Thursday, October 6, 2011

I think the What's Your Number? haters are missing an important point

A lot of people have a real problem with the new Anna Faris movie WHAT'S YOUR NUMBER?.

Quick movie synopsis so this blog post makes sense:
  • Anna Faris plays a single woman named Ally Darling who is searching for love.
  • Ally Darling reads an article in a magazine which says that women who sleep with an excess of 20 men significantly decrease their changes of getting married.
  • Ally Darling has slept with exactly 19 men.
  • And so Ally gets back in touch with all 19 men she's slept with an in effort to make it work with one of them so that she'll never hit the dreaded 20-notches-on-the-bedpost mark.
  • I don't know what ends up happening because I didn't see the movie, but I'm going to bet she ends up with the adorable Colin (Chris Evans) who elects to help her on her mission, because I've seen a romantic comedy or hundred in my day.
Now back to the fact that people do not like this movie. They find it offensive, they find it archaic, they find it a waste of Faris' comedic talent.

At the root of this criticism is the movie's suggestion that a woman's sex number should matter at all. How could it possibly be that in 2011 we're still chiding women for entering the double digits and congratulating men who do the same?, the movie's critics ask. And, more importantly, who says that number - or any number - makes the character of Ally a slut? Valid questions given the sexual equality both genders seem to share today.

Some critics question whether or not the movie is a mirror of the real world or an exaggerated tale of less sexually liberated times. Do women really still care about their sex number? Is there really such a thing as a slut? Do women really believe any of that matters to men? And...does it?

I can only speak for my corner of the 21st century female world, but the women I've talked to about this subject both in response to the film and over the year I've been writing this blog say yes, it does matter. I've covered this in a few posts over the years, first in "Reclaiming the Word Slut" and then again in a piece on "Whether or Not to Share Your Sex Number with Your Significant Other". From those pieces and some additional research, here are the top reasons why their sex number matters to most women:
  • Sex is a deeply personal act to many women that they only want to engage in with select people. To this group the number isn't just a number but a memory of a person and an experience that they aren't comfortable collecting en mass.
  • Women are afraid that if their number is too high men will think they are sluts and not want to date them. We'll get into this more in a bit.
  • Women are afraid that if their number is too high other women will think they are sluts and judge them.
  • Women are concerned for their physical and sexual safety and would prefer to avoid potentially endangering either by simply not engaging in casual sex.
But I don't think that's the most interesting or most important question we should be asking in response to this whole What's Your Number? debate. To me the more interesting angle is the male perspective. Do men really care what your number is? And the most important question of all, why do they care, if in fact they do?

Call me a Comm. major, but maybe if we explore why men care we could open a dialogue about why they should or shouldn't and how we as women do/don't feel/behave response?

I have spoken to zero men about this, but here are a few starter ideas:

  • Men don't want to envision their girl with any other guys, let alone a high number of other guys. Therefore the lower the sex number the fewer men they have to imagine sleeping with their one-and-only. This issue is rooted in insecurity and competitiveness. Also, I feel the same way.
  • Men fear that a woman who's slept with a lot of men might value sex more than she values commitment. In other words, girls who "sleep around" are more likely to cheat on you. Again, insecurity but with a layer of a lack of understanding about how women feel about the sex they're having. Yes, some may have a "sex addiction" that could lead to infidelity. Others may simple be comfortable with casual sex as single women but fully committed to one partner once in a relationship.
  • Men think a girl who has slept with X number of guys (X being a number they deem high) is dirty - as in, she may have a sexually transmitted disease and/or she doesn't value her body/self/health/safety enough.
  • Men fear that if their girlfriend has slept with more people than they have that she'll view herself as more experienced or actually BE more experienced giving them a disadvantage in bed.
  • Like the above, but with a tweak: men fear that if their girlfriend has slept with more people than they have that she'll view them as less of a man. The "what's wrong with him?" perspective.
These are my guesses. Are any of them true, guys? And, of those that are true, what can they teach us about the sex numbers judgment game? Romantic comedy aside, it seems a lot of this whole situation revolves around insecurity. Is that something that can be solved with progress and communication? Or will guys always judge a girl whose number climbs into the double digits?


  1. I don't have a "magic number" of men I would prefer my girlfriend to have slept with.

    But it does matter. Here is how I view it, and it may be archaic or chauvinistic:

    More often than not, (but not always, fine), the act of sex has clearly defined roles. The man is penetrating, and the women is getting penetrated. That's the best way I can put it. The man is doing something, and the woman is getting something done to her.

    The power lies with the man. Please don't take that the wrong way, it is what it is. When I have had this disucussion with my friends, I use more lewd words. The man is doing the [blank-ing], and the women is getting [blanked].

    Of course the # doesn't mean the women is a slut. Of course the # doesn't mean the woman has a sexually transmitted disease.

    What it means is X # of men before me have [blanked] my girlfriend, been in a position of power over her. And I think that is what erks guys the most.

