her husband. My best guy friend has been with around the same number as me. I often worry that I will look back on these days and my higher than average number (under 20) with regrets. At this point in my life, I also don’t want to rule out new sexual experiences just because my number is maybe higher than I want it to be. I am a very sexual person and enjoy it, but when I’m around people with very low numbers I start to get self concious. Some of my friends know my real number, I’m not sure that anyone I am in a serious relationship ever will and my mother will definitely never know! I like to think that the number doesn’t really matter – low or high – because each person you are with brings some meaning to your life and if for you that is only one person, that’s great. But if it’s multiple people, that’s also great.

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  32. Freddie
    Freddie 25 November, 2013, 08:29

    Wow, where do I begin? Most; if not the majority here are only practicing the fine art of self-justification and rationalization of their past selfish behavior! Yes, it’s selfish behavior we are talking about here folks. And yes, we are all selfish to some extent; some more – some less. I will have some fun here using some words missing from most posts of this blog…some may learn something.

    Have all the partners you want if you sincerely plan on never being married otherwise consider that most likely there may be ramifications or consequences of your actions whether male or female and it’s not just physical health as in STD, HIV or other diseases I’m talking about here folks.

    Here’s a question folks – “how many of you like receiving used gifts?” Oh wait maybe we should start calling it “re-gifting” not promiscuity! When you enter into marriage you are giving THE GIFT OF YOU to your partner aren’t you? Your body is no longer yours; in reality your body was never yours to begin with…critical thinking is required here now. Otherwise answer my question, “how many of you like receiving used gifts?” Better yet go read O’Henry as Jim and Della were poor not cheap and there is a difference.

    Being poor doesn’t make you cheap but becoming cheap will make you poor!

    The guy who is putting notches on his belt is nothing more than a selfish guy. He’s is self delusional thinking that he is proving his manhood. He’s only showing he’s still a little boy. Just as the girl is self delusional in thinking “the guy” will like them for giving it away! Reality proves the opposite and a slut is a slut whether male or female.

    On insecurity; I love it when folks say that the one who has a problem with a partner having so many past sexual partners is the one who’s insecure! Well here’s your sign folks as a few other posters here admit – it’s insecurity that leads many to this multiple and excessive partner problem (and yes it is a problem that can lead to many many other problems) to begin with isn’t it or why this blog here?

    So who’s more secure or really more insecure; the one who’s chase and has a problem accepting and yes then forgiving a future spouse for past multiple indiscretions? Had to throw in that word “forgive” in the mix. Cause it’s forgiveness we’re actually talking about here folks and forgiveness isn’t self justification or rationalization either. (I can already hear all the self justifiers howling out there now.) Forgiveness always cost the one doing the forgiving something and forgiveness is a gift that has to be freely given and hopefully thoughtfully received. But today we have cheapened forgiveness just as we have cheapened sex! Self justification and rationalization are coping methods folks. False guilt can feel just like real guilt but it’s still a lie to self and it uses self justification and rationalization! Before forgiveness can take place one needs to be honest with oneself and we are all such great liars to self first. We don’t lie to others as much as we lie to ourselves now do we? And we don’t lie to others without first lying to ourselves!

    Another word missing from this blog is conscience and how one’s conscience is one’s moral compass whether they admit or like that thought or not. Just like a real compass if it’s off by a little at the journey’s start it’s off by much much more at then end or final destination folks of your journey. And that journey is your life folks and here’s another hint. Your past isn’t really in your past now is it. It’s in your future just as much as it’s in your present today. There is no past there is no future there is only now but now is the entirety of your life. We call it (the past) our baggage but it’s right there with us as we carry it along our whole lives! Some just have more baggage than others. Here’s a hint: less baggage means you practiced more self control and critical thinking. Multiple excessive partners equals excessive baggage folks…Carry all you want all your life if that is truly your desires but please quit the self justification because the load is heavy now. Choices have consequences – intended or not even considered. And I haven’t even used the word love yet nor have I used the word lust. They are not the same thing folks.

    Love is priceless.

    Lust is cheap.

    Don’t ever confuse the two.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 25 November, 2013, 15:52

      Dear Freddie — I thought a lot of your observations were astute. But I have one bit of advice, when you are making an argument don’t use the word “Folks” over and over again. You used it at least ten times and it became very distracting.

