Wise Guys – Do You Really Want to Know How Many Partners She's Had?

photo by Raissa Bandou

Advice from three of our guy friends. This week they answer the following: “When it comes to the number of sexual partners a woman has had, do guys want to know? Even if they say they do, are they lying?”

mark_luczak_100Straight Single Guy (Mark Luczak): It’s the Information Age, and people in general are so conditioned to gather and dissect every morsel of information they can find, that it follows that this would apply in the bedroom as well. I suppose the number of partners someone has had can serve as somewhat of a guage of their experience, which in turn could provide a relative basis for expectations, or at least a starting point for communication about it.

But communication-wise, far more important is simply sexual health history, regardless of that conversation’s catalyst (again, number of partners could provide a guage, but one isn’t necessarily dependent on the other). Past the health factors, sure, there are going to be different degrees of curiosity about lots of things when entering into a sexual relationship with someone (likes and dislikes, sex drives, etc.). But at this point, we all have our pasts, sexual and otherwise, to decide to share or not share, and at least for me anymore, the strict
number of previous partners is fairly low on the list of need-to-know’s.
james_glazebrook_100Straight Married Guy (James Glazebrook): Yes, guys want to know — as long as your number’s lower than theirs. And if you think that’s disappointingly cliche of me, wait until you hear this: I’ve been known to feel threatened by the former sexual partners of women who’ve had fewer than I have. I’ve fixated on their size, their confidence and athleticism, the fact that they persuaded my woman to do things they regretted (but I wouldn’t mind trying) — any aspect of their prowess, real or imagined.

My only defence is that when I said I wanted to hear about this stuff, I wasn’t lying — I really wanted to be okay with it. In these enlightened, post-Sex and the City times, even men believe in sexual equality — that the number of people a woman has been with is no reflection on her, or at least no more of a reflection than it is on her equally promiscuous male equivalent. But the thought of another man being with the woman I love (and it only ever mattered with women I loved) is enough to drive me mental… until I’ve been with her long enough to deal with/suppress those feelings.

It’s probably telling that while I was obsessing about my now-wife’s handful of previous partners, she was worried about my relationship experience — that I’d been in love before, while she’d never had a proper boyfriend. But whether it’s love or sex, if we never cared about this stuff, it’s probably a sign that we’ve stopped caring altogether.

daniel_100Gay Single Guy (Daniel): Being a queer man, I have honestly never thought about this question, i.e. how a man is affected by the number of partners a woman he’s interested in has had. My suspicion is that it doesn’t really matter to modern men unless they are from a religious background. But frankly, as empowered women, don’t be ashamed about how many partners you’ve had. You don’t have to justify your sexual history to a man. If a man thinks you do, drop him, because neither one of you should have to justify your sexual history to the other.

Our “guys” are a rotating group of contributors. This week’s Straight Married Guy is James Glazebrook of Most Likely To; our Gay Guy is one-time stripper and sex columnist Daniel; and our Straight Single Guy is Mark Luczak, a tech geek at Carnegie Mellon University. To ask the guys your own question, click here.


  1. Huh. Maybe I’ve read too much Rita Mae Brown, but I thought “slut” was Southern for “bad housekeeper”…. 🙂

  2. I also think there is a difference between being promiscuous and being a slut. For me, a slut is someone that uses their sexuality (and willingness to engage in sex) as their only or primary means of getting attention. Therefore, sluts essentially advertise/project their willingness to have sex to get attention from the opposite sex. Sex and enjoyment of sex isn’t their motivation, the attention/affection that they get from having sex is their motivation.

    I’ve known many extremely promiscuous people that I would not consider sluts. They just like sex, and would be perfectly well adjusted, social people even if they were celibate.

  3. I know the meaning and use of the word “slut” has been debated many times on this site before but it is being brought up again.

    For me “slut” means someone who is mistaking a sexual connection with an emotional connection, male or female. They are using sex to falsely make an emotional connection that it isn’t usually reciprocated by the other party.

    Being promiscuous, on the other hand, is more about sexual encounters and the amount of them. It also implies that the connection is clearly sexual and not emotional.

    Being nasty is being wild or adventurous in the sack. So a person who can be nasty and promiscuous is completely in control of the situation and in MHO a great lay.

    Whereas someone who is acting “slutty” isn’t in control of the situation, and this can lead to mis-communication, hurt feelings, awkward texts the next day and so on.

    So for me, I don’t mind if my partner has been promiscuous because they know the difference between a sexual connection and an emotional one.

    Of course, the best sex happens when both sexual and emotional connections are taking place between the partners. But we can’t always be that lucky, can we?

  4. Love your post, Johnny. Slutty girls demand love too. 🙂

    Re: your questions – #1 Yes. #2 Hell, yes! #3 (really dirty grin)

    IMHO, quantity of experience is not necessarily equivalent to quality of experience, which is where the focus ought to be. Really, is it more important to guys that they be #1 or #last?

    Even in the case of sexual history, the real question is: is a communicable disease in the equation? Since disease can be transmitted from the get-go, the number of lovers/hookups in the past is irrelevant to the current circumstances.

  5. Oh, this is a good one.

    In the past I related strongly to James’ point of view – her quantity and quality of past partners drove me insane. I longed to hear women say that all their past sexual experiences were regrettable mistakes and I was the only lover that really counted.

    But on a perverse level it also turned me on to think of my GF acting slutty. I could barely admit this to myself, let alone to anyone else.

    Eventually I got tired of going crazy over dumb shit, and just went with that turned-on feeling. Ha! What a relief. I love when women tell me slutty stuff from their pasts. During sex even! Drives me crazy.

    And with that, I reconciled my Madonna/whore complex once and for all. I can like a slutty girl. I can love a slutty girl. They can let themselves go with me, knowing I won’t judge them. They don’t have to pretend they regret anything. They’re more fun than prudey girls – should guys really let their egos stand in the way of that?

    Makes me wonder if other people are secretly turned on by the stuff they claim to despise. Are homophobes secretly bi-curious? Do aggressively prudish girls masturbate to gang-bang scenarios? Is Gail Dines just terrified of her own degraded-on-camera fantasy?

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