The newly released Anna Faris comedy "What's Your Number?" hilariously portrays the question most men dread being asked and most women hate answering: How many people have you slept with?
Whether you think your number is too high or too low, it's never a fun conversation to have with your significant other. Some people avoid it all together. But why is there such an emphasis on the "number" and what are its implications? We turned to Dr. Glenn Berger, a psychotherapist who specializes in sexual coaching, for the answers. He tells us what that number means, why we're so afraid of it and whether we should reveal it.
Why are people so hesitant to reveal their "number?"
I really think they’re most reluctant to talk about anything intimate. When it comes to asking or answering those questions, it brings up a lot off fear. Women are afraid that if they ask, it's going to push the man away. Men have been cultured not to speak about anything intimate.
Is it true that men tend to over-exaggerate and women tend to downplay?
Everybody has their own version of reality and I don’t know if any of us know what that reality is. Certainly, whatever changes we think we’ve made in our culture, the whole thing about men and size is re-enforced. The higher the number, the bigger the man you are. It’s different with women. Some who haven’t had a lot of experience are ashamed because they think they will be seen as uncool and inexperienced. If it’s too high, they’re worried they will be seen as a tramp or whore. It’s tricky for women. They are searching for the right number.
So what is an "normal" number of sexual partners?
There is no such thing as normal. I’m surprised at how many people have had very few sexual partners. I’m surprised at how inexperienced some people are or just not great in the sack. A lot of people have insecurities and then they hook up with a person who doesn’t know what they are doing either. Everyone thinks everyone else is having more sex than they probably are.
Do men and women classify "sex" differently?
I think men and women use the same categories-- friend with benefits, boyfriend/girlfriend. Certainly, women are looking to define relationships more in terms of commitment but reluctant to admit it. Definition is different as to what sex means. People will say, "Well, I didn’t have sex with them," and it means they didn’t have intercourse I think that is a bad definition of sex. It separates sex into foreplay and sex. And I think for people to have satisfaction, sex is not just intercourse. As we know, statistically, many women can orgasm from foreplay, but not from intercourse.
Why is there such a stigma associated with that number?
The thing that I try to get to is that the number and embarrassment is really a reflection of deeper insecurities or shame- - the feeling that goes along with belief that there is "something wrong with me." That’s a deeper issue than the number or size or weight, the thing that makes us different or wrong or bad. It’s about getting to a place where they love themselves and recognize that others are just as screwed up as you are. If you are feeling shame, it's probably a deeper issue. In terms of communication, you might be surprised to find out that others have insecurities, too.
Should you ever reveal your number to your partner?
I believe you should share, not on a first date, but in terms of building a real relationship, that you should share everything and this is something that should be shared. It can be part of a fun, lively, erotic conversation and that’s how you build sexual excitement. You can’t have heat without friction.