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July 26, 2005

Comments

Antigone

Well, the fact that I use a condom goes without saying (and the pill for some of those more pesky STDs. Yes, I just refered to pregnancy as a disease, deal with it). But, if I'm sleeping with someone, I have to be able to trust that he's not lying to me. This coupled with the question does limit who I get to sleep with, but *shrugs* better than getting something.

Keri

But, I don't see not sharing "numbers" as being less than honest.

Oh, I agree. I don't think focusing on "the number" as if it tells you anything at all about the person is constructive, and though I don't mind discussing it, I don't blame people who'd rather not. I do, however, think it's unreasonable to treat one's past love life like a dirty little secret that can never be discussed, or to expect one's partner to treat his or her past that way.

If someone doesn't specifically want to talk about past sexual experiences, that's fine (as long as they haven't had ramifications that can affect me/the current relationship), but I do expect that once I get to know someone I'm dating well enough, I'll have a fairly clear picture of who his most recent ex-girlfriends were, how long they were together and the general circumstances surrounding the breakup. Not because I want to judge him for it or "use it against him" or even really draw any conclusions about him as a result of those past experiences-- because I want to be involved in his life and understand him, and even though those relationships are over, they're still part of who he is. I'm not comfortable with the "you can tell your close friends, but not your partner" distinction-- my partner is my closest friend, and there's nothing I'm willing to discuss with my other friends that I'm not willing to discuss with him. We discuss everything else under the sun, after all-- why should past relationships be off-limits? Isn't that just giving them more weight and significance than they really deserve?

Anyway, I'm not sure if Hugo and others are taking "don't ask, don't tell" far enough so as to recommend that past relationships never be discussed at all, but if so, I strongly disagree. And really, you would have to take it that far if you really wanted your partner to have no idea as to how many people you've had sex with; if the past relationships went on long enough and were sufficiently serious, and your partner doesn't have any specific objections to having sex in relationships of that length and seriousness, it's a safe bet that those relationships probably got physical at some point. You may not be able to come up with an exact number, but it's pretty easy to estimate.

Bottom line: As someone who has been there with the whole jealousy bit, I think it's far better to be fully honest ("I've been with 5 people and here's the general story about each of them") than partially honest ("I've been with 5 people" and nothing else, allowing one to imagine that all 5 were brilliant supermodels who were amazing in bed) or entirely silent on the matter (allowing one to imagine whatever would bother her the most). So no, I don't think we should obsess over "the number," but I don't much like "don't ask, don't tell" either.

cmc

My husband likes the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, but personally, I find it depressing. To me, being in love means (in part) having an intense curiosity about the other person and an intense desire to share all aspects of oneself. I want to know everything about my husband. I want to know about his childhood pets, his favorite books, his religious experiences, courses he took in college, his relationhips with his parents and other relatives, everything that made him who he is today.

Inevitably, that means I also wish I knew about his past relationships and sexual experiences but I know very, very little even after 8 years of marriage! I also wish he were more curious about my prior boyfriends and how those experiences shaped me. I can't fathom the concept of being jealous of long dead relationships, and it's hard for me to accept having topics one can't discuss with one's most intimate partner.

Cleis

In The Unbearable Lightness of Being, the male protagonist, Tomas, who has had many female lovers, discusses how each woman is different, and each has sexual mysteries to be discovered. Why think that a woman (or a man) ranks her lovers to determine which is "the best," whatever that means? Why not instead acknowledge that people differ from one another, and that sex with each person is a wonderful discovery? I don't care how my lover stacks up compared to previous lovers; I want to know what s/he is like, what his/her tastes and pleasures and mysteries are.

mythago

A couple notes on your post that have nothing to do with numbers (mine being "way more than yours"):

Fetishizing virginity stigmatizes victims of sexual abuse and violence. Frankly, it puts an emphasis not on self-control and Godliness, but on a kind of sick competitiveness--being the first one in, as it were.

And while "it doesn't follow that a good Christian has a right to demand that his or her spouse have an equally low level of sexual experience" can mean not judging others, it's also the rationalization that's used to prop up the sexual double standard: we don't expect men to have the same self-control, so we don't really expect women to tell their male partners "I waited, and I expect you to have the same commitment."

