What you need to know:
Whatever number a woman gives she will be judged. Too many people—Slut. Too few—Prude. None—Why? What’s wrong with her?
What is your body count? Eunice Kisilu has been asked this question by three out of the four men she has dated and engaged in sexual intimacy with. This is a question that many women are regularly asked. “The men I have dated, they want to know how many other men I have had sex with," she says. "I once told a guy that my body count is 10 and he never spoke to me again."
Before 'Body count' became a sexual phrase, the term was used in reference to the number of soldiers who had died in the war. The term has now metamorphosed into a tool that by and large is being used to shame women on the basis of their sexuality. According to sex therapist Samuel Wamiti, many men have strangely been interested in knowing what they perceive as previous sexual competition. "This question has always been there in form of questions such as 'How many men have you dated before?'. The difference is how it was framed and how it is now phrased," he says. "Nowadays, it is a black and white question that tears into the very core of a woman's privacy."
Kisilu concurs. She says that whenever she is asked about her body count, she feels as if her potential partners are hinging her worth and morals as a human being on the count of men she has slept with. Fridah Gathoni is the other woman who is tired of being asked what her body count is. On Valentine’s Day this year, she abandoned her date after he insisted on knowing her number. “I found it very insulting. It’s literally being asked the status of my womanhood. That’s too personal and insulting,” she says.
Over the recent few weeks, this question has gained so much popularity that it has become part of trendy videos and memes on social media channels such as TikTok with the hashtag #bodycount getting more than 286.9 million views.
It appears men will not tire of asking about it. Take Jackson Mutua. He says that knowing a woman’s prior escapades helps him gauge whether she’s wife material.
“It is important for me to know. It is how I tell if you are a loose woman or if you have tight morals,” says the 33-year-old architect. He adds that he finds difficulty dating a woman who has been with more than three men. “No one will ever say their true count. So if you say that you have been with one man, I imagine that the actual number is two or three. If you say four, then I imagine that the actual number goes up to 6 or even 10,” he says.
Given the obsession, it’s no wonder many women’s safe number is three. A 2013 research by MyCelebrityFashion.co.uk found out that women play down their number of conquests when talking to a new flame while men, keen to maintain their player image, dial theirs up. Street talk has it that women divide their partner total by three when divulging the details to a new paramour, while men multiply their tally by three.
This urge to either increase or decrease body count is due to social expectations that men with higher numbers of sex partners are impressive compared to women with higher numbers who are seen as promiscuous.
“Historically, men will tend to exaggerate the number of sex partners they have been with. Women will tend to decrease this number,” says Wamiti. His sentiments are echoed by a research study that looked at the average rate of sexual partners in the United Kingdom and the United States. This 2016 study by Superdrug established that 41.3 percent of men and 32.6 percent of women lie about their sexual history.
Mutua says that he will break up with his woman if he realises that she has had more than four sexual partners before him. “It is worse if her body count is higher than mine,” he says. “I will keep on imagining why she went out with all those guys. I will wonder how I compare to them, if I am any good, and where I rank in her list,” he says. His fears are reflected by Superdrug’s research which found that up to 30 percent of people are likely to break up if they find that their partners had many sexual partners, compared to only three percent of people who will break up if their partners had two or fewer sex partners.
Wamiti says that lack of proper sex education has given space for sexual myths to grow. “Today, there is a man who believes that sleeping with more than two men makes a vagina lose. I have also heard weird stories of men who test if their wives have cheated by how tight their penetration is during intercourse, regardless of foreplay and lubrication," he says.
For 38-year-old Maggie Cherotich, asking about former romps is the quickest way to spot a man's reproductive ignorance. "This is a turn-off. It shows you don't know how a woman's body works," she says, adding that she will not date a man who asks how many men she has been with.
Incidentally, there are also women who regard men with a higher body count as more experienced. “A man who says his body count is one or two is not very exciting to be with. He is probably very unskilled in the bedroom. I don’t want such a man. I don’t want to teach him things he should already be experienced in,” says 28-year-old Peris Wangari. The legal practitioner says that she will accept a man whose body count is between five and 10, but not more. “Over 10 sexual partners are way too many. But within five to ten gives him that edge,” she says.
According to sociologist Solomon Muragu, it is not just people looking to engage sexually who are interested in women's sex lives. "Socially, people want to know other people's dirty secrets. Sex lives make for juicy gossip and tales, which is why a woman’s story of being hyperactive in the bedroom will always go viral," he says. Muragu further opines that this is one of the primary reasons why women are judged based on how many men they choose to have sex with, and how soon they do it. "When the number is too high, the woman is judged as loose. When the sex is too soon, the woman is judged as loose," he says. "Ironically, the men in these equations are judged as sexual heroes."
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