Too Many Sexual Partners

        Sex culture in the United States is conflicting.  Media and apps promote a sex-positive narrative, but peers and family members might promote a negative one.  This is perhaps why so many people still question whether they have too many sexual partners: they’re receiving mixed messages.  On the surface, a person may believe that there’s nothing wrong with having several sexual partners. However, actually holding that belief deep down can be different.  This article is going to give you tools on how to truly hold that belief, as well as why it could be beneficial to be less judgmental of your number of sexual partners.

Why Challenge the Idea of Too Many Sexual Partners?

        Having too many sexual partners is completely subjective; that number is going to vary from person to person.  Despite being so nebulous and arbitrary, however, the stigma of having too many sexual partners is very real, especially for women.  This is very unfair because wanting to have sex, and acting on that desire is completely natural for most people. The shame surrounding the number of sexual partners is even more confusing due to Tinder and other aspects of casual sex culture.  It’s as though society is encouraging you to do a certain thing, while simultaneously shaming you for actually doing it. For many people, this makes sex difficult to enjoy. Certain thoughts can pop up, such as, “Is it wrong that I’m doing this?,” “Am I respecting myself?”, “Am I still valued?”  With these thoughts come feelings incongruent with a satisfying sexual expression: insecurity, shame, anxiety, confusion, and remorse. Basically, thinking that you have too many sexual partners can make it difficult to enjoy sex, let alone who you are as a person. Though it can be useful to reflect on having too many sexual partners, due to societal messages, that exploration tends to follow a judgmental, self-deprecating path.  In other words, it’s good to explore whether your number of sexual partners align with your sexual beliefs. It’s simply hard to have that exploration when living in a society that stigmatizes sex with multiple partners. Fortunately, there are ways to challenge the belief of having too many sexual partners.

Be Objective

        Focusing on the facts is one way to challenge the notion of having too many sexual partners.  To start, grab a sheet of paper and pen. Using this analogue method gets you out of your head and makes your points more concrete.  Now that you have your materials, write and answer the following question, “What is the correct number of sexual partners?” Try to be as objective as you can.  Try as you might, there’s a high chance that you’ll struggle to come up with a truly objective answer. That’s because the correct number of sexual partners is arbitrary.  It doesn’t come from some scientific place, but from a person’s subjective set of beliefs. Here’s another activity to further highlight how arbitrary the correct number of sexual partners is.

Using the Downward Arrow

        The downward arrow is a useful technique that gets to the core of a person’s belief.  It’s very easy to implement and doesn’t take much time. Once again, grab a sheet of paper and draw a long, downward arrow on the left portion.  At the top of the paper, write down a belief that you hold regarding having too many sexual partners. After you’ve done that, simply rephrase the statement in the form of a question and answer it.  Write down your answer under the original belief. Now that you have done that, rephrase your answer into the form of a question, and repeat the previous steps. That can all sound confusing, so here’s an example.

  •         “Having too many sexual partners is bad.”
    •         Why is having too many sexual partners bad?
  •         “You’re not respecting yourself if you have too many sexual partners.”
    •         Why aren’t you respecting yourself if you have too many sexual partners?
  •         “Having few sexual partners shows that you care about yourself.”
    •         Why does having few sexual partners show that you care about yourself?
  •         “Good girls don’t have a lot of sex.”
    •         Why don’t good girls have a lot sex?
  •         “It isn’t morally right for women to have a lot of sex.”
    •         Why isn’t it moral for women to have a lot of sex?

Follow this format until you get to the core of your belief.  You’ll know when you’ve reached your core when you can no longer give an explanation for your belief (e.g., “It’s just immoral for women to have a lot of sex.”).  Once you’ve reached this point, take some time to reflect on your core belief. How do you feel about it? If you don’t like it, what makes the belief problematic?  

The concern of having too many sexual partners is far from rare.  Though parts of U.S. culture has become more sex-positive, the stigma with having a high sex number persists, especially for women.  This stigma can lead to anxiety, guilt, insecurity, and other feelings that interfere with a satisfying sexual life. Fortunately, there are ways to challenge the belief of having too many sexual partners.  Explore your core belief surrounding it. If you feel as though this isn’t enough, individual therapy is always an option. Schedule a session with a therapist at https://www.therapyinphiladelphia.com/contact/ .