      Sex and morality is a tough call to make. I had several lovers prior to marrying my husband and they didn’t make me feel like I was re-gifted or overused in any way. Several of those sexual partners taught me more about myself — and yes, some of them were mistakes — but they helped me to grow up. I wouldn’t have been ready for my kind, thoughtful husband without a those experiences as my template for “romantic” relationships wasn’t a good one.

      Sex means different things to different people. There are times when sex is absolutely self-destructive, but there are other times, even in casual sexual encounters, where sex is wonderful. I just don’t think it’s a one-size-fits-all situation.

      Reply this comment
      • Freddie
        Freddie 26 November, 2013, 12:39

        Shannon,

        I am not a writer hence the repetitive usage of some words…Anyway here’s some more food for thought on this subject and you and others may realize where I come from and why. I am including a letter I wrote to my xxxxxxxxx which will touch briefly upon the subject of hypersexuality in post rape victims.

        In the US; 2010 there were 84,767 rapes reported per the USDOJ-FBI. How many were unreported? Per RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network) – 60% of all rapes go unreported…That means there were over 120,000 unreported rapes of women 2010. Every 2 minutes, someone, in the US is sexually assaulted. 44% of victims are under the age of 18 with 80% being under 30…Real numbers of rapes is over 200,000 per year in the US when you include unreported rapes!

        The letter I once wrote my wife…some editing for privacy sakes has been done and if I repeat some words sorry but I’m not a writer. Just someone with a wife and two daughters…who’s had their eyes opened. Each paragraph was preceded with “I love you, I love you, I love you” (always 3 times) and then followed something like, “you are my joy” and then the meat of paragraph…Again, I’m not a writer just a husband and father.

        Dear XXXXXX,

        You are not to blame for what happened in anyway, shape or manner. You were raped. This was and is a crime of violence not uncontrolled passion or sex on your part or even your attacker! Rape is a crime of violence. It is not sex. Studies have shown the reason a rapist rapes is for the power and control over another human being whether male or female; it has nothing to do with sex.

        It is common that rapes committed against teen victims involve drug and/or alcohol use. Perpetrators deliberately involve these substances for several reasons; first it makes victim blaming and self blaming easier. Second, perpetrators know that teens will seldom report rapes if the victim herself or himself had been drinking or using drugs. A rapist is fully aware that if he can get a 15 year old girl to drink or use even pot, he is virtually assured that she will be too scared to tell her parents and/or police about the assault. Your perpetrator knew all this and used it against you. You did not get drunk – you were manipulated as an underage minor and this is why all 50 states have statutory rape laws and statutory rape means you by legal definition did not have to ability to make an informed decision of consent. Saying you drank or were drunk plays into this and you are accepting responsibility when none of it was your fault! Whether you drank or not that night a planned rape was conspired by your perpetrator and his accomplice (your betrayer). Even if you hadn’t drank anything that night you most likely would still have been raped as the rape was preplanned to happen – nothing happened by accident. Two individuals conspired to rape you! It’s their fault and not yours for what happened. They are to blame!

        When rape is the first or earliest experience with sex for the victim, there is often or sometimes a second very common result: hyper-sexuality in which sexual experimentation and casual sex become the routine. Hyper-sexuality is an attempt to “normalize” one’s sexuality, treating it as if something may have lost its specialness and trying to rediscover what sex “should” be like when YOU, not someone else is in control of the experience and your body. It is a common self defense reaction and coping mechanism for teen girls post rape. This too was not your fault – you were the victim of a crime of violence. You were responsible for nothing that happened.

        Rape usually compounds lines of communication creating other relationship problems whether between father and daughter or future husband and wife communications… Most commonly it is an attempt to “forget” the rape by refusing to discuss it with anyone. This is usually done trying to deal with the “shame” of rape and more specifically self directed shame. It is the second step in victim blaming…the first step was and is always the self blaming “if only I hadn’t drank, hadn’t worn that dress, hadn’t got in the car or gone home with him.”…Again a victim of rape has done nothing to cause their own rape.

        It is not uncommon after the trauma of rape for the survivor’s memory to suppress, change, recalling any and all the details of the rape. This is normal and how the mind works after a trauma. More specifically it’s called PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disease and all rape victims experience different levels of PTSD including but not limited to memory loss and sleeplessness!

        Men; husbands, (me) are often insecure about their sexual performance. We may show flashes of anger or frustration when our advances are rejected or when our wives are withdrawn and reluctant to have sex. We should understand that these responses are not criticisms of us…yet we usually don’t at first and therefore our angry reactions may make our wife feel criticized and hurt.

