Wise Guys: Does It Matter If You've Slept with More People Than Your Partner?

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Advice from three of our guy friends. This week they answer the following: Does the average hetero guy really care if his girlfriend/wife has had sex with more people than he has? And if so, why?

Straight Married Guy (Jamie): I may be somewhat in the minority here in that, while I have an extremely liberal philosophy about sex, I haven’t had a particularly high number of sexual partners (I was always a “girlfriend guy” and just didn’t rack up the big numbers).  I’ve also never bought into the whole men-as-players/women-as-sluts double standard.  Many of the female friends I admire most have had lots of sexual partners, but are also all well-adjusted, independent women.  To be honest, I’ve always been more attracted to women who have an air of worldliness.  I think it’s a turn-on to be with a woman who is confident sexually and knows what she likes.  And if that confidence came at the hands (or whatever) of more former lovers then I’ve had, well that’s just fine by me.

Gay Engaged Guy (Joel Derfner, author of Swish): As a gay man living in a major metropolitan city, I’ve lost track of the amount of sex I’ve had.  How then can I hold a partner to a different standard?  I recommend that everybody have enough sex so that both the boy and the girl can honestly say, “I’m not really sure,” and leave it at that.  That said, I asked my straight cousin, whose wife has always been very sexually free, and he said that his biggest worry had been that their kids’ attitude toward sex would develop far too early as a result, but this has turned out not to be the case.  I loathe children, so I’m going to stick with the “I’m not really sure” recommendation.

Straight Single Guy (L.A. Chris): Totally. He also cares if she’s stronger, smarter, or wealthier than he is. It comes down to our primal need for dominance. Unless a guy’s got a fetish or extreme dominance in one of those areas (i.e., a body-builder won’t care about a girl’s bulging biceps), it’s a turn-off to be second banana or subordinate. Truth be told, he’ll also feel a little bit jealous (it’s a big competition between guys since we were teenagers). And lastly, we want our girl to be a virgin slut, and we need to pretend that if we’re not the first, then at least we’re the best.

Our “wise guys” are a rotating group of contributors, some of whom wish to remain anonymous and some of whom like the attention. This week’s Gay Engaged Guy is Joel Derfner, author of Swish. To ask the guys your own question, click here.


  1. To SoCalGuy

    Just throwing it out there – but is it possible your wife is regaling you of the stories of how exciting sex was “back then” because she is feeling out how you might feel about spicing things up now? If you think you are missing out on something, you may want to raise it with your wife. Sexual experience or expertise does not have to be gained with multiple partners – you can do it in the context of a committed, monogamous relationship.

  2. To SoCalGuy:
    It is obvious from both your experience and ways of thinking that you are a sensitve man who understands a woman is not an extension of you but a whole entity within herself with the full right and capability to be wild, reserved, and make silly mistakes. i applaud you for your maturity in even looking at your wife (and hopefully all women) from that angle. Furthermore the very problem/insecurity you are dealing with only drives the situation even closer to home. The feelings you speak of are not only what most women feel through the course of their life…due to the fact that we normally have older partners who have lived their life to the fullest (and was lucky enough to be judged by his character as opposed to his very worth as a person tied in with his sexuality as his core being), as well as the fact that people barely encourage women to live for themselves often subconsciously instilling in them the idea that they better trap a man in her matrimonial claws tying him down-after all you are a “whore” for just giving it up because ironically he hasn’t bought you enough to receive what everyone seems to believe is an act enjoyable only by him….I am not trying to make you feel guilty-exactly the opposite-just understand what you feel is what women are not only forced to -but even encouraged to feel-for the course of their entire lives. Personally I believe we all as humans reserve the right to trully live life for ourselves (after all you will inevitably be judged anyway)…and do the best we can to understand others the same. I hope every thing works out for you and your wife (as she seems to be an intelligent and brave woman herself) but most importantly I hope you find what is right for you. You honestly gave me a strange hope-(not to see anyone else be subject to such contrasting psychology) but to the fact that even though its not easy to find (just as no one encourages indepdence in women-even less do I see any attempts to stop society’s tendency to simply justify men’s behaviour/subconscious sexism) but to the fact that there are men like you with the rare woman that your wife seems to be…and that in itself shows me times are shifting (very very) slowly into a state of true synthesis and above any and all else TRUE and HONEST mutual respect.

