Lying Between the Sheets: Is My Partner Honest About the Sexual Past?

the lies europeans and americans tell about their sex life

It’s been said honesty is one of the most important elements of success when you’re in a relationship. The more you communicate with your partner, the more in tune you are with each other’s needs and emotions. But what about when it comes to sharing your “number” with each other? You know, the number of men or women each of you has slept with before now?

To find out how comfortable partners today are with sharing the intimate details of their sexual pasts, we surveyed 1,000 Europeans and Americans about the number of people they’ve been sexual with and their opinion on what the highest (and lowest) acceptable figure is. We even asked people if they were willing to lie to pad their stats. Curious if being more sexually experienced ranks as a turn-on? Keep reading to see what we discovered.

Too Many or Too Few?

the preferred number of past partners split by gender and age

Tackling the subject of sexual partners can be tricky – too many and you may pass the threshold that’s identified as acceptable. Too few and maybe you don’t seem experienced enough.

According to our survey of 1,000 Europeans and Americans, the lowest number of partners a person could have and still be considered desirable fluctuated between one and two, with men of all ages accepting one partner. Our research found women in their 30s, 50s and 60s had higher ideal numbers than men, preferring partners who have had at least 5 sexual partners.

When it came to the cut-off point for the number of sexual partners still considered respectable, men and women had different opinions. While in their 20s, women were more forgiving of a partner who had more romps between the sheets than men. For decades, research has shown men are more willing to vocalise their sexual exploits than women, which may impact the number of sexual partners women consider acceptable among their partners.

Addressing the Elephant in the Room

when should people discuss their sexual history with their partners split by nationality

The only thing worse than thinking about how many sexual partners your significant other has had might just be talking about the significant others they’ve had.

There are a number of conversations about sex that help make a healthy relationship even stronger. One, of course, involves the conversation of sexually transmitted infections. While this doesn’t necessarily mean needing to divulge your “number,” it does mean being honest about keeping up with your history and your sexual well-being. Still, we asked our survey respondents when – if ever – they wanted to share their number of sexual encounters with their current partner.

We found Europeans were less willing to divulge this information than Americans. While 29 percent of Americans never talked about their sexual history with their partners, over 40 percent of Europeans said the same. We also found Europeans were more likely to prefer having this conversation after they’d already had sex with their current partner.

While experts on the subject may disagree as to whether sharing this information is truly vital to a healthy relationship, they can at least agree the “number” is just that – a number. Putting too much emphasis on it may spell doom for the level of comfort you have around other sexual conversations.

Secret Sexual Encounters

the top reasons people do not share their sexual history with their partners split by nationality and gender

When we asked men and women why they wouldn’t tell their partners about how many people they’ve had sex with, we found similar trends between European and American responses.

Overwhelmingly, women were more likely to say they bit their tongues on the taboo topic of “the number” because they’ve believed their number was too high. Research has found women are more likely to report lower numbers of sexual partners, while men often report higher, but when connected to what they believed might be a lie detector test, those numbers shifted closer to each other. Women are also more likely to report feeling ashamed by their sexual history when in reality, the physical and emotional perks of sex can benefit everyone.

Our survey found Europeans were more concerned than Americans that their number was actually too low, while Americans were more likely to think their number was too high – regardless of gender. Across everyone polled, more than 1 in 4 people hadn’t given up their number because they’d never been asked. Additionally, men were four times more likely to say they didn’t divulge it because they didn’t know how many past partners they’ve had.

Shame in Their Game?

the percentage of people who oversell and undersell their total number of sexual partners split by nationality and gender

While a majority of those we surveyed told us they’d be honest about the number of sexual partners they’ve had over their lives, our survey found more than 1 in 5 people across Europe and the U.S. also said they’d lie about their number to make it seem smaller than the reality.

While men and women in Europe and women in the U.S. said they “undersell” their number at 10 sexual partners, 22 percent of men in the U.S. with an average of 16 partners told us they would lie, and undersell if forced to reveal their number.

When it came to padding their results, only 1 percent of women in the U.S. and 4 percent of men would fudge their number to make it seem higher. On average, those who wanted to oversell their sexual history had between four and seven partners over the course of their lives. Men and women in Europe were more likely than Americans to lie to increase the number of people they’ve had sex with. Five percent of European women said they would falsify their number, claiming they’ve had eight or more partners, and 1 in 10 European men felt insecure with four partners, enough to bring their number up to five or more sexual partners.

How Men and Women View Your Number

how people view the number of sexual partners by nationality and gender

Feeling confident – whether it’s about your body, your sexual performance, or even your sexual history – can make sex a more pleasurable experience for everyone involved. Though experience may seem like it would help make intercourse more enjoyable, there are also other factors that lead to pleasure, and they’re not always linked to the number of partners you’ve slept with.

Of the 1,000 people across Europe and the U.S. surveyed, only 1 in 3 said the more partners someone had, the better they were in bed. Specifically, majority of Europeans felt that a higher number of sexual partners did not impact the quality of sex. No more than 8 percent of survey respondents said sleeping with someone who had too much sexual experience made their intimacy worse.

Sexual Happiness

the percentage of people who are most satisfied with their sex life by nationality and gender

Our study found at least 30 percent of people across all ages were satisfied with their sex life.

While survey participants in their 30s and 40s were the most likely to report feeling very unsatisfied with their sex life, there are a number of ways for people in long-term relationships and marriages to keep the sexual spark going. Trying new positions, acting out fantasies, or even exploring sexual satisfaction through oral copulation may help increase the number of orgasms people in long-term relationships have, and how happy they are in their relationships in general.

Our survey also found more than 1 in 4 people in their 60s reported feeling very satisfied with their sex life – more than any other age group. With 10 being the median number of partners of those in their 60s, maybe more really is better.

Being Comfortable With Your Sex Life

People told us they had an idea – both a minimum and maximum – for the number of people they felt it was OK to have slept with. A majority of men and women also told us that if asked to reveal their own sex history, they’d fib to make that number seem higher than it actually was. Ultimately, we discovered more than a third of Europeans and half of Americans thought the more sexual partners someone had, the better the sex seemed to be.

Whatever your number is, you should feel confident and comfortable with your sex life. At ZAVA, we believe in making caring for your sexual health as easy as possible. With our online prescription process, you don’t even have to leave your home to interact with our registered U.K. doctors. Our doctors help you with erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, contraception and STI test kits. Visit us online today at ZAVA to learn more.


We surveyed 500 Europeans and 500 Americans of all sexual orientations to see just how men and women lie about their sexual history. We asked questions about how individuals feel about their numbers, how they think they are perceived, their sexual satisfaction, as well as demographic questions.

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