Your ‘Number’ Doesn’t Matter — But What You Do With It Does

<em>What's Your Number?</em>
What’s Your Number? Photo: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Like 95 percent of women in the 2010s, I was not a virgin bride.

Instead, I got married at 25, divorced at 30, had a few serious relationships, had plenty more not-serious trysts and ultimately married the funniest man I’ve ever met less than a year after we started dating.

“Girls always say, ‘I’m saving myself for marriage,’” my now-husband said on stage the first time I saw him perform comedy after we began dating. “That’s funny. Because I’m saving my next marriage for a girl who really likes to fuck.”

I knew I had found my person.

Neither one of us has actually written a list, but I think we both have a general idea of the other’s sexual histories, and they don’t matter. That’s what happens when you accept and love someone — that’s why we put a ring on it.

Except now I am armed with this new research by Nicholas H. Wolfinger at the University of Utah, which places my potential for a long-lasting marriage in very shaky territory: Because I had more than ten sex partners before marriage, there’s a 33 percent chance I will divorce within five years, the study found.

Compare that to the 5 percent of women who have never dipped their vaginas in the penis cookie jar before marriage. These darling sweet girls whose sex-partner count will remain at one forever have an impressively teeny-tiny predisposition to divorce: Just 6 percent.

I call this the Ignorance Is Bliss School of Marital Success.

Here’s where the study gets even more interesting, though: Add just one more dick into the mix, and the result is a 30 percent chance you will divorce. But between three and nine sex partners, the odds of divorce actually drop to 25 percent. After ten, it’s back up to 33 percent.

That’s right. Your choices are: (a) virgin bride, (b) three to nine sex partners, (c) or you’re statistically screwed.

“Having two partners may lead to uncertainty,” Wolfinger cautions, “but having a few more apparently leads to greater clarity about the right man to marry.”

Except here’s where it gets real slut-shamey: “The odds of divorce are lowest with zero or one premarital partners, but otherwise sowing one’s oats seems compatible with having a lasting marriage. But not too many oats … A lot of partners means a lot of baggage, which makes a stable marriage less tenable.”

Not too many oats!

My family crest is just oats and baggage, so I feel particularly well-qualified to offer a hot take on this hot take. And I can advise with absolute certainty: Have sex with as many men and women as you want — and don’t let this guy who looks like the child of Michael Bolton and Fabio tell you otherwise. (Reading my draft of this column, my husband observes: “You know how you can tell you’ve sowed too many oats? You look at the box of oats. Have you fucked that guy?” I adore him.)

In reality, the most important part of this entire discussion has nothing to do with how high or how low or how prime your number is. The problem only exists when you start making your partner feel that these invisible men or women are actually in the room with you by making comparisons. It has to do with respect. A list of statements to best avoid:

  • Here let me show you how this one guy did this thing that really worked.
  • Would you be a doll and fetch me that sex toy that I nicknamed after my ex-husband?
  • Damn, that was nuts. I mean, I’ve never had sex so good. Wait — hold up. Yeah, no, that definitely checks out. Good job.

If you’ve ever even thought about saying any of these things, get divorced, now. You are a sadist.

A list of statements to embrace:

  • That was amazing. You are amazing.
  • You are the only person for me in the world.
  • I love you. So much.

The problem isn’t that we aren’t all virgin brides going into our partnerships; it’s when we make our current partner feel like they’re in competition with our past.

Our various inner critics drag us down and make us question everything we do and second-guess our choices — in bed, in our personal lives, everywhere. And these are far more damaging than some invisible ex-lover. Psychotherapists Bonnie Weiss and Jay Earley have identified seven types of inner critics, all of whom have names that cut fairly straight to the point: The Perfectionist, The Taskmaster, The Underminer, The Inner Controller, The Guilt Tripper, The Molder, and The Destroyer.

Forget about the more than ten guys you’ve banged in your past, and worry more about the seven inner critics who won’t shut up. The Perfectionist: “Yeah, I guess I came. Not five times like the other night, but sure, I came.” The Taskmaster: “Fuck me!” The Underminer: “You call that fucking?” The Inner Controller: “First we’ll 69 for about four and a half minutes, then we’ll transition into about 18 minutes of dirty talk — and then it’s full-stop back to reverse cowgirl for the remainder of the coitus.” The Guilt Tripper: “If you really loved me you would have sex with me instead of going to your job right now.” The Molder: “Can you get a more conventional job and be more vanilla in your lovemaking?” The Destroyer: “Whatever … I mean, you can’t even satisfy me.”

You can be as damaged and oat-y as a lady comes, but the only thing that matters is how you behave right now: your current level of devotion, attention and kindness to your partner.

In 2015, when I first went on a date with my now-husband, I nervously prattled on like I was doing an impromptu Vagina Monologues audition. At some point, our respective numbers came up.

When he threw out “100” as a feeler, I laughed and said no way, I had not had sex with 100 guys. But then, feeling hypnotized by having found a soulmate I never knew existed, I joked, “I mean, I’ve probably sucked 100 dicks … ”

Oh, good God.

But then, he surprised me. He laughed. I laughed. And he looked at me — not in horror or in judgment, but with an understanding and respect I had never seen from a man before.

He said, “I trust that.”

And he should.

Because my love and my devotion to him is without comparison. And it’s the only thing that matters.

It’s Not Your ‘Number’ — It’s How You Use It