Should we talk about previous sexual partners?

Should I tell my new boyfriend how many lovers I’ve had?

Q. I’ve met a lovely guy and the relationship is going well — sex started about two months ago.

We were chatting late one night, after a few drinks, and he asked me how many lovers I’d had. I fudged it, saying a lady never tells. I’ve been wondering, since, if I should stop being coy about my past sexual relationships. Or, are there certain things that are best left unsaid?

A. We live in a time where there is a lot of sexual freedom. Reported in the media at all levels — from TV, to radio, print and the internet — it’s now expected that we are sexually active from a young age, across a range of casual relationships.

In the Ireland of the past, there was a strong religious culture and sex outside marriage was frowned upon. For many, males and females, their first experience of intercourse was on their wedding night. This cloak of silence resulted in layers of shame about sex, often seen as an unfortunate part of man’s instinctive nature. There was little or no recognition that women had a sex drive or libido.

Today, when a woman expresses herself sexually, she has choices about when to have sex and with whom. The trouble with choices is that they can leave us with dilemmas. Personal values, your sense of yourself as a woman, and your own sexual experiences all come into the equation.

When your boyfriend asked about past sexual encounters, your first reaction was to fudge it. Given that you are still in the early stages of the relationship, it was probably the only thing to do. While nobody can tell you how to behave, perhaps you could look at different ways that you might handle the subject in future.

It’s important to realise everybody has their own sexual history. And this is your unique story. You can share it with whomever you want, but not because you feel under pressure to reveal all.

A good starting point with your boyfriend is to enquire why he asked the question. It may have something to do with his own insecurity, wondering know how he rates in comparison to past boyfriends. You might be curious, or you might not want to know.

Sex is very private encounter and you need to establish for yourself where to draw the boundary when it comes to revealing past sexual exploits.

You can look at this in two ways. If a woman has multiple partners she may be seen as sexually aggressive. Or, it could mean that she is experienced in the ways of sex. It is impossible to predict how others will respond to your sexual history.

What is important for the both of you is the present, and how you like being with each other, and that the sexual intimacy is working.

The only warning: make sure that you both respect the other and, remember, each has a past. With this in mind, practice safe and responsible sex.

* Marie Daly is a psychosexual therapist with Mind and Body Works. See: 

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