Creeping Jenny

I'm not so fond of totting up numbers (what's supposed to count as "sex" for those purposes anyway?), but I share CMC's feelings on "don't ask, don't tell". It is depressing to have facts about yourself you can't discuss with even your closest friend. Anyhow, specific, non-statistical information is useful for relationship-building -- it helps you figure out how the other person works inside, and how they'll respond to new situations, and what new things they might enjoy. I'd sort of hestitate to date anyone who wasn't open to discussing past sexual relationships (not that that's an issue for the foreseeable future).

draper

antigon, your a genious. (all though you will probably disagree with me)

and yes I agree. What's the deal with that "you can tell your friends but not your partner"?

(I thought that A love interest or spouse was exactly that because he or she is the one person on the earth with which you where the most intimate?)

anyways, the real issue lies behind the questioning. why does a woman's past bother us enough to ask? why do we want to know about the past? Why are we asking?

You can phyco-analyse it and phd talk it all you want but men want to feel like they are a woman's supreme love interest. period. It's about being able to say to yourself "I am loved more than all others." I'm unique. I'm special. It is about being "number 1."

now, the "number one-ness" that I'm speaking of isn't specific things. it's about being a woman's number one all time object of love as far as the arena of love goes.

not best kisser. not best in bed. not most succesful. not the most powerful or muscular. You can be the "greatest" without being the best at anything.

For a man to be happy in a relationship he must truly feel and believe that he has your heart more so than any man before him ever has or ever could.

ok so what's the problem?

THE PROBLEM.

by the time most people meet and then get serious, everything that the two of them could possibly do together, both physically and emotionally, has already been done. Most if not all the physical rights of a husband have been partaken in by numerous people. or even if they've just been partaken in by one other. It doesn't matter.

"Show me the proof that I'm different." he says.

According to your blog, you should tell him to suck it up or hit the road right?


nah. give him what he wants. Don't give the girl-euphamistic-generalizations. Don't give the polite vague fictions. tell him whatever you can remember. tell him the truth. don't hide anything. Freely associate like you would with a girl friend. that's what he wants.

a bit of advice though. There should be two parts to any explanation:

1) Tell him what it was then.
2) Tell him what it is now.

We aren't stupid. You weren't with people because they were boring and ugly. be honest. It could not be true, nor will he believe you if you make it sound as if every guy you dated and hooked up with was an ugly jerky bastard that you really never cared for oh and none of them ever totally turned you on.

no, so come on, tell him the good things that drew you to him, the thoughts you were thinking, the place where you were at spiritualy, memerable occurances and then talk about where it went wrong. exactly how it went. tell him what you did physically. we did this and this

then tell him what it is now. "it means nothing." or "i'll always be there for him."

shocking I know. I honestly believe that those who say that honety doesn't work haven't been honest.

they volunteer partial info. and the rest is pulling teeth. "we hooked up but it was no big deal." "it was innocent and chaste compared to what most people do." "we fooled around."

these methods of explanation are like a man who is away on buisness asking his wife about the color of the new family car and having her reply "oh it's a color you'll like, so don't worry about it." that tells us nothing.

if you are not going to volunteer everything, don't volunteer anything: what would be the point, you're still holding him at a distance

-- HE STILL FEELS THAT THERE ARE OTHER MEN IN THAT SPECIAL PRIVATE PLACE THAT HE IS TRYING TO ESTABLISH THROUGH HIS QUESTIONING. HE ISN'T RISING TO THE TOP.

HE IS TRYING TO MAKE A PLACE IN THE RELATIONSHIP THAT IS HIS, WHERE HE, INSPITE OF THE PAST, IS KING.

that's why he's asking. because he want's to believe he is diffrent and that what you and he have is special. and you make him so by finally being completely open.

so it's not what we want to know. it's that we want you to tell us.

And when a woman tells a man everything she is elevationg him to that place that physical sex is only a metaphor of.

When this happens, as a man, he's finally in a place that none but herself has been. he's finally at level of intimacy that is superior to sexual intimacy, because, unlike the latter, no other man has been there. the true holly of holey's is the heart.

