Your Call: Should I Lie to Virgin BF About My Body Count?

We get a lot of advice questions coming in at EMandLO.com, but sadly, we just can’t answer them all. Which is why, once a week, we turn to you to decide how best to advise a reader. Make your call by leaving your advice in the comments section below:

Dear Em & Lo,

My boyfriend and I are in college, have been dating for 8 months, but have never had any sort of talk about prior sexual experience. He was a virgin before he met me, so I figure maybe he was embarrassed to bring it up. If he does ask me, I don’t know what to say!

I know numbers are all relative, and a high number to one person is different than another, but we’re talking about a guy with zero sexual experience before me. Maybe I’m making assumptions, but as I guy I feel he would be even more insecure to know any details about my past and I don’t want it to drive a wedge between us.

No matter what feminists and the like would like to happen, my sexual history is going to be up for judgement and there’s nothing I can do about it but accept it, and I realize that. I had self-esteem issues in high school and they manifested themselves through my so-called “relationships” with guys, but I’m completely different now.

Is honesty really the best policy?

— Outnumbered

What should Outnumbered do?


  1. funny i had this problem when i was with my now steady bf, who i love very much. the thing is, i used to just say “a lot” or any vague number. more like, i used to sleep with many men kind of thing just to make me a very experienced woman. but in all honesty, when i told him the number of guys i did the deed with, it felt both shameful but humiliating. oh and my bf was hurt: he was shaking, sad, etc. because he never knew i would degrade myself at one point in my life, etc. oh and the fact that i outnumber his count of… none.
    but after all the trials and arguments (the sad fact is that i dont know the actual count) he accepted this as one of my baggage that he needs to take in if he wants to spend the rest of my life with him,. of course we had tests for STDs and HIVs, but the important lesson is: JUST BE HONEST. its a part of you that needs to be accepted. its part of who you were and why are you here now. if he cant, there will be many that will accept it. leaving him out in the dark will eventually make him feel insecure. then the rest after deliberating is to make him feel that despite ALL those men, he is your number one guy. trust me, it works wonders.
    good luck with your relationship with him.

  2. You can get an STD from simply being with just ONE person SO the amount of partners (although more partners = higher risk) is kind of irrelevant. I have only been with 7 & I’m 26 so its pretty low however my past is done with, its really none of his business (dont mean to sound harsh) unless of course I myself choose to disclose information. How is that information going to be beneficial for you seriously? Regardless, with any new partner whether they have been with 1 or 20 people, you should still be responsible by using condoms every time & if you decide to go “bare” then just get tested.

  3. No offense, Johnny, but let’s not surmise that “copulating with one” Black or Latino is grounds to degredade a woman for her sexual past. It is 2011 for chrissake and interracial relationships aren’t quite as taboo as they may have once been. That aside, you make a case for wanting to know the boyfriends own risk for infection, but this should remain his main priority should he ask in the first place. Wanting to know what type of sex she was having (vaginal, anal, did she use protection, has she been tested since, etc) should be a mandatory conversation (not an attack on her morals), REGARDLESS of the race and affiliation of her former partners.

  4. Just to clarify – my number is no one’s business but mine. My health history is the business of anyone I have sex with, and I am completely forthcoming about that, and expect the same in return. History of condom use, testing history & frequency etc. However, how many people I’ve slept with is nobody’s business, and not at all relevant. Having fewer partners doesn’t make a person “safer” if they haven’t been responsible in the activities they’ve engaged in with those parters.

  5. African americans and latinos have a ridiculously high HIV incidence rate so definitely make sure to know if the skank has copulated with one.

  6. It is NOT his business to know your number. No one, male or female, has the right to know the details of what you did and with whom prior to them. They only have a right to:

    (1) Know what you are doing with others going forward b/c this is both an emotional and a physical risk. It’s also a little thing called integrity. Pretty necessary in order to maintain a healthy relationship. And for being able to look at yourself in a mirror.

    (2) He has a right to know if you are a potential STD risk to him, but you don’t need to tell him specifics about your sex life in order to provide him with fair information on that score. The type of behavior you’ve engaged in is more important than the number of partners. Protected sex with 100 different men is less risky than unprotected sex with 1 man whose history you aren’t 100% sure of.

