Thea de Gallier | contributor | Friday, 1 May 2015

In Defence Of Making A Sex List

Calling Bullshit On Writing Your Sex List

The Debrief: Why are we so obsessed with recounting every sexual encounter we've ever had?

By the time I reached number 18, I was struggling. Was it Owen or Ollie? Jason or Josh?

I wasn’t a teacher trying to memorise the names of a new set of pupils, nor was I compiling a list of potential baby names. Instead, I’d set myself the mammoth task of remembering every single person I’d slept with, and honestly, GCSE algebra was easier.

That was five years ago, and I eventually made my way to the end of the list, but it took a while. I was in my grotty university bedroom with two friends busily list-making beside me. We realised that we all had at least two conquests in common (Lincoln University isn’t known for its wide pool of potential suitors) and that our ‘numbers’ had shot up at an alarming rate since we started uni.

‘First one who reaches thirty wins,’ declared one friend, taking another sip of cider from the saucepan (Lincoln University students aren’t known for their crockery-owning skills). And that was the point it all started to go downhill. This is why you should never write your sex list: 

Sex-List Envy Is A Thing

What started as a kind of shag-themed personal quiz with a peppering of drunken regret suddenly became a competition sport. My list was already a damn site healthier, for want of a better word, than the members of the chess society, but that one throwaway comment about reaching thirty wouldn’t leave me. I couldn’t possibly let Friend A or Friend B reach their thirtieth conquest before me, and what’s more, I couldn’t let them bed Fit Fred*. His name had to make it onto my list first.

We all had our eyes on Fit Fred – a tattooed barman who was sometimes seen walking past our student union, resplendent in his hoody and Nikes – and I’ll admit that I would have been disappointed had one of the girls manage to shag him before me. At the time, it didn’t even feel weird that I was basing my self-worth on my ability to procure a penis before someone else. It felt like the done thing, because everyone seemed to take great pleasure in reeling off their ever-increasing list of conquests to each other.

Before you scoff and insist that we must have just moved in incredibly horny circles, research proves otherwise. When I posted on Twitter that I wanted to talk to other sex list-makers, the replies dropped steadily into my inbox.

‘I’m not ashamed to admit I made a list a few years ago,’ says Emma*, 23. ‘It was fun doing it with friends at the time, but looking back, it made me realise I wasn’t having sex for the right reasons. I began resenting one friend because she’d slept with someone I liked – I wouldn’t have even known if it wasn’t for our lists.’

It Becomes A Numbers Game 

‘Having more people on my list than my friends made me feel like a sex goddess at the time,' says Laura*, 24, of the list she made in her first year at uni (clearly a peak time for sex-list making). ‘But I’m not sure I’d feel the same way about that now.’ 

Of course, nobody should attach any moralistic symbolism to the amount of people they’ve slept with, but all it takes is a sizeable sex list to penetrate (soz) your mind with self-doubt.

Conversely, it’s easy to get all about the list and forget about the actual living, breathing people you’re sleeping with. ‘My friends and I did this in our late teens,' says Eve*, 26. ‘Most of us were single, but it almost became more important to get fit guys on our lists than to sleep with people we actually liked. I feel a bit weird about that now.’

Others have found that they’ve developed healthier attitudes to sex as a result. 

‘It used to be like a competition, but now I find it odd how much kudos we attached to who we were sleeping with at uni,’ says Siobhan*, 25. ‘I’m kind of glad I went through that phase, because I did become a lot more confident about my body, but I’m more discerning about my partners now.’

Although They Can Be A Handy Administrative Tool 

There is one occasion when a sex list can actually be worth their weight in cheap note paper. One of the worst things about finding out you’ve caught an STI is the dire warning from the nurse that if you don’t tell your previous partners, they will become infertile and die. That, and obviously having the infection in the first place.

This is where the sex list comes into its own; if you’ve been diligently adding every shag, you’ll know exactly who to tell. And, as I found out, it actually makes you feel better. Yes, it’s excruciating sending the ‘I need to talk to you,’ text and awaiting the replies as you nurse a bowl of self-pity Super Noodles, but knowing that you’ve done the decent thing in a shitty situation does make you feel the tiniest bit better.

Also, if you have a genuinely shit memory, then it’s definitely something to think about. 

‘I genuinely needed to make one to remember who I slept with,’ says Maria*, 25. ‘Not because I was out shagging loads, but because I have a terrible memory. I wouldn’t want to be halfway through a conversation with someone then suddenly remember I’ve been there and that it was a bit shit.’

So yes, sex lists can serve a purpose, but will I be updating mine any time soon? No way. Swift, unattached shags can be brilliant fun and shouldn’t come with a side order of shame – discovering and embracing your sexuality can be incredibly liberating and exciting. What it shouldn’t be is a competition, or a reminder of that one crappy, floppy fumble we’d all rather forget. Throw down the pens and paper, ladies, and have sex with as many – or as few – people as you’d like. 

Oh, and Fit Fred? I did sleep with him. It was disappointing. Which is probably all you need to know. 

*Names have been changed

Liked this? You might also be interested in: 

The Disappearing Men Of Tinder 

Sex Toy Maintainence 101

Five Deeply Overrated Sex Acts 

Follow Thea on Twitter @theaestelle

 

Tags: Sex, Sex O\'Clock