Visit our archive

How many sexual partners for your kids?

I was at a dinner party last weekend and perhaps the “dooziest” of doozy questions came up out of nowhere.  I should point out that I sometimes like to stir the pot at gatherings like this with crazy debates and ideas, but this time, the debate was already raging when I happened upon the scene…

All the dudes were outside and the women were all inside (as sometimes happens).  We, the men, were outside talking about nothing (not sex, sports, cars, or breasts).  I went inside to grab the barbecue tongs, when I was cornered by the women and asked for a male perspective. For the briefest moment, I was excited to represent my gender…

“How many partners do you hope your daughter has before she gets married?”


“You know, sexual partners, how many notches on her bedpost before she ties the knot??”

After I vomited in my own mouth, I stammered, “I don’t know… NONE?”

Well, I will never get that 5 minutes of my life back as I was berated from all sides – it was no holds barred on the dad with no male back up in sight!

Apparently the women had been talking about high school sweethearts, past partners, and then to sexual compatibility.  In this group of women, there was huge diversity in the number of sexual partners before marriage ranging from none to “several”.   Everyone seemed proud of their individual choices, which I think is relevant and important.

One of the more animated moms jumped up and shared her first sexual experience of being told to “turn off the lights, lie still, and be quiet!”  Her comment spoke to her simple reality that if she had never experienced sex with anyone else, she would never have known anything different.  For the rest of her adult life, she would be under the impression that all women must have 3-4 minutes of “foreplayless”, awkward and unsatisfying sex….

Then one other male sucker came in (who should have stayed out on the deck, as he was annihilated for his answer) and was asked the question.

“What?  Sexual partners should my kids have before marriage?  Well, none for my daughter, and like 15 or 20 for my son!”

The moms ripped him a giant new one.

So, if you could choose… How many sexual partners would you like your children to have before they get married?

I don’t want to start a debate of religion, saving yourself for marriage, and/or purity rings.  I know plenty of couples that are blissfully happy having saved themselves for their one and only, and describe very fulfilling sex lives.  I also know other people that preach the opposite and feel that their path to sexual fulfillment could not have been reached without this variety of sexual partners and experiences.

Knowing what you know now about sex, adult relationships, and yourself, I am asking you, if you had to choose a number for your children… what would it be? But perhaps most importantly I am asking you for your reasoning.

None? 1?  2?  5?  10?

Obviously, none of our parents gave us an acceptable number.  When you were making these types of choices, what influenced you the most? Was it peer group, the person you were dating, media, or less direct messages from your parents?

Would the number be different for your son versus your daughter?

It is?  Shame on you…

It isn’t?  Good!  Let’s not perpetuate the double standard on studs and sluts…

Reality is that the ‘times are a changin’ with kids experimenting sexually younger and younger.   I hope my children are old enough and mature enough to make good choices, but the statistics are as scary as the stories told from the back of the school bus. 

My hope is that my children VALUE sex and intimacy with their future partners.  How can we teach our children to value their bodies and that sex with someone else should be special?

I will never forget sitting beside my father’s hospital bed in Toronto after his brain surgery to repair an aneurysm.  He was severely drugged and sedated.  Over the constant beep of monitors and equipment, (later to the shock of my poor mother), he proceeded to tell me about their wedding night, ‘his first time’, how utterly terrible he was, and that “you kids today have it so easy with all this sex…”

They have been married 50 years next year so I guess they figured it out.  You may be reading this as one of the lucky ones who found your incredible partner right out of high school.  Or you may be reading this, nodding your head, knowing you didn’t discover great sex and perhaps real orgasms until you experienced different partners.

I know and accept that I have forced you WAY out of your comfort zone today and you hate me for talking about sex and your children in the same sentence. But the reality is that we are raising someone else’s wife or husband, and at some point, in the future, they will be having sex.

I want my children to understand that love and sex must to be linked together, mixed with tons of mutual respect.  All I can do is give them the tools to make these decisions.  After all, it’s their body – their choice?

Like most of my articles, my goal is not to tell you what to think, but to start the conversation (and arguments) in your circles of influence.

So please bring this idea up at your next birthday party barbecue (especially if you don’t want to ever be invited back)… Just throw it out there,

“How many sexual partners do you hope your children have before marriage?”

Then grab a drink, sit back, and listen to the fireworks (or crickets).   Either way, please report back to me on what you hear…

Until next time…



  • wow. brave ain’t ya! But good that someone brought it up because it is a subject that needs to be discussed …

    And given the countless people in the world suffering from heartache after playing the field and then have to learn to trust their partners, saving and respecting the meaning and purpose of sex has the potential to bond a couple in a way that little else can.

  • Sex bonds 2 people and you give a piece of yourself away with every encounter … I hope my kids don’t have to deal with that.

