Why Body Count Matters

Is a woman with a body count over five still “marriage material”? Is she “damaged goods” with no self-worth if she has slept with more than one man?

By Andrea Mew6 min read
Pexels/Dexon Dave Silva

Does a high body count indicate that a woman is “ran through”? Polemic personalities oh-so-high on their social media soap boxes like Pearl Davis (JustPearlyThings) will bemoan how women nowadays allegedly rack up a body count – a.k.a. her total number of sexual partners in life thus far – of at least five, if not eight men. This, she’ll say, is one of the reasons why society is in the dumps; marriage rates are dropping, there are growing groups of incels, and more men face unemployment.

On one side of the coin, you have Pearl or Andrew Tate’s “red pill” sphere, where both sexes boorishly proclaim that women are to blame for any ruin of our culture. On the other side of the coin, you have sex-positive feminists controlling the mainstream narrative, placing all the blame on men. Both sides bicker and breed resentment between the sexes, exhausting arguments that don’t need to be taken as all-or-nothing.

While there’s no question just how unproductive it can be to get in a tizzy over either side’s rage-baiting posts, it is true that, culturally, a lot appears to have gone downhill right around the same time we fully embraced the sexual revolution. What body count discourse honestly should boil down to is the fact that actions sometimes speak louder than words – whether you like it or not.

“Good Girls Go To Heaven and Bad Girls Go Everywhere”

No-fault divorce, cheap promiscuity, and endless ways to get to know a man in the biblical sense with no strings attached. The thing about analyzing culture through a microscope is you can really only diagnose symptoms instead of discovering the root cause of the disease itself. 

Red pillers or feminists won’t want to admit this because it means that you have to actually dissociate from your biases and try to look at things as objectively as possible. Only then can you weigh that with your personal morals and try to come to your own conclusions.

But before we dive into all the food for thought, let’s first get something straight: People have been having sex outside of wedlock for as long as “wedlock” has been in existence. There’s a good reason why so many period dramas revolve around characters having affairs or why there are innuendos and double-entendres in Shakespeare and old-school Hollywood scripts or vintage song lyrics! Whether “good Christians” or not, people in years past having a body count above one was more common than present-day rage-baiters may want to admit, and we’ll simply never know any statistics because who was really counting?

Celibacy has certainly declined, given fewer people identify with religion to even care about abstinence until marriage in the first place, but it would be dishonest to pretend like unmarried women in the mid-20th century didn’t have sex with a couple, or perhaps a few men before they tied the knot themselves. As we know, with purity culture evangelists like Pearl, many don’t practice what they preach but grift off their pseudo-religious sermons.

At the same time, I’m no advocate for unbridled free love because it does genuinely have some consequences that many may not expect when they’re in the heat of the moment. It’s funny – the most obvious issue with a high body count would be health, since a higher volume of sexual partners could expose you to more sexually transmitted diseases, but somehow, the red pillers never seem to lead with that talking point. In any case, body count can matter in several other, less obvious ways because it inherently communicates several things about who you are to a potential partner.

A Higher Body Count Could Indicate a Weaker Value System 

Luxury items are produced in much smaller quantities than standard, commercially available products. Think about an authentic Hermès Birkin bag in comparison to a pleather purse from ASOS. Luxury goods have an exclusive quality to them – they’re often masterfully hand-crafted, part of season-specific releases, and as a result, only a limited number of them exist.

Though we can’t compare humans with handbags and any comparison drawn isn’t meant to dehumanize whatsoever, exclusivity in sexual relationships follows the same principle. When a woman gatekeeps whether or not a man can have intimate access to her body, she’s demonstrating a strong amount of discipline, which communicates her high values. She stands up for herself, she respects her boundaries, she takes care of the only body she’s got, and she respects that man’s honor.

Isn’t there an inherent allure in knowing that the person you’re with could easily get with other people, but instead, she’s choosing you – and only you?

Isn’t there an inherent allure in knowing that the person you’re with could easily get with other people, but instead, she’s choosing you – and only you? It’s no wonder why some of the most popular romance protagonists like Anastasia Steele from 50 Shades of Grey or Bella Swan from the Twilight series are portrayed as faithful, innocent virgins.

Truly, after the sexual revolution degraded intimacy on a mass scale, partner exclusivity seems a lot more special today. Besides how a low body count can signal discipline, it also reflects a certain amount of self-esteem. If a woman knows that she can be intimately loved by one man, she’s communicating to him that she feels like she’s good enough for him and that he is good enough for her. There’s no competition for attention.

A Lower Body Count Could Lead To Happier Relationships

Pair bonds formed through a sexual relationship with your partner aren’t quite as dramatic as other species that mate for life, like swans, gibbons, penguins or beavers, but that doesn’t negate the fact that we’re mostly hard-wired for social monogamy. What’s more, our human pair bonds have actually been studied as a reason for why we so successfully evolved. 

We know that, to some extent, we’re hard-wired to select social monogamy, but there have been many cases of polygyny and polygamy throughout human societies. Hunter-gatherer societies were largely monogamous, but once agriculture paved the way for men to be able to accumulate a stack of resources and provide for more than one woman, polygamy became more popular. Some may use this as an excuse to say humans don’t pair bond, but from an evolutionary standpoint, men having children with several women was more of an advent of better living technology while adapting to unique environmental circumstances.

Non-monogamy takes many different shapes and forms, but it’s worth discerning the differences between social monogamy and sexual monogamy. After all, cheating is so prevalent that nearly half of all monogamous relationships have had affairs. Some scientists even claim there’s a gene associated with infidelity.

