I lost my virginity at 18, after graduating high school, and I had kissed five people up until that point. I didn't need a list (I could recite everyone I had kissed in chronological order until the number reached around 20), but I had one. The list had the boy's name, as well as symbols signifying "how far" we went. Also, everyone I kissed received a journal entry (so quaint!). So, numbers were big to me. HUGE. Anyone I dated, I wanted to know their numbers as well - how many he had kissed, how many of them gave head, how many he slept with. Since my numbers were pretty low and I mostly dated guys who were a little older and little more experienced, sharing wasn't a big deal. But, once I hit six, I started to worry. My last boyfriend, who was two years older than me, had only slept with four. Was I a slut?
The next sexual situation I was in was with a friend with whom there was no chance of dating, since he lived in Maine and I live in Seattle. We were hanging out one day, and he kissed the back of my neck while we were in a toy store. My entire body responded, every hair on end, a current running through my spine. We couldn't get back to his house fast enough. When we were naked on his bed in the light of the afternoon sunshine, he said I was beautiful, and I believed him. I felt perfect in that moment. It was electric, one of the most arousing experiences of my life. And I stopped it short for the sake of a number. (We never went all the way. He has a serious girlfriend now, and once she found some old racy correspondence of ours, so he had to stop talking to me because it made her uncomfortable, regardless of the fact that we live on different coasts. But irrationally jealous girlfriends are another topic.)
A few months later, I had sex with someone else, and it was lousy. I had wasted an opportunity for GREAT sex for the sake of the number, then had mediocre sex with someone I had no intention of dating, or even sleeping with again. I felt defeated. I still had a higher number, and not even a good story to show for it. As anyone who has experienced phenomenal sex knows, it's an unrivaled experience. What had I passed it up for? I then vowed to never let myself miss another opportunity. (That was later revised to not allowing myself to miss an opportunity except for the sake of monogamy, but that's another story.)
I still kept the list, more for curiousity's sake, but I didn't allow fear of adding to it to interfere with whom I chose to sleep with. Now, I'm not proud of everyone I've slept with, and I would take a few back in the light of hindsight. But the lion's share, I don't regret one bit, number be damned.
This last Summer, I stopped updating the list. At first I panicked: was that really someone I wanted to be? I remembered with horror the first female friend who told me she honestly had no idea how many men she had been with. Then I thought about it more. I consider myself to be a sex-positive person, and I think the double-standard of males with a high number of sexual partners versus females is ludicrous. Tucker Max doesn't know how many people he's slept with, why should I? (Note: it's nowhere near as many as Tucker Max. I'm double-digits, not triple ((double-note: why do I feel the need to clarify?))). Also, I prefer to date a guy who has had many partners - he tends to have more sexual skill, be more confident in bed, and be more adventurous, all things that I value.
Rather than be afraid of how someone else would react to my number, I thought about it this way: Do I even want to date the kind of guy that would judge me for something like that? The answer was no. A relationship is about mutual respect, and trust; if my past makes him feel insecure, that's his problem, not mine. I would rather weed out guys who are uncomfortable about that sort of thing than pussyfoot around someone else's prejudices.
This was originally written in response to a question about whether "notches on the bedpost" really mattered, which he asked in advance of his own blog post on the matter. I don't think of his general readership as my peer group, so I want to ask you the same thing: What are your thoughts on numbers? Do you keep track? Do you ask? Does how many people someone else has slept with affect your opinion of them?
(PS- the timeline of my experiences with the "friend" is a little off - it made more sense this way, in order to maintain flow as well as to protect his anonymity.)