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The "How many past partners have you had?" question

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I know this is vague, but should the "how many past partners have you had?" question be asked? Assuming you are in an intimate relationship with this person. I go back and forth. Sometimes I feel like I must know, but other times I feel like the past shouldn't matter. Let's assume that not wanting to know has nothing to do with being afraid of the answer.

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I know this is vague, but should the "how many past partners have you had?" question be asked? Assuming you are in an intimate relationship with this person. I go back and forth. Sometimes I feel like I must know, but other times I feel like the past shouldn't matter. Let's assume that not wanting to know has nothing to do with being afraid of the answer.

There are good reasons for wanting to know and bad reasons. The bad ones are related to some sort of jealousy or control issues. If in some way you are going to react negatively to some possible answer, then you have a problem somewhere. Are you going to be unhappy or happy? or angry? (Indifference isn't good either. Just interested.)

On the other hand, one reasonably wants to know about the person one is getting close to. You want to know all about them. you also want to know what kind of relationships they have had. Have they been hurt alot, treated badly, shown some bad judgment, and so on. What have they learned. What have they learned about sex. What do they like about sex. What do they like to do. What have they not experienced. Lots to know. Much of it can help with the relationship.

Really, there are no bad questions in a relationship. You can ask badly. You can be implying something. Imply guilt. But any innocent question is okay.

So it's the context. Tell us more.

Edited by Bob G

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I generally agree with Bob G that there aren't questions that are bad in and of themselves. I want to know what it is you think this question is going to tell you about someone, though. Wouldn't it be better to observe the person and determine on your own whether they are sexually promiscuous, benevolent, hang with bad people, whatever? What is specifically knowing the number of their past partners going to tell you that's going to aid you in evaluating their character?

I'd rather know the WHY of someone choosing their sexual partners than something circumstantial like HOW MANY.

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Personally I don't ask and I won't tell. This is because I don't think a question like that will reveal much about their character. It's also easy to read too much into the answer, unless you start to digg real deep(which is probably as romantic as an interogation). If she's promiscuous, suffers from low self-esteem and malevolent i'll find out soon enough anyway. Besides, promiscuous people(especially women) tend to lie about it anyway.

Edited by Alfa

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STDs are a very good reason to ask anyone you are about to become intimate with about their past.

Jealousies and insecurities are a very bad reason to ask.

Agreed. And as Jenni says, it isn't really about the actual number, but your partner's experiences and background. Shouldn't be an interogation, but a conversation. People like to talk about themselves and if you are interested in them you want them to do so. You learn about them, they learn about you as you respond to their story. It is part of the process of getting closer.

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Jeez, I've never even had to worry about that question...even if you're 30, just how many times could you have had sex?

But seriously, I've only had two long-term relationships in my life. Now, I don't know about everyone else on this forum, but I'm extremely, extremely picky about my partner. Frankly, I'm really lucky to have had two relationships. So just how many long-term relationships have you guys had? Sexually active relationships?

I realize most people don't treat sex with so much care and they just go for it after a couple of dates, so perhaps for "normal" people it's quite possible to have had sex dozens of times by the time they're 30, or even my age.

Anyway...if I even had to worry about that question, then I'd definitely want to know...with qualifications. Just knowing how many sexual partners someone has had tells you nothing. They could be promiscuous or they may have just been really lucky and found several really compatible mates in the past. If they've never had any, that doesn't necessarily mean they're frigid. They may just not treat sex as lightly as most people (in which case they probably masturbate). What matters is why they had sex. Were they just desperate, do they treat sex as nothing more than an animalistic physical action? Or do they really care about sex and have just been lucky enough to have a lot of partners. If so then why did those relationships end even though they reached the level of sexual intimacy?

...You need to ask more than just "how many partners have you had."

Alfa is right about self-avowed promiscuous people lying. Most college students lie about how often they have sex. Statistical studies show that most college students have *actually* had only 1 or no sexual partners. So all that macho boasting is just a front put up to impress other guys, and possibly even impress women with their "experience." Women may do the same to impress guys with their "experience." I don't really know for sure because I'm very far removed from the college dating scene, which is how I like it.

Edited by Krattle

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Quantity of previous partners doesn't answer the STD question, either.

And, Krattle, I think there's probably a fair variation with people on this board as with anywhere. I, personally, AM 30 and I've had exactly 1 relationship. So don't assume that lack of curiosity is a result of personal promiscuity.

