Dear Wendy: “Everyone Thinks I’m A Slut”

I’m 21 years old, and have had 11 sexual partners. I have been in relationships with men I was always faithful to. I have never had a one-night stand, and I am very careful when it comes to practicing safe sex. I still talk to most of the men I have been with, since most were good friends of mine before we slept together, and overall I am perfectly happy with my choices. On a personal level, I have no regrets. However, I cannot seem to get away from that awful word “slut.” I am well aware that I have slept with more men than most girls my age, but I believe we all go through different routes to find happiness and our soul mates. But other people think differently, and I have been judged and called a slut more times than I can count. I have begun seeing a new man, and we have not slept together yet. He is a great guy, but I am scared to tell him how many partners I have had. I am afraid he is going to think I am a slut, and even though he might not say it, he will think less of me. How do I approach telling him, or should I? I won’t apologize for something I don’t feel is wrong, but at the same time I understand that being with a girl who has had a lot of sexual partners can be difficult, and intimidating. And how do I stop it from getting to me that people think I am such a slut? I’m happy with my choices, why can’t people just leave it alone? — Sexually Active in Vermont

What I don’t understand is why so many people are thinking it’s standard practice to share the number of sexual partners they’ve had with anyone they go out with a few times. Actually, I don’t understand the desire to share the number with anyone at all. It’s nobody’s business but yours how many people you’ve slept with, so how is it that you’ve “been called ‘slut’ more times that you can count”? Are the men you’ve slept with blabbing about it to everyone? If so, I certainly would question whether they continue to be strong candidates for “good friends” in your life. But maybe you’re the one blabbing to everyone how many people you’re sleeping with? If you’re already questioning whether and how to tell your potential 12th guy what your number is, my guess is you’ve been letting every guy until now in on your personal business and I just have to wonder: why? Do you consider it part of your identity? Part of the way you define yourself? If so, maybe you’re the one who needs to “just leave it alone.”

You say you’re happy with your choices, that you practice safe sex, and that you have no regrets about your sexual history, and if that’s all true, then great. I’m all for people owning — and even celebrating — their personal choices if they feel those choices have reflected their best selves and/or have carried them more fully into their authentic selves. But not all choices are necessarily ones to celebrate and feel good about. I’m not suggesting that’s the case for you, but I do have to wonder if, under your expressed bravado, you feel a tinge of guilt about some of the choices you’ve made. It may explain this incessant need you have to share your number with people despite the stigma you feel attached to it. You may be searching for validation or affirmation that, hey, you’re OK, you’re not really a slut. But here’s the thing — and this will relate to everything in your life now and in the future that you may feel insecure about: true validation comes from within. The opinion that really matters the most is your own. If you don’t feel happy and comfortable with yourself and your choices, it won’t matter how many other people do. And on the flip side, if you honestly do feel happy and comfortable with yourself and your choices, the opinion of others won’t hold much water for you.

So that brings me back to your original question: how do you keep it from getting to you that people think you’re such a slut? Well, it’s like that popular quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” People’s opinions can’t change the history of your personal choices, choices you say you’re happy with. If you’re letting outside opinions affect your confidence, perhaps you aren’t as happy with the choices you’ve made as you say you are and maybe it’s time to consider changing your behavior and making different choices in the future. But if you are happy, and you just want people to “leave it alone,” you need to be the one to set that tone. Quit making a big deal of it — quit sharing your number with people; quit making your private life public; and quit choosing partners who have big mouths if that’s what you’re doing — and you’ll find that no one else really cares about your sex life as much as you do.

*Do you have a relationship/dating question I can help with? Send me your letters at dearwendy@thefrisky.com.

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