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This piece appeared as part of a series on your “number” – see the rest of the package here.

In my research on sexual numbers, I asked 100 college girls and recent grads across the country to comment on their sexual histories. Below are profiles of five of the women I surveyed, whose insights about numbers and sexuality I found particularly intriguing. Although some of the themes they discuss were brought up in many other responses, their answers are entirely based on their own experiences and these profiles are not meant to represent the majority of the women surveyed.

 

Julia*, a 22-year-old senior at Bowdoin College

Number: 10

Q: What do you think of your number?

A: I’d say my number is higher than I’d like it to be because a lot of them were one-night stands, but I’m not ashamed. My number represents my active sex life, and I think having sex is healthy.

Q: What do you think your friends would think of your number?

A: My friends from home would probably think my number was low. People in my hometown were having sex in 7th grade, and my friends there are rather promiscuous. But at my college, a lot of people went to private school and started having sex much later, so my friends at school think that my number is on the high side.

Q: What do you think guys would think of your number?

A: I’m not sure what they’d think, but I’m not really concerned. My number shouldn’t matter to them, and most guys have higher numbers than girls anyway.

Q: Any other thoughts?

A: I think talking about numbers can perpetuate the double standard [that it’s good for boys to sleep with a lot of girls, but bad for girls to sleep with a lot of boys]. The Duke F**k List incident and how everyone called that girl a slut for hooking up with 13 people in college is just absurd – the guys she slept with probably had higher numbers than she did, but nobody talked about that.

Katherine*, a 21-year-old junior at the University of Michigan

Number: 0

Q: What do you think about your number?

A: I’m proud to be a virgin and I’m waiting for marriage — I want my husband to be the only one I ever have sex with. But it’s not like I don’t WANT to have sex right now. It’s really important for me to wait.

Q: How important are numbers to you in relationships?

A: I would like to be my husband’s first, as well, but I know that guy virgins will be harder to find. My current boyfriend’s had sex before and it was really hard for me to deal with at first. Also, he perceives as being really innocent and naïve. He’s called me a ‘puppy’ before and acts like I’m so prude, which is frustrating.

Q: Any other thoughts?

A:  Zero can be a pain, but I can’t wait to meet my husband and tell him that I’ve been patient enough to wait for him my entire life. I believe that God has set me up with someone fantastic and I just can’t wait.”  

Jackie*, a 21-year-old senior at Harvard University

Number: 8

Q: What do you think of your number?

A: My number is on the high side — it’s the highest of my friends — but I don’t have a problem with it because I don’t regret any of the guys. They were all really hot and definitely ‘catches’ so I am proud of that.

Q: How important are numbers to you in relationships?

A: I think it’s better not to discuss numbers in relationships, at least not until you’re really serious with someone. If it’s brought up too soon, you run the risk of making your partner uncomfortable and it can be harder to tell if the person is telling the truth. And plus, no one wants to think about their partner having sex with someone else.  

Q: Any other thoughts?

A: I lost my virginity to my high school boyfriend, and when we broke up, it was a really big deal to have sex with someone other than him. But once my number got to 4, I started being a lot less hesitant to have sex with someone new — now I view sex as just a part of hooking up, not as something that has to be super special in itself. It can still be romantic — I dated a guy last year where the sex was incredibly meaningful — but I’ve also hooked up with people where sex is only physical and fun.

Leila*, a 21-year-old senior at James Madison University

Number: 1

Q: What do you think about your number?

A: I love my number! My “one” is my fiancé, we’re getting married next summer and I’m glad I can say that I’ve only been with him.

Q: What do you think guys would think of your number?

A: I’ve had other guys ask me about it, and they’re always like, ‘Dang, just one guy? Don’t you want to see what else is out there?’ My answer is always no — why do I need to? My fiancé and I have an amazing sex life! Just because they feel the need to have sex with multiple people doesn’t mean that I do.

Q: How important are numbers to you in relationships?

A:  My partner’s number is the same as mine and that’s really important to me. We’ve only been with each other, and that makes everything that much more special to me.

Q: Any other thoughts?

A:  I never saw the need to make my number higher. To me, sex isn’t something that you ‘try out’ with several people just to do it, it’s something special to be valued.

Olivia*, an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Michigan

Number: 5

Q: What do you think of your number?

A: My number is just right for me, I’ve been sexually active for 2 years now so I don’t think it’s too high. I’m sure my parents would be shocked, but my friends and my sister would probably approve of my choices.

Q: What do you think guys would think of your number?

A: If a future partner took my past actions seriously enough to think differently of me, then that’s not really someone that I want to be with. Men shouldn’t be judging me on my personal decisions.

Q: How important are numbers to you in relationships?

A: I think the only thing that would faze me would be an outrageously high number, which might make me concerned for his health and my safety. But within a reasonable range, I think a guy’s sexual history is his personal decision that I shouldn’t have an opinion about.

Q: Any other thoughts?

A: I’ve considered sleeping with the same partners again when I want to have sex — not only for number purposes, but because sex is such an intimate act and I know I’m already comfortable in a sexual setting with those people. 

*Names have been changed.

Sarah Smith is a junior at the University of Michigan, Class of 2012, majoring in Communication Studies and Political Science. She is the Editor-in-Chief of The Forum, Michigan's Greek Life Newspaper, and the secretary of Michigan's chapter of Ed2010. Sarah is also an active member of Alpha Delta Pi Sorority, and she currently serves Michigan's Panhellenic Association as the Vice President of Public Relations.  A native of Sterling Heights, MI, she has been a Michigan fan since birth and loves spending Saturday mornings cheering on her Wolverines. Some of her favorite things include The Office, Audrey Hepburn, women's magazines, and microwave popcorn - preferably with lots of butter and salt!
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