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I realize most people don't treat sex with so much care and they just go for it after a couple of dates, so perhaps for "normal" people it's quite possible to have had sex dozens of times by the time they're 30, or even my age.

Yes, probably, and I think that goes for "normal" people as well as other Objectivists. I personally wouldn't need much more than a couple of dates to decide(even that excludes like 99.99% of women from my list though).

Alfa is right about self-avowed promiscuous people lying. Most college students lie about how often they have sex. Statistical studies show that most college students have *actually* had only 1 or no sexual partners. So all that macho boasting is just a front put up to impress other guys, and possibly even impress women with their "experience." Women may do the same to impress guys with their "experience." I don't really know for sure because I'm very far removed from the college dating scene, which is how I like it.

What I meant was that promiscuous people probably lie, atleast alot of women would. You're right that guys tend to boast though. Women risk being regarded as sluts, and if they actually are... well, it's not likely they will tell you the truth. I'm not saying you should assume all women are liars, only that it's a better and more accurate way to focus on their character(and if you learn that she has a good character it doesen't really matter if she's got 1 or 20 previous partners).

And, Krattle, I think there's probably a fair variation with people on this board as with anywhere. I, personally, AM 30 and I've had exactly 1 relationship. So don't assume that lack of curiosity is a result of personal promiscuity.

I agree. Perhaps i'm strange, but I simply have zero interest in knowing or telling. I much rather focus on other things, and that a potential partner would do the same thing. I also find it rather interesting how someone would deal with the subject and what kind of assumptions they make.

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To JMeganSnow: I didn't assume that. In fact, I think I made it pretty clear that asking about how many partners someone has had doesn't really answer anything.

To Alfa: Really? You know after a couple of dates whether you want to have sex with someone? Holy ****. Please explain how your judgment of another person's character is so complete and accurate after just two dates that you know you want to have sex with them. That just strikes me as a very, very rare occurrence. I definitely feel that way now with my partner after more than three months of dating, but I just can't do that with anyone after just two dates.

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To Alfa: Really? You know after a couple of dates whether you want to have sex with someone? Holy ****. Please explain how your judgment of another person's character is so complete and accurate after just two dates that you know you want to have sex with them. That just strikes me as a very, very rare occurrence. I definitely feel that way now with my partner after more than three months of dating, but I just can't do that with anyone after just two dates.

Ideally, i'll probably know within the first two seconds and the rest is just to confirm and understand why. However, that happens very rarely and I may end up being wrong. So, usually I approach women with just some curiosity. You know, just to find out a little more about them. Then if she interests me, I like her, and I can see that there's potential i'll try to move things to the bedroom. I don't have to be sure about my judgement and I don't have to be head over heels in love with her. I'm fine with "wow, she seems like a wonderfull person!", and that's more like a sense of life thing than actually knowing her really well. Then of course it may turn out that I was wrong, or she didn't want me, or other reasons for it to not work out - perhaps we work better as just friends. It's rare that people really "wow" me.

In my experience, if it takes much longer for anything to happen it usually never does. Either I won't be interested or she won't. Often it ends in the friend zone.

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Ahhh, I see what you mean now. I don't exactly disagree with you then. I definitely get impressions of people and act on them; I did with my current partner, and it was a really good idea. It was definitely a "wow" person and the more I learn the more I like.

So yeah, I don't see your view of sex as wrong, just different from mine. I'm just not comfortable going to sex so quickly. My partner agrees with me on this, and that's what matters. If I were dating someone who wanted sex sooner, I would have to seriously sit down and think about it because I just can't make that kind of commitment unless I really expect something more to come of the relationship. In short, I'm just not the type of person who can live with a series of relationships, even if they are each fulfilling to some extent. I thrive on very long-term relationships.

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Yes, probably, and I think that goes for "normal" people as well as other Objectivists. I personally wouldn't need much more than a couple of dates to decide(even that excludes like 99.99% of women from my list though).

I'm the same. The first few minutes of talking automatically gives me a tonne of important information. If I've had three dates (not movie dates where you can't talk to each other) but dates where we've gotten to talk about our life and values, I can absolutely be into that person enough to have sex.

Didn't Dominique and Roark have sex before having a full conversation?

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^^That's a novel, and that was done for dramatic effect...I don't disagree with you guys, I just think that not everyone can be ready to have sex after a couple of dates.

