Fail to Fab: How Many Sexual Partners Have You Had?

By Jess Downey, Copy Cutie

credit: srqpix (Flickr)As a singleton, I’ve had my fair share of experiences with getting to know someone new. And all too often I’m asked certain things about my dating past time and time again. Because it’s easy to perceive those inquiries as foe rather than friend, here’s a special Fail to Fab series on how to prepare yourself should these common crop of questions come up.

Fail: A few years ago, I was chatting with a guy from an online dating site and we swapped numbers so we could plan a meeting. While on the phone, we engaged in some G-rated flirty conversation when he asked how many people I had slept with. Stunned, I asked why he wanted to know. He said the number was important because he didn't want to date some “cheap floozy” who had been with more people than he had. I told him that I felt uncomfortable saying my number since we hadn't even met in person yet, which led him to assume I was hiding the amount out of shame because it was so high.

After going around the issue for far longer than I care to admit, I ended the conversation and wished him well. I never ended up meeting that guy because honestly, I couldn't get over his harsh assumptions about me, and the way he handled my request to keep things private until I knew him better.

Fab: Even though this question rears its ugly head from time to time, it's actually pretty frowned upon in the dating world. The simple fact is that there's no good way to throw out a number without making yourself sound bad. Too many and people think you're promiscuous. Too few can lead others to believe you're close-minded and inexperienced. And let's face it: there are just too many factors that can attribute to a person's number being really high (or really low). 

If you find yourself in a situation where you become curious about someone's number, take a moment to think about why you really want to know. It's OK to want to make sure that your partner is healthy — both emotionally and physically. But the answer to this question won’t tell you any of that. So instead of focusing on how many notches he or she has on their bedpost, opt for questions that will help reveal the information you're really looking to find.

Keep in mind that conversations of this matter should be left for when you know a person better. Never ever ask before you've even met, and avoid asking on dates one through three. Your date might be uncomfortable with your line of questioning, and that's OK. Don't assume their hesitancy to answer means he or she slept with the entire cheerleading or football team in college; it could just be more of a private matter — which is perfectly normal.

If you're the one being asked, it's perfectly fine to decline a response. Don't make a big deal out of it, but just politely say you’d rather not answer. It might make you a little squeamish, but keep in mind that any person who really wants to date you won’t want to make you feel uncomfortable. Just be aware that your date may be looking for other information aside from your number so be prepared (and open) to exploring a conversation of that nature — especially if things are getting serious between you two anyway.

Remember: Dating is all about getting to know someone new, which often means exploring cringe-worthy subjects. But instead of becoming defensive, answer as honestly as you comfortably can — after all, the right match won’t care what your answer is.