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October 22, 2010


Tom Babcock

Aside from the medical risks associated with a higher number of sexual partners, when did we lose sight of the role of courtship in selecting a lifetime partner, and allow the quest to become a competitive sport? I know that to some extent the "counting coups" may be an underlying trait in the male psyche, but societal norms in the past mitigated that behavior. There are echoes of the past when Charlie Sheen's TV character momentarily rues the loneliness of his lifestyle. But the opposite message dominates, and we can even find Spongebob Square Pants pajama bottoms that announce, "Let's hook up."

Ms Block sets her focus on being "normal" based on quantity of relationships, and neglects the "quality" of relationships. In her, "Once one commits to a monogamous relationship" statement she formally accepts the goal of courtship and the need for monogamy in that relationship, but the thrust of her message would seem to be "practice to learn how to have good sex" rather than "get to know your partner well before committing to have sex in a long-term monogamous relationship."

Alpana Trivedi

Oh, dear!!! Talk about a casual attitude. Basically, this author is saying that you can have as many sexual partners as you want without emotional consequences. I think the taboo behind asking how many partners one has had is embedded in the fear of being judged and unfortunately, it's not unfounded. People don't stay the same and they could have had a number of partners and don't do that anymore. I mean, it's not fair to be scarred permanently by your past; it's just that in this day and age, at least to protect yourself from STDs it has become necessary to inquire about a partner's sexual past. It's a sorry day when you have to ask a partner to get tested for it too, but sometimes it's necessary.

Cady, I thought about another angle to this topic. What about people who lie about their sexual history for the fear of being judged (either about having a number of partners if they haven't or vice versa)? Ideally, in a good relationship we should be totally honest about stuff like this, but does it always work that way? Just a thought.

Either way, I agree with you on that it's never "no big deal." That said, I do think there are double standards in how we judge men and women in this regard and that needs to be discussed as well.



I operate by the Cars way. "It doesn't matter where you've been as long as it was deep."

Anyway, until "Christian" politicians and leaders stop getting caught with prostitutes, "religion" is always going to viewed as just a bit hypocritical.

And, fundamentalist views of any religion can lead to abusive home environments. Usually, somethings a bit off before religion is introduced, but there's no good that comes from ignoring when people use religious beliefs to hurt other people.

I think a lot of the number drama comes from societies stud/slut double standard. Screw that.
Also. Condoms are somewhere between 98-99% effective at blocking most STD's. This means, you still get tested after each partner. EVEN IF YOU HAVE NO SYMPTOMS. -_- People get so uptight about getting tested.

I think you're a bit backwards on your hard scientific data. STD rates are highest amongst the 50-80 crowd, emotional disorders, substance abuse, and suicide rates tend to be made up of other things, and reducing them to just "sleeping around" is a bit insulting. I think in many cases, the emotional disorder, and substance abuse tends to lead to "sleeping around"


Great post!

I noticed that Jenny Block, the author of the article, is an advocate of "open relationships", just like the Sugar Babe. Remember her? I think this explains a lot about the tone of the article and the ridiculous assertions in it.

Here's the whole quote on the good and "bad" associated with a low number of sexual partners

"A low number can mean that a person has made good choices, conscious choices and has opted only to become involved sexually with people whom he or she is emotionally involved and/or committed to."

The interesting thing I see here is that the low number "can" mean a person has made good choices. Isn't it definitive? Doesn't a low number always mean better choices - the lower, the better?

I think I understand why this author says it this way, coming from an opinion that "open" relationships are just fine and dandy, but I fail to see any room for anything but positive implications for someone who has chosen to put off self gratification and indulgence long enough to establish commitment and evaluate their partners.

Ms. Block continues...

"But it can also mean that one is fearful of having sex and/or connecting with another person on that level. Religion, family ideals, a history of abuse and other issues may be the root of this problem."