    Hell, even as a virgin, he could have an STD he’s passing to you. Herpes and HPV and several other viruses can be passed w/o sex. Or, gosh, there are plenty of places that don’t adequately screen blood transplants. (This from a friend who’s a world-reknown AIDS researcher).

    So don’t assume b/c he’s a virgin he’s STD free.

    Set him down in a safe, comfy place (NOT a bedroom or public place) and reassure him that you love him and respect him. Because of this, you want to make sure you two are on the same page about sex. Tell him:

    (1) I am not a virgin. The where, when, how, and who of it are NONE of your business. It is a matter between myself and God. Period.

    (2) I have always practiced safe sex and always will until I’m married. That is a gift I give to myself, my husband, and my children (b/c STDs do affect fetuses and herpes can be passed from mother to child). Condoms have never been negotiable in the past. They won’t be with you.

    (3) Before we have sex, we should both get a full STD screening. I’ve been to my ob-gyn regularly, but gosh, things can slip through…and just because you’re a virgin doesn’t mean you can’t have an STD. In addition, as the penetrated partner, my risk is much higher than yours of contracting an STD from the encounter. So, if we really love and respect one another, we’ll both go get tested.

    Also, do not equivocate or sugar-coat. A LOT of young women are so eager to please men they love that they compromise too much. We are also taught to be the mediators, etc. So don’t let him talk you into not getting a test himself and/or into not using condoms.

    Even if he’s a virgin, you are still the one penetrated and a risk is still there.

  7. ^ Ha! There’s one for the “bad dirty talk” post: “slip your crank into me, Johnny…”

  8. it IS his buisness..because he might not want any of your potetinal STDs.Heck if i were him id of made d!mn sure i knew your past before i even slipped my crank into you…more of a health concern then insecurity imo

  9. I don’t think “I don’t know exactly” is the best answer- makes it sound like life’s been such an orgy that it’s been impossible for you to keep track

    Just be honest and reassure him that numbers don’t mean anything

  10. I would be honest but maybe not specific. Whenever this question comes up, I say “I don’t know exactly.” You should just state that you have been in other relationships and leave it at that. You could also mention any steps you have taken to protect your health (STD test, condoms, etc.) This will show him that you are confident and smart about the choices you have made and are not going to shame yourself. If he is rude or mean to you, then dump him cuz he ain’t worth the trouble.

  11. When I was your age, I was always fully honest when asked about how many sexual partners I’d had. You know what I found out? Any man who asks that question already has a set figure in his head that he finds acceptable, and is going to respond negatively to any number that varies from that, high or low.

    I got older and wiser, and now I simply don’t answer, nor do I ask that question of anyone I’m dating. Your “number” is only relevant if you make it relevant.

    As a matter of fact, it’s been many years since anyone I’ve been with has even asked me that, which lends support to Johnny’s “becoming a man” theory.

  12. Oh yeah, and here’s a word from my beloved Man-Box: in less PC times, getting laid for the first time was known as “becoming a man.” Becoming a man carries certain responsibilities, including knowing how to handle oneself vis a vis women.

    If he flips out over this, clearly the “becoming a man” part didn’t take. He shouldn’t see himself as being in competition with other guys – he should see himself as ONE OF the guys.

    I don’t recommend playing the “be a man” card on him – that’s big guns – but I do recommend dumping him if he becomes mean with you about this. You don’t need a crybaby. Maybe he’ll check himself before he wrecks himself, and come back with a level head. Maybe he’ll just wreck himself, in which case you’ll know dumping him was the right decision.

  13. Don’t lie. Also don’t frame it as “self-esteem issues that manifested as blah blah blah…”

    In my opinion that’s something women do to accomodate their own and their mens’ Madonna/whore complex: chalk it up to some Freudian void that had to be filled by sex, but you now realize how wrong that was, and you’re so sorry you acted like a slut…

    It makes sex sound like something fucked-up women do, and quit doing so much once they “get better.” It also makes sex into something that you have to apologize for or at least make excuses for, which it ain’t.

    Instead, present yourself as a woman who’s liberated enough to enjoy sex, and your lucky boyfriend is the guy who gets to reap the benefits.

    I can’t guarantee that he won’t have a good ol’ Madonna/whore tantrum over this, and I do think you’re nice to take his feelings into account, but I don’t think you should lie.

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