How many lovers is too many?

How many lovers is too many?(Rex Features- Broadimage)
According to new research, ten sexual partners is the ideal number. But is it?
So what's your magic number? Is it one, three, 15 or, like some famous actors and musicians, over a 1,000? How many lovers have you had, and does it matter?
According to a new poll, the answer to the latter question is yes, it does matter. 10 is the optimum number of lovers, the poll discovered, for both men and women.
The research, commissioned by dating site SeekingArrangement.com , found that half of women and 46% of men thought that 10 was the perfect number of partners.
For most men and women, a number fewer than 10 suggested inexperience, while a number higher than 10 suggested promiscuity.
So is 10 the 'Goldilocks' number when it comes to previous partners (not too many, not too few)? And how many is too many?
Ten is the average
Coincidentally - or perhaps not - 10 is pretty much the average number of partners for British men.
According to the Health Survey for England, published in 2010, the average British man has 9.3 different sexual partners during the course of his life. Given average opportunities, most of us don't get into double figures.
In fact, the Survey also found that a significant number of men - 17% - only have one sexual partner in their lifetimes, while a quarter had slept with more than 10 partners.
There's no right or wrong in any of this, of course. It may just depend on the point in your sexual history that you meet the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, and whether the promise of everlasting love turns out to be well founded or not.
It's also true that some men deliberately avoid emotional entanglement in their 20s and even their 30s, happy to 'play the field' and remain steadfastly footloose and fancy free.
Again, there's nothing inherently wrong in that, as long as all partners know the score and nobody is being led into thinking that a one-night stand might turn into something more serious.
Whether you have had one partner or 20, one consideration is sexual health. The law of averages suggests that the more partners you have the more chance there is of coming into contact with someone carrying a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
That needn't cause undue concern, however, if you always practice safe sex, but always has to mean just that.
So experts suggest that there's no 'right' number of partners, and that men can be equally happy whether their magic number is one, 10 or 30.
When it becomes all about the chase
There is a proviso to all this, however. In extreme cases, chasing women and adding notches to bedposts can become an end in itself, which means long-term love - with all the physical and psychological advantages that come with it - never gets a look in.
The point when 'having a good time' becomes 'mindlessly chasing loveless sex' is difficult to gauge precisely, and depends to a large extent on the individual. But relationship expert and sex addiction specialist Paula Hall ( www.paulahall.co.uk ) says it can be a problem when it feels out of control, and when you can't stop even when you want to.
"Many people use multiple sexual partners as a way of soothing away emotional pain," says Hall. "While they're lost in the thrill of the chase or the final catch, they can forget about the problems or stresses of life."
In other words, chasing new partners becomes a sticking plaster for life's disappointments, and if you become addicted to the chase it can cause problems later. Most of us want to settle down in a loving relationship eventually, but those who compulsively seek new sexual experience are unlikely to be able to tolerate the constraints that being exclusively with one partner brings.
Addicts of all kinds spend their time servicing their addiction at the expense of other pursuits. Those addicted to sex, or new sexual experience, will ultimately limit their lives in any number of ways.
There's also the question of reputation. Unfairly, this may apply more to promiscuous women than men, but it's still true that many women feel intimidated by a man who has had many partners. How can I hope to tame his rampant libido, they may think, when so many other women have tried and failed?
How many is too many?
So how many sexual partners is too many? There's no simple answer. But the new research does suggest that 10 is a figure both men and women are comfortable with.
That doesn't mean you shouldn't have less and it doesn't mean you shouldn't have more - nobody has to stick to the average. And, as Paula Hall says, men are, to some extent, hardwired to chase women: "a lot of men still see getting a women into bed as a sign of their sexual prowess and their desirability."
There's nothing wrong with that, as long as proving your sexual prowess with as many women as possible doesn't become the be all and end all of your romantic existence. By all means enjoy safe and respectful sex with multiple partners, but never forget that one of those partners may be able to give you so much more than one night of fun.
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