In a nice way, that is! A UK research project found that both men and women are suspicious of sexually successful (some might say promiscuous) people. So, with it being Valentine’s Day, we have to ask: how come they keep getting laid?
Forget the battle of the sexes. Men and women are a lot alike. For one thing, we’re all hypocrites — especially about sex.
A study published late last year in the Journal of Sex Research found that both straight men and women thought that three – yup, three! – was the ideal number of former sexual partners a potential lover should have. For long-term romantic relationships, the respondents wanted an even smaller number. For true love to bloom, apparently, you’d ideally have to have two previous paramours and no more.
So far, so similar — but here’s where it gets interesting. By and large the men and women surveyed did not live up to their own expectations. On average the women had just less than six former sexual partners, while the men had over eight. If that’s not a case of “Do as I say, not as I do”, well, I don’t know what is.
It has long been thought that heterosexual women were less concerned than heterosexual men with a partner’s past. This study, which was conducted by Nottingham, Bristol and Swansea universities, upends that belief. As well as having an average of just under six former partners, six was also the cut-off point for women. The female respondents said they’d be less attracted to a man with any more former lady friends. The men were a little more generous, allowing women up to eleven ‘exes’ before writing her off.
“Contrary to the idea that male promiscuity is tolerated but female promiscuity is not, both sexes expressed equal reluctance to get involved with someone with an overly extensive sexual history,” explained Dr Steve Stewart-Williams, one of the researchers.
The team thought that this was because a partner with a colourful sexual past was seen as “a poor bet as a faithful, committed long-term mate.” A few months back I was doing a spot on the radio about the niggling issue of the number count. It’s not something I care about, although it is something I used to be curious about when I was younger. When I revealed on-air that I had no idea how many former partners my lovely boyfriend has had, the disbelief was palpable over the airwaves. Don’t know, don’t care, but I suspect that he passed the ideal number of three before turning twenty.
I’m not the only one who doesn’t care. I know, cause I asked around. Aisling, a bisexual woman in her late twenties felt that the past was important, but not the number.
“I’m interested in my partners’ past, in the sense of getting to know them better. But it’s never occurred to me to ask for a specific number,” she said.
Stephen, a straight man in his early thirties agreed. “For me there is no number that is too high.
I wouldn’t ask a partner for their magic number. Myself and my girlfriend know each other’s numbers, but we never asked the other. It just kind of naturally happened over time.”
Karen, mid-thirties and straight, reckoned former romantic relationships were a better indication of long-term potential than previous sexual partners.
“I’d never ask for a number,” she explained, “but I would be curious about what relationships my boyfriend had, and how long they lasted and why they broke up. A man who had never had a long relationship would be a red flag if I wanted commitment.”
Others had a more prosaic view, like Niall, a thirtysomething straight man. “I wouldn’t ask. I would inevitably feel inadequate!” he told me. And yet, lots of people do care, it seems. Some of them, unfortunately, foul up Reddit. If you have time and mental energy to spare, have a goo at the n-count threads on The Red Pill subreddit. It’s full of butthurt — although supposedly alpha – men, complaining about women having had the audacity to have had consensual sex prior to the glorious wonder of meeting them.
Sometimes, all of this is given a pseudoscientific explanation with smithereens of evolutionary psychology — promiscuous men are simply ensuring the survival of their genetic material. However, women who sleep around have “low genetic value” — as if healthy, strong and attractive women never feel the desire to fuck.
If three really is the magic number, this is bad news for relations with our Brexiting neighbours. Irish people, it seems, are way more sexually experienced than that. A survey conducted by The Irish Times in 2015 found that only 22 percent of us have had between two and four sexual partners. Forty percent of straight men have had at least 11 sexual partners, as have 32 percent of women. What’s more, 20 percent of us have had more than 20 partners.
This means that if you are a grown-ass adult in Ireland, you’re likely to have an n-count of more than three. Good for you! But it may make you feel a little concerned if you are alone this Valentine’s Day. It shouldn’t.
Zhana Vrangalova, a sex researcher at New York University, found that while many of us don’t like the idea of promiscuous people, we do like actual promiscuous folks. This hypothetical aversion generally disappears when we meet an actual flesh and blood one.
Vrangalova found that in real life, promiscuous people tend to have more friends and more close relationships. This is because they are more likely to be gregarious — people want to be around them, and people want to fuck them.
There’s more good news. Last year a study published in the British Journal of Psychology found that kind and altruistic behaviour significantly predicted the number of sexual partners a person has over their lifetime. The more generous and giving you are to others, the more likely it is they’ll want to be generous and giving to you, both inside and outside of the bedroom. It’s hardly surprising…
So if you are in the 3+ club, or even — gasp— in double digits, take heart! The hypocritical men and women surveyed by the universities of Nottingham, Bristol and Swansea may not want you, but trust me, plenty of others will.
Have a happy Valentine’s Day!
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