[See update below]
Marie Claire did a story earlier this month on women and their 'numbers,' that is, the number of sexual partners they've had. The breathless headline text makes it sounds like an exercise in judging sexually-voracious females: "How many men is too many? From 0 to 100, women confess their conquests."
But reading the actual first-person stories, it all seems quite matter of fact and goes a long way to illustrate that women have lots of different reasons to have–or not have–sex, and lots of different feelings about when and why that sex is going to happen.
Our actual definition of sex is as hazy as ever, and what earns someone a notch on the bedpost is left to the notcher. Beth (a Presbyterian with a 0 tally who's waiting for marriage) says she gave someone a blow job once, so in her world that doesn't count as having a sex partner. On the other hand, Carlin Ross (a sex educator who's had 100 partners) tells us her number includes the more than 15 women she has 'slept with.'
Unfortunately, despite the fact that the actual article isn't particularly judgmental, the commenters are, saving their harshest words for the women with the highest numbers. About Carlin, one commenter writes:
"That is pathetic and gross. I mean, wow 100, that's just really sad. I'm assuming she went through a difficult period growing up, because I don't see respectable women who were raised in a loving household to turn up to be a "loosey goosey".
Of course neither I nor this commenter knows anything about Carlin or the nature of her household. And I don't exactly know what being respectable entails – or what 'loosey goosey' means, for that matter. But I do know that I'm pretty tired of the slut-shaming (and yes, virgin-shaming) that's par for the course any time a women discusses her sex life. Do I even need to point out that if this story ran in Maxim and it was about 5 guys, there would be high-fives all around (except maybe for the 'virgin').
It's interesting that the women with the two highest numbers, Carlin and Lena Chen (who is in our film and has had 30 partners) both have no problem showing their faces, while the other three hide behind their hair. To be clear, I don't have a problem with the anonymity if it allows people to be honest about things they're uncomfortable sharing. I just found it interesting that the women most likely to be harassed put it all out there. And I think being more open about our sex lives (whatever that entails) is a good thing. As Lena writes on on her Tumblr about this story:
UPDATE: I neglected to mention that Carlin Ross is one half of the duo 'Dodson and Ross.' (Dodson being the legendary Betty Dodson) And if you don't know who that is, you must immediately go to their site. We're fans of their work at Trixie Films and I'm sorry I claimed to know nothing about Carlin. My only excuse was that I've been running a fever all weekend. Apologies.