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I Know Who You Did Last Summer
About a month ago, I posted the blog item, How Big A Slut Are You, Girls?

Or rather, girls, how big a slut were you? And who here thinks it's a good idea for a woman to tell her boyfriend or husband how many men she's been with?

Well, I finally posted the question I answered for my column on the same topic, about a guy who's all fretsome about the number of his 21-year-old girlfriend's sex partners prior to meeting him -- 12 -- vis a vis his number of sex partners -- zippedydoodah! According to her, the guy has no reason to doubt she'll be faithful -- but that still isn't stopping him.

Of course, the problem isn't that she's had the sex partners, but that she was dumb enough to flap her big yap about it. Here's my reply from my Advice Goddess column I just posted:

Like you, he’s learned from your past. Unfortunately, what it taught him was “You Tarzan, him Jane.”

Some men you date will beg for the story behind every notch on your belt. At the same time, they really don’t want to know you even own a belt. Men have an enormous capacity for sexual jealousy. Sure, there are those who can handle the whole truth. But, give the average guy an inch, and he’ll stay awake nights with a ruler agonizing that he can’t possibly measure up. When all his hate and resentment finally knock him out, it’s time for his regular nightmare: a line of men outside your bedroom door that looks like the Israelites waiting to cross the Red Sea. Of course, he’s just the bouncer standing there with one of those customer clickers.

So, how honest is too honest? Well, if you want your insecure, recently deflowered boy virgin to feel comfy about his place in your life, taking him on a sex tour of your teen years probably isn’t your best bet: “Yes, over here we have the infamous janitor’s closet, and if you look out the window, you can see the 50-yard line and the long-jump pit…and I’ll never forget that night we broke my sister’s tree house!”

Yes, let a guy know you used to be kinda wild. As for whether you were with 12 or 20, in the conservatory with Colonel Mustard or in the kitchen with Professor Plum and Mrs. Peacock, it’s really none of his business. What’s productive in a relationship isn’t total honesty, but judicious honesty -- telling somebody what they need to know to know you: what makes you happy, what scares you, and what you want from life, not a moment-by-moment replay of what went on in the back of some delinquent’s car.

Even if you were, at one point, vying to be the Charlie Sheen of teenage girls, that doesn’t give any guy the right to spend two years punishing you for having more sex than he did. After all this time, your boyfriend’s crystal clear on whether it was vanilla or Cirque du Soleil with this one or that one, but he doesn’t know you well enough to have a grasp on what matters: Will you sleep around, not did you? Clearly, it’s his insecurity, not your ethics, that’s the problem. Will that ever change? Probably only if you change boyfriends. Look for a guy who’s secure enough to see your past as part of what made you the person he loves in the present. A guy like this understands that the only must-tell sexual history is the important medical and psychological stuff: funny uncles, communicable diseases, and whether somebody’s actually lost their virginity or they’ve just been working really hard to ditch it at the mall.

My entire Q&A is here.

Posted by aalkon at September 6, 2006 11:49 AM

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"...broke my sister's tree house..."

Um - so was this Lena?

This is the reason I read you - a tasty snack on the side of the plate!

Posted by: Radwaste at September 6, 2006 2:27 AM

I agree, it is best not to know.
Imagination can run wild.
Judicious honesty, nice, I will have to remember that one.

Posted by: B at September 6, 2006 7:45 AM

I had exactly the same experience as the woman in your advice column. We were both 26, he was a virgin, and I had been with 6 guys. I was stupid enought to tell him and he would NOT let it go. I finally broke up with him because of his incessant hounding.

None of the guys I have been with since him has asked that question, but it is a very hot button for me and I would NEVER tell a guy ever again. I'm 47 and the actual number is 65. To put that in context for guys, who have no idea what it is like to be a woman (as mentioned previously, women really are like gay men in the number of opportunities for sex that they have): 30 years of opportunities for sex, times 365 days per year, times at least 5 guys a day hitting on you (if you're attractive, that's lowballing it) equals approximately 54,000 opportunities for sex. The fact that for me it's only been 65 makes me an exceptionally selective person!

A guy would never turn down that many opportunities, so I think what is really going on, is that men are jealous that they haven't got the same opportunities that women have.

The fact that they are afraid to have a very attractive girlfriend is based on the same problem, their insecurity with the number of guys that will be hitting on you, and the sheer volume of opportunities for sex that you will have, even when you are going out with them.

Posted by: Chris at September 6, 2006 9:26 AM

So I am this girl in this column. This was not the original issue that I was asking advice on! This started as a letter to Amy asking for advice concerning my boyfriend's attitude toward my best friend and I would like to clarify that I revealed this information (about previous partners) to Amy only after she asked if there were any reason for my boyfriend not to trust me and this was the example I gave, as something in the past that he hadn't trusted me on. He doesn't hound me about this and it isn't something that has come up in a very long time. We have moved on from it.

