What People Really Think About Your Sex Number, According to Science

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Photo: Tory Rust

Talking about your sexual past can be awkward. You probably don’t want to think about the person you’re dating sleeping with other people, but it’s critical to ask the important questions: When were you last tested? Do you have condoms? How do you like to be touched? Other, less practical, subjects can also come up—one of them being the number of people you’ve slept with.

Anyone remember that famous scene from Friends when Monica finds out Richard has only slept with two women? “You make it sounds like a whole fleet,” he says after inquiring about her number. “Well, it is definitely less than a fleet!” she says, before darting into her bedroom and closing the door.

Ever wondered what people think about your number? Science has some interesting answers. Dr. Ed surveyed over 1,000 Europeans and Americans of various ages about their sexual histories and feelings about sexual promiscuity (or lack thereof). Researchers asked respondents about past partners, opinions about “appropriate” numbers of sex partners, and whether they would lie to a partner about their own “number.”

For some, myself included, finding out that you can be judged for your number of sexual partners is a bit jarring. When it comes to the confusing world of sex, you (apparently) don’t want to be a total novice, but you don’t want to be slutty either. It’s a Goldilocks situation, guys.

Sex Partners Survey | Dr. Ed | STYLECASTER

Dr. Ed

29 percent of those surveyed report that you never have to disclose your sexual history to a partner. As we move more towards a more sex-positive culture, the number of people you’ve slept with will (hopefully) matter less and instead, the only thing of consequence will be if you have sex safely. However, 54 percent of Americans think you should disclose your sexual history before sleeping together. 39 percent of US citizens reported that sexual past doesn’t matter and one in four reported that they’d never been asked how many people they’d slept with. Snaps for the sexually liberated!

Are people still lying about the number of people they’ve slept with? Is this still a thing in 2017? According to the data, 23 percent of women undersell their number by ten partners or more, whereas 22 percent of men undersell their number. While both genders reported being honest about their sexual histories, one in five people reported that they’d lie about their number of sexual partners to make it seem smaller.

MORE: 5 Ways to Make Bad Sex Better

Of those who participated in the study, men and women in their 20s both agree that three sexual partners is the “sweet spot.” In fact, all age groups netted out at three to five sexual partners in their proverbial green zones. You can have as many or as few sexual partners as you want, but if you’re going to stick to three, you better make sure you have a LOT of sex with those three people (after all, practice makes perfect).

Sex Partners Survey | Dr. Ed | STYLECASTER

Dr. Ed

MORE: How to Tell a New Partner About an STD

According to the survey, men in their 20s are unsurprisingly slut shame-y compared to their female counterparts. Results found that anything over seven sexual partners would be considered too high for the average dude. In fact, women were significantly more likely to keep their numbers to themselves for fear of sexual shaming. Looks like we still have a long, long way to go when it comes to closing the gender sex-shaming gap.

Speaking of ladyfolk, women in their 20s were much more forgiving, reporting that ten or more sex partners would be “high.” Both sexes evened out in their 30s, where both groups agreed that more than 10 partners would be considered a lot. Super awkward for the more promiscuous among us! I couldn’t count my number of sexual partners if my entire life depended on it. Apparently, I’m in the minority, as only 2.6 percent of women report not knowing their number. I have yet to receive a complaint from a partner, I might add.