Home · News

Culture. Love. War: Beware o Hangups

What's the double standard around sexuality in our society? The "number."
This past weekend, I saw the film “What’s Your Number”, a romcom that follows a neurotic young woman who attempts to rekindle the flame with former lovers after learning of a study that suggests that women with more than 20 past sexual partners are unlikely to be married.

As she hits number 20, she decides that her only hope is to find love with someone she’s already slept with. Her fear of ending up alone is aided by her ‘perfect’ engaged sister, whose friends also freak her out by revealing their significantly lower sexual numbers and cosigning the validity of the study.

As the heroine enlists the help of a handsome neighbor in finding her exes, the sparks fly between them. It becomes apparent quite quickly that her issue is more driven by what the women in her life are telling her. It all made me wonder: how many of our hangups about dating are the result of listening to our girlfriends? And how much of what we think we know about men comes from women?

Don’t get me wrong: many women are absolutely capable of doling out good, solid romantic advice; some even have keen insight when it comes to the male brain. And the idea that only men — and any men, at that — can tell you how to deal with men, has made a lot of money for some terrible writers and pseudo relationship experts. But I do feel that some of us women have caused ourselves and our friends a lot of undue heartache and worry by presuming to know a bit more about what men want than we actually do.

Men are not a monolith, so what’s good for Steve may be unacceptable for Tyrone and questionable for Keith. However, there are some commonly held attitudes among them. It seems that while there is a terrible double standard when it comes to gender and sexuality in our society, men are not as obsessive about a woman’s number of past sexual partners as we tend to believe.

A few years ago, I was complaining to a few men about how unreasonable men can be about a woman’s ‘number’. While they all told me that they didn’t care that much, I dug my heels in and said “Well, most men do!” I told men what men think and I was wrong. As you’ll see in the film if you check it out, there are some guys who care about this sort of thing, but there are also those who do not.

If you are the sort of woman who feels satisfied with the idea of keeping her boudoir list low so that she can tell a man “I’ve only been with _ men before you!”, then knock yourself out. But if you find that you are making choices that are impeding on your own happiness in order to do so, ask yourself why. Chances are, that ‘dream’ man you seek is living his life in the moment without worrying about keeping the notches on his bedpost at a minimum for your sake.

As I’ve said before, a man needn’t know your sexual number anyway. While the double standard is annoying, it’s easy enough to simply keep your business to yourself in the first place. If you’ve been with four or twenty-four men before your latest love, the only thing that needs to be discussed is condom and contraceptive use, as well as the status of your most recent STD tests.

Countless men have told me that while they may ask, they’d prefer not to know the actual amount of past partners. If you are in need of some male advice, ask a few trusted relatives or homeboys. And understand that even their words may be in conflict with what your desired feels in his heart. Yes, your girls may be able to help, but don’t be surprised if some of their ‘wisdom’ comes from what they think they know about men… which isn’t always the truth!