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Monday, July 2, 2007How Many Lovers Do You Have?
The average British woman sleeps with 6.9 lovers during her lifetime, according to a new survey.
But statistics rarely tell the whole story. While some women believe that more than one lover is too many, there are others seemingly happy to change partners as frequently as their handbags.
Here, SADIE NICHOLAS asks five women how many lovers they have had - and examines the emotional consequences of their sexual choices.
CHRISTINA KHATER was in her early teens when she made the decision to remain a virgin until she married.
As a teenager at a state school, her only physical contact with the opposite sex were kisses with a boy she dated for a few months at 14.
Now aged 22 and a film studies graduate, she is still a virgin. She lives in a flat in London with her 22-year-old fiancee Gabriel Wakim. She has been seeing him for three years - but they have never had sex.
"I decided that when I had sex for the first time, I wanted it to be special and I would wait until my wedding night," she explains, keen to point out that her vow of chastity is not for religious reasons.
And having watched her friends get hurt over the years, she feels vindicated in her decision.
A lot of my friends have casual flings, and I've noticed that the ones who jump into bed with someone too soon are the ones who often get hurt the most when the relationship flounders," she says.
"I'd never judge anyone for choosing to have sex with someone who wasn't their husband - but it's just not for me.
"People may be surprised that I'm still a virgin in my 20s because there's such pressure on young women to 'enjoy themselves' and, apparently, feel liberated by having lots of lovers
"Because of my choices, I never have to worry about sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy or any of the other troubles which can go hand in hand with casual sex."
Kissing and cuddling is as near as she and Gabriel get to intimacy - but Christina admits it's not always easy.
"There have been times when I've felt a physical urge to make love to him and I've had to force myself to pull back," she says. "It can be terribly frustrating."
Her mother, who is Greek, is a housewife and her father is director of a civil engineering company, and Christina describes her upbringing as "normal".
"My parents are in no way responsible for my decision," she insists. "It's something very personal to me."
But while Christina may be a virgin, her husband-to-be is not. "Gabriel's had sexual partners before, but I don't know how many. I've never asked."
When they started dating, she told him she was a virgin and would be until she married. Inevitably, Christina feared that her fiancee might look elsewhere for physical satisfaction.
"But he respected my decision, and here we are three years later. We plan to marry in the next two years, and consummating our marriage will be all the more special because we have waited."
ANNETTE LEDBROOK has only ever slept with two men: the boyfriend to whom she lost her virginity, and her 29-year-old husband Daniel, a management accountant.
The couple live together in Quinton Village, Birmingham, with their children Oliver, five, and 14-month-old Harriet. Annette is expecting their third child later this year.
She says it was the sexual activity she witnessed as a teenager that put her off casual sex.
Raised in a middle-class, Christian household in Birmingham, she insists her parents were not strict, and after attending a Church of England primary school she went to an ordinary mixed comprehensive.
"As a teenager, I wasn't that interested in boys - I wanted to concentrate on my schoolwork and make my parents proud.
"Also, I comforted one friend who was going through the agony of an abortion, and I didn't want to be like that. Yes, I was the butt of jokes from friends who thought I was a goody two shoes - but I didn't care.
"I hung onto my virginity until I was 20, at university, and had been with my first boyfriend, a fellow student, for a year.
"He was a virgin, too, so it was a big deal for both of us and we planned it meticulously, booking a cottage in Wales for a weekend. We wanted it to be special."
After another year together they split up. Annette continued studying management and accountancy at a college of further education in Birmingham, and not long afterwards she met Daniel.
"We knew from the start that ours was a special relationship, and we first had sex after four months," she says. "He'd only had one lover before me.
"I did once ask him if he regretted not being a bit of a Jack the lad - but, like me, he much prefers what we have. I don't ever look back and wish I'd slept around.'
Despite their growing family, Annette insists: "We still have sex most days.
"People ask what our secret is - it's simply that we are totally in love and continue to invest the same effort in making one another feel as special as we did in those early days.
"I love the intimacy of sex with Daniel. He still makes me feel like a sexy, gorgeous woman - not just a wife and mother."
Until three years ago, 37-year-old JO KINGSTON had only had six sexual partners - but in the following two years she notched up another 15.
It happened after the PA, who works at a major London tourist attraction, split up from her long-term boyfriend and started internet dating.
"A couple of them were short-term relationships, while others were one-night stands. It sounds a lot, but it's only one every two months - which I don't think is so bad.
"I surprised myself, though, in the way that I managed to detach sex from emotion in the same way men can."