I KNOW that the usual advice is not to pry into your partner’s past b/c nothing good can ever come out of it, but the situation is a little different for me. The thing is, I was raised rather conservatively (Christian) and was taught that something as intimate as sex is only reserved for people you love and trust.
This isn’t to say that I believe in abstinence until marriage, I just think that at the very least one should be in a committed relationships to even think about sex. This is relevant b/c I wish my potential partner would share the same view. So with all that being said, when is it ever a good time to discuss this?
First let me say that, although I don’t agree with your conservative views on sex and intimacy, I’ll treat them with respect. That said, it sounds like you’re asking when the best time to ask about someone’s sexual history, when you clearly hold some strong beliefs on what that history will mean. Before we get into when it’s appropriate to ask about your partner’s sexual history, let’s talk about what answer you’re looking for.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with having a preference for someone who has the same views on intimacy as you, but you have to understand that your views on sexual history are going to limit the amount of people who you’ll be able to date. Maybe it’s not impossible, but it will definitely be harder for you than someone who doesn’t hold the opinion that sex is something sacred. I have rarely, if ever, dated someone who would only have sex with me if they were in love with me. Connected? Sure. Very attracted to? Absolutely! But love before sex is such a rarity these days that I think you’re more likely to be disappointed by the women you meet than not. Again, it’s your belief and I respect your right to that belief, but you’re probably going to encounter people who flat-out lie to you, or people who disappoint you more often than you will find people with like-minded views on sex. Sure, you’ll encounter some semi-virginal women who regard sex as an act to be committed only in the most loving and trusting of situations, but it wont be very common. Unsolicited tip: Try to date within the church. The fact that you’re a rather conservative Christian means that your best shot at meeting someone who is like-minded will be through your church. Or through friends you’ve made in the Church. The secular world is a bit more, liberal, with its attitudes about sex.
Thinking about your question, and your views, raises a question that I’d love for you to answer. Do you want to know sexual history in total number of partners, or is it a “were you in love with all of them” thing? Because those things are not mutually exclusive. What if she loved, trusted, was in a relationship with, and slept with 10 different men? Surely that wouldn’t be a problem for you, because as you said sex is something only reserved for people you love and trust, so if she loved and trusted 10 men, that’s okay right? What about 15? 20? Something tells me that an existing connection and relationship really isn’t the issue so much as the total number of partners. You seem to be dancing around saying it, so let’s just put it out there. The total number matters more than the love and trust. Which is perfectly fine, because it’s your personal belief. Personally I think determining someone’s worth based on the total number of sexual partners is a shitty way to make quick moral judgements about people, but hey, that’s just me. It’s okay that you do it, it’s not my job to tell you how to think, just be cognizant of what question you actually want answered, and what answers you’ll actually accept as acceptable. You say it as clear as day, that your beliefs on sex and intimacy are important to you, and that you wish your potential partner would share the same views. Knowing when it’s appropriate to ask about someone’s sexual history is one thing, expecting a specific kind of answer is something different entirely. Let’s just be clear on that. If a theoretical partner had 1 sexual partner who she never loved, versus a girl who loved and was in relationships with 10 partners she had sex with, I’m pretty sure which girl would be more attractive to you.
Now that we’ve got that covered, let’s talk about when it’s a good time to discuss sexual history. Generally speaking, you should only discuss sexual history with someone who you are on a path to developing a sexual relationship with. There isn’t a specific time per se, but rather where you are in your relationship. If you believe that you’ll have sex on the first date, you should probably discuss their sexual history on the first date. The very last point at which anyone should have a discussion about sexual history is immediately prior to a sexual act, protected or not. Fun fact: Condoms are not 100% effective against STD/STI transmission. Every sex act is a gamble to a certain degree, so if you plan on sleeping with someone, at minimum you should discuss sexual history in terms of risks. Just to summarize, the earliest time to discuss sexual history would be when you’re both thinking of sleeping with each other. The latest point should be immediately prior to a sex act. If you’ve passed this point already, you need to have a discussion ASAP. If you’re asking in terms of number of sexual partners, the same rules apply. In your case, you might want to be upfront about your desire to date someone like-minded about sex and intimacy as early as possible, maybe even on the first date. I only say that because it sounds like a deal-breaker to you, and getting deal-breakers out-of-the-way early on is a good idea. For me, I never actually ask for a specific number of past partners so much as I try to assess my risk (i.e. “Hey, when was the last time you were tested and what did you get tested for?” and “Do you currently have an STD or STI?”). Different strokes for different folks, as they say.
The sexual history conversation will hardly ever not be awkward, but it has to happen. It will definitely be more awkward if you incorporate moral judgments into the conversation, so I wish you the best of luck the next time you have this conversation.
Good Luck Out There.