Lastly, From what I've read, I suspect that some of your heads are spinning really fast, clock wise on your neck. that's understadable.

after all, how dare I, a man, talk about what I want. what I need.

it's so funny that in this fast time of supposed unshackled intellectualy frankness that these things are shamed under the rug.

now men are the oppressed.

what a silly notion for a man to desire kingship (so then he can be a slave by the way) in the heart of a woman (or to even talk about it).

that's not intellectual. that's not trendy. that's not new or obscur. by all means email me with your comments.

e-head

I just want to commend you on your insight.

When I was 18 I started dating a 16 year old girl, whom I stayed with on and off for roughly 7 years. Even though she was only 16 when I first met her, she had quite a bit of experience. I was a virgin. This disparity gnawed at me over the course of our relationship, sometimes to a terrible degree, and it led us down a path from which we never recovered.

What was even worse for me was the rapidity at which she had new sexual experiences during the few times we broke up. During those periods, I generally had not even gone out on a date yet. Sometimes she had had sex with 2 people already.

Untimately this differing view on the role of sexuality and the importance given to it destroyed our relationship. Of course, it probably wasn't rational or logical, but often times feelings are not.

e-head

Draper,

I just read your comment, and I think you have hit the nail on the head with regards to the origin of these feelings.

We simply all want to feel special. Simple as that. We are inundated with messages about how "magical" romantic love is ... the Western ideal of Love is so overwhelming and all-encompassing, synonymous with spirituality and light and goodness.

If your lover has had sex with numerous partners, it diminishes the "specialness" of sex. You start feeling like just a number. One in a long line of other lovers. Just another notch on the bed post. Also, it highlights just how emphemeral love and sex can be. It is a reminder that she in fact had all these same feelings before, for someone else, and it all went to shit.

If she has been in love numerous times in the past, it diminishes the "specialness" of being in love.

If she has swallowed (there is nothing special about you at all. She swallowed for all the other guys too.), or done this or that, it diminishes the "specialness" of all these things.

I used to agonize over all this a great deal when I was much younger, but alas age has finally taken the edge off of some of these feelings. Yet still, just the other night I popped on a "mood" CD with my girlfriend and we were getting frisky when she said her previous boyfriend loved this CD. Being fully aware of how irrational retro-jealousy is, I simply told her he had good taste and continued on ... incredibly, when things had gotten really hot and heavy and I came up for air, I suddenly remembered what she had said and noticed the music again. I grabbed the remote and flipped it to the next CD !

You think you are selfish and insecure ... ha !

It is not enough for me to be the best all around.

I want to have the biggest penis.
I want to have made love to her the slowest ... the fastest ... the softest ... the hardest ... in the most unusual position ... at the highest altitude ... the lowest ... the strangest location ... in front of the most people ... the most times in one day ... and on and on. And that's just sex.

I want to be the handsomest, the sexiest, have the biggest muscles, the nicest butt.

I want her to love me more than anyone she ever loved before.

I want us to explode with passion and lust and love and merge with the God-head and spend all eternity in a loving sexual embrace.

Maybe I am incredibly insecure, but I would be lying if I said I did not want all these things. I think a lot of others want this too. Hell, maybe it's not even so crazy to want this afterall. What is crazy is if you let it screw up a good thing.

As for whether to tell your lover about your past experiences ... I think I agree with the original author. If you do tell, don't be afraid to tell little white lies. Don't dwell on details (these details can get lodged in peoples brains). I had a lover once tell me intricate details about how she got screwed on this one couch, and I could not have sex with her on that couch without thinking about it. That's just the way some peoples brains work. I don't think it hurts at all to downplay previous relationships.

alexander

On the subject of one's sexual past, I've become a great believer that no one should ever ask -- or answer -- the question "So, how many people have you slept with?"

True enough. But I will take it further. I know many women who can't help but asking, "Tell me about your relationships." And then judge men by the quality of their "relationships."

What this means is that men who have been, say, shy and unable to get relationships in the past will be consigned to the outer darkness.

