Before I begin, I’d like to issue a blanket statement: “p.s. sorry for the language and ratchetness, Grammy.” It’s likely I will say quite a few things that will make you, my sweet Grammy, cringe. Rather than repeating this phrase multiple times throughout my post, please accept my sincerest apology in advance.
Now back to our regularly scheduled program.
In my past life (2009-2015), I was a health educator. That meant I had the privilege of raising awareness about sexual health, among other topics that impact college-aged students.
My favorite workshop was “Let’s Talk about Sex, Baby! and don’t even get me started on the Condom Carnivals.
I recall a time, right after accepting the position of Assistant Director of Health AWAREness and Women’s Programs at IUP, when I proudly showed off my new office space to my Grandparents.
My little Italian Pappy walked in, saw a bowl of condoms on my desk and cautiously asked, “What is it that you do again?”
I’ll never forget the look on my Grandparents faces that day as I described my passion for safer sex practices and healthy sexuality.
Quick sidebar: When I was younger, I told Grammy I wanted to be a Garbage Man [pre- gender analysis when I unknowingly subjugated women] when I grew up. I can’t help but think, at the time, Grammy would be much happier with me becoming a Garbage Collector [now that I have a gender analysis] than to be known as the “Condom Lady,” on campus.
Nonetheless, I found myself becoming very comfortable discussing sex and sexuality, despite being a “late bloomer” myself. Although I’m no longer the official “Condom Lady,” I still enjoy some good ol’ fashion [safer] sex talk!
So back to this whole “Body Count” post.
The other night, I was swinging in my writing chair, bumpin’ J.Cole’s “Nobody’s Perfect,” thinking about a writing prompt.
Verse two of “Nobody’s Perfect” sealed the deal.
If you’re not familiar, verse two ends with:
Not as quick of a sidebar but stick with me, people.
A year ago, if a male-identified person made a comment about “body counts” (the number of people you’ve had sexual relationships with) I’d probably just call him a sexist asshole for slut-shaming women for having multiple sexual partners and/or prude-shaming women for not being as sexual as he thinks she should be.
That, my dear, is Feminist anger- attacking the person, rather than addressing the issue.
As long as I’ve identified as Feminist, I’ve had Feminist anger issues. It plays out in my personal life with family and friends, on Facebook when someone makes a slut-shaming remark and even with complete strangers when they find it acceptable to harass me on the street, which I wrote about in “What Size Are Your Panties?”
In these moments, my first reaction is making the “Nigga, did you just… Face” followed by me chickity checking the ignorant little shit who was about to get a taste of my Feminist wrath, brought on by the never-ending micro- and macro-aggressions I experience as a woman in a patriarchal society.
That, my dear, is Feminist anger.
In those moments, I was quick to call someone out, over calling them in. I was quick to label them ignorant little shits, rather than acknowledging they were a human being with an opinion or viewpoint that differed from mine. I was quick to dish out the Feminist wrath, as opposed to being compassionate; addressing my concern from a place of empathy, understanding, care, warmth, love and [insert any synonym you’d like to add]. I was quick to “dump” my anger issues – as my Pastor talked about today in church- on anybody, even if they weren’t the person- or in this case, patriarchal system- that I really had an issue with.
I found out quickly that my Feminist anger issues got me nowhere quick.
Well, in all fairness, I shouldn’t say nowhere because I did go on many people’s Unfriend or Block List. I was told family dinners were more peaceful without my rants taking up space and my ex-partner declared there would be no more Madden / Call of Duty nights at our house because he and his friends didn’t want to hear my constant critiques, even if I made slamming snack platters for them to enjoy during their misogynistic male bonding time.
The angry Feminist in me said, “I don’t give a f***.”
I became comfortable with the look people in the room gave me when someone said some oppressive BS, as they sat there thinking, “Lord, what is she going to say or do now.”
But the truth is I did give a f***.
I absolutely gave a f*** about informing the masses, creating safe spaces for women- and other marginalized groups- and holding people accountable when they implicitly or explicitly say or do things that, at best, hurt, and at worst, oppress other people.
I just wanted people to hear me and quite frankly, I didn’t care what they had to say in response because I knew I was right and they were wrong [sarcasim, people].
I was pissed off and didn’t care how many bodies I caught in the process. As far as I was concerned, “Y’all was guna learn today,” whether you wanted to or not and as my favorite line goes: ANYONE CAN GET IT. Yes, even my dear, sweet Grammy.
Before I move on, please, please, please hear me when I say that I’m not suggesting that Feminist – or any- rage is invalid or not justified; because, in most cases, it is. My intent is not to silence those who face oppression. Rather, it is to invite them to think about how we can control our rage and harness our passion so that we can open a door to much needed crucial conversations on whatever it is that’s pissing us off.
It took me a while, but I discovered that it wasn’t about people hearing me; it was about them listening and understanding what I was saying and why I was saying it. It was about me being inquisitive and inviting them to help me understand how they formulated their opinion or viewpoint, without me passing judgment.