        The first phase immediately after the rape incident is called the “acute phase” and the most common fear at this stage is that “nobody will believe me” (hence the not telling or reporting you were raped.) Coping skills can include reactions ranging from some that lash out, some go into withdrawal, some try to bury it deep inside themselves and some to hyper-sexuality. The second stage or phase is one of “apparent stabilization”. This is where she/he may claim that she/he has “forgotten” or “dealt with” the rape and will resent anyone or anything that reminds her/him of it. She thinks she has resolved her feelings but if anything the rape is always in the background of her sub-conscience and will affect and effect her life and her relationships until it is dealt with appropriately through a recovery process. Most marriages of teen rape victims are destroyed through the years as the real problem(s) has never been dealt with and most husbands haven’t a clue as to what is going on as their wives haven’t told them. They still are not reporting their rape! The average length of time for a wife to open up with her husband; who as a teen was raped and didn’t report it or tell their parents when it happened and are still in the apparent stabilization phase is 27 years! The emotional walls around a rape victim’s pain are as strong as cement and the work of getting through them can be painful as well as upsetting and yes it can take a life time or in the majority of cases recovery never happens as it’s never been brought to light.

        I love you. I love you. I love you. And want to spend the rest of my life with you.

        XXXXXXX

        I am 60 years old; so in my life over 14,000,000 women have been raped in the US that’s about 3 out of every 100. Since 2007 has the annual rape numbers been reducing from historically much higher numbers and that’s still with 60% unreported! The vast majority of women who have excessive multiple partners in their sex lives is due to rape. The over whelming majority of women (+70%) in the Adult video, stripper, prostitution and sex trader are past victims of rape. With 60% of rapes unreported that means 97% of all rapist never spend a day in jail let alone ever being confronted with what they have done. The walking wounded are all around us…And I see some of the wounded in some of posts here. Whether they are ready to admit it yet or not!

        Bottom line not every woman who has had an excessive number of lovers pre-marriage did so voluntarily whether they think they did or not.

        Reply this comment
        • Shannon
          Shannon Author 26 November, 2013, 12:55

          Hi Freddie — thanks for commenting again. I’m so sorry to hear about what happened to your former wife. I was a victim of attempted date rape when I was 20 years old (which I’ve written about here) and it’s certainly an interesting point you make. In fact some of what you say resonates with me. When I was single and dating I would often be the one to initiate sex first because it gave me a sense of control and power over the situation. I’m not sure that behavior was related to my attack (I was not, ultimately raped, but fought with a man for at least a half an hour to get away from him).

          But I also think there are many complex reasons why some men and women chooses to have several partners. Certainly there are times when that behavior is self-destructive, but I think a case could be made that many times the behavior is perfectly healthy. What I reacted negatively to in your previous comment was the idea that a person who has had several partners is somehow dirty, used, re-gifted. That smacks of shaming, which I just don’t react well to. My husband had several lovers before our marriage, and I had about twice as many as him. Neither of us views the other as used up. In fact, the past doesn’t impact our feelings about each other at all. If anything I’m grateful to my husband’s previous lovers for helping him gain personal insights that have helped make him the incredible man he is today.

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  33. Veronica
    Veronica 8 December, 2013, 10:16

    Another interesting question is — what exactly are we condemning in those numbers? My numbers can be counted on all fingers (and ok, almost all the toes too), but it hardly tells the full story about character or judgment. Low numbers can be used in very crafty ways.

    Here’s an example, my college roommate from 30 years ago. Her actual intercourse number tops at 3. Two long-term relationships. One was a one night stand only because he didn’t call back. Sounds pretty chaste, right?

    Here’s the twist: in every single relationship she takes on the role of ‘the other woman’ at first and competes to win. She loves triangles. Emotional and otherwise. Emotional affairs (with or without ‘everything but’ making out) keep her numbers low. One of her emotional (only?) affairs has been going on for decades, with one of my ex-boyfriends. I only know because he told me. As far as she’s concerned, between us she’s the chaste one! ;)

    Moral of the story: it’s really how you treat the lovers (and their lovers) in your life that define your character — right? And even if you hear the true numbers of your spouse, you really have no idea what their romantic life really has been or even is today.

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    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 8 December, 2013, 19:26

      Veronica I completely agree with you. Each number has a story and I to can count on hands and feet and maybe an ear or two. I think I needed each experience for one reason and another. The morality doesn’t lie in the number.