One other point about the guy who was calling his girlfriend a "slut": sometimes the guy is jealous of the woman (since she has more experience than he) and seeks to put her down.

bmmg39

"I understand the concept, though I'll freely admit that it's not particularly rational. 'Jealousy' may not be the best word to describe it, because it doesn't have much to do with envying the past partners or feeling directly threatened by them-- it's more that when it sinks in that your partner's had all these romantic/sexual experiences that have nothing to do with you and that you can never truly understand, it can be unsettling, especially if you don't have many similar experiences in your own past. I can't figure out how to say it so that it won't sound self-centered and possessive-- perhaps it just inherently is self-centered and possessive, but it happens. I'm not saying it justifies calling one's girlfriend a 'slut' or breaking off the relationship, but I do think 'retroactive jealousy' is understandable (particularly for those who are relative beginners at the whole serious sexual relationship thing), and can be overcome if one is willing to get past the initial emotional reaction and discuss things honestly with one's partner...As for 'the ex is an ex for a reason,' it's not always that simple-- sure, the relationship ended for a reason, but not necessarily a reassuring one. People don't always fully move on after relationships end, issues from past relationships can haunt current ones, etc. This is part of the reason I think honesty is so important-- when you don't know the whole story about your partner's past, it's easy to develop worries about that sort of thing. Often, all it takes is one good conversation to put those worries to rest; not talking about it for fear of seeming judgmental or insecure, on the other hand, is likely to do quite the opposite. I don't think it's constructive to tell people they shouldn't feel jealous or care about their partner's past-- whether they should or not, if it matters to them, it matters to them. What's important is how they deal with it."

As this thread has been resurrected, I'd like to do what I should have done five months ago, and that's give Keri the "I-Couldn't-Have-Said-It-Better-Myself" Award. And she's right to point out that it not only applies to sex but also to love and other things. If you feel something for another person, you want it to be the other person's first time, as well, no matter what it may be.

Boy Genteel
www.safe4all.org

alexander

One of the biggest problems with virgins is that, since they have never had sex, they think they are experts in it!

bmmg39

"One of the biggest problems with virgins is that, since they have never had sex, they think they are experts in it!"

Don't confuse "innocence" with naivete.

bg

alexander

Don't confuse "innocence" with naivete.

What do you mean?

bmmg39

I mean that those who haven't experienced sex are often believed to be clueless saps. Picture the poster from THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN, in which the protagonist has an ethereal glow about his head, and has a smile on his face that says, "Golly jeepers, Mrs. H! That sure was a nifty glass of milk! May I pretty please have another?"

I've never eaten tripe, but I know what it is. Same principle.

bg

cinnamon

Hi,
I want to tell that I am a victim of retroactive jealousy in the sense that I am the one who is jealous. My wife had a lot of lovers before we met. I know from what she told me, from the stories she recounted and also from the pictures she still has of these men that each one was twice the man that I am. All of them were good looking, with skinny, muscular bodies. They all had long arms and good-looking faces.

I am overweight and suffer from Peyronie (a certain bending of the penis).
Let me tell you, life is a living hell for me. I constantly ponder about what she did, how much fun she had, and how she compares me to these "Supermen".

We are still together because we have three children, and have to pay off the house.

I know for a fact that retroactive jealousy exists.

mythago

that each one was twice the man that I am

Good grief. What you know for a fact is that these men were, in those photos, good-looking and skinny. That says nothing about what kind of people they are, what they would look like now, or what kind of husband and father they would have turned out to be. If these guys were such hot stuff, why didn't she marry any of them?

If you really can't get your mind off your wife's past, I suggest you get therapy or some kind of other help. I don't mean that in a nasty way. But if you can't stop thinking about something she can't change, and believing you can read her mind, you are killing your marriage.

kaiowas

I'm also a victim. I'm 21, my girlfriend is 20. She's been with 7 people before me, I've been with 2 before her. One of mine was a casual experience as an experiment. One of hers was a one-night stand and another was a friends-with benefits thing.

As soon as I found out the number, after playing a drinking game. My sexual performance went to crap, and I experienced performance anxiety for the first time. In the end, it turns out that the one-night stand bothers me less than the friends with benefits thing.

This guy was the typical wild-popular-frat guy-jock type, he was "so built she felt self conscious around him, especially during sex," and he was one of the 2 guys before me to bring her to orgasm. He got her off by just going all out and pushing her over the edge, with me I honestly attributed it more to me opening up to her so much and her to me and being so comfortable. I'm left feeling like the kid that works his butt off to achieve something, investing himself in it, when another kid comes by and nails it in the first try. What makes it worse is the fact that I can't even hope to get her off the same way due to the performance anxiety.

