Sex and the Singleton

There was no way I could visit the Mecca of dating blogs that is New York, and not talk about Sex and the City! And so I find myself writing this blog post from a Coffee Shop in Soho, fresh from a girly lunch with an old friend, and a shopping spree at Kate Spade.

A child of the eighties, I grew up with two main fictional images of single women in their thirties – Bridget Jones, the miserable singleton, desperately seeking love and dissecting every aspect of her life, whilst constantly asking herself why she was still single. And Carrie Bradshaw and her friends. A group of beautiful, successful, independent women, who managed to impress upon a generation of women that forty is the new thirty, and thirty is the new twenty.

I defy you to find a girl my age who doesn’t know who Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha are, and who hasn’t at one point aligned herself with at least one of them.

Me? I share Charlotte’s dress sense, high (and possibly unrealistic) expectations, and first name. I have Carrie’s love of writing, and Miranda’s legal background. And Samantha’s tomboy streak.

The Sex in the City girls opened doors for a generation who grew up unsure of where to tread the line when it came to sex.

We are not our parents.

For the most part, we have not grown up in a world where people only have sex once they are married. It’s no longer the swinging sixties, but going home with someone at the end of a night in a club is pretty everyday behaviour. Sex shops, sex parties, and sex toys are things which are advertised as opposed to being hidden and taboo.

Equality has empowered women, and yet where sex is concerned, it is still far more acceptable for a guy to have multiple sexual partners than it will ever be for a girl.

Equal, but not quite.

Last Saturday night, just before I left for New York, I went on a date in the village I live in. It wasn’t a blind date, and so didn’t qualify for the Challenge, however we did discuss my adventures over the past three months at great length. Something which my (rather inappropriate) date chose to describe as me ‘slutting around‘!

He couldn’t actually have been much farther from the truth! Of my twenty-eight dates so far, I’ve kissed just three of them, and most definitely not slept with any of them. They are first dates after all!

I’m a Charlotte. I grew up with quite prim and proper ideas of sex. You had sex with someone you were in love with. Physically it’s the most that you can give someone – putting yourself completely into their hands, and laying yourself bare. It was a big deal, and something I never took lightly.

Growing up, I had friends who were far more liberal with their libido! In my first term one of the girls in my drinking society at Cambridge slept with forty different men, even using sex like a bargaining chip to negotiate a bigger overdraft with one of the local bank managers! But I had always attached more importance to sex than that. The older I got, the less realistic the ‘love’ requirement seemed to be – because in reality, with no adult relationships over six months to date, have I ever really been in love?! However I did have certain expectations of sex – and one of those was that I was in some form of relationship with the person I was sleeping with.


When I was twenty-five, I backpacked around the world for a year, and a common topic amongst backpackers was sex. For a start, you might be unlucky enough to share a dorm with a drunken couple trying to ‘discreetly’ get away with it in a room full of eight other backpackers. And if there’s ever a time where you can hope to be vaguely anonymous and promiscuous, then being on the other side of the world, moving city every couple of days is probably the time to do so!

One of the regular conversations I had, particularly with male backpackers, is the ‘Magic Number’. As a twenty-five year-old guy or girl, what was considered an acceptable number of sexual partners for a potential other half to have?

Did it matter? What was too few? What was too many? Should you lie? And was there a difference between guys and girls?

It soon became evident that both guys and girls expected girls to be more moralistic, and would frown upon girls who had slept with an excessive number of guys. I soon began to recognise a common pattern in the ‘acceptable numbers’. Both girls and guys found it acceptable for a girl of twenty-five to have slept with around 10-12 people, and for a guy of the same age to have slept with around 20-25.

Many more than that, and both sexes seemed to have issue with the idea of starting a relationship with the other person. Which is really interesting, as for a guy to have slept with 20-25 women, but a girl to have only slept with 10-12, does that mean we expect the guy to have slept with a lot of older women? Surely it takes two to tango?

I think it’s American Pie 2 (a film which is now twelve years old) where they discussed the fact that girls will divide their magic number by three, whereas guys will triple the actual number of girls they’ve slept with. And you can see why, when you look at the answers I found to my nosey questions.

And those were questions I asked specifically about 25 year-olds. Fast-forward five years on, and what is acceptable then?

At 25 you could legally have been sexually active for nine years. And over those nine years, as a girl it’s ‘socially acceptable’ (according to my backpacker bus straw-poll!) to have slept with just over one guy a year. And for a guy to have slept with just under three a year. So applying those maths to 30, it’s socially acceptable for a 30 year-old woman to have slept with 19 guys, and for a 30 year-old guy to have slept with 39 women.

Is that right? Is that ‘acceptable’ by today’s traditions? And is it right that a guy could sleep with over double the number of partners, and not be branded promiscuous?

As I’ve mentioned before, I have a large number of very attractive male friends, who at least at some point over the past twenty-nine years have liked to think of themselves as players. I have one friend who recently approached his ‘century’ … God only hopes the girl who helped him achieve that personal milestone went for a health check afterwards!!

But the reality of it all is, if you’ve been single for a prolonged period of time, you could have slept with way more guys than the ‘allowable nineteen’ and yet had far less sex than someone who is actually in a relationship! So why is it all so taboo still?

I think the difficult thing is that there are no rules.

‘No sex before marriage’ is a simple rule to follow (no matter how hard it is to achieve!). It’s pretty black and white. More modern concepts of promiscuity just aren’t that simple, as they fall on individual perceptions. And some peoples’ perceptions of what is ‘slutty’ are very different to other peoples.

There are some guys who would genuinely think a girl going on thirty first dates with thirty different guys is promiscuous enough – even if all you’re doing is having dinner or a drink. And others, for whom the idea of ’30 Dicks in 30 Days’ (genuinely what one work colleague misheard my challenge as being!!!) is perfectly acceptable.

Personally, because I have so many male friends who’ve had high numbers of sexual partners, I try not to judge too much from a guy’s ‘Magic Number’, other than the fact they probably ought to know what they’re doing, and if they’re attractive and it’s very low (and they haven’t just come out of a crazy long relationship) then they’re probably lying!

It’s interesting, because a lot of guys point-blank won’t tell you how many people they’ve slept with. A lot say it’s because they don’t know – possibly a quintessential difference between guys and girls, as most girls I know can name every guy they’ve slept with. And that may well be true, for those who have achieved at least a ‘half-century’, to steal The Centurion’s expression. However I think a lot of the time, when a guy tells you he ‘doesn’t know’, it’s because the part he doesn’t know, is what your response would be if he actually told you the truth.

Realistically, we should judge other people by the way they treat us. If a guy treats you like the most important thing in his world, then why should you care how many girls have come before, as long as you trust the way he acts with you? And surely the only person’s sex life that should really matter to you is your own? Whether a guy has had three previous partners, or a hundred and three, as long as he treats you with respect and you trust him and have fun, then surely that’s all that should matter? (Just as long as all those three or a hundred and three are in the past??!!!)

The interesting part of Singleton Inequality is that whilst a girl might be frowned upon for sleeping with over a certain number of men, whilst a man might not receive the same stigma for bedding an equivalent number of women, is that very few people have had any issue with my Challenge. I’m a single twenty-nine year-old girl, having a bit of fun, and making light of the dating game.

But if I was a guy, going on serial dates with thirty different women, and rating each one out of ten, would my blog have been met with the same warm reception?

Miss Twenty-Nine xxx

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

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