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Honesty’s overrated when it comes to sexual stats

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Dear Sexorcist:

My boyfriend wanted to know how many guys I slept with before we met. He told me he’d slept with 12 people. I told him I slept with more — 14 — knowing full well the answer’s closer to 50. I feel bad that I lied but even with my lie he looked at me like I’d caused the Gulf oil spill. I’m convinced he’s “the one” and I totally see myself married to him, but I’m not sure bringing the subject back up so I can undo my lie is a good idea. Still, how can I pretend that honesty is important in our relationship if I tell flat-out lies?

— Lyin’ n cryin’

Dear Lyin’,

You admitted having more sexual partners than he did, so broadly speaking, you didn’t lie. You just got the kind of mileage out of the truth that Toyota would kill for.

Let’s face it, there’s a huge double standard attached to the question of how many people you’ve slept with. We think badly of men who have too few and worse of women who have too many.

The result? Everybody lies. Here’s what the latest sex survey of lifetime partners by the CDC showed — men: seven, women: four. The latest British survey of lifetime partners? Men: 12.7. Women: 6.5. In most surveys, men report having between 40 percent and 75 percent more partners than women.

There’s just one problem. The numbers don’t compute. It’s mathematically impossible for heterosexual men to have more partners than heterosexual women. David Gale, an emeritus professor of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley proved it with a theorem in a recent New York Times article. So why the discrepancy? One reason is that men have sex with populations of women who aren’t surveyed (prostitutes, women in other countries when they’re on vacation). But, come on, that can’t even begin to explain a 40 percent to 75 percent difference. Most observers agree the biggest reason for the difference is that men exaggerate and women underestimate. Whether it’s the size of their equipment or the number of their conquests, men’s math goes something like this: 2 + 2 = 22. And whether it’s their weight or the number of men they’ve slept with, women’s math goes something like this: 22 + 22 = 2.

I don’t mean to get ugly, honey, but you’re feeling bad about lying to somebody who lied to you. I would not go back to your boyfriend and straighten out your math. First, he’s already judging you like a sausage at a vegan potluck. Putting a numerical value on your sexual past (which I’d describe as, “One kiss and it’s heels to Jesus”) doesn’t make sense.

When a man asks how many men you’ve slept with, he’s not looking for a number, he’s looking for a verdict. He’s trying to put you in a category — virgin or whore. Enlightened guys aren’t much better. Their categories are Virgin, Virgin Lite or Whore.

Ladies, if your man asks you how many lovers you’ve had, the correct answer is, “What number is acceptable to you?” Believe me, he’s got one. And if you’re north of it, let me know how that honesty thing works out.

The whole subject of sexual quantity should be tabled until we stop persecuting women for what we praise in men.

Buzzfeed has a chart showing how many women famous men have slept with (winner: Fidel Castro with 30,000 and counting). When Buzzfeed charts the number of men that famous women have slept with, you’ll know the double standard has come to and end. Until then, my advice is to steer clear.

Right now, you’re obsessing about honesty for honesty’s sakes. A dangerous mentality. You know what they call couples who believe in being absolutely honest on every subject? Divorced.

Truth’s restorative powers are greatly exaggerated. They only work on issues that help the relationship move forward (financial and marital infidelity come to mind). How does giving him your “true number” deepen your relationship? It doesn’t.

Got a burning or a why-is-it-burning question for the Sexorcist? E-mail him at sexorcist@creativeloafing.com. Midtown resident Mike Alvear hosts HBO’s “The Sex Inspectors,” blogs at mikealvear.com and teaches monthly blogging workshops with Hollis Gillespie.

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