That was a novel in which characters acted on principle with their values. Obviously, everything in the novel is "dramatic." The purpose of Ayn Rand's writing was to display men as they could be and ought to be.

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^^That's a novel, and that was done for dramatic effect...I don't disagree with you guys, I just think that not everyone can be ready to have sex after a couple of dates.

I'm going to second this. I definitely couldn't after a couple of dates. Maybe some of you folks are capable of knowing a person enough during that time, but I'm not. Of course it also matters if you knew someone before the aforementioned "dates" - if it's someone you've been acquainted with for awhile and are starting to get to know much better, then I can see it. But a total stranger? For me at least, it's way too easy for someone to hide behind a facade for a period of something like three dates.

On the other hand, I do agree that one can tell after a short time if there is going to be "chemistry" or "spark". Rarely I think does one warm to someone one is not initially attracted to (though it can happen).

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The need to know ("how many partners..."), arises from two concerns in a man - and I do think the question is of far more significance to men, than women.

From what I've observed in myself, the one need was some basic (perhaps, hard-wired) form of possessiveness, that primitively, but strongly, desired that I was the woman's first sexual partner (!!)

Or, failing that, that there weren't too many before me.

IOW, some really irrational double standards - given my own experience in the area.

It's the second one that is important, and rational. Without 'rationalizing' that possessive streak, a man should want to know, on entering a relationship : Does this woman esteem herself highly ? Is she worthy of the value that I place in her ? And if she has been 'casual' with her own body, and undisciplined with her emotions, the number of partners she has had could be an indicator of her self-respect, or lack of. Also, a possible warning of her future behavior. The crux is, how can she value me, if she doesn't value herself?

Sex is often a means for people towards gaining recognition and validity in themselves, that they don't generally possess, imo.

It is tricky, but essential, to not conflate these two causes, and use the rational one to justify the other one. Also, a few women and men who have had wide sexual experience, are self-respecting and rational, I've observed.

(btw, after wasting time and energy on unrewarding 'affairs', I am now firmly convinced that Krattle's approach - as he outlined it above - to relationships is the one that has more value.)

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Ahhh, I see what you mean now. I don't exactly disagree with you then. I definitely get impressions of people and act on them; I did with my current partner, and it was a really good idea. It was definitely a "wow" person and the more I learn the more I like.

So yeah, I don't see your view of sex as wrong, just different from mine. I'm just not comfortable going to sex so quickly. My partner agrees with me on this, and that's what matters. If I were dating someone who wanted sex sooner, I would have to seriously sit down and think about it because I just can't make that kind of commitment unless I really expect something more to come of the relationship. In short, I'm just not the type of person who can live with a series of relationships, even if they are each fulfilling to some extent. I thrive on very long-term relationships.

I used to be more like that(actually, I guess I had a bit of a puritan view on sex) but it never lead to anything good for me. For me it was because of lack of confidence with women, and I wasn't sure if I had my values straight or what I wanted. Having changed that i've also become more comfortable with sex.

I'm the same. The first few minutes of talking automatically gives me a tonne of important information. If I've had three dates (not movie dates where you can't talk to each other) but dates where we've gotten to talk about our life and values, I can absolutely be into that person enough to have sex.

Didn't Dominique and Roark have sex before having a full conversation?

Yeah, there certainly wasn't alot of getting to know each other between Roark and Dominique. However, I think there was alot of sub-communication going on and their actions displayed their character. A lesser man would never have done what Roark did, and a lesser woman would never have had him go to such extremes(not saying though that the whole "rape" thing would have been a good thing in reality, it just shows what an extreme test Roark had to pass to get her).

Regarding the principles portrayed in this scenario I think it shows Roark as being absolutley clear about his values and with a complete trust in his own judgement.

For me at least, it's way too easy for someone to hide behind a facade for a period of something like three dates.

But does it matter(I mean from a more general philosophical perspective, obsviously it matters to you personally)? What I mean is that sometimes you make errors when judging people, but unless you have reasons to doubt your judgement then why not act on the one you have(granted of course that the person has proven him/herself)?

Personally i'm very good at picking up when someone is lying, hiding something or trying to fake anything so I tend not to worry much about it at all. But then there's also alot less risk involved for a man.

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But does it matter(I mean from a more general philosophical perspective, obsviously it matters to you personally)? What I mean is that sometimes you make errors when judging people, but unless you have reasons to doubt your judgement then why not act on the one you have(granted of course that the person has proven him/herself)?

