Should You Know Your Partner's Body Count?

New relationships, especially ones that have the potential to survive in the long run, can be one of the most exciting times for you and your new boo. You’re constantly talking, wanting to spend every minute together, and generally soaking up the newness of each other.

By Gwen Farrell4 min read

You’re treasuring the present moments but feel giddy at the prospect of a future together. You’re discovering each other’s likes and dislikes, learning about character and personality, and so much more.

But that excitement might soon turn to anxiety, especially if you learn that you have differing viewpoints on the important facets of a relationship, specifically sex. As humans, we tend to have curious minds, even when that curiosity could potentially hurt us. If you’re part of a new relationship, or even looking to start seriously dating for the first time or after an extended break, you’ve most likely got the question of all questions on your mind: Should I know my partner’s body count?

A Contradicting Narrative

Our culture is sex-obsessed, and apparently, that’s a good thing. We’re all encouraged to live with no inhibitions whatsoever, especially when it comes to sex, even if that lack of boundaries ends up making us miserable.

If this topic is on your mind in the first place, it’s probably because you’re receiving contradictory information. Third-wave feminism tells women that there’s no issue whatsoever with flings, one-night stands, strings-free sex, or a “friends with benefits” arrangement. And due to a wide variety of reasons, ranging from pure curiosity to childhood trauma, we can engage in numerous sexual encounters as young adults because the decision feels right in the moment, even though we give no thought to how it affects us in the future.

Hookup culture, not commitment and monogamy, is today’s standard, and it’s always easier (and yes, even addicting at times) to fall into what everyone else is doing, only to be left with the detrimental effects of those choices later on. But if you take to the internet, social media, or even your girlfriends to ask whether you should share that number (you know which one) with your new boyfriend, you’re confronted with a confusing answer.

“Only your doctor deserves this information,” says one publication. Another post, from the subreddit r/TheGirlSurvivalGuide calls it a “red flag” for men to ask their girlfriends how many sexual partners they’ve had. But if women can have as much sex as they want with as many people as they want – something the media and society are encouraging to an overwhelming degree – then why the need for secrecy? Surely there’s no shame in it, at least according to the narrative.

But if women can have as much sex with as many people as they want, then why the need for secrecy?

Though this isn’t a factor for many couples, others feel it’s natural to know the ins and outs of each other’s experiences. Still, it's curious that this number, which women are encouraged to grow, is best shared exclusively with a medical professional or kept to themselves. Could it be there’s some regret that accompanies these experiences? If you ask feminist “experts," absolutely not. If you ask actual women, sexual regret is very real and even commonplace. 

With these two conflicting instructions at play, we are left directionless in the midst of the dating sea. And those waves become even choppier when we remember we have our new boyfriend’s own sexual past to tackle.

Are There Any Benefits To Knowing His Body Count?

Are there really any advantages to knowing how many previous women your boyfriend or husband has slept with? Some would say yes. For some, sex isn’t really all that big of a deal, but they’d rather know than continue to wonder. For others, it could be insecurity. If they’ve saved themselves for the right person, which seems increasingly rare nowadays, they might feel like they’re competing with the women of the past. And therein lies the rub. Your man, who may have made mistakes in the past, isn’t dating those women anymore. He’s dating you, proposing to you, and marrying you. Do the other people really matter?

Emmy, a single friend of mine, calls this her "one hand" rule. She started dating later than most women do (she’s in her 30s) and dates men usually within that range or older. While, ideally, she wants a man who’s sexually selective, she recognizes that men in the modern world are just as easily misled by hookup culture as women are. In fact, hookup culture by design benefits men more than women, and our culture seems less inclined to address how promiscuity affects men more than it does women. 

She’s definitely in the camp who want to ask about a prospective boyfriend’s body count, and if it’s less than five, she’s willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and talk with them about it (if they’re willing). She told me that she once went through a months-long “talking phase” with a man who finally disclosed that he’d slept with hundreds of women. The vibe was killed pretty quickly after that, according to her.

Knowing the nitty-gritty is important to her, but she knows that she’s in the minority of those who feel this way. She admits, from a practical standpoint, that she wants to know if a guy she’s into is careless about sex and has exposed himself to the real-world consequences of that kind of lifestyle, like STDs. But on the emotional side, she says, it never gets easier to hear the exact number, especially when it’s coming from a man she really likes.

Leaving the Past in the Past

Do we want to know how many people our partner has slept with because we really want to know, or because we’re told that we should? After all, what can the advantages really be to opening up this conversation?

If a man has committed to you, or intends to commit to you and you to him, that’s it. There’s no girlfriend of his waiting in the wings (or there shouldn’t be) and no other man for you. Yes, it's likely that he or even both of you have made mistakes, and that’s something you’ll have to acknowledge and discuss with one another. But do you really need to know the intimate (and painful) ins and outs of his life before you?

The end result of asking our mate about their lives before us is inevitable hurt and insecurity.

It may feel natural for us to get upset about the people who came before us. We feel possessive and protective of our mate, but all that occurred before us. We are the final destination, and no amount of cringey TikToks alluding to the “vanilla wife” changes that. 

The end result of asking our mate about their lives before us is inevitable hurt and insecurity. And one question might very well lead to so many more: Who were these other women? Were they all girlfriends or one-night stands? Is he still in contact with any of them? Do I know any of them? Does he ever think of them? Does he ever compare me against them? As they say, why ask questions you don’t want the answers to? If there were ever an issue that idiom applied to, it’s this one. Don’t ask about a life you weren’t part of, mistakes you didn’t make, and inner thoughts you weren’t privy to. Focus on your future together and the road ahead, and you can’t go wrong.

Closing Thoughts

Conversations about your boyfriend’s life before you can be awkward and even painful, but they needn’t take too much of a toll if you’re selective with your questions. The only question you really need to know from him: Are you committed to me and only me? Based on that alone, everything else should fall into place. 

Two people make one unit, and they bring their past mistakes and errors with them to the relationship. But as they become one union, they have the chance to start anew with one another. Nothing, even pain from the past, should tarnish your happiness together. But if you let it, insecurity, distrust, doubt, and uncertainty can quickly take away your confidence in your future.

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