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  34. Freddie
    Freddie 19 December, 2013, 09:00

    Shannon,

    Haven’t been back in a few weeks.

    1. She isn’t my former wife – just my wife and love of my life to this day. Not sure where you got former thing from.

    2. Your need for control in initating sex after your attack was exactly what I wrote in my second post on hypersexuality. You were trying to normalize sex with you in control of both the sexual experience and your body.

    3. Shame needs to be addressed for two reasons frankly. There is valid shame or false shame! First, with roughly 25% of all women either being sexually assualted or an attempt to be sexually assualted (as in your case and there are only three reactions a woman or man can take during the attempt or actual assualt fight, flight or freeze and the overwhelming majority freeze whether conscious or unconscious and you were quite fortunate). The majority of women practicing hypersexuality post attack are doing exactly what you did taking control of their bodies and sex but it doesn’t come with no strings attached. There are always strings or baggage attached to any sexual relationship period. Mostly negative unfortunately. Secondly, a woman or a man who hasn’t been assaulted and enters into total promiscuity is still building up shame inside whether you or they want to admit it. As a society shame is certainly attached. As a huamn you’re pre-wired for shame and guilt the trick is knowing false shame and false guilt from real shame and real guilt. Ditto self respect. Or why should I respect you if you don’t respect yourself and you don’t respect yourself when you (not you personally but a plural sense) practice indiscriminate sex. Sex is a moral issue; just as alot of others things are moral issues. Even when you slice an onion you can tear up and cry while laughing telling a great joke. Just as I and others here have said we are pre-wired for things; well that’s physically and emotionally whether we admit or know it.

    Now, you opened up as to being a victim of an attempted assualt. How many of the women who posted here have also been assualted you think? And remember just as most don’t report it most never recover either; it’s just hidden away deep down inside but it’s really driving them their whole lives. How many here were assaulted and never told anyone you think? In your case you didn’t immediately go from victim to victor by stopping the rape attempt. The attack did drive you. Just as most rapes aren’t reported most women have never been through recovery and healed from their attack.

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    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 19 December, 2013, 12:10

      Freddie — you make a lot of really interesting points. I especially like the part about fight, flight or freeze. I suspect most victims freeze. That was my initial reaction.

      Will read more deeply when I have more time. And thanks for your insights.

      Reply this comment
  35. Matthew
    Matthew 10 January, 2014, 02:17

    “She’s had too many lovers and he hasn’t had enough.”

    I’ve been googling this to see if any women will express a view on that. I’m 40, I’ve only ever slept with two women and I’ve been single for a while (last relationship ended before 2000, various reasons, alcohol, depression and still probably a bit too codependent with my last girlfriend). Recently I’ve been trying to shake myself, up with some success, and I’m thinking about trying to look for somebody nice.

    Leaving aside the other stuff, which is terrifying enough, are women going to judge me on the fact that I’ve only ever had two sex partners? Am I damaged goods? And please be honest ;-)

    I’m unlikely to “judge” a woman on her past, but I can imagine it making me feel insecure about my own. I suspect that’s the reality behind a lot of supposed “judging” from guys – insecurity. It might make everyone’s life a bit easier if guys were allowed to / felt they could be be more honest about that.

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  36. Justin
    Justin 26 April, 2014, 04:08

    I fell head over heels with my girlfriend(whom witch I abruptly married then two months later divorce and are dating again). I asked her number before I married her. the amount she told me was nothing less than shocking/devistating. I was and still am in love with her dearly. 27 she said. and then 4 more while we separated. she has had a VERY slutty history. I struggle each and everyday to see past it. sometimes I wonder if I’m doing the right thing by trying to live with it, but at the same time I feel dishonest because I simply can not cope. I myself have had only 2 partners before we first met. and 2 more during our separation. I love her madly, I truly do. even though we are a young couple. I’m 24. my girlfriend, only 22, and has had over 30 guys inside her sacred vessel. is it wrong of me to feel like I should have more partners? why should I feel this way when I absolutely love her?!!

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    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 27 April, 2014, 00:37

      Hi Justin — I’m not sure what to say? I understand your concerns. Numbers do say something about who we are and how we feel about ourselves. Suffice to say that what it really boils down to is how she feels about you and whether she is willing to be monogamous. If that’s what you want and what she can offer then I think you have to let go of her prior history. If, however, the number is indicative of some kind of self-destructive behavior, then you have to protect yourself. I don’t think 30+lovers is too many, but given her young age I am a bit concerned. Have the two of you ever thought about seeking the advice of a professional? We are all damaged in various ways, and I do believe a really wise therapist can really help. I speak from experience.

