We Asked a Sexologist the Best Way to Answer ‘What’s Your Number?’

Chantelle Otten

Ever lied about how many sexual partners you’ve had? Turns out, you’re among many.

According to a new report by dating app Bumble, more than a third of singles in Australia (36%) admitted to lying about the number of sexual partners they’ve had, and a similar percent said they feel judged when they do share the actual number.

Interestingly though, the report showed more than half of Australian singles (64%) saying that in fact, they don’t judge or care about your number at all. Gen X and Millennials were the most concerned about how many sexual partners someone they were dating has had, as compared to other younger generations who were exposed to more sex-positive content in the media and pop culture growing up.

Chantelle Otten, resident sexologist for the app, says that in her opinion, your number shouldn’t matter when entering a new relationship.

Chantelle Otten

“I think it’s a stigma that has been in our society for decades, and still somewhat exists when you look at this research,” Otten said.

“Internal misogyny plays a big role in this, particularly when you look at what we’ve grown up watching on TV and in the movies. Even if you look at comparing people’s judgement of femmes having a lot of sexual partners, they’re called a slut, or, if you’re masc with the same numbers, you’re a hero.”

Otten says it’s important as a society we aren’t judging people and their behaviours with this gender bias. “I’d love to see Australians move towards more equitable and healthy relationships, and to achieve this, we need to harvest open and honest conversations, leaving our biases and judgment at the door.”

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So, all this said, how should we be answering ‘what’s your number?’.

“While it’s really important you’re open and transparent in your relationship, you never have to feel obliged to tell anyone your ‘number’… because it doesn’t really matter,” she says.

“If you want to communicate about each other’s sexual partners, it should be in relation to sexual experience and journey, and what you’ve learnt, as opposed to a number as that really doesn’t give us anything.”

What someone’s ‘number’ is and what they’ve done in previous relationships or scenarios is just one part of that person’s story, she continues. It doesn’t define them, and, on our end, we should never judge someone based on that number.

Also, though high or low numbers do bring about certain connotations, they’re not necessarily true.

“You can be having sex every day, but it doesn’t mean you’re good at it,” Otten says. “Some people are in the one relationship all their life, or have been with their partner for many years. Similar to a high number, a low number of sexual partners doesn’t give us any indication of how someone is in the bedroom.”

As for being at a higher or lower risk for STDs based on someone’s ‘number’, Otten points out that you can get an STD from the first time you have sex with anyone, if you’re unprotected.

Bottom line? While Otten says it’s understandable that people are curious and want to know about their partners’ sexual history, she feels like we should let go of the ‘what’s your number’ discussion.

“To be honest, I don’t even know my number, and I’m sure a lot of people are the same,” she says. “Numbers aren’t an important marker of experience, satisfaction and pleasure in the bedroom.”

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