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Where Do You Stand on How Many Sexual Partners to Have?

Sexual Partners Equation
By , 18, Staff Writer Originally Published: April 22, 2015 Revised: April 22, 2015

There seems to be this sense that you can only have sex with a certain number of people, especially if you’re a girl. Some say ten is the limit or six is just right. Some even think that two is too many. Some people base this number on whether they believe you should wait until marriage to have sex and only have one partner. Some base this number on how many people their friends have had sex with or what their parents have told them is “acceptable.” So is there really one magic number that determines how many sex partners someone should have? I don’t think so, but let’s explore this idea a little more.

Different Definitions

Some teens, like Conor Garvey, 17 of Morristown, NJ, think that you should have a certain number of sex partners by a certain age..

“I think having seven sex partners by the time someone is 25 is acceptable,” Conor explains. “It’s enough time to have a couple hookups and a few long-term relationships.”

What kinds of relationships someone wants to have, like having monogamous relationships or hookups, can also be a factor in how a person decides how many partners it’s OK to have. Some teens are OK with having casual relationships. Others think only monogamous relationships are acceptable when it comes to having sex with someone.

Some even have different definitions of sex, and they only count certain behaviors as sex. Some teens define sex as vaginal or anal sex, or even manual penetration—like fingering. Some teens think that oral sex counts as sex.

When I ask Erin McKelle, 19, of Strongsville, OH, how many sexual partners she thinks is OK, she says, “It’s different for everyone, and there’s no right or wrong number to have been with. But in mathematical terms, I think for teenagers probably about two to five.”

I also ask her how she defines sex, and she says, “I define sex as any sexual activity that goes beyond kissing or touching with clothing on.” She goes on to say, “I think it’s interesting how people don’t consider oral and anal sex to be ‘real’ sex.”

How teens define sex can play a big part in how they also feel about the number of sex partners they should or shouldn’t have. Because of this, it can be hard to pinpoint exactly what is the “right” number of partners to have.

So…How Many?

You’ve probably figured out by now that everyone seems to have these different numbers in their heads, and you’re probably thinking, So what exactly is the right number of sex partners to have? Well, the answer is—there is no real answer. The numbers that a lot of teens seem to think hold true are actually very arbitrary. With so many different numbers in mind, there is no one true answer to how many sex partners someone should have.

So can someone really be promiscuous when everyone has such inconsistent ideas about what that means? Lee Park doesn’t think so. Lee, 18, of South Brunswick, NJ, says, “I don’t feel that it matters. I believe that everyone has a right to do what they want with their body. A number shouldn’t define what’s acceptable for sex partners; it should depend on what the person is comfortable with.”

As you can see, there are some teens out there that feel that numbers shouldn’t matter when it comes to a person’s sexual partners, and I couldn’t agree more. I am a strong believer that whatever people want to do with their sex life and their body is up to them. Teens should feel the freedom to experiment however they want—while practicing safer sex, of course!—without fear of judgment from themselves or others. To me, this magic-number myth just brings people down. Instead of slut-shaming each other and worrying about whether we had sex with the “right” number of people, let’s just do what makes us happy, whether that means having had multiple sex partners or no sex partners.

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