      Reply this comment
  37. Elle
    Elle 26 June, 2014, 15:59

    I honestly feel that these things are not to be discussed, especially on the internet. Show some respect for yourself gals!

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 26 June, 2014, 17:30

      Miss Elle — Hope we didn’t offend. I find sex an interesting topic more because of the psychology behind it than for its prurient aspects. And I do agree with K that every experience teaches us something about ourselves and (hopefully) brings hard-won wisdom.

      Reply this comment
  38. K
    K 26 June, 2014, 16:53

    You wrote “I’m not having sex with him. Turns out when you’re sexually liberated you’ll have casual sex with everyone but the guy you really want to like you.”

    My number would be shocking at 43 I think I have had sex with about 70 guys. Why? My twenties were a mix of sexual liberation (I had a male bravado of as long as I got mine – I didn’t care if they got theirs) and a deep seated urge to feel needed (Even if it was for the 20 minutes of naked.) Am I ashamed? NO! Why – nobody would bat an eye if it was a guy. I was a club girl and the 90’s were my sexual revolution, Was I out of control – perhaps, but it was fun.

    Every experience of the past shaped me into the person I am now – even the sexual experiences.

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  39. Coggs
    Coggs 24 July, 2014, 08:26

    Im 36 now. I dated and exclusively slept with only my girlfriend of 9 years starting age 14. I can remember getting into fights with her during the summers when she would go on vacation, cause she held hands with or kissed another boy.

    Looking back after all these years. My inability to deal with that, granted we were both very young, ultimately drove us apart years later. I still love her with all my heart, and still visit with her and her family a few times a year. Im her sisters son godfather and i am going to her (my ex) wedding in october.

    I guess the point of this is if you truly love someone, or atleast care enough about someone enough to be in a relationship with, what do numbers really matter. Why even ask? How much of a boost to your own ego is it going to be? Or possibly how damaging to your ego if its higher than you want it to be?

    My own number is 10-20. For a 35 yr old male with no kids, a monogomous from 14-23the and a 2 year marriage after dating for 5 years, i dont think thats bad at all.

    The past is the past. Don’t ask if you are not able to handle the answer. If you find someone to love who loves you in return, asking that question can possibly poison your relationship. Is it really ever worth knowing? The answer is probably not! A small number really is not going to make you feel any better. A large number is probably going to make you unhappy, especially if her number is higher than yours. I guess this post is more about advice maybe? Heh im not sure myself.

    If you find someone who makes you feel like you want to be a better person. And you’re pretty sure they feel the same about you, does their past really matter that much? (Ego check) that one thing she/he does that drives you nuts… she/he learned that question somewhere in their past experience! Enjoy it. Life is way too short to dwell on the past. We all have skeletons in our closet, of one sort or another.

    Love life
    E

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 24 July, 2014, 10:02

      E thanks for sharing your personal story and I think your attitude is dead on. All the best. xo S

      Reply this comment
  40. Coggs
    Coggs 24 July, 2014, 08:33

    Apologize for the typos. Heh darn spell check! And auto correct. Not sure how to edit

    Reply this comment
  41. andrew
    andrew 29 July, 2014, 16:58

    I only had one sex partner, and even then it wasn’t for free

    Reply this comment
  42. john
    john 3 August, 2014, 05:13

    Vg

    Reply this comment
  43. john
    john 3 August, 2014, 05:13

    Vg

    Reply this comment
  44. Shannon
    Shannon Author 3 August, 2014, 10:52

    Pete I think you are a find. I think there are women out there who don’t want to just jump in the sack. But I will say in my life it ebbed and flowed. There was a period of time in my life where I had sex quickly with a few men, but then, later, realized it just wasn’t what I really wanted. That, like you, I was looking for something committed and for someone I could trust not only with my body, but also my heart. I was fortunate to find that. And he didn’t and still doesn’t have a six pack. But I feel you. I know it’s tough out there. I took a few bruising beatings myself. Hold your ground Pete. You sound very special.

