‘Yeah, she’s a 6… I mean, I’d fuck her after 3 or 4 beers.’ He said to the bearded man sitting next to him. The slightly inebriated man with the beard turned his head to his friend, looked him up and down slowly. His face, frozen in a trance, with only the beer robotically moving up and down to his mouth a sign that his heart was still beating. ‘I’d say six beers mate’ he quipped, laughing as if his engine was just heating up and the oil was spluttering about.
We all know conversations like these happen. They happened in my youth, they’ll happen in my son’s youth and I’m sure they happened in my father’s checkered youth. People quantify everything, and they also qualify those quantities. Life is a numbers game. How much do you earn? How big is your family? How many friends do you have? What’s your number? How tall are you? How many days until you’re on holiday? What do you rate her, or him, or the team, or the game, or the time you had? And then there’s the big one. The number that haunts our relationships because it comes from our past. Our reckless youth. The times we had fun, the times we just really didn’t give a shit and the times we were madly in love. How many people have you slept with?
The black book in your bag that is full of numbers, photos and memories is kept well hidden from the view of others. Some hold their number close to their heart in order to maintain their reputation. Others fling it around knowing full well they are being judged by anyone who comes into earshot of the ’33’ or ‘81’ or the solitary ‘1’. But is it as important as we make it out to be? Are we defined by the amount of sex we’ve had and the amount of people we have shared our bodies with? Unfortunately, even in a world that has opened its eyes to the previously unmentionable underworld of casual sex and attraction, as soon as people grab a whiff of a revelation, their eyes dilate, their breath quickens and their ears latch on tight. It matters. We couldn’t have people just consensually inserting their penis, or worse still, their vaginas being penetrated, willy-nilly, could we?
No, apparently you’ve got to keep hold of your number. But nonetheless, keep it at a number that is socially acceptable. More when you are talking to the lads, less when you’re getting intimate with a lady whose curiosity got the better of her. And don’t get me started on the protocol when you are a woman. Just don’t fucking mention that number! Stigmas my friends, stigmas are everywhere! So we hide our numbers deep within, hoping no one ever stumbles across our dirty little secret. Who knows what else is hidden with that dirty little secret? An STI, a swirly move we pull out in the bedroom, maybe even a penchant for unholy routines? We’re getting better at sharing but we’re definitely not ready to put it all on the table.
Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. There are people you just can’t share anything with. There are groups who will go to great lengths to manipulate people into revealing more than they would wish to tell even their own best friend, just for a little thrill. And there are things about your past you just don’t want your lover to know, not so much in fear of them leaving you, but because they might start looking at you a little differently. The light on your past is lit up and your shadow becomes a little more clouded. It’s akin to revealing that your favourite sitcom is ‘The Big Bang Theory’. Sure, we all know it’s popular, but why? We need to know more but how does one come to understand the unfathomable?
It’s the fear of that unknown reaction that is partly why one never reveals that number. And for what? To save a little face? To stop the questions, the dirty looks, the open-mouthed gawking? The number is the original slut shame. The past is in the past, but when we find out the past actually existed in another place and time, we become fixated on it. Who, what, when, how, did it hurt, did you like it, do you still like him? No, I’m fucking you now because I like you at this very moment, in this very room, in my very vulnerable state.
We’re all vulnerable, and despite the way particular individuals tend to desperately try to hide this, we all know it. To reveal something about ourselves that most people view as deeply private would be to reveal one of our darkest truths. Sure, there are darker things that hide in our closet, some that will haunt us more than that drunken evening when Steve or Sarah looked irresistible even though you knew your friend was pretty keen on him/her and while you were having a smoke outside with him/her, you started talking dirty and ended up in the bathroom, pants down, shirts off, genitals dangling everywhere and muffled giggles escaping your mouth. I mean, I love secret bathroom escapades, but you’re not going to detail such a meaningless sex romp to someone you place immense importance on.
I mean, we’ve all ended up in situations where things have just… eventuated. It’s all about the context. So when someone has slept with 30 girls, or guys, or both, it’s probably best to sit back and consider it before you screw up your face, let your jaw drop and make an excuse to head to the bathroom. How long have they been active, have they had many relationships and how old are they? If they’ve been with 30 girls and they are 16 then you have a right to be a little taken aback. At the same time you should question why you are with a 16 year old. No 16 year olds read blogs man, they’re doing their homework or watching porn or some shit.
Does a number maketh the man? Does a woman lose worth with each mark of chalk on thy ‘Home Hardware’ scoreboard? Don’t be ridiculous. There are douchebags who couldn’t get laid in a bellywhacker contest just as much as there are individuals with numbers higher than the amount of words Floyd Mayweather can read who are warm, fuzzy and clearly extremely charming. And vice versa. It all comes down to the context. We should never succumb to the simplistic nature of quantifying our lives, but rather looking at the quality of experience that has led us to where we are today. If we stay searching in the past for the secret lives of others, we remain the bitter victims, not the ones who cherish the delicious, delightful memories of days gone by as we watch robot parody porn (’50 Shades of HAL 9000) on our death beds.
I think the conclusion that we’ve all come to is that we are all struggling to shake the stereotype of the ‘men are glorified sluts, women are supposed to keep themselves clean’ despite all the positive work to equalise our sexual worth and spurn the shamers. Numbers are a private thing, but surely we’re mature enough as a society to discuss it rather than gawk, whisper and judge when you find out that Cindy down the street is sexually active and proud of it? Until we start to remove the quantity, and look deeper, we will remain in a vicious cycle of ‘I’ll judge because they’ve already judged me’. And we will all just remain in the dark, with that shadow behind us not daring to enter the light.