  3. I’m middle-aged and married young so I can count on one hand all the women I have “been with.”

    I have been in a relationship with a woman who talks a lot about her younger years and recalls the recklessness of the parties and the flings and the wild places she had sex and how impulsive it was. To her, she’s sharing the story of a wild girl who sowed her wild oats, learned from it and calmed down and became a better and more responsible grown woman. So to her, the stories of those times are the important “before” in a “before and after” tale.

    But to me, a guy with so little experience, the tales make me feel like I missed out on all that. I barely sowed one “wild oat” before I was engaged to get married. Of course, I wanted to date women and “be with them”, but was to insecure (I called it “focused on school”) to do anything about it.

    And maybe worst of all, when she recounts how impulsive sex was “back then”, it stands in deep contrast to how “quiet and intimate” it is with me. It’s as though she used up most of her passion on all of “them” and now has just the tender side of sex left in her for me.

    I’m afraid this doesn’t bode well for the relationship. The more I hear from her about how impulsive and exciting sex can be, the more I want to know that part of life. And she seems to be “past all that” already.

  4. i dont think it should matter at all but id rather have a women who knows what feels good to them to and can say so i think it can work fore the better fore some people some people close minded it probley wont they can never see past the first one so if they throw it up to you move on you find alot better man in the long run

  5. As a closeted hetero (to use Betty Dodson’s term), I’ve always assumed that my partner, or potential partner, is more experienced and that’s always turned out to be true. As I’ve gotten older, that differential has only increased, but it’s never been a threat to my ego in the way that it seems to be for L.A. Chris. On the contrary, a woman who’s looked around enough to have an idea of what she likes and know what she’s doing is immensely appealing. I think it’s better if at least one of us has a clue.

  6. What the average guy tends to lose sight of very quickly is that the woman is no longer w/any of the previous partners-she’s with him now and that is really the bottom line is it not?

  7. I remember a “seduction community” guy talking about how for a lot of the guys he talked to it wasn’t the number of partners their girlfriend had been with, it was the number of men who had been with *her.* Which seemed like a funny distinction except, he said, that it meant he couldn’t particularly special. Which I read as saying it’s not that you have to feel *superior,* just not run of the mill. So I’m going to be a little more sympathetic to your position than… I might.

    So here’s another way to look at it though: when guys feel insecure they automatically assume anyone else their partner’s been had to have been better than them… that they’re not just a second, or third, or tenth partner but second, or third, or tenth *choice.* When chances are she’s actually, like flick said, *more* sure you’re special, not less.

    You don’t *have* to think about it that way. For instance you could keep thinking the way you do. But… you won’t just keep getting teased like you’ve been in comments here, and you won’t just be unfair to more experienced partners, you’ll be unfair to *yourself.*


    p.s. of course as Johnny points out the question is hypothetical for polite people.

  8. Either Chris could use a good pegging, or he already likes it and is just having us on!

    And what flick said–to me #s matter less than sexual health, what you like, what I can learn from you, and what you can do that will make me squeal.

  9. more on what dannie said. It’s about being partners, you shouldn’t have to be better than her. Your strengths should balance out her weaknesses and vice versa.

    I don’t really tell my boyfriend how many people i’ve slept with. When he asked something similar i told him the truth, that i went through a “slutty phase” but because of that slutty phase, i know what i want, i know what i like, and i know how to do it. And he likes that enough to look beyond how many guys i may or may not have slept with.

    That, is what is important

  10. Dear L.A. Chris: I just wanted to point out that you are labeled as “straight, -single- guy.” Hm. Wonder why? Women want to feel strong, smart, and free just as much as any man, so my recommendation for men who have inferiority complexes is this: Get over it. Women aren’t the 13-year-old boys that used to steal your lunch money and make fun of your willie. We’re just trying to do the best we can and be happy, and we want to be with men who want us to be happy, too. Just as, I’m sure, straight men want to be with women who want their guys to be happy. Just because a woman is better at some things than her man, or has had more sex partners, he is not made a ‘subordinate’ of her. That’s why we call each other ‘partners.’ It’s a team, and every strength and weakness contributed to that team should be accepted and appreciated.

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