Okay, So How Many Partners Makes Me A Slut?

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The subjects of slut-shaming and double standards between genders when it comes to bedroom life are not new. It seems like my friends and I regularly discuss how problematic slut shaming is and how we, as women, dont deserve to be held to an impossible standard of purity while also making sure we dont appear prudish. I couldnt count how many times I have had this exact conversation on all my fingers and toes.

I was having one of these conversations quite recently, when a friend was complaining that she felt she had been given a negative stereotype because she was single for so long. She said she felt a lot of people saw her position as the single friendand equated that to the promiscuous friend.However, something in this conversation caught me off guard.

Her main argument for why she didnt fit the description of the promiscuous friend,was that she could count the number of guys shed slept with on one hand. Suddenly, I zoned out of the conversation and looked down at my own hands, creating a mental list. One hand down and counting, I started to feel my cheeks turn a little red. I was feeling ashamed. The ideas that she, and a lot of people in our culture, had about purity and an individuals worth, said that I was promiscuous – and that it wasnt a good thing.

I thought back to number one, who was passionate, caring, good friend at the time, but the dalliance was short lived. Number two, who I thought for a long time was a mistake, actually taught me a lot about the decisions I was making and how they affected my happiness. I thought about number three, whos name still makes me blush and laugh, gave me a good sense of what I want [in that kind of relationship.]

Individually, these periods in my life felt regret-free. But as I looked at my fingers slowly popping up, thinking of them all lined up, looming above my head, I felt like maybe Id done something wrong.

She wasnt trying to say anything about me while discussing her own romantic life, but her choice of words showed how prevalent counting, comparing, judging promiscuity is, how natural it feels to us. We unconsciously create assumptions and labels based on this arbitrary number. Somehow, this idea of acceptability of how many sexual partners weve had has even become imbedded into the minds of those who dont believe it is right.

Whether our number is 0 with no rush or 100 and counting, a stigma is present even though it really doesnt mean anything on its own. Do I have regrets? Was I safe? Did those experiences make me happy? These questions are much more important to me as they relate to my own sexual health than a meaningless number. When I look back on my all the experiences Ive had, inside and outside of the bedroom, these are the questions I want to have positive answers to.

In the course of my love life I have met some amazing people, had some incredibly intimate conversations, collected content for hilarious stories, fallen in love, broken a few hearts, and had my own broken. To me, these all compile a fascinating story. A story that has its ups and downs for sure, but always results in learning and changing positively. A story that cant be counted. A story that cant be summed up by a single world like promiscuousor prudishnessor any other word for that matter. I love my story.

I know people in love who look back and say they wish they had waited until they found their current partner, people in serious relationships who say they wish they had experimented a little more, and a huge number of people who are happy with the sexual experiences they have had. I am lucky enough to feel that I dont have any regrets when it comes to love or sex. Isnt that so much more interesting than counting on fingers and toes?

So I challenge us all to stop using a number to determine what kind of person we are and even more so, to not judge others by such an arbitrary value.  After thinking about it, I can comfortably say that I dont feel any shame and I dont think others should either.

 

Contributor: Erin Bouwma
Erin Bouwma: Loves friends, family, reading, karaoke, bad television, peanut m&m’s, and writing. More or less in that order. Never be embarrassed of your Tinder, we all have one.