Part of advice columnist Carolyn Hax’s response to a letter asking about etiquette for not telling sexual partners how many have stood where they stand (so to speak) jumped out at me (emphasis added):
… since dismissing people as judgmental and insecure without giving them a chance to speak for themselves could reasonably be considered judgmental and insecure behavior, a good answer to the numbers question would be “Do you think it matters?” And if yes, then, “Why?”
If you get the “truth is important to healthy relationships” line in return, or some other guilt-generating vehicle, please don’t question the need to resist this blatant invasion of self. There is a huge, gaping difference between telling a significant other you think it’s distracting, silly, juvenile, pointless, judgmental, shame-centric and conducive to paranoia to discuss numbers, and lying.
Shouldn’t romantic relationships entail a turning over of self? Little wonder our society is so out of whack when it is apparently a mainstream notion that freely chosen sexual partners should be suspected as pillagers on a probationary basis.
The sad misconception of the advice is that, if the promiscuity tally is to be taken as meaningless, it must be because it does not matter and is minimally relevant to self, to who one is. But it does matter, and we all know it matters, thus necessitating the airy use of post hoc masks such as “invasion of self.” As if to say, “Don’t look there, because that is my private self and has nothing to do with who I am.”
The unraveling of our collectively knotted psychology is going to take centuries, and we’re apparently not even done spinning it.