So I see where its stemming from, all that insecurity. On a personal level I disagree with some of her choices and I do usually hope for my partner to value sex as much as I have, but at the same time this would not bother me nearly as much if the friends w/benefits thing wasn't in there. I just want to be the best she's had and this guy is a direct assault on my security in that, even if he is in the past.

Hugo

With all respect and compassion, a past relationship is not a "direct assault"; the THOUGHT of the past relationship is, and the difference is colossal.

That said, you make a superb argument for NOT disclosing TMI (too much information) to one's current lovers.

kaiowas

I agree, it's the thought of the past relationship.

One thing I left out is the fact that this type of guy was my achilles heel to begin with, in my last relationship I was cheated on twice with this exact "type". It's not my current girlfriend's problem nor responsibility, and I've told her that.

cinnamon

kaiowas wrote:
"I'm left feeling like the kid that works his butt off to achieve something, investing himself in it, when another kid comes by and nails it in the first try. "

Exactly the same thing happened to me. I dated my wife for 8 weeks before she very reluctantly was consenting to going to bed with me, whereas for example one other guy met her, kissed her and took her to a hotel where they had sex - all in less than a day. Often she would have a crush on a guy and have serious petting with him in a car -something that she never did with me. Stuff like this is bound to get you jealous.

How similar events are, and how similar the feelings associated with them.

WelshMan

For me personally, it's not my girlfriend's past relationships that bother me, but her one night stands, (which are siginficantly more than my 2) and the fact that one of them was with a friend of mine. That really bothers me for some reason and I can't figure out why. At times i'm fine with it, but at other times it really eats away at me. I know my reaction to this upsets her at times, but it upsets me also.

Epublius

Though a dated comment list, here goes anyway.

I think many of you, including the author, are incredibly naieve. Negating your prospective sweetie's past is not thinking clearly. It's one thing if you have known this person in another context for many years and share mutual friends- it's quite another if you only met them recently and are considering moving the relationship toward a more intimate level.

Under normal circumstances, when you reach the age of say, 25, it is normal to have a "past"- I would say that anyone who doesn't should be looked at just as hard as someone with a very large past. That being said, a person's past can tell you an awful lot about them and what the prospects are of having a rewarding relationship with the person. Two very different people could arrive at similar "numbers" under very different circumstances by the same age. Obviously the age at which sexual intercourse (and yes, fellatio is a form of penetration and I would say, just to be fair, that so is cunilingus) begins is a factor, but so to is the person's propensity toward serial monogamy, one night stands, child hood experiences as well their sense of self. Give me a truly lusty woman any day rather then a woman who has no self confidence and seeks love through promiscuous sex. One has a clear idea of who and what she is and what she is after while the other is most likely suffering from low self esteem and parental neglect.

Clinical studies have shown that both men and women who's sexual experience is a preponderance of one night stands also invariably have low self esteem as well as problems with identifying their autonomous selves- in other words, they may have never developed one. Whether or not they have ever had a relationship that lasted more then a few months is also of extreme value. Affairs are not relationships- they are simply affairs. Relationships should last at least two years- better yet, five years. Love is not something you simply try on for awhile. Along with all of that is the person's frame of mind while they are out having one night stands- a man who sleeps with a woman he has absolutely no respect for as his preferred method of "getting it" is not a man who will likely ever bond with a woman on a truly intimate level. Nor will a woman likely ever love in a mature manner when she is out seeking love in a one night stand or confuses casual sex with love and true intimacy. They are mutually exclusive to one another. The longer a person goes on like that, the less likely they are to ever really change. The vast majority of marriages that fail in the first five years do so because of a lack of willingness on the part of at least one partner to fully give of themselves within the marriage. It can happen in many ways but most commonly it is selfishness due to having never given another persons feelings much thought. I would much rather be with a woman who slept with one man a thousand times then with one who slept with 25 different men once. Why? She has most likely learned something from that relationship while the one who has had the one night stands has learned nothing- or she would have stopped looking for love and fulfillment where none can ever be found- she hasn't the slightest clue as to what a loving relationship should be. Neither will a man situated as such.

