Did you know that the United States ranks number 12 globally in the number of sex partners its citizens have? On average, Americans have 10.7 partners, tying with Canada. In the article, “sex” is not defined, so it’s not clear whether it’s referring strictly to male-female intercourse, or variations of sexual activity. In either case, the top three contenders are Turkey (14.5 partners per person), Australia (13.3 partners per person), and New Zealand with 13.2. The study found the global average of sex partners to be 9.
So where do you fit into the equation, and who cares about how many partners you’ve had? Well, there are definitely double standards within many cultures (including our own) in which (traditionally gendered) men are esteemed for having higher partner rates (what some people casually label a “pimp” or a “baller”) while (traditionally gendered) women with higher numbers are discredited or socially dismissed as deviants (often harassed as “sluts” or “loose”). Here at Planned Parenthood, your number of sexual partners makes no difference in our respect or compassion for you, regardless of your gender. However, we do care about your sex partner number in the context of exposure rate and safety.
Have you ever seen a sexual-exposure chart? It is a mathematical equation constructed to predict your exposure to other partners based on how many partners one has had. So, if every sex partner you’ve had has had as many partners as you’ve had, you are at risk of being exposed to every sexual partner they have had, as well. In no time, you can quickly see how your exposure rates skyrocket as your partner rate increases.
So let me give you a few examples. If you’ve had one partner, and that one partner has only had you as a partner, your exposure number is “1” because you and your partner have only exposed one another. Now, if you’ve had three partners, and they’ve each had three partners, your exposure rates quickly rises to seven. So let’s just bounce up to the global average. According to this equation, if you’ve had sex with nine people, your exposure rate soars to 511. Yep, backtrack and read that one over again: 511! Now let’s not stop there. Based on the national average of 12, the average American has been exposed to 4095 sexual partners. That is almost FIVE THOUSAND opportunities for sexually transmitted infections to spread.
So you see, we here at Planned Parenthood are serious when we talk about the risks of sexually transmitted infections. We’re not simply considering the partners you’ve had personally, we’re factoring in the risk of exposure from each sexual partner your partners have had. So this is why the higher the number of partners, the more likely we are going to emphasize your need for sexually transmitted infection testing, including HIV. One in five adults has genital herpes. One in four teenage females has/had an STI. These numbers are real, folks!
So this is why we at Feronia write posts about cervical cancer, HPV, sexually transmitted infections, and this is why we’re always chanting “condoms, condoms, condoms, lube, lube, lube!” (condoms create a barrier between genital contact, and lube helps to prevent condoms from tearing). Consistent condom use and routine STI screenings, along with honest communication between partners, can significantly reduce your risk of contracting syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, HPV, HSV, HIV and other sexually transmissible infections and diseases.
No matter how many partners you’ve had, Planned Parenthood is here for you, without judgment, to help you stay or get back on track to sexual health. Have YOU been tested lately?