In order for that to happen, I had to do my part and create the necessary conditions for that type of dialogue to take place.
This doesn’t mean I was guaranteed to be heard but my odds were much better in comparison to when I came in ready to show no mercy.
I genuinely believe that this, my friends, is how real dialogue can happen; when one feels validated and loved, not attacked. These are the conditions we must create if we want others to listen and understand- not just hear- our pain, rage and what’s behind our Feminist – or any other type of- anger.
I’m still in the process of being saved but prior to even starting that process, I was quick to ‘cuss a nigga out.’ Now, during my process of being saved, I’m quicker to still come at you, but come correct; from a place of understanding, love, and compassion so that we can move forward, together, addressing the issue at hand.
Okay. That was a long introduction to today’s rant on “Body Counts,” but I think it’s important to understand the context behind how I now find myself able to engage in meaningful conversations with male-identified people- and others who have opinions or viewpoints that differ from mine- instead of reverting back to the “old” me who would simply cuss a nigga out, label them an ignorant little shit and then proceed to like the cute cat post that popped up on my timeline after their igno…. I mean ‘less informed’ or ‘problematic’ post that caused me to feel uncomfortable or some type of way.
Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…. our feature presentation:
A common Feminist debate is that of the “Sexual Double Standard.”
Sexual Double Standard: “The belief that women and men are held to different standards of sexual conduct is pervasive in contemporary American society. According to the sexual double standard, boys and men are rewarded and praised for heterosexual sexual contacts, whereas girls and women are derogated and stigmatized for similar behaviors,” (Kreager & Staff, 2009).
We live in a society where, “If you have a vagina, chances are someone has called you a slut at least once in your life,” as Jessica Valenti, American blogger, Feminist writer and founder of the Feministing blog, would argue.
I know exactly what Jessica is saying.
My freshman year of college, I received the “Biggest Pimp” award at our non-school sponsored, IUP Awards Ceremony, planned and implemented by Black leaders on campus. While honored, I chose not to attend and accept this prestigious award because I found it to be synonymous with “Biggest Slut” award. The irony is, at the time, I was a virgin, so I’m not sure why I was concerned that people would view me as a “slut.”
But as a woman, this was a “natural” concern.
Women are not to be sexual. Oh no! However, at the same time, we are to be “a lady in the streets and a freak in the sheets.”
You’re essentially damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
It literally makes no sense.
Fast forward nine years later and you have me, a more confident woman with a much stronger gender and Feminist analysis, disappointed that I stayed home the night of the Award Ceremony, missing an ideal time to receive my shiny trophy and go on a Feminist rant on the need to end the slut-shamming and policing of women’s sexual lives.
While I can’t be certain, I’m sure the guy who received the “Biggest Pimp” award did attend, accept his shiny trophy, give some misogynistic speech (just making assumptions here) and go on to enjoy the status men gain from being “pimps.”
Nine years later, no longer a virgin but a Pro-Sex, Sex Positive Feminist, I say with great confidence that all people can have sex with whomever they want, however they want as long as there is mutual consent between the involved parties. [sidebar: age, power dynamics and many other things influence one’s ability to truly give consent]
Besides Amber Rose and myself, there are many people jumping on this bandwagon. However, the sexual double standard– in my opinion- remains pervasive in our society, despite arguments that a woman’s number of past sexual partners is no longer a “deal breaker” for hetero- men.
I’ve grown to be comfortable discussing my sexual history with potential partners. As one man said during my poll of random male identified Facebook friends on the topic of body counts, “We already went over this.”
Yes, on our first date, the conversation went from, “where do you see yourself in five years,” to “tell me about your sexual history.”
When it comes to forming healthy relationships, built on honesty, trust and communication, I see such questions as “just making small talk.”
This is one of many reasons why I can’t help but laugh when I hear people, like J. Cole, proclaiming:
No, J.Cole, you are wrong.
If you ask me my “body count,” and I tell you my “body count,” accept that as truth because I don’t feel the need to lie in order to preserve the “pure, good girl” image society forces on to me and other women.
If you do not believe me, please see the list I keep of men I’ve had sex with, broken down into three categories:
- One night stands, that I initiated. [Yea, I said it. Deal with it.]
- Serious boyfriends.
- People who were, for all intents and purposes, my boyfriend… even if they did not know it. [Judge on, I actually give zero *cks.]
But, this isn’t about me.
It’s about the men I asked to tell me their thoughts on body counts.
With an impressive 63% response rate, 14 male identified, heterosexual people answered my call of “I’m working on a new blog post and I’m doing a survey of my male Facebook friends. What is the max body count you’d accept on a female partner?”
I say “impressive” given my notoriety for “attacking the male species” on social media, like the “man-hating” Feminist I am. [Yes, these are things people (men) have actually said to me].
Proving my haters wrong, I practiced compassion and engaged in dialogue with the men who replied, to gain a better understanding of their thoughts on “body counts.” I sat with the discomfort I felt about some of their responses and chose not to use this as an opportunity to drop my Feminist and gender analysis because it wasn’t the time.
