I burned the list the week we moved. I was packing my journals into a cardboard box, and rediscovered a diary that I had kept since elementary school. It was a shock to see it after so many years. Behind the childish scrawl of Victorian nannies falling in love on the moors (oh hush, I have a soft spot for melodrama) I had a list of all my sexual partners since I lost my virginity at seventeen. I stared at the list of numbers and names, memories flowing through me like water.
#3 through 5 – the Brians *I will never have sex on the beach without a blanket again!!!!
#9 – J with the cock that was so big it almost didn’t fit (my vag has super powers!)
#13 – first bathroom blowjob
#25 – Javier in Otavalo, futbol y sexo
#31 – M upstairs at the Greek restaurant (note to self: stop seducing my employers)
#41 – H and sex in office stairwell–incredible echo!
I had forgotten some of the men completely, and I was appalled that seeing their names in print didn’t shake loose any memories. As I sat there reading, I felt like I was looking at the past of a woman completely separate from me. I was reading the sexual adventures of a woman who was exploring herself as much as she was fucking others, someone sexually vibrant and alive. Like some exotic animal I could read about but would never be able to touch. That woman wasn’t me any more. I had buried her a long time ago just as I had hidden away the journal.
The list was damning evidence. If my husband had found it, the lies I had cast to cover my sexual experience would be blown to pieces. I would be outed as a slut, and my life made more miserable for having lied for all the years of our marriage. When we were first dating and in our twenties, he had asked me how many sexual partners I had in the past. I replied with what I thought was a socially acceptable number. I told him eight men, because I figured ten would be too far from his number of four. Eight sounded plausible and less like a lie. Not too low and not too high, and it was easy to remember.
In my exuberance for wanting to make our relationship work, I mistakenly thought that I could teach him a few things in the bedroom. Unlike the men who had gone before him, my husband wasn’t one of the sexually corruptible. No, he held firm to his belief that sex was something to be embarrassed about, and after one Sunday of convincing him to have sex three times, he told me that I was out of control. And still I was determined to marry him.
Silly, silly Heather…
The topic of the sex list sparked several conversations with my current partners, and I realized that none of them had ever asked for my list. Part of it is maturity, I think, and part of it is living in a sex-positive environment. I’m not afraid to give a ballpark number these days, but the good girl inside still gives me a kick in the gut when I do. Despite all my open partners and incredible sexual experiences, part of me persists in thinking that it’s shameful to have that many notches in my stilettos. And sometimes my good girl needs to shut the fuck up.
I’m trying to reframe the information the list provided. Instead of making a judgment, I’m trying to look past the black and white and see the young woman that I was. I learned so much about myself in that time period, and without the blanket of condemnation obscuring it, I’m able to feel her fire and passion and love. I see her mistakes and failings. I remember being scared of the desires I was exploring, the spankings and teeth marks I began to crave. And I see her loneliness, her fear that she really was out of control and somehow a bad person.
I also see the woman I was when I burned the list, and I weep more for that time in my life than the crazy sexual adventures that preceded it.
I know that my past doesn’t create the summation of my totality now. I may still contain pieces of that promiscuous young woman and the unhappy wife, but my adventure for this stage of my life is only beginning. I still consider myself a slut, but I say that with love and acknowledgment of my powerful sexuality. These days I’m a discerning slut, mind you, but I have the sex drive to rival a seventeen-year-old boy. I also love like a wildfire and am fiercely loyal. And I refuse to be ashamed of any of it. The details of my sex list are unimportant really. What counts is that I know who I am.