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On Keeping Count of The Number of Partners We Have Had

January 26th, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

I used to have a friend who smoked pot. I knew him before he even picked up the habit, and I remember when he started getting into it. He had this weird little strategy to avoid being labeled a pot head. He would keep count of how many times he smoked.

According to him, so long as he knew how many times he blazed one, he couldn’t be a pothead. He claimed true potheads have no idea how many times they get high because they do it with such regularity, and he didn’t smoke regularly. Within the first three months of his habit, he claimed to have gotten high 152 times. For those not good at math, there are never less than 90 days, never more than 92, within that period of time, which means, my friend definitely developed smoked as often if not more than a regular pothead.

So what’s my point?

Sometimes a number isn’t going to tell us everything we need to know about a person, and nowhere is this more true than in the area of sexual partners.

It’s been years since I have asked a woman how many partners she’s had, and it’s been years since I cared to know. I think I learned my lesson back when I met the girl who lied to me about her number numerous times before telling me what the real one was. But another major factor that also led me to stop caring about the number of partners my partners had was when I realized I didn’t know the exact number of partners I had.

Every now and then I still get the question from a girl. Whenever the question is posed to me, I simply say I don’t know, or I give a range (which I’m not revealing here) that has gradually increased throughout the years. But it’s when I say I don’t really know the number of partners I had that I usually get this reaction: “You’ve had so many partners you lost count?”

The question is loaded but it’s also a cheap correlation. I suppose if I didn’t have a lot of partners, it would be easier to keep count. (I remember very vividly a long stretch of time when the number could fit on one hand and I was almost too excited to get to my second hand.) But, then again, I know guys who keep track of their numbers so well, they’ll be quick to blurt out crazy digits like, 126.  That’s still a lot right? So is he any more noble for knowing how many women he slept with than a man like me who doesn’t know? I may not know how many partners I have had, but I’m pretty sure it’s nowhere near 126.

So I guess I’m curious to know from women if the number of partners a man has, and whether he knows that number or not, is important or telling? To put it bluntly, why even ask such a question? I know why a lot of men don’t ask. For some of us, the number 1 is one too many. What can I say? We’re sensitive about that. The other reason we don’t ask is because admittedly, even though I don’t know the number of partners I had, I fully expect a woman to know hers and if she doesn’t, I must admit, I will judge accordingly.

But for men like me, who find keeping count of the number of partners I had to be more trouble than it’s really worth, where does this information rank on a list of important things? I could be wrong here, but I kind of assume most women assume a lot of men have been with a lot of women, so even if I said I’ve only been with 10 women (not a large number by any means), she would think I’m lying. So instead, I Just say I don’t know how many partners I had. Is this a bad thing? I’m curious to know, because if it is, I’ll start trying to keep count again, although I must admit, I have no idea where I last left off.


The Process: Might have lost too much weight, going to pack some more muscle back on with some protein shakes. Anyone have suggestions on a good powder?

Poppin’ Questions Podcast: The 19th Episode is up now and the 20th Episode will run on Thursday. Between now and then, please hit me on my Formspring or email me at

“The Game” Season 4, Episode 3, ‘The Wing King’: TV Recap for The Wall Street Journal. Couple typos need fixing, but I figure you can read it anyway. Click here.

Oh and if you haven’t done so already, please take the time to read my interview with MacArthur Genius recipient, and renowned jazz pianist, Jason Moran. Jason broke down the five essential jazz albums every man should have in his record collection. Thank me later! “The Until I Get Married Guide To Jazz”

Categories: guys, on something, s#x, women Tags:
  • Brandice Taylor-Davis

    I never ask, and I never expect to be asked. I find it to be a juvenile question. Besides, what matters is that you are with that person in that moment – why waste your time worrying about the past?

  • Cookie

    I wish a man WOULD ask me how many partners I’ve had. Evidently, I’ve had enough partners to know what questions reveal superficiality in a man…*rollin my eyes*…

  • Rakia

    This is a question not to ask. You’re never going to like the answer. If it’s too high, he’s a ho. If it’s too low, what’s wrong with him? So long as my lover is STD-free and sleeping with only me, the number of notches on his headboard is immaterial.

  • JP Stunner

    I don’t ask the question and I don’t answer it.. cause really who cares unless they’re a virgin. I want to know that. Only question I want to ask is the status of your STD Testing..

  • Andreacwilliams

    I’ll speak from personal experience (but I’m willing to bet that there are TONS of women that feel the same…even if they don’t admit it) – I dated a guy that ran down his complete history and it was substantial. And honestly, I was even more turned on. Logically, I can’t explain why. I guess I get the feeling that I’m ‘in good hands’? Literally and figuratively, I suppose.

  • taut_7

    don’t ask, don’t tell is my policy. what matters most is were you being safe and protecting yourself. other than that as long as you weren’t doing some ridiculous type things i don’t care.

  • Anonymous

    I am too damn old to be asking that question is my first response. When I was younger I think that question came to my mind often but I don’t believe it was ever for the purpose of being judgemental. I think it was out of sheer curiosity. After awhile it stop mattering altogether. I do still commend myself for remembering the names of every woman with whom I copulated. Of course with the addendum of using movie titling such as “phat ass chick #1” or “chick in London”.

    OK so i don’t recall all the names just the scenes. SMDH!!

  • esoteric

    I agree it’s a loaded question and it won’t really get me the answer to what I really want to know anyway…it’s one of those dated questions that just isn’t relevant anymore… cause now there are a whole lot of other questions you really need to ask… it’s kinda like the switch up from the traditional to a behavioral interview.

  • CourtyJ

    I think asking an attractive 20 something adult that was (obviously) raised in the 90s how many partners they’ve had, is like asking asking Steve Jobs what his SAT score was. Does it matter? Look at where he is NOW. The same goes for young adults who probably racked up their numbers before the age of 23.

