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What's Wrong With Counting Bodies

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“What’s your body count?”

If you’re below the age of 25, there’s a good chance you’ve been asked this bothersome question. However, for those of you who’re scratching your chins at the screen, I’ll explain. When someone asks for your body count, they aren’t asking how many people you’ve killed, they’re asking how many people you’ve had sex with.

The phrase is a recent one, usually used by younger generations in high school, college, or on Tiktok. As a college student, “body count” has become a phrase I continuously hear. Each time I’ve been asked my body count, the context was innocent. I, and whatever girl or guy I’d been talking with had stumbled upon the topic of sex. These conversations between college students tend to have a good flow. We share our experiences, likes and dislikes, and hilarious mishaps. The mood is cheery and our smiles are bright, but the introduction of body count always puts a stint in the atmosphere. It’s an awkward question—uncomfortably personal—and makes human beings out to be nothing more than nameless pleasure.

Sex, regardless of intimate relationships or one-night stands, should always be respectful. When someone chooses to have sex, they give themselves over to another person for a time. They fully expose their body and take a risk. That kind of vulnerability is no small thing . However, when body count comes into play, sex becomes a faceless act. Could you imagine being referred to as a number? Just one wasted weed among many? Body count dehumanizes intimacy. It makes sex a competition. Society dictates that there’s shame in being asked your body count and having to answer “one.” On paper, the number one in comparison to five or ten is an embarrassment, but when it comes to sex, what’s so wrong about it? There are many reasons for a person to have only one partner, and no matter the situation, that’s okay.  

Of course, there is an opposite side of the spectrum. Those people who’ve had several partners and fear criticism. No one has the right to judge another’s sex life, but body count negates that fact as well. Providing a high number, or even saying “too many to count,” invites others to give their opinion. I overheard a similar conversation at a party recently. The back-and-forth went something like this:

Man: “So . . . body count?”

Woman: “Um, a lot. Maybe twenty?”

Man: “Oh so you’re one of those.”

Woman: “What does that mean?”

Man: “You know . . . you get around and stuff.”

No matter how the woman responded to the question, the man would’ve come to one negative conclusion or another. If you answer “one,” you’re a prude, and if you answer “twenty,” you’re a desperate slut. If you don’t answer at all, you have something to hide. That might be the worst outcome of all. Answering nothing leaves room for assumptions. Oh god, are they a virgin? Or maybe they have more bodies than me. That would suck.

Relationships are another place where body count does not belong. In all relationships, there comes a time to discuss the past. It’s important to share some sexual history. What are you comfortable with? What parts of sex are familiar to you and what parts are not. Body count is an unnecessary question. A person could have sex with numerous partners and still feel new to it, or have had sex once and believe to be an expert. Even if you feel differently, bringing it up suggests that your standing with your partner will be affected by their answer. Body count is also likely to harm the inquisitor. Few people like to hear that their significant other has had sex with other people. No matter the number, body count can cause hurt and jealousy in a relationship, and in the end, it isn’t a measurement for anything substantial.

With how much society worships physicality, it’s no wonder we perceive human beings as simply “bodies.” Perhaps that’s the reason dating apps like Tinder have flourished. We don’t search for personalities, we search for targets; objects to raise our body count and give us something to brag about. It’s the material culture, and each swipe right on a pretty face is just a chance to make ourselves feel better. The remedy to this: stop counting. Be at peace with your past, and whether you’ve had two partners or ten, know that no number can ever define you.

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