  • Sean Haughian Jun 2, 2013 Reply

    This is a really tricky one but definately worth talking about. I would use 10 as a number that hopefully either son or daughter would NOT go over..unless they married much later in life….Let’s say that if they get married between 25-30 and they start at 17 or 18 then that is about 7-12 years pre-marriage. That would allow for on average one partner on average per year. Some years may be dry ones where others may involve a long term relationship while others may have some one-nighters. Whatever the case it should be instilled that this kind of behaviour may lead to some very devastating results. Early pregnancy, STD’s may become a result. A good rule that I try to live by is everything in moderation. Too much of anything isn’t usually a good thing. But it is scary to think that if your child starts having sex at 17 and has only one boyfriend a year until marriage at 30 then that’s 13 partners.2 boyfriends a year quickly doubles this number..yikes… What about the questions: how many times with each partner and what positions??? Or why just talk about it ok to have made out/fooled around t with 50 plus people but just not always had intercourse? Like anything it will be their decision and we can only hope that they will remember some of their wise words from their parents and come to us also if they have questions or need answers.

    • Jeff Jun 4, 2013 Reply

      Hey Sean,

      Brave enough to give a number… I love it… and obviously well thought out! you bring up some good points including ‘fooling around’ with lots more… Wise words from parents always wins! Thanks for chiming in!

  • I have to agree with Leanne Hopegood here. All my kids are now married so I don’t know if anyone wants to listen to my rants. Fortunately, both my wife and I were virgins when we got married. Didn’t seem to hurt us much either.

  • Chad Miller Jun 3, 2013 Reply

    WOW! I need to brush my teeth to get the vomit taste out of my mouth…
    In all seriousness, Jeff, you make some really good points in your post. You draw the audience in with the uncomfortable question, and then make some really great points about love and sex being linked, and providing our children with the tools to make good choices and having mutual respect with their partner.
    Most importantly, whether it’s the subject of sex or otherwise, we do have to remember that we’re raising someone’s spouse. You hit a home run with that statement.
    I’m not going to give a number, because personally I’m not ready to think about my children having sex yet. But, I will commit to guiding my children and providing them the tools to make wise choices.
    Keep stirring the pot, Jeff. We need challenging conversation starters.

    • Jeff Jun 4, 2013 Reply

      Hey Chad,

      yes, I’m glad I am not the only one vomiting in my mouth — its a tough and touchy subject, but a reality. I appreciate your thoughts…
      some one else will benefit from the strong example we set 🙂 Talk to you soon!

  • Jeff Jun 11, 2013 Reply

    Sent in by – ANONYMOUS…

    The mother who ripped into you and described her first sexual experience as “lie still and be quiet” provided the perfect case in point for waiting…..not waiting for a sexual stud but for a selfless, loving, respectful and attentive man. Those characteristics don’t require having sex to discover. And sexual awkwardness is inevitable at first. Who would you rather be awkward with? Someone who is committed to you and your best? Or an immature, self-seeking partner?
    All I heard in the discussion you wrote about – and it was just a slice – was the concern over our childrens’ ultimate sexual satisfaction. And while practicing to develop some expertise in this arena outside of a committed mutually monogamous relationship may sound good in theory – we’d just be ignoring the facts of the world we live in today and the science of our brain chemistry.
    Facts: more women died in Canada last year from cervical cancer related to HPV than of HIV. HPV, Herpes and Chlamydia are the fastest growing STIs out there and are passed on through skin to skin connection therefore condoms are minimal deterrents at best. HPV and Herpes are incurable – a life long sentence. Perhaps a better question around the kitchen would have been, how many STIs do you want your children to have upon entering marriage. The number is climbing towards 1 in 3 sexually active teens….and those are reported. Many STIs don’t exhibit symptoms initially and there is no effective test for HPV so you can be a carrier and not even know it. So much more there, but a simple visit to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) website is a good wake up call.

    On to brain science: the two powerful hormonal chemicals of Oxytocin for women and Vasopressin for men flood through the brain during sex. They are referred to as “bonding chemicals”. They are values-neutral chemicals which refers to their inability to determine if this is a one night stand or even a healthy relationship. Their job appears to be to bond the partners. And if the partners do not remain bonded, the tearing carries consequences….including depression, anxiety, confusion. Repeated bonding and tearing results in a type of numbing with a subsequent inability to form committed emotional attachments

    Mental health:
    Sexually active girls are 3X as likely to be depressed as girls who are abstinent. Rate of suicide attempts for sexually active girls (ages 12-16) is 6X higher.
    Guys are more than 2X as likely to struggle with depression and more than 8X as likely to attempt suicide.
    The stats are so concerning that the AMA is encouraging doctors to check for depression along with STIs for sexually active teens.
    This speaks for itself.

    We need to stop presenting sex as solely an entertaining activity….While it can be soo incredibly enjoyable, it is soo much more than that. It bonds people together, whether they wish to be bonded or not. It is simply the way we are wired. It keeps our species going with parental oversight so that offspring are not abandoned.

    As an educator and counsellor for over 25 years, I have researched this area – for my own sons as well as the men and women I have the privilege of serving. Our society is gaining their sexual education from the media – young and old and we are losing an ability to grasp the motive behind the message.

    • Jeff Jun 11, 2013 Reply

      Hey Anonymous!

      Thanks so much for this critical insights — stats can really help people make informed decisions, but can be scary in and of itself.

      Again I am not advancing my solutions, simply starting the conversations..

  • Name (Required)

  • Email (Required, but not published)

  • Url (Optional)

  • Comment (Required)