While I'm on the subject of women and sex, there's something else I'd like to discuss.
Partner counting, or "The List."
Some time ago, I'm not sure exactly when, I just got out of the habit of counting my partners. Then the subject of our "numbers" came up with a friend, and I realized that I honestly didn't know what mine was. I panicked. I mean, only total trashbag whores don't know how many people they've fucked, right? (This was during my "blend in with the other girls" phase last year, when I was all concerned about what people thought of me.) A little while after that, I decided to sit down and try to write out my "list." Doing that raised some concerns that I pushed to the back of my mind at the time, but recently took out for closer examination.
As a bisexual woman, how do I accurately decide exactly who I've had sex with? Only counting penis-in-vagina, hetero intercourse discounts the value of the female partners I've had, not to mention supports the patriarchal heteronormative ideal that I dislike so much. Given that, what standard do I use to decide what women to include on my list? "Easy," said my patriarchy-managed brain; "fingering or oral, giving or receiving, constitutes fucking a woman."
But then what about the men I've engaged in manual or oral play with, but not intercourse? Do I put them on my list too? And if not, why? Why does it "count" if a girl fingers me, but not a guy? That's not equitable or logical.
Then there's the fact that I've been raped more than once. Do I count those, because from a purely medical/scientific standpoint they could potentially matter, or do I ignore them because it was rape, not sex?
"Your logic hurts me," replied patriarchy brain. "Shut up and look pretty."
And so I did, for a while. But now I think patriarchy brain is kind of...well, naive, at the very least. So, I abandoned the "list" idea and decided to just accept the fact that I've had lots of sex with a variety of partners, some good, some bad, some non consensual...and all of it is a part of my history. If I don't care about the numbers, and in fact went at least a couple of years without even thinking about that issue, why should anyone else care? Now my stock answers to the "what's your number" question run the gamut from "none of your fucking business" to "um....lots" to a straight-up "I honestly don't keep count."
That's why I stopped counting-what about the reasons I think other people- especially heterosexual people with "normal," non-controversial sexual histories-should give up their "lists?" The question is, really, why should you keep track? If it's for medical purposes, all I can say is that yes, it's a nice idea to try to remember who you've slept with since your last STD check. That way, if anything comes up, you can either contact people yourself or give their names to the nice folks at Public Health. But that's not always feasible-people have one-night stands, former partners move away or change their numbers, people forget names...shit happens. Even in the STD test example, why does the number matter? The tests should really be done without that question, then if anything comes back questions can be asked about who needs to be contacted.
Let's face it-partner counting exists as another slut shaming mechanism. Remember American Pie 2, with the "rule of 3?"
"If a guy tells you how many girls he's hooked up with, it's not even close to that. You take that number and divide it by three, then you get the real total."
"When a girl tells you how many guys she's slept with, multiply it by three and that's the real number. Didn't you fuckers learn anything in college?"
Seriously, who the fuck cares how many people you've slept with? What matters is how you feel about your sexuality and your history. Be safe, have fun, and be true to yourself-sex isn't about numbers.