Should you ask your partner how many people they’ve had sex with?
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Welcome to A Millennial's Dating Diary series, where we explore real-life interactions and the hurdles of dating in Southeast Asia. The series will feature the dating stories and misadventures of Arika – a 26-year-old, straight female marketing manager with a penchant for over drinking — and fellow millennials.
So here’s the thing, when you start dating someone, you want to know literally everything about them, even their sexual history.
But how much of it do you really want to know? Asking your partner about the number of people they’ve slept with or even what they’ve done with others can be tricky.
I mean, no one wants to imagine the object of their affection cosying up to someone else. And, if you’re like me, even thinking about someone you like going on a date with another female makes you a bit jealous.
But let’s face it, we’re not just asking them how many people they’ve slept with because we’re genuinely interested; we’re also using the information as a barometer of how much we mean to them. We subconsciously decide how important we are to them sexually, and in turn, where we are in their lives. The problem is that this technique isn’t always the most effective way of sensing their feelings or how important we are to them. In fact, I think it’s downright dumb.
While being open about your sexual history and sharing parts of yourself is crucial at the start of any romantic relationship, such information should never be used against the other party.
Take my friend *Lindsay, 29, and her former partner, for example. At 29, Lindsay is more experienced than *Dane, 26. For some privacy, I’ve changed some details about them.
As a former commitment-phobe, Lindsay went through a phase of dating many guys when she was single, which ultimately led to her having more sexual partners than Dane did. Throughout their time together, Dane (who threw himself into long-term relationship after long-term relationship) would often express his insecurities about how many partners his girlfriend had.
“He’d often make jokes about how many guys I’ve slept with or the things I’ve done in my experimental phase,” she shared. “I don’t regret ever experimenting sexually, but what bothered me was how much it seemed to bother him.”
“In some ways, he was slut-shaming me, and it hurt more that such an attitude came from someone who I thought was meant to love me unconditionally,” Lindsay admitted.
It might seem like an assumption but, in Dane’s mind’s eye, Lindsay sleeping with multiple guys meant he was less important to her, even when they were in a committed relationship. In Lindsay’s words, she felt Dane thought he was just another one of her conquests when in reality, the relationship she had with him meant more to her than all the brief encounters of fun she had combined.
I often think of Lindsay’s story when I start dating someone new and wonder if I’m being a bit judgy when someone I’m into starts telling me about their sexual history.
When I started dating *Mark, 30, he told me of his sexual history, and after telling me how many people he’s slept with, he jokingly said, “And there goes all hope of us ever progressing further.”
While I loved how he was able to poke fun at things, it got me thinking about how he must have gotten some sort of prior judgement from others.
Personally, the number of people my partner has slept with doesn’t really bother me. To me, the fact that this person is currently investing time and effort into getting to know me, and learning of my idiosyncrasies (of which there are plenty), gives me a better gauge of where I stand in this person’s life.
I believe Mark’s experience with other women and past partners is probably why he’s able to read and understand me so well. And that’s not something I want to change about him or anyone I date in the future.
As you’ve probably guessed by now, my opinion is that a better gauge of how significant you are to someone is based on the effort they’re putting in to be around you, and show you just how much they care. Better yet, instead of asking how many people they’ve slept with, ask them how many times they’ve been in love or how many long-term relationships they’ve had. Doing so could quickly put things into perspective for you.
When it comes to asking your partner about their sexual history, I think it’s important to think about why it is you’re asking and what you’re hoping to get out of asking a question like that. Are you actually doing it because you want to know, or are you hoping to feed some sort of insecurity you already have?
Ultimately, whatever you choose to do, it’s best not to judge someone for their past or make them feel guilty for something they can’t ever change. When we start to think of how we could change someone or take so much offence in what they’ve done in the past, we’re losing sight of what’s pivotal in dating: Getting to know someone for who they are when they’re choosing to open up to you.
Regardless of their past, this person you’re hoping to love has somehow ended up in your arms, so that must count for something.
Think about it, if you’re interested in entering into something long-term and serious with someone, do you really want to start it off by holding their past against them?
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