Which isn't to say that people cannot recognize the error of their ways- but wouldn't you rather they came to those conclusions on their own and had corrected whatever it was that produced the behavior before they become a part of your life? I know I would as I would not want to be the brunt of their learning process. Call me selfish but I would much prefer a relationship with a mature person capable of mature and lasting love and intimacy then someone who is still trying to find out who they are or looking for mommy or daddy in their interpersonal relationships.

I have also read here that some lying is "okay"- is it? If the basis of love is trust, and the basis of trust is honesty, then were and when is a lie okay? If your lover is willing to lie to you about one thing, or maybe a few things- so as "not to hurt your feelings" (the most common excuse, by the way), then what else will they lie to you about? Where do they draw the line? Do you want someone based upon false pretenses? Would you want to fall in love with someone who doesn't exist? I wouldn't. Do you want to go through life guessing as to when and where that someone is being honest? No thanks.

It all comes down to this. No one should believe it's okay to lie to someone they care about- or be lied to. No relationship can work long term if it is not based upon absolute honesty. If the person asks, then answer. My belief is that both parties should be completely willing to lay their cards on the table- and let the other person decide whether or not you are right for them. In other words, you have to be willing to accept someone for who they are- in totality, without the wish to make them into the person (whether real or imagined) you want them to be- people seldom, if ever change unless they truly want to. Expecting someone to change for you (rather than themselves) is both foolish and immature. It will not happen. If you have a "storied" past then look for someone who is secure enough to handle it and get it over with. Sooner or later the truth always comes out anyway. Wouldn't you rather deal with it up front?

can't let go

I know all about the jealousy factor. When I first met my wife to be, she was 17. She had dated several guys in the neighborhood but said she was never intimate with any of them. If you listen to the guys side of the story, it's just the opposite. She says I was her first, and after a few years of marriage, her best friend from the old neighborhood contacted her to let her know one of the guys from the neighborhood had sent word thru her that if she ever felt the need, to give him a call. I wasn't the best looking guy, nor was I the best built. I think what hurt the most was that during the initial stage of the relationship she kept close, very close contact with one of the guys that "almost was". He and I were intense rivals and she often took his side on any issue that came up within our neighborhood. I can count eleven men who were with her before, during, and after our relationship. After were married and had our first child, she continued to go out with her girlfriends all weekend long. It only stopped after her friends became involved with long term relationships and no longer had time to party all weekend long. I still get the feeling that there is some unfinished business she has with the men she left behind. We've moved far away from the town where we grew up in, but it seems the shadow of those relationships will never cease haunting me. She is a very attractive woman, the kind of look men are attracted to, so much of the feelings I have here are rooted in the "why did she choose me" mentality. Overall, it has been a lifetime of waiting for the inevitable. Her telling me that she is going back or me finding her in a compromising position of which there is no explanation.

Thought I was over it but....

I've been married to a wonderful, sexy woman for 10 years. We met when I was 18, she 17. She lost her viginity at age 14 and had 5 sexual partners before me. Me? A virgin for the most part (a few close calls- wouldn't call it sex). I had a really hard time about her past (especially since we were in a small town and I knew all the men err boys she had been with) but had pretty much gotten over it until recently. Among the 5 partners, she had a couple of one night stands and once gave head to two guys at the same time. She always assured me she regretted the way she acted and would do it differently if she could. I believed her. We now have two kids. We've moved into a large city but a few days ago, she ran into one her exes and low and behold, he lives two blocks from us. She also proceeded to tell one her friends in the neighborhood that this is one of her old boyfriends and she had sex with him. I am also good friends with this couple and this infuriated me. I know it is her past, but I think she disrespected me and I am really hurt. If I am going to look the other way, what gives her the right to embarass me and flaunt it when she said she regretted it? It is consuming me, I don't know what to do. I feel like everything that was dead and buried is back with a vengence. She tells me I am over reacting and that it is ancient history and I have no right to judge her for things she did 20 years ago. I'm lost, I can't help how I feel. A few days ago, I was the happiest guy on the planet.

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