It’s Only A Double Standard If You Have Standards
Still, even if you’re just trying to stave off the ghosts of self-doubt and feelings of worthlessness, it’s cool for guys to have as many partners as possible. If you’re a woman and start racking up more than the socially acceptable number of sex partners1, then you’re nothing but a filthy, filthy slut. After all, who respects a lock that any key can open?
Besides, it’s basic evolutionary psychology: men can father many children at once, therefore they’re supposed to be fucking far and wide while women are supposed to pick only one mate at a time in order to better maximize picking superior genes.
Of course, this bullshit belief requires profound misunderstanding of both evolution and psychology.
In fact – evolutionarily speaking2 – having multiple partners works out to a woman’s advantage; many male primates will kill a female’s children in order to ensure that his are the only ones that get raised to adulthood. By having more than one sexual partner, a female helps ensure that not only will the males not try to murder her offspring – for fear of accidentally killing their own kids by mistake – but it provides incentive for more males to help provide for them; after all, they can’t be sure that they’re not taking care of their own kids.
But why let facts get in the way of some good old-fashioned slut shaming?
Just as male sexuality is unfairly defined as being horny beyond all control and reason, female sexuality still tends to be defined as something that needs to be coaxed and cajoled out of a woman, because it needs to be kept bottled up for fear of losing it’s value. Let it too many people handle it – so the thinking goes – and suddenly it’s worthless.
The idea that men are supposed to have lots of sex and women aren’t is a cultural hang-up based around – ultimately – a fear of female sexuality and validation of male ego. After all, if a guy is supposed to be celebrated for getting a girl into bed, it takes away from his specialness when it turns out to be less of a case of a master of seduction “getting her to give it up” and more of her thinking “Well, I’m horny, you’re not unattractive and there’s really nothing good on TV tonight…”
Even in this day and age, it’s a sad testimony to our lack of cultural evolution that we hold on to the belief that while women may have sexual agency but if they spread the love too far and wide then there’s clearly something wrong with them. Hell, one of the movies on my flight back to the States was What’s Your Number?, a movie that revolves around the not-at-all misogynistic idea that a woman who has too many sex partners will *gasp* never get married. Nothing like a romantic comedy that comes with the subtext – unintentional or not – of “should’ve kept your legs shut, Anna Faris!”
What’s In A Number Anyway?
This cultural obsession with the numbers game is one that annoys me – all the more so for having been part of it. Especially since it’s absolutely meaningless. The number of a person’s sexual partners – regardless of gender – is just that: a number. It has no relevance to a person’s morality. It is not a quantifiable measure of a person’s sexual desirability; it’s not that hard to rack up large numbers of lays if that’s all you want. All you have to do is lower your standards to “breathing” and be willing to take on all comers.
Having a large number of partners doesn’t automatically make you better or somehow superior to someone with a lower number – or even none at all.
The only thing the number of sexual partners represents is an increased risk of pregnancy and STD exposure – which are two of the risks that we all accept as part of the price of entry of having an active sex life.
What’s Going On (When You’re Gettin’ On)
The moment that things changed for me, my long dark night of the soul that changed how I looked at my sex life and how I approached sex was one night when I realized that I was heading home with a woman that I really just could not stand. I thought she was annoying, rude, had all of the personality and wit of soggy toast and was more than a little asshole-ish… but hey, she was down to fuck and I was desperate to end an ego-shredding dry spell (which, for reference, was less than two months…) so who the hell cared?. It was only when I realized that I was already planning my potential escape route that I realized just how little any of it meant. If I was willing to spend hours with people I genuinely didn’t like – people with whom I would otherwise not be associating with – just because I wanted to blow a load… what the hell did that say about me?
That was when I hit the wall and realized that things had to change. I didn’t run out and become a serial monogamist or suddenly decide that the only answer was to henceforth be chaste until marriage, but it did make me realize just how I was letting sex control my self-worth. I had to build a new emotional support system that didn’t depend on how many women I slept with on a monthly basis. It took time. And it sucked. But afterwards… my life made a turn for the better. I was still finding new partners, but it had slowed down significantly… and I didn’t mind. In fact, while the quantity may have dropped, the quality increased dramatically. The women I was meeting now were smart, awesome and dynamic – most of whom I’m still friends with today.
When it comes to sex and dating, the numbers game is unimportant. Some people choose not to have as many partners as they potentially could. Others are genuinely sexually expressive people for whom sex is just a fun part of who they are and have partners ranging in the triple or quadruple digits. Some people are virgins. Some people have low – or non-existant – libidos and are quite happy that way. And that’s all fine.
It’s only when sex itself is the goal – whether its without regard for others, a way of proving a point or as a way of plugging the emotional hole – that it’s a problem. As long as your attitude and approach towards is healthy and safe, the rest…
Well, the rest ain’t nothin’ but a number.