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  45. Pete
    Pete 29 November, 2014, 02:37

    I’m really surprised at some of the numbers women rack up. By the statistics, my number (17) is supposed to be higher than average, but judging by what’s said on this forum, women must lie A LOT about how many lovers they’ve had.

    There are a few things that puzzle me about women’s sexuality and their number and I would love to hear your answers:

    When I met my wife, I was open with her about how many women I had slept with. My wife was upset by the number because she said she had no evidence that I would be a committed partner after I had taken sex casually for so long. I THINK SHE HAD A VALID POINT. A study illustrated in Psychology Today says, “As you can imagine, sociosexual orientation has a great impact on the risk of divorce. Sociosexually unrestricted individuals are far more likely to experience divorce than sociosexually restricted individuals because they are more likely to engage in extramarital affairs. ”

    So, I can totally see why my wife was concerned. So, I WOULD NEVER tell any woman to JUST GET OVER MY NUMBER and that if she can’t deal with the number IT’S HER FAULT FOR BEING INSECURE. Past behavior is indicative of future behavior and therefore cause for concern. I spent a long time proving myself to my wife and I’m glad I did.

    Here’s my question: Are the women on this forum truly NOT concerned with a man’s past behavior? Exactly what would raise red flags for you, if any? If you found out your boyfriend was addicted to porn as of last week, but now that he’s met you he says he’s changed, would you just accept what he says at face value?

    I also think that claiming your sexual freedom confuses men and to an extent makes them feel slighted. Women don’t have to work nearly as hard as men for sex–your gender are the gatekeepers of sexual relations. Therefore, when a man tries to convince you to take him into your bed, whether it’s over a drink or he’s been on a couple of dates with you, he is actually proving himself worthy of being in your bed. There are entire books, websites and movies made about men working hard to get the green light from a woman. It’s a big recurring them in our lives.

    In the past, because there was the chance of pregnancy, a woman would prove that she is really dedicated to a man by simply saying yes to sex because there was every chance she will have to deal with a baby. But now that we can have consequence free sex, women don’t have to prove anything to a man, yet he still must prove himself to her. I think, and I think many men will agree with me, that I feel a bit slighted when I’ve had to prove myself worthy of bedding a woman, but all she has to do is say yes. I know that if I decided to require her to prove herself to me, she’d just move on to the next guy who will say yes. Women have been complaining about this for decades, when they believe a man will get sex somewhere else if she doesn’t give it to him.

    The question is, does a woman feel a certain amount of power over men when she gets to pick and choose and men have to fumble over themselves trying to have sex with her? If so, is this power trip part of the reason why women rack up the numbers? How do you feel when a great looking man or a rock star does the same?

    Then there’s the “special” factor. Part of being in a new relationship is that feeling that you’re truly special to this person. I equate it with getting a staring acting role. You’re the only person for this part, so you feel elated that the director thought so much of you. Even if you’re cast as an ensemble, considering the number of people who auditioned, you can be sure that you are part of an elite cast of the best.

    But being with someone who’s been with tons of people kind of feels like you’re an extra. Like you’re just one more in a string of nameless and faceless people. Don’t women feel this too? Don’t you feel that if a man has bed tons of women and never really gave a crap about any of them, that you’re a little less special when he chooses you?

    My last question is this:

    Women have struggled very hard to get men to think of them as something more than sex objects for a very long time. But when my friends and I have had casual sex with a women in the past, she was just that. AN OBJECT. The definition of casual sex is that it is casual. Your male partner could care less about your feelings, your desires for the future, who you are outside of the bedroom, how smart or funny you are. You and he are mutual masturbatory toys to be dis-guarded when the night is over. When you tell men that this is part of feminism, they get a mixed signal. On the one hand you tell men that women are to be respected as more than toys for their sexual pleasure, and on the other hand you’re telling them that strong, secure, confident women have no problem being used just for sexual pleasure and they will in tern use men in the same way. This needs to be better explained to me. I just don’t get it.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 29 November, 2014, 23:43

      Hi Pete — this is a very complex series of questions you are asking and I know there is no way I’m qualified to answer them with perfect clarity. But the one thing I get from both of your comments is that you are a man who cares very much about how a woman he loves — and women in general — perceive him. There is a vulnerability to your questions that I admire so much.

      I can only speak for myself when I say that I had two long-term relationships with men who were not faithful to me and I was in love with both of them and it caused me a massive amount of heartache. So I never understood that many men have felt equally vulnerable the way that I did during those relationships. Because I gave my heart to men who strayed I felt like men held the sexual power, not me.

