Why do we feel we need to lie about how many sexual partners we've had?
Let's cut to the chase here. Have you lied about the amount of people you've slept with? Be honest. It's probably happened at least once in your life, but why?
As women we sometimes feel that the amount of sex we've had with multiple partners is something that defines us, not on a personal level (why should it), but when entering into a new relationship, why do we play that awkward yet obligatory sexual numbers game?
Rachel MacLynn, chartered Psychologist and founder of Vida Consultancy spoke to us about that knee-jerk reaction that some women experience when asked about their sexual past, and why women (rather than men) feel some kind of pressure to bend the truth...
Why do we feel the need to lie?
'Young adults in particular face a lot of peer pressure when it comes to discussing and partaking in anything sexual,' she explained.
'Men are high-fived by their male friends for accumulating notches on the bed post. Women, on the other hand, are typically ridiculed for having a high number of sexual partners, and branded 'easy'.
As a result, many women (and some men) feel compelled to lie about the number of sexual partners they've had, not wanting to deviate too far from what is considered socially acceptable.'
Is there such thing as an ideal number?
'No, there is no ideal number,' Rachel stated firmly. 'We are living in an increasingly liberal world, although there are obviously some cultures and religions that hold very strong views against having a high number of sexual partners. The emphasis should be less on the number, and more on the reasons why you are sleeping with someone.'
'More focus should be put on quality rather than quantity. We should be having more conversations about how we can improve on selecting the right partners drawing on past experiences, not about the number of partners we’ve had.'
Read More: How Long Should Sex Last?
Have our InStyle readers ever lied about their sexual past?
I agree that we should be talking about sex a lot more, but I also sympathise with those that don't find it easy to. And of course, when you are seeing someone new and 'that' conversation comes up (top tip: don't enter into it post-coitus, it never turns out well), not everyone feels 100% comfortable about revealing exact numbers. And it's that horrible 'easy' 'slut shame' stigma that then leads to us going all Pinocchio.
We decided to throw the question out to our beloved InStyle Twitter followers to see if they had ever lied about their sexual past, and the results were pleasantly surprising.
So, it turns out the majority of you are an honest lot. It's great that our InStyle readers feel they can be open about their sexual experiences, however there are a few that have lied for fear of being seen as 'inexperienced'. This leads on to Rachel's final word about communication between new sexual partners.
Why communication is so important...
Rachel emphasised that talking about your sexual experience, especially in a new relationship, is paramount for creating intimacy, and no one should ever feel the need to lie:
'Starting a relationship with a lie is never an advisable way to go. Falling in love with someone should bring a sense of complete trust and honesty.'
In an ideal world, there shouldn't even be an emphasis on even having 'that' discussion (for some, it's nobody else's business but their own), but come on. It always comes up. I asked her, is there ever an ideal time in a relationship to trade numbers?
'When the reason behind discussing it in the first place is based on getting to know each other, sharing and honesty, then it's absolutely the right time to talk about it,' she told me. She did however warn me that entering into the sexual past conversation has to be treated with caution.
'If your partner is asking you in order be competitive or highlight your inexperience, then it's not a healthy conversation to be having, and not a healthy relationship overall.' This of course relates back to the whole trust issue, and how under no circumstances you should feel pressured to reveal anything about yourself that you don't want to.
'If you don't feel that you can be honest with your partner,' Rachel added on a final note, 'then you may need to question if the relationship is really compatible.'
Honesty really is the best policy...
So there you have it ladies. A true and trusting relationship should give you no cause to lie, and being frightened about being negatively labelled shouldn't mean that you can't embrace your sexual past. And while I appreciate that not all sexual experiences are positive, being able to break that stigma and talk frankly and openly about yourself is essential to being comfortable in your own skin.
Have you ever lied? We'd love to hear your thoughts.