How many sexual partners is too many?

An assessment of the amount of sexual partners a person has and what that really means

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There’s no perfect “body count” when it comes to sexual partners. A person’s sexual behavior can depend on various factors from economic status, to peer pressure to even the honest pursuit of finding the one for them.

In the U.S., people experience 7.2 partners in their lifetime according to a survey conducted by SuperDrug, a health and beauty retailer in the United Kingdom. SuperDrug surveyed 2,000 people in the U.S. and the U.K. and found that Americans experience more sexual partners in their lifetime. The average number of sexual partners a person has varies by the country and in the U.S., even by state.

Jeffrey Bingenheimer is an associate professor in the Department of Prevention and Community Health at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. He specializes in sexual and reproductive health, family planning, survey design and applied statistics.

“Various attitudes and other psychosocial constructs are associated with sexual behavior,” he said.

Women said they draw the line for being too promiscuous at 15.2 partners, while men said 14 partners is the defining number for them in the SuperDrug survey.

“The costs and benefits of sex are different for different people,” Bingenheimer said. “For one person, one instance of sex with one partner may be too much. For another, having a hundred partners in a year may be too few.”

In his research, Bingenheimer also discovered that some people believe sex can lead to negative consequences, such as sexually transmitted diseases. People with this belief system are more likely to be less sexually active, resulting in fewer sexual partners.

“For some people, the main factor driving them to have multiple partners is a high libido. For others, it’s a desire for peer approval,” Bingenheimer said. “Others accumulate multiple partners in a process of searching for one person with whom they want to have a monogamous relationship. And, of course, some people have multiple partners primarily for economic reasons.”

About Michelai Graham 4 Articles

I’m currently a graduate journalism student at American University focusing in investigative reporting. I also work at the Urban Institute as a Digital Production Specialist, where I maintain the website and produce weekly newsletters. In the past, I interned with the Lansing City Pulse as a reporter and photographer and with Such Video as a social media coordinator.

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