What’s Your Number?

ALEX MANSELL on that question

Alex Mansell number sex

So when you’re with a guy and he asks “What’s your number?” that’s a good thing, right? Unless, of course, he’s referring to an altogether different kind of number. How many people you’ve slept with forms a large part of your sexual identity, but how much can we know about someone based on how many digits they’ve accrued?

How many is too many? Having asked a sample of guy friends what they would consider a high number for a girl, the average cut off point was 10+, so rolling into double digits means you’re getting into the danger zone. Some think 20+ is time to worry, but maybe these were just the less fussy of my male friends.

On asking the gals I found, unsurprisingly, they’re more flexible with the number guys are allowed: by nature of biology and society, men, designed to seek out as many women as possible and spread their seed, will generally have had a significantly higher number of partners. So girls have come to expect more sluttiness on the part of our male counterparts, and for most 20+ was dodgy territory.

Should we actually care about the magic number? I guess it depends what you’re looking for. If you’re after a one night stand, the number probably won’t be mentioned and is most likely irrelevant.

If it does come up, guy friends tell me they’d actually prefer a higher number as experience = skill, and skill means a dayum good time. (The irony of this being that a girl who’s regularly slept with 3 long-term boyfriends is probably more experienced than a girl who’s had 10 one-night stands).

Girls on the other hand always tend to be put off if the number is too high. No girl wants a gigolo in their bed, regardless of whether it’s a one night thing.

When it comes to getting with someone you see being more long-term, the issue of numbers gets tricky. Lying is not uncommon – guys often bump it up so as not to be emasculated, girls bring it down in order not to be labelled easy. Is lying in these cases acceptable? And how about if you end up going out with them? Are you then obliged to backtrack – “Actually babe, when I said 3, I meant 13”?

Are we even in a position to judge someone based on their number? For a start, some people will have inadvertently boosted it due to negative events in their life, such as the rampage of rebound sex embarked upon after a break up to ease the pain/embrace the single life/feel loved. This then isn’t necessarily an accurate reflection of their sex life to that point.

And with the laddy wannabe BNOC culture we have in Durham, the pressure to get some action is ridiculous. Male friends inform me that being able to tell the lads about the night can be more exciting than the act itself. Getting laid = guaranteed lad points, so they bang for bants, as it were.

While some boys might just be horny/crazy, it annoys me that no one will ever admit that maybe guys are insecure too, that they too need sexual attention to affirm their attractiveness.

Where do we draw the line between ‘banter’ and total insecurity? Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate there are circumstances where a guy will, for example, shag a forty-year old or whatever, purely for the craic, but I’m talking about guys who don’t discriminate on a basis of looks, intelligence or chat: they do it more to have a story to tell the boys, to assert in their minds that they are hot, and this to me screams instability.

As cynical as this may sound, unfortunately many who sleep around probably are doing it to boost their esteem. Just try and find me a girl who doesn’t have issues in this arena. You won’t. Just because they have such issues however, doesn’t mean they’re lacking in self-respect or are depraved, man-eating, shallow whores who will try to steal your boyfriend. Sometimes this is the case, more often it’s not. I’m not condoning sleeping with loads of guys, but I’m not condemning it either.

It comes down to the old saying about keys and locks: a lock that can be opened by many keys is sh*t, a key that opens many locks is a master key, and is f*cking great. Hence boys are venerated for upping their number, and girls vilified.

So what can we know about a person based on their magic number? Probably not a whole lot. Some people have sex with a lot of people, some with a few. Their number might not reflect their nature, so you’d be better evaluating their character on how they treat you and others, rather than on their sexual experience. Now isn’t that a nice Christmas message to end the term on?