Society places heavy importance on sex life

Stephanie Casanova

While people may be hesitant to admit how many sexual partners they’ve had, many UA students said they don’t think it matters. There may, however, be some social assumptions tied to the question of how many partners a person has had.

Jill Verbridge, a nurse practitioner at Campus Health Service, said the questionnaires people fill out when getting tested for sexually transmitted diseases ask how many sexual partners the person has had because having more partners can lead to a higher risk of having an infection.

The answer to that question doesn’t change the testing process or the prevention education people receive when they get tested. It’s more important that people are smart about using protection when having sex, regardless of the number of partners they choose to have sex with, Verbridge said.

“It only takes one,” Verbridge said. “It matters if people are protecting themselves or not.”

Being familiar with a partner and their sexual history also helps reduce the risk of getting STDs, she added.

According to Campus Health Service, in 2013, 70 percent of UA students reported being sexually active that school year, and 4 percent of students reported having six or more partners in a year.

Nathan Maynard, a pre-business freshman, said having had a lot of sexual partners isn’t a huge deal and shouldn’t matter because it’s a personal choice. There is, however, a double standard in how society views what’s OK regarding how many sexual partners a woman has compared to how many a man has, Maynard added.

“[Society wants] women to be … virgins until they’re married,” Maynard said, “but they want men to be out there all the time getting it on. You can’t really have that and congratulate one and look down on the other.”

Alexandra Brooks, a mechanical engineering freshman, said people should personally know when they’ve had too many partners based on whether they start building a bad reputation because of how many people they’ve had sex with. Women seem to be talked about more and seem to care more about their reputation, Brooks added.

“A lot of the time, you hear about a woman being a slut,” Brooks said. “I occasionally hear a man be called a man whore. … The couple [of] guys that I’ve known who’ve been called that … just treat it kind of like a trophy.”

This double standard creates cultural problems that go beyond how many partners people have had sex with, said Mari Galup, a Ph.D. student in gender and women’s studies who teaches Women and Western Culture. People often make assumptions that someone has a lot of sexual partners because of the way they dress or how they act, she added.

These assumptions can also lead to value judgment or justifications as to why women are sexually abused or harassed, Galup said.

“Women are seen as losing their reputation when they sleep with a lot of people,” Galup said, “and men are seen as gaining a good reputation. They get built up by that.”

Ellie Wood, a gender and women’s studies graduate student and a teaching assistant for the course Sex, Health and AIDS, said how much people actually care about their reputation depends on how they were brought up and how they were educated.

“There are people who, very much so, were brought up with open-mindedness, as well as their education, and realize that someone’s sexual activity doesn’t define their morals,” Wood said.
“They’re not going to give you trouble for having more than one sexual partner in your life.”

The number of sexual partners people have shouldn’t matter as long as people are following and supporting their personal beliefs, said Mark Fleckenstein, a systems engineering sophomore. Being in love with a sexual partner is also an important factor, he added.

“I think if you’re genuinely in love, I think that’s a good enough reason,” Fleckenstein said. “But I think it’s different for everyone.”