Personally i'm very good at picking up when someone is lying, hiding something or trying to fake anything so I tend not to worry much about it at all. But then there's also alot less risk involved for a man.

I think it matters, at least if being more certain is important to you. I guess as a scientist it's sort of ingrained in me not to jump to conclusions about the facts and apply that attitude to people too. For example, I frequently discard my first impression of someone and tend to rely far more on continued interaction with them. But I know that I am anomalous in this regard.

I admit that I am not always good at picking up on someone's intentions. Being deliberately deceived is one thing - that's not hard to catch. It's the people who don't know what they want themselves and tell me one thing but then do another, not maliciously but more just out of a general personality-fail, that really dick me over. And I am also naturally mistrustful of people in general. These factors all probably contribute to me being a bit more cautious.

I don't agree that there's less risk involved for a man, unless you don't have access to birth control and/or abortion services. Maybe in some sense there is but I generally don't see it that way. I mean, sex is a response to one's highest values when it is done for the right reason. Wouldn't you feel terribly cheated if you thought you were showing, honestly and openly, your affirmation of someone, your high regard for them, only to find that they never deserved it? I can't imagine what it must feel like to wake up next to someone one morning and realize they're nothing like what you thought they were, that they didn't earn you. It's something I hope to never find out about.

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I used to be more like that(actually, I guess I had a bit of a puritan view on sex) but it never lead to anything good for me. For me it was because of lack of confidence with women, and I wasn't sure if I had my values straight or what I wanted. Having changed that i've also become more comfortable with sex.

Well, I don't have a puritan view of sex. I think masturbation is fine and normal (depends on why you do it, of course), and I think two consenting people should do whatever they want during sex. But I do have my own preferences that I won't go into because that's too personal. I also don't hate people who watch hard-core pornography, even though I personally never have and never will. I've always been that way.

It's also not that I lack confidence with women. I'm quite confident, in fact. Not an a**hole, not cocky, but confident. If I'm attracted to someone, I don't hesitate in showing that at all. I also know exactly what I want in a woman. I've formed a very detailed picture of that in my head over the years.

Finally, I'm not uncomfortable with sex. It's a natural development of a relationship and it's one of the greatest forms of pleasure on earth *if* treated right, but I just don't think it should be taken so lightly. Maybe it's just personal, but I attach more significance to sex. If I want to tell someone I'm attracted to them on the first few dates, I'll kiss them, hold hands, something less rash than going straight for the bedroom. Sex is just such a huge commitment, something that I can't commit to after a couple of dates.

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I think it matters, at least if being more certain is important to you. I guess as a scientist it's sort of ingrained in me not to jump to conclusions about the facts and apply that attitude to people too. For example, I frequently discard my first impression of someone and tend to rely far more on continued interaction with them. But I know that I am anomalous in this regard.

I guess i'm more inclined to trust my first impression of people. I agree of course that it's important not to jump to conclusions and discard that first impression if it proves to be wrong. But I tend to be able to rather quickly form an accurate impression of people(I think it might be something i've learned from being more of a quiet and observing type).

I admit that I am not always good at picking up on someone's intentions. Being deliberately deceived is one thing - that's not hard to catch. It's the people who don't know what they want themselves and tell me one thing but then do another, not maliciously but more just out of a general personality-fail, that really dick me over. And I am also naturally mistrustful of people in general. These factors all probably contribute to me being a bit more cautious.

Hehe, i'm probably the exact opposite - trustful bordering to the naive. :D

What you mention here sure is a common problem though. Kind of hard to know someone who doesn't know himself.

Another problem can also be when the other person makes the wrong assumptions about you. I mean, it's all well and good if i'm getting to know the other person, but it has to go both ways. Sometimes it can be hilariously fun though when it doesn't.

I don't agree that there's less risk involved for a man, unless you don't have access to birth control and/or abortion services. Maybe in some sense there is but I generally don't see it that way. I mean, sex is a response to one's highest values when it is done for the right reason. Wouldn't you feel terribly cheated if you thought you were showing, honestly and openly, your affirmation of someone, your high regard for them, only to find that they never deserved it? I can't imagine what it must feel like to wake up next to someone one morning and realize they're nothing like what you thought they were, that they didn't earn you. It's something I hope to never find out about.