    Promiscuity became a part of our culture through music, television, single family homes and idle hands/time. The average mid-to late 20’s woman who you would rate 70% or higher has had 10 sexual partners or more by 25. And… I’m probably being modest.

    Does that matter? Hmm well let’s see.
    If you want her to be you “ideal” woman but she is inexperienced, nervous, shy or just prudish… yes.
    If she makes you curl up in the fetal position, finally figure out what the inside of your eyelids looks like, drives you wild and makes you want it all the time… no.

    Bring up in light conversation with anyone you are dating their “status” (STDS) and leave the rest behind.

    Let’s be honest…these days, everybody got a lil Rick James in they veins.

  • maxfab

    I’ve never asked a man and don’t see myself ever asking. I don’t think it’s my business at all and I don’t think it tells me anything useful about him. Now how many times he’s been in love….that’s a useful number to know.

  • Bmj

    I don’t care about the number as much as i care about how often he’s not practiced safe sex. That is a number I care about. How many std’s has he had? That matters. Number of partners, that’s something I’ll never ask about.

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  • Mikael Short

    In my world, sleeping with 10 people is a lot and I kind of hope I never reach that number personally, but that’s just me! Haha… I come from quite a different place though where marriage before sex is a lot more scarce (very much a Mormon community… there are others but it is predominantly so).
    I’d rather not know numbers but, like most other people, I’d rather know if they practice safe sex and if they are STD free is more important.

  • Barbara Joi

    what’s the point of asking? men lie. women lie. planned parenthood doesn’t. lol. let me see your test results and we all good 🙂

  • Mandi

    No discussion of number of partners, dick size of previous partners or proficiency of previous partners should be entered into with a future partner.

    I once exchanged this ‘number’ with a close male friend and was distraught that I notched up two more than he had, it has not changed his view of me as a friend though, and I think he has overtaken me by now.

  • Pjulion

    Numbers dont Matter. what does matter is if that person practices safe sex.

  • Cahiphop

    I guess I must be old school because I care. I don’t view sex as something that should be entered in to lightly. If a man can separate himself from sex easily enough to have dozens of partners why should I believe he wouldn’t cheat? It’s just sex right? It’s not like it’s something special. Even if he doesn’t, it still rubs me the wrong (no pun intended) that he’s gotten that intimate with a lot of women.

    I think the ease in laying down with somebody is a lot of what is wrong with our generation. Lots of sex isn’t going to get you any place but at risk for STDs. Because condoms don’t protect against everything.
    My .02

  • Doesn’t Matter

    I absolutely concur. A high number would really bother me.

  • Naomi

    2 relationships ago, i made the mistake of answering this question. I was trying to be as open and transparent as possible and it blew up in my face. I think some guys use this question to see where they’re going to place the girl in his life. “Too many” = she’s the booty call. “Too Little” = he’s going to do some research and see if she’s lying. I don’t know if there’s a just right. I personally have never asked this question, because however many it is, I can’t change it. It happened before you knew me and as long as you’re on the up and up and treat me like I need to be treated, who am I to question what you used to do? And I’d rather him not ask me..I’m able to tell him the amount, but what does that change? In my opinion – nothing.

    Love the post Jozen 🙂

  • LoLo

    Call me old fashioned but the more partners you’ve had the more im gonna view you in a negative way (man or woman). Personally, i think in my book,everyone can get away with (at max) 3 partners.

    your 1st: love/crush/bf/gf etc,
    the mistake: bad boy/grl,/player/one night stand/drunken night out etc
    and finally the one (whatevar that means to everybody.)

    Anymore than that and im out, no looking at other factors no nothing.
    To me the number of partners you have had reflects who you are as a person and how you value yourself and others and wether we would be compatible.

    Thats my 2 pence lol always a pleasure to read your stuff Jozen 🙂

  • Lacey

    For me i think the past matters bcoz it made you who you are. But unless i had alarm bells ring about you, id never ask the question

  • Amanda R. Trinity

    People get all wrapped up in a number…Honestly it doesn’t matter. Those people are in the past, so why are we eveen bring them up…Truth is some of them weren’t all that great, hence why we don’t deal with them currently.

  • TheGirlDoes

    I like to relate a lot of dating/relationship issues to shoes. Let’s look at the numbers game this way:

    If I see a pair of shoes I like, I try them on and they fit me well, I don’t care how many feet have been in the shoes. Chances are, if too many feet have been in them, I’m gonna be able to tell; the heel is rundown, it looks stretched out…in general, the shoe probably wouldn’t fit me well after all of that anyway. If everything feels and looks good though, I’m getting the shoes. I don’t care who tried them on for size — their mine now.

    But for the record, I don’t wanna know the number.

  • Jinx Moneypenny

    3 max? Whoa. That’s… wow.

  • honestly?

    Wow I’m just reading this blog for the first time but girl you need to realize that there is nothing wrong with having sexual experiences with more than 3 people in your life. Maybe you fell in love more than once? Twice? and since when is “sex” something you get away with?!?!?! Sex is a pleasurable activity, or should be, to those who respect the rules (aka protection and communication) and should be enjoyed without some invented idea of what number is “overbudget”.

  • Kenda

    Hmmm…. if it wasn’t for this article I would have to honestly say that initial reaction to such an answer such as “I Just say I don’t know how many partners I had” would be negative for the majority of women. Why? Well INITIALLY, it just suddenly gives us the idea that you do not care HOW MANY women you sleep with therefore leading us to thinking you don’t care what KIND of women you sleep with which just also leads us to thinking that all you probably just want is cutty. Haha..IDK..but I believe how most women’s processing of information will work with this topic.

  • cheryl

    Anyone asking is to immature to be dating.