By Stacey Lace
During the fall semester of my first year at the University, students and faculty were plagued by the swine flu. With half of my English 101 class quarantined, and my own symptoms from a stomach bug, I turned into a hypochondriac and made my first visit to Health Services.
Luckily, I managed to avoid swine, but I didn’t manage to avoid the poster in the examination room providing me with the six degrees of sexual separation. I recently started thinking about how my “number” and “exposure” stack up.
I decided to look up a similar chart online entitled, “Sexual Exposure Chart.” The chart is based on the idea that every partner you’ve engaged in sexual activity with has had the same number of previous partners you have. In my case, I’ve had two partners, so under the chart’s assumption, Partner #1 had no previous partners and Partner #2 had one other partner. This brought my total exposure to three people.
A sexual exposure of three didn’t seem so bad, but with one more partner added, my exposure jumped up to seven. While my traditional “number” may only go up by one for every new partner, my exposure to others goes up by many more.
I started asking around to figure out what a typical 20-year-old female student’s number would be and got a variety of answers. Yes, I actually walked up to women to ask for their number. My extremely small and impromptu survey yielded results anywhere from zero to eight, with most answers being one or two.
Surprisingly, every girl I asked outright gave me her number without hesitation. No one seemed concerned it was too low or too high. In one case, the girl had to think about and count up her number of partners, indicating a lack of concern regarding it.
Based on a survey by the federal government, men had a median of seven and women had a median of four heterosexual partners. According to “The Myth, the Math, the Sex,” an article from the New York Times in 2007, it’s expected that men overestimate and women underestimate their partner number.
With those numbers being said, I think it’s important to realize a few things.
First, half of all people are above the median and half are below. To be honest, this median isn’t really about the “typical” number of partners; it’s about the number of partners at the middle of the spectrum. It doesn’t indicate how heavily populated different parts of the number line are.
Regarding my own life, I think two is fine. Realistically, my number is going to increase, and that’s fine with me. What’s important isn’t the number, but the decisions we make that got us to it.