Sex degrees of separation

A tool that calculates the number of people you’ve had indirect sexual contact with is throwing a spotlight on the importance of safe sex.

For some people it’s seven, for others it’s 67, but we bet you wouldn’t believe us if we told you that someone’s “list” (read: number of people they’ve slept with) is 2,000,007. Guess what, this might actually be your number, and you don’t even know it…

Before you scoff and get defensive hear us out: the new Sex Degrees of Separation Calculator tallies your number of indirect sexual partners, working on the premise that everyone on the planet is just six connections away from one another, even when it comes to sex. The tool asks you to enter the number of notches in your bed post and then choose the age range and gender of all of them. So imagine all the guys you’ve been with and all the people they’ve been with and… you get the picture. See why your number could be a cool million (or two) – eek!

However, before you stress out too much, Dr Nikki Goldstein, Sexologist and Relationship Expert, is calling BS on this tool: “This calculator is based on an average amount of people someone has had sex with according to their age and gender. This is in no way accurate as when it comes to sex everyone is so different and it is dangerous to assume someone in a particular age range has had a set amount of partners. It doesn't take into consideration so many other vital factors that are nearly impossible to calculate in a situation like this.”

On its website Lloyds Pharmacy, who created the tool, states: “The calculator is not a diagnostic tool but does highlight how exposed you can be to STIs if you do not practice safe sex.”

Although it’s results might be questionable, it has got us thinking about how important it is to make sure you protect yourself all the time, even if you’re in an LTR, because you really never know what you’re actually exposing yourself to. Goldstein seconds this: “What this app can do is highlight the fact that who your partner has had sex with in the past can put you at risk. Before you start a sexual relationship you should both go and get tested.”

Sex expert Chantelle Austin adds, “I think the calculator is more of a scare campaign than anything really significantly accurate, however, some people need to be scared in order to start practicing safe sex.”

So can the people your current sexual squeeze has been with previously actually endanger your health? “It depends on what level of sexual activity they have been involved in with and how safe they have been. You would think that the more partners someone has, the more likely they are to contract a STI but that is not necessarily the case,” says Goldstein. “If one person has multiple partners but has a good attitude towards safer sex and has been educated on different methods, then they might be safer than someone who only has one or two but who didn't received adequate education around sex."

We’re thinking that it’s super important to find out a bit more about your BF’s, erm, between-the-sheet history, but that can mean a very awkward discussion – do you really want to know if his number is 5 or 50?! Goldstein says that it’s not all about the actual amount of conquests, “I don't believe in numbers anyway. Should it matter if we have a lot of sexual partners or great sex with one or two people? Instead of numbers, the questions should be surrounding safety and sexual history. Have they ever contracted a STI and when was the last time they were tested?” Austin believes the most important thing to ask is: have ever had unprotected sex, even with a previous GF – and let’s hope they’re truthful. Although it might feel difficult to hit someone up with these heavy questions pre-nookie – it’s much more awkward to have herpes for the rest of your life, right?

So what are the best ways to stay safe? “There are so many different methods out there, it is important to discuss these with your partner and work out which is the best for you. The best way before you enter into a new relationship is to both get tested first,” warns Goldstein. “You might then wish to use condoms, but know that sex can never be 100 percent safe, hence why we tend to use the word safer sex. One of the most important things is to know all the facts.”

Austins suggests, “Condoms always, and if you want even more protection then use dams for oral sex with women (condoms for oral sex with men), use gloves for vaginal and anal play and always wash hands and body parts before and after. Weigh up the risks (knowing that it only takes one person to have unprotected sex just once, to contract a STI), and decide how safe you want to play. Condoms and hygiene at the very least please!”