Ah, College.  A time of learning, meeting new humans… and their bodies.  Sex (in whatever form you choose) can be a great experience that can connect you to your body, and the bodies of other humans. Even with this in mind, there is a great deal of stigma around the number of sexual partners we have in the present and have had in the past.  With education and acceptance of not only ourselves, but others as well, we can break the chains of the sexual stigma that binds us to unhappiness and judgement!

First, we have to talk about what defines someone as a sexual partner.  A Sexual partner is someone who consents (and has received your consent!) to engage in sexual activity, whatever that means for you.  A “sexual partner” is self-defining and can really refer to many different kinds of activities- not necessarily genital to genital intercourse/penetration.  So, define what sexual partner means to you personally, and don’t compare your philosophy to others’.  You are entitled to your own definition and philosophy as is everyone else.

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NUMBERS: Now, let’s hit those numbers.  According to the National College Health Assessment taken in September 2014, West Chester University students had about 0-2 sexual partners right now.  Yep, that’s right- a whopping 0-2.  If your number is in the range to the left, that’s okay.  If your number is higher, that’s okay too.  There is no right or wrong in terms of number of sexual partners, as long as you are utilizing good communication, getting and giving consent, safer sex practices, and having fun.

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Sexual Health: Prior to engaging in sexual activity, have a conversation about sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It is completely okay to ask a prospective partner if they have ever been tested for STIs, or if they have a viral STI. This will help shape conversations around contraception and use of barrier methods. Remember, it is good practice is to use barrier methods with every sexual experience, and to get tested at least once a year.

EMOTIONS:  Sex can be an emotional experience for people, so if you are engaging in sex with multi-partners make it known to those you are with to minimize hurt feelings.  While the number of sexual partners you have is no one’s business, your intentions on being with one person or a few people is something they have the right to know.   Unexpected drama caused by miscommunication is surely going to arise due to miscommunication about exclusivity, jealousy, or hurt feelings.  Avoid this by opening explaining your interests and views and ask your partner to share theirs, too.

DIFFERENCES:  Slut shaming and judgment only increases misunderstanding and miscommunication, causes feelings of shame and guilt, preventing communication and empathy.  Remember that people come from different backgrounds, religions, households, and ethnicities where the number of sexual partners that may seem unfamiliar to you is completely okay to them.

THE BIG O:  Having zero sexual partners also carries a stigma; prudeness.  Just like above, many folks have different reasons for not engaging in sexual activity. Some could have cultural or religious reasons; perhaps someone wants to wait until marriage before engaging in any sexual acts; maybe someone is just not ready to engage in sexual activity. Other folks could identify as asexual and/or aromantic. Any reason a person might have for not engaging, or minimally engaging, in sexual activity is completely okay.

BREAK THAT CHAIN:  So what can you do about breaking the stigma chain?  Breaking the chain starts with YOU!  Break down your walls of judgement that prevents you from understanding and respecting others.  Speak up for those being ‘slut shamed’ or judged, and try to change your own perceptions about others’ sex lives.  Feel more comfortable with your own sexual preferences, and love yourself.  Maybe you have regrets from the past regarding sexual partners that cause you to project feelings of insecurity onto others.  Simply forgive and learn… and be.  You are human.

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