Once, I asked my ex about her body count. She steadfastly refused to tell me. Like, would not even entertain my question, and actually got upset that I asked. At the time, I was irritated as hell because I thought this was just the latest example of her bullheaded insistence on keeping to herself anything her loved ones might judge, disapprove of or misunderstand, which lead to a lot of strife with us. As I got a bit of distance from her and the situation, I realized what was ACTUALLY bothering me; the perception that this might be the sort of thing I would condemn.
As longtime readers know, I was raised in a fairly religious and conservative southern household. There were tons of things that I SWORE I would never do; premarital sex, oral sex (giving or receiving), sex without a condom, girls, anal sex, threesomes, doggy style, on my period, with someone watching, anywhere other than the bed. There are a number of those things I haven’t done, but as for a majority of them… welp.
The point is, I was taught to assign a meaning to those behaviors, and it was that meaning that I thought I would be avoiding if I didn’t engage. No one could call me a whore if I didn’t have oral sex or sex with multiple partners. Except, you know, of course they could. And they did. Because that is the way you attack a woman; you insult her reputation and you call her a whore. That’s the thing about being judged by your sexual history; it doesn’t have to be true, or even tawdry. It just has to be seen through the filters of the connotations other people have been taught to assign to it.
Over the last few days for some reason, there has been TONS of talk of body count across the internet. And I have been steadfastly avoiding said conversation because it makes me furious. The politicizing of any one’s sex life, but especially something as trivial as the number of partners they’ve had, is quite possibly the dumbest thing you people believe in. And though I usually include myself in the human behavior we all display, I am completely comfortable divorcing myself from this phenomenon. It is completely on y’all.
Sexual behavior, and by extension, the definition of deviance, is subjective. What is a lot of numbers to post on my personal sexual scoreboard might not be a lot for someone else. What I find absolutely amazing in the bedroom (and beyond), might be degrading and uncomfortable to someone else. It’s important we recognize that not only is everyone different, but that we must respect their ability to define for themselves who they are and what they are, especially when it comes to sex.
But perhaps even more imperative is that we MUST stop assuming the character of a person based on unfounded judgment about what the number of partners they’ve had must mean.
I think what bothers me the most though, is not that there are so many men so willing to judge a woman for what they deem an inappropriately high body count while ignoring their own numbers, but that FAR too many women are buying into this nonsense.
I see you. Bragging on your “low numbers” and how you don’t want to share your intimate forest with just anyone, or whatever enchanted, magical language you use. And my overall problem isn’t even this sort of sexual choice, it is the inherent undertone often found in statements like that; that somehow you are “better than” the next woman. That this MUST put you ahead of the women you are “competing” against in this imaginary race to happily ever after every media outlet tells you we are all wholly dedicated to. THAT bothers me. Because the second that ONE of us buys into the idea that it is ok to be judged for what we’ve done, who we’ve slept with and how as a defining aspect of our character, we all lose.
That isn’t to say that every woman thinks what she does or doesn’t do in the bedroom makes her better than. Or that every man will decide if you are “worthy” (ugh.) strictly because of the number of people you’ve slept with. But the fact of the matter is, that point of view is out there. And prevalent. But if you don’t buy into it, it will die.
But we don’t do that, do we? Because to dare stand in defiance of any bullshit, sexist judgment of our sex lives would mean we won’t get “chose” right? And lord knows that can’t be allowed to happen. Because then how will we know what we are worth as women, if not for having a man to complete us? /end sarcasm
It’s difficult. I won’t deny that. I’ve found myself attracted to men whom I instinctually knew would judge me for my sexual openness. And I won’t lie and pretend it isn’t awful to have to snuff out growing attachment to someone because you refuse to compromise yourself. Because if, like me, it is rare to find someone who makes you feel anything other than general apathy, there is always that fear that it might be forever until you find someone who accepts you as you are. And sometimes, the temptation is strong to pretend or, it’s not-so-distant cousin, downplay, what you enjoy, especially when it comes to sex. But what good is being with someone if you end up miserable and repressed?
My point is this. Have 1 partner or 100. Have sex inside, outside, upside down, inside out. Do it with people watching or with your eyes closed or on camera or on top of the Old Testament for all I care. Those are YOUR choices. But be empowered to make your own choices. Make them based on what works for YOU, not because of what some man told you he will think of you if you don’t choose in a manner appropriate to him.
6 thoughts on “Body Count Politics”
Being in many of my anthropological courses taught me this lesson. Once you see the breadth of human sexual experience, it makes it difficult to judge.
I love your post…I swear you somehow got in my head and said the same thing I do!
@Kopa Omg I HATE the church of “what you won't do for your man somebody else will.” HATE. I think the point of defining your sexuality for yourself means exactly that; defining it for yourself. Doing what is comfortable, right, and pleasurable for you. If you wanna wait til marriage? Fantastic. If you want 365 partners for 365 days in the year? Awesome. Just do it because YOU want to. And don't judge anyone who chooses differently. The self awareness in recognizing that there is still growth to be done in how you perceive other people is great. I still have to catch myself too. It's the people who don't have that self awareness that I worry for.
The other side of this is that based on what girls see in the media and what they hear, they sometimes feel pressured to do things they don't feel are right for them (anal sex, doggy style, and ESPECIALLY oral sex) just so they can “keep” the man.
I've never condemned anyone for having affairs, however many of them, but I keep hush-hush about my sexual encounters. It's none of anyone's business. See, when I was younger, not having many partners made me feel I was “weird” and undesirable, so I didn't want to enclose that information. Later, I didn't want to start sharing for other reasons.
Online I've caught myself bragging about my past, and it made me wonder where it came from and why I felt the need to do that. Are the prejudices so hard to shake? Is it a defense mechanism? Do I still think, in my late twenties, that the worst thing that could happen would be for someone to call me a whore? … It's a little disheartening. I refuse to live my life like that, but I need to watch myself.
Excellent post. Sorry for the lengthy reply.
nice post… I agree with you. Do what makes you happy and find someone who your happy doing it with.
And the church said AMEN!