But regardless of those incidents, sex is an intimate social experience that creates emotional and physical connections and neurologically forms bonds. Hormones dopamine and oxytocin surge during courtship and mating, while vasopressin encourages “mate-guarding behaviors,” which lead to jealousy if the bond is jeopardized. Those moments of bliss aren’t exclusive to the time you’re having sex; the good vibes gained from the hormonal surges you’ll have during sex with an exclusive partner can lead to a happier relationship outside of the bedroom too. 

Researchers seem puzzled by the fact that premarital sex statistically predicts divorce, but will at least admit that people with higher body counts are more likely to get a divorce. A lengthy sexual history doesn’t automatically lead to unhappy marriages or divorce, but some speculate that it could lead a person to always be making comparisons and keeping an eye out for a different mate.

Further data backs this phenomenon up – 65% of women and 71% of men who have only slept with their spouse report that they have “very happy” marriages. Family researchers will tell you that the most consequential difference in predicting marital quality is whether you’ve only had one or more than one lifetime sexual partner.

It goes beyond your happiness and the happiness of your spouse as well. Households with unrelated adults and young children are statistically less safe. In fact, if kids live with unrelated adults, they’re nearly 50 times as likely to die from inflicted injuries than their peers who live with their two biological parents. This study is not meant to assume that single parenthood is risky, more that the presence of a boyfriend, for example, dramatically increases a child’s risk of suffering physical abuse or neglect.

Isn’t There a Bit of a Double Standard Going on Here?

Look, I get that, historically, women’s purity has always been a thing of value – from the Virgin Mary to Ancient Rome’s Vestal Virgins and more. It seems as though men who have multiple partners are simply slaves to their desire, while women who have multiple partners are immoral. 

More feminist-leaning voices would say this obsession over female virginity is “reproductive oppression,” which is a bit emotionally charged, in my opinion, but they do also make a good point when they say that upholding myths about purity not only hurts women, but it can hurt men too.

If we wore goggles that rendered all of culture in simplistic terms – black and white – we’d live in a world where a woman can only be docile and passive, while a man can only be dominant and demanding. But that vision of femininity and masculinity is unrealistic, boring, and can only exist in fiction.

A man who proselytizes online about how women should be virgins truly has no right to sleep around with whoever he wants. 

Things get a bit dicey when we impose standards on one sex while not imposing standards on the other. I think both feminists and anti-feminists alike could admit that, intentional or not, we shouldn’t reduce a woman’s value to her sexual value and worsen men’s ability to be empathetic toward the opposite sex.

In any case, having more nuance is a win-win for both sexes because the double standard goes even further with body count discourse. A man who proselytizes online about how women should be virgins and pure up until their wedding night truly has no right to sleep around with whoever he wants

Some People Have No Control over Their Body Count

Whether man or woman, victims of sexual assault can’t exactly control their body count.  According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), roughly one in six American women have either been the victim of an attempted or completed rape during her lifetime.

So, if we should all aspire to be compassionate to one another, why make this a zero-sum game? Think about it – if you’ve been subjected to sexual trauma from a young age, you may have been dealing with abuse from one, two, or many adults. Furthermore, victims of sexual assault may repeat this trauma as though it’s a tool for self-harm or a way to feel some sense of agency over their body.

A high body count, if a woman is even willing to admit the real number, could hypothetically be viewed like any other self-destructive behavior: binge drinking, disordered eating, cutting. Suicidal thoughts, and even suicide attempts, are statistically higher among victims of rape. Even major depressive episodes are more common among sexual assault victims than those who haven’t experienced such trauma.

Some women may say their promiscuous behavior is empowering and that they truly do enjoy sex with high volumes of partners, but other women have sex just to feel something beyond a latent state of depression. This is why we can’t just judge body count at face value – those stuck in a dissociative, destructive cycle deserve compassion and help, not insult and judgment.

If a woman has a promiscuous past (or present!) and is truly repentant for her behavior, it’s honestly never too late to change. She has likely seen her worst and if she is regretful, it would probably mean a lot to her for a man to recognize her “redemption arc” and be the person who steps in, shows her love, honors her soul, and helps to keep her on the straight and narrow. There’s always the chance that she’ll be a much more loyal partner if she knows what a promiscuous phase feels like and has no interest in ever returning.

We all love a good redemption arc in cinema or literature, so why can’t we apply the same grace toward actual people we encounter in daily life? You’re likely not the same person you were a year ago, or maybe even a few months ago, and this principle applies to all aspects of human life. 

Should vegans not accept meat-eating converts, and should Christians not accept former atheists in all-or-nothing purity tests? If we’re talking about getting a bit theological, none of us are free from sin, and to pretend otherwise is heresy.

It’s simply unproductive to guilt someone who can’t turn back the clock and reverse their actions – all you can do is encourage them to understand their value and how it extends far beyond how their body can provide pleasure to another.

Closing Thoughts

Let’s be honest – modern culture is plagued by a lack of shame. It doesn't matter what faith background you belong to, or the lack thereof. Purity is a virtue for many religions, from devout Muslims, Orthodox Jews, Roman Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, and more. Body count standards matter for many reasons, from STD prevention to secure pair bonding and more, but if you’re not in the lower digits or even not in the single digits, you’re not less of a person. For this reason, body count is not the hill we should be dying on. Similar to body positivity, we really shouldn’t praise excess or degrade people for things they might regret. A good man knows that a good woman is one who has been "pure" all of her life or one who he can cheer along during or after her redemption arc. We should all seek to have a little bit more grace and ditch the unproductive discourse.

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