Your "number" doesn't matter anymore. It never really did, but now we know that it doesn't. No one talks about it. No one asks for it. At this point, we all assume that we've all been equally slutty and we're right. So there's no use catching feelings over how many people someone else has slept with or feeling overly confident because of how many people you've fucked. Nobody cares.
I used to care. I think that most people did. Especially guys. From a young age, society kind of conditions us to place this bizarre, restrictive value on female chastity. It's burned into our psyche that no matter how depraved we are, the woman that we ultimately settle down with should be some puritanical figure. That's why Young Thug says, "If she ain't a virgin then the bitch is only average." Yeah, it's pretty fucking stupid, but it's the world we're born into.
Most dudes eventually grow up and gain some perspective, but there was a time when the "number" was really an issue. That "how many guys makes a girl a whore?" question would pop up in conversations the same way that the similarly insipid "how much money would it take for you to suck a dick?" one does. Dudes were wildly insecure and unrealistic with their answers, too.
There was always one guy who was like, "20, 30, who cares—if it was before me, it doesn’t matter" and he seemed crazy, which is hysterical when you consider how reasonable a reaction that is in retrospect. Then, naturally, there was the guy who said shit like, "I'll never marry a woman who's slept with more than two dudes." That guy was actually crazy, but at the time, I was confused and ignorant enough to sort of agree with his point of view. The idea of the "good girl" archetype was still desirable, and not just a dumb phrase that you hear in Robin Thicke's lyrics.
The youthful pursuit of a chaste woman was really about jealousy and resentment towards women for the control they had over their own sexual agency. We were bitter about their freedom to have sex with seemingly whomever they wanted, while we had to wait for someone who wanted to have sex with us and face tons of rejection in the process. One time, I was so distraught because this girl I was seeing told me she'd been with eight dudes, only to later find out that it was more like 13. The main issue? I'd only had sex with four girls.
Of course, sex is still exciting, but the act alone isn't revolutionary anymore.
I was all fucked up about it because I felt inadequate. When we had the "number" conversation, I even lied and inflated my stats for the sake of my ego. I don't know, it just felt wrong to have less sexual experience than the woman I was dating. Blame the patriarchy for training young men to think that way. Now I see the flawed logic, but when we're young we're impressionable and constantly fed images that make us think we're supposed to be fully-formed Casanovas and just get all the pussy simply because we exist. The reality of that not being even remotely accurate can be devastating.
When I wrote that story about getting cheated on, I didn't go into much detail about why I was also cheating, but the truth is, I fucked other girls when I was 18 because, in my mind, I weirdly needed to catch up to the girl I was dating. Sure, there were other factors—like her kissing another dude at a New Year's Eve party, shady texts and not enough reassurance when there were other girls on my dick—but those events were more like the impetus. Vengeance may have triggered my actions, but the main goal was to gain more experience—more experience than her.
Inevitably, there comes a day when you're not a delusional 18-year-old anymore and you've learned a thing or two from your past relationships and can now see through the bullshit. Sex isn't some distant, mythical concept. People have sex all the time. Once you've personally had enough, you can finally become secure and move beyond putting it on this pedestal where what you've done in the past or what someone did before you matters so much.
That realization comes with time. As the years pass and you keep living your life and having the sex that comes with it, the "number" ceases to represent something that you aren't a part of. You don't feel left out and unfulfilled like you're not experiencing things. I mean, sure, there are still bouts of that feeling, but wanting to fuck someone usually has a more valid foundation than needing to sow your wild oats. That transparency makes relationships realer across the board.
Listen, everyone still needs to have a filthy conversation here and there, but, for the most part, it's lame to talk about sex like you're a teenager again. Of course, sex is still exciting, but the act alone isn't revolutionary anymore. Having a lot of it isn't a turn-off, nor is it that impressive. Which is exactly why nobody cares.
Ernest Baker is a writer living in New York. Follow him on Twitter here.