Is there a socially acceptable number or partners? For a year? A month? A lifetime? As far as most people are concerned, I suspect there is. Does if differ based on whether you have a penis or a vagina?
I suspect I may exceed that arbitrary figure as far as many people are concerned. Like everyone else I go through dry patches and lush ones, if I am in an exclusive relationship then I am just with that person, but if I am single and I want it, like most girls I could get it fairly easily. Do I? Not as much as I could.
I am picky. I value humour, intellect and an ability to have fun with sex as well as in general, on top of the already pernickety criteria of whether or not I’m physically attracted to the person. I am wholly within my rights to be as picky as I like. It is my body and my decision whether or not I share it, when, how, and with whom.
There is no reason that I should ever be made to feel guilty for the sexual choices I make. I conform to the expectations of any relationship I am in, but that is the consequence of a negotiation between myself and those I am with. If I am not constrained by a relationship then I am totally free to please myself.
When I was younger I experienced so much guilt in association with what I did and who I did it with. I experienced things I would very much rather not have experienced, and even those that were beyond my control left me feeling guilty.
I would get lost in a bitter cycle because I would be trying to eradicate memories by creating new ones that were no better. I had one night stands and sometimes sex that I don’t remember. Or I would sleep with so-called friends that pressured me because I got bored of fending them off and hoped if I gave in they would just stop.
If I was lucky, sex was like fast food: great at the time and later-on you feel horrible. I had had some fulfilling or at least neutral experiences during this time as well, but the casual, most-often drunken antics persisted.
I had a one night stand that started to change things, with a guy I met in a club on a night when I was actually feeling great. There was a genuine connection and neither of us was looking for anything beyond feeling great together. The feeling didn’t go away. The guy stayed, was incredibly generous in bed, and we got breakfast the next morning. We didn’t stay in contact but I didn’t feel gross after. Really, I didn’t feel used.
This was several years ago, and now I barely drink and I don’t go to clubs because they’re largely incompatible with my hobbies. This wasn’t spurred by anything sex-related, but sheer boredom at having to drink to feel comfortable at all in clubs, and fed up with drunk guys who felt they had a god-given right to feel you up, compounded by an awareness that there were so many better things I could be doing with my time.
Now, I choose the times when I have sex or don’t have sex. I choose who I have sex with not out of convenience or pressure or beer-goggles, but because we are attracted to eachother and both want this in a healthy, un-befuddled mindset. I don’t do it to forget or to erase but because I enjoy it, and I enjoy sharing it with someone I care about, whether they be someone I love romantically, or as a friend, or someone I have only recently met but feel a connection to. I enjoy getting to know someone in such an intimate way.
And often, I discover that the people I sleep with have as chequered a past as I do. Perhaps not for the same reasons or in the same ways, but their relationships with sex are complicated. We are all healing and finding our way, and it is better if we do this on our own terms, and not worry too much about society’s views.