Our average number of sexual partners - and why it doesn’t matter.

The cute stranger in the bar finally walks over to you and asks the question: “What’s your number?”. “My phone number?” you respond, excitedly. “No,” they say “Your average number of sexual partners”.

We’ve all had this conversation forced on us (although, sure, it might not happen exactly this way). Why does it feel like a trip to the dentist? Why are we obsessed with our own “body count”, and that of a future partner’s? What do we think it says about us, and them?

Is average sex partners even something we should care about?

Confused young woman shrugging her shoulders

Almost a third of Americans think sex outside marriage is wrong.

The truth is we still live in a culture that judges promiscuity - women especially. As much as parts of society (including communities like ours) are sex-positive and liberal, almost a third of people in the US view sex between unmarried people as morally unacceptable.

This kind of attitude, as well as the belief instilled in women from a young age that having sex takes away from their personal value, makes it hard to shake off feelings of shame around sex or to talk proudly about it outside of close social circles. This is why many women don’t talk about normal habits like masturbation or watching porn. This tradition, and the normality of things like the “Walk of Shame”, makes lots of women wonder: how many sexual partners is too many?

Before diving more into this issue let’s look at some statistics. If you’re below your country or gender’s average sex partners, great! If you’re above, also great (in fact, good work, you overachiever!)

Happy couple smiling and embracing outdoors

The average number of sexual partners in the UK? 7.

According to a 2018 survey, the UK wins the European body count competition with people having an average of 7 sex partners before settling down. The Netherlands was a close second and the total average for the European Union was 6.2.

The US number of average sex partners for both men and women is 7.2.

But this number varied from state to state. People in Louisiana had the highest average at 15.7, which was almost six times the average of the least promiscuous state, Utah. Oklahoma, Nebraska, and South Carolina all averaged more than 10 sexual partners, while at the lower end was Mississippi, Kansas, and West Virginia, with averages of below five.

Sexy satisfied couple cuddling in bed

Gen X has been the most adventurous, but Gen Z seems to be catching up.

According to a recent survey by a healthcare company, Gen X (born between 1965-1979 and currently aged between 41-55) has had the highest average number of sexual partners in their lifetime: 13.1. However, Gen Z males (born between 1995 and 2015 and aged under 25) seem set to overtake them, with their average number of sexual partners being 7.6 before reaching the age of 21.

Lots of us lie about our number, but men tend to go higher, and women, lower.

This 2018 survey of over 2,000 people in Europe and the US found that 32.6% of women and 41.4% of men don’t always tell the truth about their number. Within this group, 17.5% of men and only 8.2% of women said they exaggerated their number. On the flip side, 18.6% of women and 13.7% of men said they decreased their number.

Why do women feel the need to lessen the number of people they have had sex with? These figures show the reality of our society’s sexual double standard; how we judge women, but congratulate men, for promiscuity.

Couple in bed hiding under duvet

How many sexual partners is too many? Is there even such a thing?

When asked how many previous sexual partners would make someone too promiscuous, the average woman said the threshold was 15.2, and the average man, 14. On the other side, women on average thought the threshold for someone being too conservative (having had too few sexual partners) was 1.9, and for men, 2.3.

The majority of us wish we were having more sex, so why judge people who are doing just that?

A 2019 study found that half of all women (50.6%) and almost two-thirds of men (64.3%) want to have sex more often. On top of this, the mental, emotional, and physical benefits of sex have been well documented - sex boosts self-esteem, mood, energy levels, fitness, and so much more! So why is there a stigma attached to having lots of sex with multiple partners? And why do so many of us wonder still how many sexual partners is too many?

Your country’s average sex partners don’t matter - here’s why.

If you’re a sexually active person, these averages might have seemed low. Remember that the average number of sexual partners varies according to location, background, lifestyle, and upbringing and that just because a number is an average, doesn’t make it “normal”, or what anyone should be doing.

As long as you’re practicing safe sex and you’re happy and satisfied with your lifestyle, don’t try to conform to any average. Thinking about non-monogamy? Go ahead and try it! And if you’re a tiny bit judging your friends’ new boyfriend because his number goes into triple digits, take a second to think: why? As long as there is consent, communication, and respect, an individual’s sex life should be totally up to them!

Intimate couple kissing in bed

Even though we’re all curious about where we fit within our countries’ average sex partners, it doesn’t matter! Sex is good for us, and really, can we ever have too much of a good thing?