For women there's also the risk of getting beaten and raped if they attract the wrong guy. Therefore I think it's also wiser for women to require a higher degree of trust before sleeping with a man.

I can't say for sure how I would feel about that situation as it has never happened, but I don't think i'd have any problems with it. My actions would be in response to the values I see. But, I don't act by giving anything away. I don't regard it as a gift or anything like that, it's more like obtaining a value. If it turns out she doesn't actually live up to that, that would be disappointing but i'll just make sure to find someone better next time. Whatever she got from it must be as gratifying as having sex with a person who's thinking of someone else(besides, that someone else would eventually get what she couldn't).

Of course, if this literally happens the very next morning then i'd take a serious look at what the hell I was thinking. Because I think that would indicate a very bad judgement.

Edited by Alfa

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Well, I don't have a puritan view of sex. I think masturbation is fine and normal (depends on why you do it, of course), and I think two consenting people should do whatever they want during sex. But I do have my own preferences that I won't go into because that's too personal. I also don't hate people who watch hard-core pornography, even though I personally never have and never will. I've always been that way.

It's also not that I lack confidence with women. I'm quite confident, in fact. Not an a**hole, not cocky, but confident. If I'm attracted to someone, I don't hesitate in showing that at all. I also know exactly what I want in a woman. I've formed a very detailed picture of that in my head over the years.

Finally, I'm not uncomfortable with sex. It's a natural development of a relationship and it's one of the greatest forms of pleasure on earth *if* treated right, but I just don't think it should be taken so lightly. Maybe it's just personal, but I attach more significance to sex. If I want to tell someone I'm attracted to them on the first few dates, I'll kiss them, hold hands, something less rash than going straight for the bedroom. Sex is just such a huge commitment, something that I can't commit to after a couple of dates.

I think that sounds very good. I just wan't to clarify, in case you took my post the wrong way, that I just wanted to explain why I hold my approach to it. I wasn't trying to make any assumptions about you(that would have been very rude). :D

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Frankly, I'm not sure I see the problem with casual, safe sex.

You don't gain as much from it as you do when you are in a great relationship, but you don't lose anything either (provided you are attracted to the other party, and you take a few precautions)

Even if you later think that it is a person that, on reflection, isn't good enough to have slept with -- the only real loss is the time you spent.

Of course it's also important to approach the whole thing honestly: both honesty to yourself, and to the other party.

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Frankly, I'm not sure I see the problem with casual, safe sex.

Why?

What is "casual sex"? Sex with someone whom you don't expect to have a relationship with outside the bedroom. Sex just for the physical pleasure? If you're just having sex for the physical pleasure, then why not masturbate? It's the same thing and there's no danger of hurt feelings, regret, abortions, or STDs. If the only thing you appreciate about your partner while having sex is his/her body, then it's not true sex. I think Rand would agree...

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Why?

What is "casual sex"? Sex with someone whom you don't expect to have a relationship with outside the bedroom. Sex just for the physical pleasure? If you're just having sex for the physical pleasure, then why not masturbate? It's the same thing and there's no danger of hurt feelings, regret, abortions, or STDs. If the only thing you appreciate about your partner while having sex is his/her body, then it's not true sex. I think Rand would agree...

I don't accept your definition of casual sex. Casual sex would be sex where you do not expect to have a romantic relationship. You may well be friends or have some other sort of relationship -- or it could just be in the bedroom.

Physical pleasure is not the only thing one gains from sex, even outside of romance, just like exercise isn't the only thing you gain from playing sport. You bring up four possible negative outcomes:

  • Hurt Feelings: Casual sex does not mean sex between idiots. Both parties should, of course, understand the nature of the situation. This is by no means a problem.
  • Regret: Sure, you can feel regret, maybe at a later date you no longer think they were worth it. Just like you can feel regret about a romantic relationship that doesn't work out, or feel regret about a career move, or a friendship. Fear of regret is never a good argument to hold back from doing something. Good analysis minimises the chances of regret, but as fallible beings we cannot be sheltered from it. We can learn from it, and get over it.
  • Abortions: Thanks to modern technology, birth control is both cheap and effective.
  • STDs: See above

As for your comment on Rand, even if she were alive to give your theory her stamp of approval, her doing so would not change my mind one bit. Unless better arguments for your case can be presented : the imagined sanction of a dead genius does not constitute proof.

Edited by tito

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