The Magic Number: How Many Lovers Is Ideal?

Close your eyes and imagine, before skimming the rest of the story, what you think I’m going to say.

Yes, you are exactly right. You know me by now, enough to know I think the question is ridiculous, and there is no right answer. What works for you, Tom, is not what happened for Dick, or how it went for Harry.

The range of lovers a human being has in their lifetime is between zero and several thousand. A Buddhist monk will be on one end of the spectrum, and a busy sex worker on the other. Both are valid expressions of that individual person’s unique sexuality.

How many sexual partners? It’s just a number.

We know the number doesn’t matter, that you don’t need to measure up against another guy’s list, or that a woman shouldn’t have to minimize her list to look more respectable. Whatever your number is—it is what it is.

But we also know that doesn’t stop anyone from being curious about anybody else. And somewhere along the way, someone is going to ask you how many people you’ve slept with. When you are deciding whether an honest answer is appropriate or necessary, you might realize you don’t know the answer, not exactly. You might also wonder what number other people have under their belt.

The magic numbers, however, are notoriously hard to report.

Just as you may not be totally sure, others around the world who are studied or surveyed may forget, embellish, detract, or lie on their reports.

There are other problems with numbers studies: surveys and research necessarily rely on a sample population to get their averages. Whether they interview ten people or ten thousand, the results are known to vary dramatically in studies on this kind of topic if you simply ask another group of the same size from the same population. That is because the answers are so diverse even in a homogenous demographic.

Another problem in accuracy is the fact that survey respondents are still alive. So if we are trying to ascertain the average number of partners in a lifetime, the number is meaningless. It could be the final tally, or it could be foreplay.

That said, we can indulge our curiosity in terms of generalities. Here are a few findings about the numbers.

Number of Lovers: What the Studies Say

Older people have had more sexual partners. This might seem obvious because they have had more years of dating and sex. However, many people think of young people being hot and horny and hooking up constantly. Even when that might be true, it still doesn’t stand in for a lifetime of love, sex, divorce, and dating.

A sizable minority report none or one to two partners, paralleled by a sizable minority that report many, or more than twenty partners—15-25% each, depending on the study.

A UK study reported that around 4% had over ninety partners. Compare that with the same study, where 14% were monogamous with only one partner in total.

A good average number to look at for many people in the west is 7, because a number of large studies in the USA and UK have turned up 7 or 8 as the average number of partners for lovers in those countries. But that number will be skewed the way averages are by those with no partners or big numbers.

India and China report the lowest number of partners, and Turkey reports the most.

New Zealand is the only nation in the world that reports more lovers for women than men.

Do you disclose to partners how many lovers you’ve had? Care to share with us?

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