Fearful of having sex? Does she mean rape victims? If so, is she suggesting rape and abuse victims should be avoided or shunned because they might not like sex as much? Really? In these cases how can she be so callous as to suggest that a low number of partners is anything but a neutral statistic?

Also, a history of abuse does not necessarily result in low numbers of partners. In many cases a history of abuse results in higher numbers as victims struggle to connect and maintain relationships. She has it backwards. Low numbers mean success in relationships... not dysfunction.

I also notice, that along with "religion" as being a cause of this problem (I assume she's viewing the "fear of sex" as the problem being caused), she throws in family ideals. I would agree that religion produces a sense of family ideals in people. But I don't see where this produces a "fear of sex", since sex is important to family life.

It seems that she's claiming that if you abstain from sex because of family ideals or religious devotion that you are somehow afraid, frigid, or repressed.

Is it so hard to grasp that religious folks enjoy sex as much as anyone else - that just because they are private about the sex they have, they are repressed and afraid of their passions as many claim? Do these critics of religion and families realize that religious devoted couples may even be enjoying sex more than those with open relationships and a lot of partners?

I know there are folks who fear religion and often for them religion creates all sorts of problems, but I digress.

Am I missing the mark here? What does Jenny Block really mean by "fear of sex", and what is she really saying about abuse victims and the religiously devoted?


Sorry... that last long paragraph should read...

"Is it so hard to grasp that religious folks enjoy sex as much as anyone else - that just because they are private about the sex they have, they are not so repressed and afraid of their passions as many claim? Do these critics of religion and families realize that religious devoted couples may even be enjoying sex more than those with open relationships and a lot of partners?"



"Average of 10.7 parteners"? How disgusting.


My thought is if you are uncomfortable sharing intimate information with someone, i.e. the number of partners that you have had, than why are you sharing an intimate act with them? Why not get to know the person better and build the relationship until you know that the person you are having sex with loves YOU not the sex. Maybe by then trust is formed so that judgment is not something that you have to worry about.
Shanna, your post is a bit more sardonic than usual. Are you ok?
I agree with you in that religious leaders, political or otherwise, must live their platforms if they want to be taken seriously, but judging a religious moral standard on a small minority is unfair and a cop out. I know of a few dirty cops who were caught doing some pretty bad stuff, but I understand that they are the exception to the rule and don't judge all cops as hypocrites. What’s the difference? Also where was religious fundamentalism mentioned in the article or corresponding post? Does your view of a religiously fundamental home come from experience or conjecture? If it is experience, I am truly sorry that it was so negative. I can only speak from my experience growing up in what you would most likely consider a religiously fundamental home, and I can assure you that my family life was and still is wonderful. I have NEVER experienced any form of abuse in my home life, and that is true of hundreds of other fundamentally religious families that I know of.
I think it is so funny the assumptions made about religion and sex. Again, I can’t speak for anyone else, but I grew up hearing about sex routinely in my home and the church. Maybe more people would go to church if they knew they were going to get tips on a better sex life ;)


Ha. Sorry, I'm alright. But, it's sadly a case of the squeaky wheel gets the oil. I know most (I'm just sticking with christians because thats the majority religion in the states and my only jewish friends are of the cultural/extremely liberal variety) aren't particularly hypocritical or hateful, but the loud ones are, so they get the attention, they drive the politics, etc. It's one of those odd things, I feel like most (and yes, this is generalizing in my experience) christians don't really delve that deep into their faith. They just go with the flow, there's nothing wrong with that persay, but when the loud minority dictates the flow, it can distort the others. I mean, so many will point out how Leviticus calls homosexuality an abomination, but have no qualms with polyester blends, eating shrimp and crop rotation. And that just seems wrong to me. You can't cherry pick. And I get tired of it. I get tired of christians who want to police the nation instead of being beacons of light. And it sucks to get lumped in with those "christians"

I have not experienced any sort of fundamentalism abuse first hand. And I'm sure most fundamentalists are not in any way dangerous. I have heard though that, while she was not this way towards us grandchildren, my grandmother did administer beatings to her kids randomly and occasionally for biblical purposes. Knowing this, it comes as little surprise to me that two of her kids ended up devout atheists and abusive themselves. My uncle ended up fairly religous, but uh, intimacy issues after grandmas death. Of course, I'll be the first to say, my grandmothers abuse was most likely caused by her mental instability. But it was justified to her through religion. The problem isn't religion so much as it's crazy people using religion to further their purposes.