      Yet in the remainder of my sexual experience with 10+ more men, I wasn’t emotionally wounded, but I believe I caused pain to at least two of those men by not falling in love with them. It didn’t occur to me at the time that perhaps I hurt them in the way I’d been hurt (although I made no commitment to them and was with both of them briefly, while my two previous relationships were 5 years each where – I thought – we had a commmitment).

      When I say I have no regrets that means a few different things. I was sexually curious. I think only having one lover — for me — might have been a bad thing. No matter how satisfying the sex is with my husband, I think I would have wondered what other experiences would have been like. Even if they weren’t necessarily better.

      The other reason I have no regrets is that even though I did suffer heartbreak — and perhaps dealt it out? — I believe that pain forced me to look deeply into where I came from, who I was in that moment and who I wanted to become. I’m proud of the woman I am today (though still always learning and growing) and don’t think I’d be here if not for those experiences.

      And then there were the few lovers who were simply that. Lovers. Neither of us hurt the other. Some of the lovemaking was so agenda-free, friendly, kind and fun that I do think of them fondly and wish them well and I hope they feel the same way about me.

      Topics like the battle of the sexes, feminism, the seeming and real marginalization of men are so complex they really need their own college courses. There’s no doubt that sex is a sociological, psychological labyrinthine conundrum which I couldn’t possibly unravel here, though I wish I were smart enough to try. Pete, if you figure it out please let me know!!

      Reply this comment
      • Pete
        Pete 30 November, 2014, 15:30

        Thanks for the reply, Shannon.

        I love your answer. It makes me think that maybe not all modern women are just out for sex as prescribed in so many magazines and online articles.

        As I read through my rant, I guess the basic theme is that people DO want to know about someone’s past, even if it’s how you treat your mother, your relationship with your friends, and have you ever been in jail. A person’s past isn’t EVERYTHING, but it is SOMETHING. It’s natural to want to know something about the person your falling for and that in itself is not indicative of insecurity.

        And yes, I was cheated on before, too.

        That doesn’t mean much now that I’m married and have been with the same woman for many years. However, I see the prevailing attitude of some very vocal women shaming men for wanting to know a woman’s past as playing games with their heads. It’s making young men very insecure about where they stand in the world.

        My wife and I were talking about this topic last night, and as I laid out my arguments, she said she realized something for the first time as I spoke: MEN DON’T TALK TO EACH OTHER ABOUT THIS STUFF AND NO LONGER HAVE STRONG MALE ROLE MODELS TO GUIDE THEM. Therefore, when young men (and even older) get all this online chatter about what’s right and wrong in their dealings with women FROM WOMEN, they’re not comparing notes with other men and talking about their real life experiences as opposed to what they read on-line from anyone with a keyboard and a jaded opinion (such as me:)). So they’re not able to sort through what parts are useful and what parts are bullshit. It’s turning a lot of young men neurotic and it upsets me. I can’t tell you exactly why because I don’t talk about this with my male friends or father so I have a hard time sorting through the feelings. But, it does upset me for some undefinable reason and it’s not just insecurity. It DOES feel like the marginalizing of men and their feelings, though.

        I read a few threads of young women who said they can’t deal with their boyfriends’ numbers. Women came to their rescue with calm, cool, understanding and advice. When a young man does the same thing, he is slammed on all sides and told to man-up. This only teaches boys and men that it is NOT okay to share their feelings, especially with women, and so the cycle of confusion, isolation, and frustration continues.

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  46. Grant
    Grant 5 December, 2014, 14:24

    Hi Shannon:

    This post really got the wheels turning in my head. How many is too many? This question, of course, is impossible to answer. The most important thing is that two people who love each other dearly have found one another and are happy to spend the rest of their lives together. I’m not sure how a person’s number could have any effect on a stable partnership. It’s probably best to never divulge the number as that could open up Pandora’s box–sexual jealousy and insecurities may run rampant.

    In fact, if you are a woman and your boyfriend or husband is tortured by your number (in the case that it got out), that is probably HIS issue. I speak from experience. I was in my mid-20s the first time I had intercourse. I was a pretty normal dude–it just hadn’t happened yet, and it was something that I was deeply ashamed of. I was so insecure and intimidated by single sexual women who were sewing their oats. They made me so angry. I wanted to cry. The thing is that I never was actually truly bothered by these women, their sexuality, and their number–I was bothered by the fact that I hadn’t had sex yet and I felt that women writ large didn’t want me. It was MY problem, not theirs.