Now I realize that I may have made a mistake in giving my boyfriend the information about my past and that I have had to deal with the effects it had on his imagination and his insecurities. But I can't reverse that and we are both young and relatively inexperienced in relationships. However, I can't just dump this guy that I am very much in love with and have a very strong partnership and commitment with to look for someone who is more secure with my past.
Especially when it the going consensus seems to be don't tell, so how will I know that someone is secure with it if I am not telling them about it?

As for the original advice, it got kind of lost in this issue and I have deleted the emails, but Amy said somethings about not having him rubberstamp my decisions about friends or anything else. I took this advice and it is definately true and has helped me set some boundaries. So thanks Amy for that.

Posted by: Blasted at September 6, 2006 11:07 AM

I think the only way to make him really move on is to take a break from the relationship, and tell him to sleep with a few more women. It will make him grow up, and then IF he comes back, at least you know it's because he prefers you. While you are apart, you should do whatever you want too (like have sex with other guys), and if you get back together, agree NOT to tell each other what you did while apart. That way you both start with a clean slate.

What you do when you are not going out with a guy is none of his business. You have to learn to set boundaries. If you are going out, you have to trust each other. If he doesn't trust you, you don't have a relationship, and you should leave him.

Posted by: Chris at September 6, 2006 1:15 PM

"I think the only way to make him really move on is to take a break from the relationship, and tell him to sleep with a few more women."

Yeah. This works all the time.

"What you do when you are not going out with a guy is none of his business."

This seems like an absurd overgeneralization to me. Does this apply to criminal records too? Your actions (past and present) define who you are.

Blasted - reading between the lines, it appears that the REAL problem is that you don't make your boyfriend feel particularly special in your life. Whether its flaunting (from his POV) your past or preferring the company of one of your "best friend" (wouldn't happen to be one of your exes, would it?), you're not showing him the affection required to keep his trust. Whether or not his needs in this area are reasonable, I leave to you. But its painfully obvious you're just not making him feel all that prized.

Posted by: snakeman99 at September 6, 2006 1:30 PM

Blasted, I did answer the question about your best friend in my reply to you, but my column is only 800 words -- and this "long question" portion of it is only 600. Sometimes, there are too many issues in one person's question to answer all of them in my column. Sometimes doing it would make for a muddled column, sometimes it would make for an interesting but too long column. Hence, I broke your question down into two parts and addressed this issue in my column.

As far as "making" somebody "feel prized," you can let somebody know you care about them, but ultimately, it's usually impossible to erase somebody's deep insecurities born of low self-worth. That should be addressed before getting into a relationship. To not do that is like showing up all sweaty and in running clothes to a dinner party.

You can't have a healthy relationship with an emotionally unhealthy person. They'll perceive the most meaningless things as slights and turn your life into a living hell - to one degree or another.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at September 6, 2006 1:56 PM

It is impossible to do anything about a guy's insecurity, because it is HIS problem, not yours. And snakman, I'm sure you tell your bootie calls about each other, in great detail. Like I said, if you are not going out with a guy, that is to say, you haven't both agreed to an exclusive relationship, what you do when you don't see him is none of his busines, and vice versa. That's why you practice safe sex. I don't think most guys understand what a no strings attached arrangement is. They think it means that they can sleep around, but you're just supposed to wait by the phone for them to call and not make any demands on them.

If there is no trust between two people, the relationship is doomed anyways, so he may as well sleep around. At least he'll get off your case and quit guilt-tripping you.

Posted by: Chris at September 6, 2006 4:09 PM

"It is impossible to do anything about a guy's insecurity, because it is HIS problem, not yours."

- Uh, no. Its actually her problem too b/c she doesn't want to dump him . . . even if you do.

"That's why you practice safe sex."

-Personally, I practice safe sex to avoid parenthood and strange growths. Not for plausible deniability.

Moi has "bootie calls"? Cool.

Posted by: snakeman99 at September 6, 2006 4:36 PM

... And I would like to thank you, Amy, on the advice concerning my boyfriend's attitude towards my best friend. It certaintly helped me answer him the next time he questioned my friendship with her. He must have understood because he hasn't since. I actually quoted you to him about how I don't need him to rubberstamp my friendships and choices. From your advice I was able to establish the boundaries that I needed to set with him, which was the real problem. I am very grateful for that advice and understand the column length issue and all. I guess I was just shocked to see exactly how that changes the emphasized issue.

Posted by: Blasted at September 6, 2006 6:26 PM

"Moi has "bootie calls"? Cool."
I thought about that after I posted that last comment-I was making assumptions about you wasnt' I? I'm glad that you were flattered. I hear that rock stars get a lot of action-do you play guitar?

I think I got a little off topic anyways.

Since the context here is a relationship, not casual sex, I think the only answer is setting boundaries. Don't ask don't tell.

Posted by: Chris at September 7, 2006 8:15 AM

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