Nurit Weizman

I live in a religious Jewish community and it is unbelievable how abundant acts of loving kindness are here, thanks to the teachings of our most beloved Torah. One of my Rabbis here visited another religious neighborhood where when families left on vacation, they left their keys in a neighborhood drawer so that visitors could borrow them to use their homes while they were gone. One family used one of these "vacation homes" and when the owners came back, their refrigerator was stocked with home-cooked goods by their unknown guests. And these deeds are done by strangers. You can imagine how much more love and respect there is between family members.

The amount of giving in the religious community I live in compared to the secular community I used to live in is absolutely incomparable--not to say that I didn't live in a great community growing up. It's just where I live now is on a WHOLE new level. And perhaps people here have a very "low count" on their sexual partners list, but it's because we believe that if we're supposed to treat a person's kitchen with such respect, how much more committed and loving should we be when involved with the most intimate part of his or her being?


I do sometimes agree with your comments, Shanna, but I have to say that I feel you are way off base with this post.

As Cady Driver wrote, "The author claims that a low number can mean that a person has made good choices, but it can ALSO mean that this person is fearful of having sex and connecting with other people b/c of religion, family ideals, abuse or other issues."

No where in this post was Christianity OR religious fundamentalism brought up. Before you go off on an attack against Christians, you may want to remind yourself of the fact that Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism (the major religions of the world) ALL teach the importance of maintaining sexual purity until marriage.

There are fundamentalists, extremists, and hypocrites in every religion, every culture, and among secularists as well. That's not the issue being discussed in this post.

My understanding of Cady Driver's post is that an individual having a low number of sex partners is being skewed to the negative. If a person has a low number of sex partners because they respected God, themselves, or the wishes of their family - THAT'S NOT A BAD THING. And yet, it would seem that the author being referenced in this post is trying to say that religious influence or family guidance on developing a strong moral character for oneself is a bad thing.

Let's chill out on the attacks against Christianity. Generalizations are really rather tasteless.


So are women in predominately secular societies crowing about sexual conquests or was the author trying to make an arguement for eliminating shame regarding a subjective high number of partners? I remember vaguely from an iTunes U lecture that in plently of societies (including pre-industrial, tribal ones) that women who a known to sleep around are viewed negatively.
Yes, we can find bad Christians or other religious labeled folks anywhere. Problem is good Christians don't make the 6 o'clock news and the pleasant neighbor who goes to church or temple every week is not going to make the front page for his acts of charity.


Direct quote from this article:

"But whether you share your number or not, whether your number matches up with survey reports or not, the most important thing is that you don’t focus on the number or what it may or may not mean and instead focus on your current state of sexual well-being." - the survey reports, by the way, that the average is 10.7 partners.

After reading the article, it seems that the author is trying to take the focus off of the number and say that, in the end, the number does not matter. Is that really true? I personally think that the number absolutely matters!

I dated someone for a very short time once, who admitted to having had 24 partners. He admitted to having been called a "lady killer" from time to time as well. Was he trying to impress me? I don't know. It did not impress me, however, and I was very glad to know the truth before the relationship developed any further. So, I chose to focus on his number, and my "current state of sexual well-being" was to keep myself out of harms way.

