Have you ever lied about the number of sexual partners you’ve had? I certainly have.

Sex is the most intimate act we engage in with our partners. Stripped bare and exposed to our significant other, when making love it is hard to hide anything we might consider an inadequacy. However, outside of the bedroom, nothing as a topic seems to be more open to exaggeration, manipulation or a well-oiled massaging of the truth than copulation.

In an age when even a future president of the United States can openly boast on live television about the size of his penis, we live in a world obsessed with projecting an image of ourselves that lives up to the sexual ideals of society. For some, overstating the body count left in the wake of their sexual conquests may be an attempt to emulate the Bondian masculinity that pervades popular culture. For others, sanding off a few notches on the bedpost could be a way to move closer towards a ‘chaste’ femininity, inculcated into Western society as the ideal by Christianity for over a thousand years.

In my case, I lied about the number of people I had slept with in the heat of the moment, after my boyfriend had divulged to me how many people had crossed his threshold. Shocked by the number –and feeling an irrational pang of retrospective jealousy – I tried to appear as pious as possible (as one can be when divulging such details) by telling him I had slept with only three people – and conveniently omitting the other three (OK, four).

But it seems I am not alone in the cooking of my sexual books. A survey on people’s sexual histories conducted by Superdrug Online Doctor revealed that 8.2% of women and 17.5% of men had exaggerated the number of previous sexual partners, while 18.6% of women and 13.7% of men had lowered the real figure. But I suspect these numbers may be higher. After all, can we really be trusted to tell the truth when it comes to sex?

In the end, I told my boyfriend the truth. I realised the number of people I or he had slept with – whether high or low – had no bearing on our relationship in the here and now. Actually, being open and honest about our sexual histories helped to bring us closer together, in more ways than one.

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