I just wanted to hear what they thought and create a space where they felt comfortable talking to me.
This is what I learned…
There is, indeed, a number.
According to the men, 11.27 was the average maximum number of past sexual partners a female they are interested in can have. The break down is below.
3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 15, 15, 15, 15, 25
Note: Some said it didn’t matter, which I classified as “infinite.” I chose to exclude this outlier.
…and an equation.
While some men admitted that they pulled a number out of thin air, others had a legitimate equation. They said:
“I’m assuming she’s been sexually active since 15. So if she’s 30 that’s 15 years of sex. Suppose she’s had 5 serious relationships (1-2yrs) that leaves 5 years for her to have sex with 10 guys (2 a yr. if she’s just having fun and getting her needs fulfilled). Anything more than that she’s just been an open door letting anyone walk in and disrespect her. Just my theory.”
“I like women who are “serial daters,” those who seek out long term relationships from their partners. What that means for me is that they usually have around 1-2 bodies per 2 years.”
Sidebar: My “body count” actually falls with their equations but I’d say this is just coincidence.
…AND this number matters.
One man shared that he would factor a woman’s sexual history into his decision to pursue her, stating, “If I know the female and her body count before even thinking about getting at her, I wouldn’t want her.”
Relationship dynamics also matter.
There appeared to be a consensus that the “magic number” only applies if they see a future with their love interest. One man said, “Female partner like relationship status or just a hook up?”
… and sexual health matters too.
As a former Health Educator, I was pleased to hear a few men consider sexual health, saying things like:
“As long as you ain’t got AIDS, I don’t need to know.” [sidebar: I asked if he asks people about STIS and HIV. His response: “LOL, Nah.” He gets an A- for effort]
“The past is the past. Unless she got an STD…. or a reputation.”
Not asking is an option… but for different reasons.
Many of the men said they wouldn’t ask a potential partner about their body count.
I broke their responses down into two categories:
- Progressive– embracing more fluid norms
- “I wouldn’t ask. There’s no reason to.”
- “It doesn’t really matter to me. Her body count has nothing to do with me. What’s past is past. As long as she’s been safe, that doesn’t bother me.”
- “Body count doesn’t matter. I don’t care about the past.”
- Traditional – embracing more restrictive gender norms
- “I don’t ask. I’m afraid to be too turned off by the wrong answer.”
- “I don’t ask that question but if she told me anything over 15, I’d be uninterested.”
- “At 28 years old and from the hood, I wouldn’t even ask. Lol. I’m really just saying I’d be scared. Lol”
People buy into J.Cole’s claim that women lie.
A few men expressed concerns that even if they asked a woman about their body count, they weren’t confident that the person would be forthcoming.
“What girl/guy is honest about her/his body count?
“Like I said, who’d be honest?”
Not everyone buys into this “nonsense”.
While I tried to be objective, I did ask one person, who I identify as the “woke man.” I knew he would give me the response I wanted making it easy for me to conclude my Feminist analysis by demonstrating that every guy doesn’t buy into this -what I describe as- nonsense.
The “Woke Man” said:
“Honestly, I stopped asking/thinking about body count back around 2007. Wasn’t my concern and they didn’t ask so I never asked. A body count is for men who are insecure. If you are worried about her past you will never or have a very hard time seeing a future with her or any Woman. At least until the body count is no longer a concern. But that’s just my thought process on it.”
He went on to explain how he reconstructed his thought process around body counts, saying:
Females I dealt with never asked me about mine and I never asked about there’s. So after a while it was never a thought in my mind. That came from experience. I grew up the same way most men did, with the same mentality that a woman shouldn’t have a certain number of bodies and things like that. The thought of your girl being with other guys is not something many can take. It an ego thing. How I learned is after I ruined a relationship because of this idea that a women should only have a certain amount of bodies, I treated her like I was doing her a favor in away, because that “you know what guy would really want to be with you, mentality was in my head”. It wasn’t very healthy it wasn’t until some reflection after the break up and even classes that I took in college about gender and women psychology that I understood why that thinking is wrong and detrimental. I guess it stems from this idea about how women should “pure.”
I love this man.
My Feminist Reflection
When I first started this blog post, I intended on reflecting on my conversations with these men, applying a gender and Feminist analysis. That was weeks ago, before “life” happened. On top of “life” it’s now Winter and as the true flower child I am, I only thrive in the Fall, Spring and Summer and have little movitation to write or do much of anything during the Winter months.
The men were authentic, unapologetic and said a lot. I could write a mini-dissertation, sharing my Feminist reflection… even on comments made by the “Woke Man,” that I would challenge– in a healthy, compassionate way. But, I just don’t have the time to do my Feminist Reflection justice at this time.
Instead, I’d like to hear from you. What do you think about what the men shared? Do you agree? Disagree? Tell me your [insert framework] reflection. I want to hear.
Eventually, I will respond.
Just not today.