What We’re Really Asking When We Ask ‘What’s Your Number?’
We’re really asking “Are you a slut?” In a culture as anxious about sex and sexuality as ours, asking about another person’s number is something of a Catch-22: If someone has slept with a lot of partners, they’re usually considered promiscuous, and yet if they’ve only slept with a few people, they’re considered inexperienced.
Often, we don’t really want to know the answer to the “What’s your number?” question anyway: In a match.com survey, more than 50% of singles said they didn’t want to know how many people their partner had slept with. Yet we continue to ask our partners (and sometimes our friends) how many people they’ve slept with anyway, partially out of curiosity and partially because the question is really just shorthand for other things we want to know.
For instance, having a long list of previous partners is the primary indicator that someone is “easy,” “loose” or just lax about sex, all characteristics society deems worthy of condemnation. That’s especially true for women: If a woman’s number is high, she’s a slut. Just look at Taylor Swift, who’s been extensively criticized by the media for having lots of public relationships with different men — despite the fact that we don’t know anything about her sexual history, nor is it any of her business.