I have a formspring account. I got it back when they were all the rage with the cool bloggers, and it languished for awhile, without people asking questions. A bit ago, I finally got one! But... it wasn't exactly the sort of thought provoking conversation starter I'd been hoping for. Instead, it was "how many men/women have you fucked?".
What I'm curious about is, in what will would that information actually further understanding of my writing-- or anyone's, for that matter. In what way is knowing the number of people someone has slept with relevant? I mean, I guess if I've slept with women, that could be relevant, because queer individuals often have different experiences than straight ones. And I guess the experiences of a virgin vs. a woman who has slept with a ton of partners can also be relevant in a blog that talks about sexuality. But as things stand-- it's pretty obvious that I'm not a virgin, and that I'm partnered to a man in a monogamous relationship. So whether or not he's the first or the 100th person I've slept with seems... rather irrelevant. One of the things I do here, as I mentioned before, is try to talk about sex without dwelling on my own sexuality. I'm just one data point in a sea of people, so i try to think about the more interesting and unusual stories of friends, and the trends I've seen in people my age compared to what the media seems to think we all do. But me, personally? I'm kind of boring, people. I'm monogamous and engaged.
So, the question remains-- why do some people think numbers matter, and that knowing how many people someone has sex with will give them insight into his or her mind? the truth is, it just doesn't matter. Knowing someone's number really tells you nothing about them-- a virgin can think of herself as pure, or just be someone who hasn't been in an environment conducive to finding a lot of compatible sex partners. Someone promiscuous can be having sex because they enjoy it, or they might secretly hate themself and feel like they are sinning. There's no way of knowing what someone thinks just from knowing their number, and someone's views on sex and sexuality equally do not predict the number of sex partners they've had.
The very idea that a number is relevant seems to stem from a rather old-fashioned view of sex-- the idea that good girls don't put out-- or from the idea that people will always defend their experiences, regardless of what they are. The falsity of that can be seen easily, though; while some people who were promiscuous in their youth grew to be sex-positive educators-- like Susie Bright-- the opposite can be seen in Christine O'Donnell, who has a well known anti-masturbation and promiscuity stance, but has also said in interviews that she did have a lot of sex in her youth. For all we know, the two might have had similar numbers of sex partners, but they have vastly different views on sex and sexuality. The numbers just don't matter. Like anything else someone has done, people will use a person's numbers and twist them into being an explanation for nearly any attitude.