Hey, What’s Your Number?
By Alexa Day
(Welcome to Lady Smut’s #ThrowbackThursday! Let’s celebrate the beginning of the school year with a little math. This post from May 2015 is all about the sexual history calculator and the intriguing calculus of our sexual pasts.)
In yesterday’s Sexy Saturday Round-Up, my colleague Elizabeth Shore provided a link to a sexual history calculator. It’s over on Slate, and it collects your age, your gender (I know, I rolled my eyes here, too, but it’s necessary), and the number of people you’ve slept with. You plug this information in, and after a brief pause, during which the calculator wants to reassure you that this is supposed to be fun for you, you get a chart that compares your info with that of other people in your age group.
Simply put, the calculator is here to tell you — just for fun! — whether you’ve slept with more people or fewer people than the rest of your demographic.
So, just for fun, I plugged in my info, and just for fun, I got back the entirely expected response that I’ve slept with more people than most women in my age group.
This is not a surprise to me.
For one thing, I’m unmarried, so I’m still counting. That number is going to keep rising. I don’t think it will continue to rise as quickly as it did when the younger Alexa had fewer things to occupy her time, but who knows for sure?
For another thing, I’m convinced that a lot of women lie about The Number. I understand in large part why this happens, but I have so little patience for that. Seriously, if we’re going to stop slut-shaming, we need to start by treating ourselves better, don’t we? I don’t know if men lie about The Number or have the same reasons for lying as women do, but I am aware that they are not being shamed for having higher Numbers in the same way as we are. No doubt this is why we have to plug our gender into the calculator.
In any event, I was more troubled by my initial inability to account for everyone on The List. You know, the one that generates The Number. I stared at it after I plugged it into that little box and asked myself, “Is that right?” And then I went back into the dusty and neglected archive that is my long-term memory and tried to name names. Then I became hungry (this took about 45 seconds) and decided to go with the number I had.
It’s probably right. I think. But I pledged to spend the rest of the day really trying to think about this. After all, I should probably know with some level of certainty what The Number is, right? And isn’t it kind of sad not to be able to put a name with each and every face in my sexual history? Shouldn’t I be troubled with the ease with which I forgot someone who was, if only for a few hours, part of my life?
Well, now I’m not so sure.
Once you get past personal health concerns, so that you know exactly who to call in the event of unpleasantness, I’m not sure there’s a need to know exactly how many people you’ve slept with. It would certainly be nice to know, but is it truly necessary? The consideration of one’s sexual history as a whole is probably deserving of more consideration.
How many did you regret?
How many taught you something?
How many did you love?
Smaller numbers, perhaps, but more important subsets.
I will probably still try to reconstruct The List so that I can verify The Number. On the one hand, the memory defect bothers me, and on the other, I feel driven to have an accurate number. But in the meantime, I’m okay with having a highlight reel until I can create a director’s cut.
As long as there’s plenty of hot, buttery popcorn.
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