Why A Woman’s ‘Number’ Shouldn’t Matter
I feel like I shouldn’t even have to write this, that it should kind of just be an unspoken rule, and yet, here I am writing it because it needs to be said. When I say a woman’s “number,” I’m not talking about her phone number, I’m talking about the number of people she has slept with. Despite being a somewhat outdated measure of sexual experience, it seems that people still are continuously bringing up a limit or boundary, the numerical line that, once crossed, leaves a woman’s “classiness” or sexual integrity in question.
This is a tired claim that has had its fair share of debunking. Some have pointed out that the number of people someone has slept with doesn’t even accurately begin to explain the amount of sexual experiences she has had. A woman could have slept with only one person her entire life, but despite that, have a very active sex life because she has one partner with whom she is sleeping with on the daily. Then there’s an aspect that I think is often overlooked and really points to the fact that this whole “number” conversation is really just a way of policing women’s sexuality. My question: What about sexual experiences that weren’t consensual? Do those end up in my “total” or do I not count them?
And what even counts as sex? A lot of people have very different definitions. If we’re talking about strictly penis in vagina penetrative sexual experiences, which many people are, does that mean any sex I’ve had with women just doesn’t count? Are we taking into account our age? Assuming that as we get older, if we’re having sex on a regular basis and we all don’t have perfect relationships that last for the rest of our lives, the number of partners we have–even if they are long term– is only going to increase?
Not to mention, the ridiculous paradox that occurs when we take things like a woman’s “number” and its correlation to perceived degree of “sluttiness” seriously. If women are supposed to not be having sex to stay valuable, and men are supposed to be having sex to perform their masculinity, then who, exactly, are those men having sex with?
All of that goes to say that using any sort of hard numerical measurement of whether a woman is “too sexual” is, at the end of the day, a very arbitrary was of measuring a woman’s worth, if not a useless inquiry altogether. One of my favorite writes, Gayle Rubin, wrote in one of her most famous works Thinking Sex, that “Sexual acts are burdened with an excess of significance.”
We don’t measure a person’s worth with an inverse relationship between how “good” they are with how many slices of pizza they’ve been able to consume in their lifetime, or how many times they’ve hugged different friends. So why do we understand anyone’s worth as inversely related to the amount of sexual partners they’ve had?
When you look at it in the context of any other activity, it all just seems really absurd. What’s so hard about admitting to ourselves that enjoying sex is a pretty normal feeling…and shouldn’t it be? Do men and other women who use the “number” to police women’s sexuality actually want women to not enjoy having the sex they have?
If so, that’s pretty creepy and smacks of abusive dynamics. No one should be having sex with anyone who is not enjoying it. Everyone should feel free to engage in activity that they enjoy as long as it isn’t hurting anyone else. What’s so hard to understand about all of this?