Women need to stop being shamed for the number of partners they choose to have.

Too many times, I chose to be exclusive to one person when really I should not have been. I make that choice because I feel that is what society expects of me. It seems better than the girl who has been with 10 guys, right?

I remember having a conversation once with one of my male friends. He happened to mention how when he was ready to marry he was going to choose someone 10 years younger than himself. Mind you he was in a serious relationship at the time. I was obviously shocked because I am thinking but ‘dude, you’re already in a relationship’. As we went deeper into a conversation that could have been a joke, he explained that he thought his current girl had too much sexual experience. And he wanted to marry someone with less.

This got me thinking about how his girlfriend probably doesn’t know her partner’s body count but that he has already decided on his future with her based on her body count. I wondered about the men I’ve been serious enough with to disclose my body count and whether they held this against me.

I have never had conversations with girls who cared about the number of girls a guy has been with, but it seems to be a thing with guys.

There are morally-correct societal norms to which women are held, which are not necessarily written on paper but are always in operation to police young women.  These norms are alive in our country and in our communities. And it’s drummed into us: the greater the number of sexual partners a women has, the less her her chances of finding a spouse. On the flip side, the more partners a man has, the more desirable he becomes.

I have had my own grandmother tell me bafana batokucedza, (men will finish you!). But I have never heard her say that to my brother who once brought three different girls home to my grandmother’s house in a single week!

Poet Chimamanda Ngozi put forth the idea of women being allowed to be liberated within the constraints of the male gaze when she said, “We teach girls to shrink themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful but not too successful. Otherwise, you would threaten the man.”

Although this does not speak directly to sexual liberation. It does apply when it comes to how society has normalised the idea of men being in multiple sexual relationships but demonising the same when women do it.

For me, it speaks to how, sometimes I ask myself if I decide to be with a certain number of men, what will happen when I get married. I remind myself that the man I’m going to marry does not deserve to find me on a high body count. How I think about labels like ‘whore’, ‘slut’ or ‘bitch’ when I consider another sexual partner.

And I know that the man of my future is not having these same thoughts.

This way of thinking is heavily harmless in that I believe it plays its part in the rape culture in this country. For example, when some men assume that rape is a valid response to a women who has been with numerous sexual partners.

I can recall more than a few times when someone who has been raped has been referred to as “uyafeba” which means that the person ‘sleeps around’.

A woman wanting to engage in a one night stand should not be stigmatised because it is simpy her choice and no one else’s business. Just because a woman is seen leaving the club with a different partner every night does not make it okay for her to be sexually assaulted in any way, shape or form.

As Robert Hazard said in his song, “Girls just want to have fun”; girls and every other human being should be able to have fun without having to look over their shoulder. Sexual liberation means that women should share the same freedoms as men when it comes to their sexuality and who they choose to be with. If someone makes you happy on one day. and not on the next, women should be able to walk away and not be shamed for their decision.