    Hope that made sense and came off right.

  2. @Anonymous. Very interest and very well explained. Thanks for your candor.

  3. This is not going to be a very thought provoking comment, but I really enjoyed the movie and the book it was based on and although I've had this discussion multiple times with my best friend before (she at one point *ahemfor8yearsahem* insisted that she would not have sex with more than 10 men in her life, ever), I, on the other hand...was never one to count or care about the number. She did make me a bit insecure, but I've gotten over it and stopped counting. Everyone chooses to live their lives the way they want and if a man has a problem with the fact that I don't have a "low number" then I'm sure we have far more problems than that.

  4. Numbers are important to this guy. And your first point about women and sex is exactly why: sex is a deeply personal action for a woman. And, in my case, it is also a deeply personal act to me. A high number, to me, suggests that either a woman lacks self-confidence and felt the need to have sex too soon or she doesn't value sex in the same way I do. There is certainly nothing wrong with a women having lots of sex partners, that's her choice. But that person isn't likely a good match for me (both based on experience and life views).

    I will admit that my view is probably different from most guys. I have a higher value for sex, I'm not just out to get laid. I also feel I value women more than the average guy. Which is why, in essence, numbers do matter. Although, the idea of 19 not being as big of a deal as 21 is kind of silly. It is all relative.

  5. how about a little perspective? a woman in her late 20's or early 30's who has been sexually active since 18, or so, is likely to have had at least a few meaningful relationships (and maybe a few casual ones). it doesn't mean she wasn't always safe or that it was personal insecurities that tossed her meaninglessly into the arms of men.

    life is about perspective. if the men above met a woman they felt they could truly care for and then found out she had slept with (GASP) "double digits," it may benefit them to realize that maybe an open conversation about the situation is better than immediately pulling out the red flag.

  6. message to a whore

    You sound like your whole thesis is lacking in common sense.

    Men do not like women that have been whoring around. Its always been that way. Always will be that way. It's basic. Probably Genetic.

    Is there a double standard? Yes. Yes there is.
    I am a man that had over a hundred women. To be honest I lost count. When I turned 38 I married a 20 year old virgin. Complete with the stained sheets. She is a 9 on the looks scale. That's the way it works. Well, to be more forth coming, that is the way it works for certain men that can demand that from the supply of women in the market.

    Don't like what you are hearing? Well to bad. Wake up.

    Oh, and about the lying angle. You know, lying to your guy about it. Well that only works with men that don't have much experience with women. The only problem with those men is that there is a reason they don't have enough experience to see when a woman has been a whore. They are inferior men. Undesirable men.

    Finally, what you need to know: just by sleeping with lots of men you (one is enough if it was before me) lose all your value and it is not something you can lie about. Why? It shows. It shows in your attitudes. It shows in small nuanced facial expressions and tone of voice. It comes down to recognizing patterns. I've slept with enough whores (what you would like to call 'good' girls) to spot you.

    Do yourself a favor and either decide to save yourself for your husband or be a big whore that winds up alone with 30 cats in her lonely home on top of a hill or what I think could only in reality be a worse punishment: a loser half-man who is not dominant, not successful, and in the end not sexually stimulating to your or to any woman on the face of the earth. Expect possibly some woman starving in Africa.

    If you have already crossed the Rubicon.

    Well, it's too late for you then. Enjoy your ride.

    Oh, and for clarity: I am not religious in the slightest. So nothing I said came from the biblical perspective of whores. My perspective comes from matter of fact reality. You can feel it in your gut. You know that deep down what I am saying is how it really works.

    ...with one exception. Remember that 100+ girls I had? 99% never had a real chance at the brass ring. Oh, they wanted it. To the last one they wanted marriage. But... sadly most of them had had a previous lover. And were unworthy. So, under those circumstances I used them. And why not? Hadn't they already prostituted themselves?
    In all honesty I will never get over how they always seemed to be stupid enough to think that 3 or 4 or 5 lovers was a "low" number. One is a unacceptably high number. Unless, my intent is just to enjoy you for a little while.

    Why did I write this post?

    Just trying to help one or two of you out of your delusions. You ever wonder why movies like Pretty Woman are so loved by women? Where a call girl winds up with the hero? Delusions.

  7. Simple.

    In species that require a high degree of paternal investment, the males evolve a predisposition to paternally invest in un-mated females, lest they wind up cuckolded and investing their reproductive resources in a rival's genes.

    You will never be able to understand this perspective as a woman (or atleastly, you won't be able to intuitively understand it. You might be able to intellectually understand it.) Hence why you assume this issue is rooted around insecurity and competitiveness. That may be the case for women but it's not the case for men. What you are doing is veiwing this from a female psychological perspective not a male psychological one.

  8. I had an good response prepared, and then I read the last Anonymous' post and had my mind blown. Apparently I am a whore, my husband is undesirable, and I can no longer form intelligent thoughts.


  9. ** a good response, not an good response. See, can't think anymore.