    Fortunately, this story has a happy ending. When I finally had sex, it was with women who were my worst nightmares and the source of my insecurities: single, successful, intelligent, sexually liberated women owning and enjoying their sexuality. A woman quite a bit older than me ushered me into the world–and pleasures of sex. She couldn’t care less that I was a virgin. At the end of one our sessions, she said “the training wheels are off.” I have never asked a woman her number and I don’t care–it had been my issue all along. The world wasn’t a bad place after all. Thank God for free and sexy women!

    Men have fragile egos. If a woman is getting grief from a guy about her sexual past, she just needs to make him feel adequate and special. Men can be trained to please a woman. You just have to work with them.

    One final note–I really don’t think numbers mean a thing. I’ve been with only three women and yet I’ve had incredible and fulfilling sex. It is extremely unlikely that I will find better lovers than the three I’ve had. At this point, I just want to get married. I think you are right about being 35 and a man and being sexually repressed if you’ve had less than 5. I was repressed. I have a powerful sex drive and I’m glad I’m fighting that repression. Maybe I can get to 5 yet–but marriage is more important, so if my number ends up being 4, I will have to live with it. Today’s man often regrets his low number.

    Your husband Henry is lucky man–you are a beautiful woman and a fine writer.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 5 December, 2014, 15:08

      Grant I hardly know what to say. YOu are so bold by allowing us to know you this way and to understand what it is to be a vulnerable man. I think for women of my generation, many of us who encountered men who weren’t interested in commitment (maybe as a backlash to the feminist movement? or a backlash to the skyrocketing divorce rate in the 70s when we were kids?) it’s so important to know that there are good men out there who do want to get married and cherish the women they love. Whomever you marry will be such a lucky lady. I wish you everything. xo S

      Reply this comment
  47. Ron
    Ron 8 December, 2014, 10:12

    Hi,

    I like your article. The comment you have made about it being a bad thing to have a low number is so true. I am experiencing this myself right now.

    My own story is a pretty sad one. I lost my virginity at 34 to the woman that’s now my wife. Why it happened so late? That’s a long sad story that I am going to spare you but it had to do with being bullied at school, lonlyness, depression, no self esteem whatsoever, attempted suicide, going to university and just work, work and work and basically having no life at all. At 34 I met the woman that I married and our marriage has its up and down but more downs.

    At the moment I am in my early fifties and reading stuff on the web about people having had lots of notches on their belts really makes me very sad about my own miserable life and makes me wonder why I screwed up so badly. SInce the last two years I have cheated on my wife a few times with a few prostitutes, just because I wanted to find out what else is out there and I want my moment in the sun too.

    I really wish I had not married the first woman who wanted me but gained some experience first.

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    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 8 December, 2014, 10:59

      Hi Ron — The first thing I want to say to you is don’t be too hard on yourself. We have a tendency to compare our insides to other people’s outsides, myself included. We have absolutely no idea what people’s lives are really like. We all project our most confident self to the world, when in fact most people are struggling with something and just doing the best that they can. I’m so sorry to hear about the bullying in your childhood. I was bullied in fourth and fifth grade by two girls who always threatened to “kick my ass” after school and it did untold damage. Mostly I hated myself for not standing up to them.

      So please don’t compare yourself to anyone else. We all struggle in our sex lives and feel inadequate at times. The larger concern is your marriage. It seems like you’re unhappily married, which means your wife probably is too. I’d let go of the past, forgive the young boy who was hurt so badly for not being able to fight back and protect you. Then move on and get some professional help to heal and bring clarity to your life today. I’ll be 50 in June and I can’t believe that I’m still a work-in-progress. Just when I feel like I’ve got it all figured out and that I’m kicking ass and taking names, some new character defect will pop up that I have to address and overcome. And I suspect it will continue to be that way until I walk out of this life.

      Give yourself the gift of mental health and reach out for help. I did and it’s the best money I ever spent. And there are 12-step programs that are free that address pretty much everything. I went to Al-Anon for 7 years and it saved my life. In any case, be kind to yourself. You deserve it. xo S

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      • Ron
        Ron 10 December, 2014, 10:37

        Hi Shannon,

        Thanks for your kind and wise words. I’ll take it to heart.
        Let go of the past or it will take away your future, right?
        Thanks again and all the best,

        Ron

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