The author of the article does refer to religion as being a possible "root" to the problem of being fearful of having sex and having a low number of partners. Is it really bad to be scared of having sex with multiple partners? Should we really be so blasé about sex in a time when the statistics for sexual assault tell us that 1 in 6 American women will be victims of sexual assault in their lifetime? Or when STD and STI rates are so high as well?

I think that we should care more about the number, and I also think that religion or family values that influence young people to make wise decisions should not be categorized with "a history of abuse and other issues."

This is, of course, my opinion, but I entirely agree with Cady Driver!


I thought this post was really great; gentle and also thought inducing.

Julie, in discussing the major religions of the world, I should add that you have left out of Sikhism, which also preaches chastity in marriage. Gursikhs, who have taken special vows, and have drunk the holy water, are encouraged to abstain from sex outside of marriage as well as smoking and drinking, and to leave their hair long. Generally the culture in India for the last few centuries has been inclined toward modesty as well.

I also wanted to tell people about another movement, Radical Homemakers, which has its own blog, and is about downsizing and being home more while earning less money and having an enhanced quality of life. Its so family-centric that it sounded like something other modestyniks might be interested in finding out about. The Radical Homemakers website can be found by googling for it, and is actually the title of a book that can be purchased at the site. The author is a wonderful writer and is definitely inspiring, so I just thought I would share that information. If she ever did a guest post here, I would be ecstatic to learn more from her. But of course, I would never dictate to all of the terrific bloggers here on personalities or content.


I disagree with Ms. Driver's analysis of the article (while agreeing with the position she takes on the issue). "Religion and family values" are the problem here. In fact, the problem is generated by trying to pretend that religion and family values aren't the problem.

Some of the people here are trying to argue that having many partners &c is bad for a variety of materially utilitarian reasons such as STDs, psychological risks etc. In other words, sexual restraint is a good idea more or less for the same reason that brushing your teeth is a good idea. It's good for your health. Pardon my asking, but what is health good for?

Before deciding I'm exceptionally obtuse, recall that the same question occurred to Socrates and to Jeremiah at pivotal points in their careers. I'm just plaigiarizing them. Their answer was, "not as good as some things are that are good for my soul."

The entire tenor of the article in question and of many of the responses is that sexual behavior is about physical pleasure and physical benefit, psychological benefit being an aspect of physical benefit, and that sex, indeed everyhing in our lives, should be measured according to that standard. I think it's the wrong standard.

Religion is about caring for the quality of one's soul--and not just one's soul, but how one' soul affects others and the world that G-d created. Sex is not only a powerful vehicle for pleasure but for the creation of spiritual values of first order, love and fraternal feeling, peace and companionship, steadfastness and good faith. Just like work, and speech, and all the most important human things.

In the context of modern culture the religious perspective is radical and revolutionary: it means viewing oneself and others as souls that possess bodies rather than the reverse. From this perspective the qualities I mentioned above become the most important things, and sex--and work and speech--important for their capacity to facilitate those values. They are important tools for imitatio Dei: to be faithful even as He (or She, whatever) is faithful to those that keep faith, sustaining even as He sustains.

Can religious values be misconceived and abused? Yes, like anything human. Life is the realm of risk and danger, and spiritual things the most dangerous of all. That's just tough. It comes with the territory.

I suppose from the perspective of the article in question I ought to be pretty ashamed about the number of intimate relationships I have cleaved to for the past nearly thirty years, impoverished by having only one such to pray for daily. And fortunate well beyond my poor deserts. Any opinions out there?

Cady Driver

Good thoughts, YK.....I agree that religion is about caring for the quality of one's soul. The problem with arguing this point is that the majority of people that one discusses this subject with aren't religious and there's no foundation to start from.

Maybe what you wrote should encourage us to help people focus more on their sou's conditionl b/c that certainly is the basis of all arguments.

This has made me think that maybe we approach the issue with the wrong argument....the argument of the health risks, STDs...etc....maybe if people were reminded more of the eternal nature of their soul it would cause people to examine their hearts and their standing with the God who created them.

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