What You Don't Know About Your Partner Can Hurt You
There are often discussions during which people bring up other people’s sexual histories and past relationships, usually as a way to measure others’ worth or values as potential partners. Many of these discussions are usually centered around women’s past behaviors, choices, and whether or not their engagement in certain sexual activities or types of relationships make them “quality women” or “marriage material”. I don’t often find that men are raked over the coals as much, so-to-speak, and do recognize that the bias is against women; we’re expected to be pristine objects for the choosing of men who finally decide they’re done playing around and want to “settle down”.
Image: Pedro Ribeiro Simoes via Flickr
There are several layers to why this is problematic, though I won’t address all of them. First, these discussions are almost always heteronormative and erase the sexual and relationship experiences of women and men who are not interested in opposite-sex relationships of intimate or sexual natures. While I’ve not been privy to a whole lot of relationship discussions among lesbians, I have had discussions in which some speak of how heteronormative expectations exist in some lesbian relationship dynamics too. Women, it seems, are subject to being assessed and assigned value based on their past dalliances, affairs, and long-term commitments, regardless of sexual orientation.
Ignorance is not bliss, so another reason these types of discussions are harmful is because they almost silence women into not feeling open about sharing their own past experiences and learning more about potential partners. We need to have these types of conversations because they could mean the difference between life and death, and that is no exaggeration. The so-called “body count” or the number of persons one has had sexual engagement with is not particularly important. Because of stigma, however, women often avoid those conversations and any related topics. Because of fear, we tend to shy away from these very important conversations that could—and should—provide us with more information to make the best choices going forward.
What’s missing from these discussions is the information that is quite important. Here are a few areas of your partner’s past that you should take into consideration before taking next steps.