Men that have bedded many women and have wild sexual pasts may be idolised by a great deal of males, but is having lots of partners healthy?
Sports fans have probably heard of Wilt Chamberlain. If you haven't, then he's the late NBA star who once boasted that he'd slept with 20,000 women. Just the other day English actor Bill Roache he stars in the soap Coronation Street admitted to sleeping with over 1,000 women.
Roache's apparent number falls way short of Chamberlain's ridiculous claim (if it were true, the 7ft athlete would have needed to bed more than nine different women each week from the age of 15 to 55), but it's still far beyond the comprehension of most men.
What's interesting is that both these sexual icons have expressed indifference and a bit of regret at their sexual past.
"I didn't have any control over my own sex drive," Roache said. "What I did find out is that it does not bring you happiness and is not the way to be. I had the opportunity, I indulged it, and I can tell you this: it's not worth it."
Chamberlain echoed similar sentiments before his death in 1999. "All of you men out there think that having a thousand different ladies is pretty cool," he said. "I have learned in my life that having one woman a thousand different times is much more satisfying."
Easy for them to say, of course (and other members of the 1,000-plus club, like Charlie Sheen and Julio Iglesias), but are they serious? Is sex with a lot of women not the way to happiness? And if 1,000 is far too many, what's the perfect number?
It's fair to say that most of us don't have the opportunities of playboy celebrities. According to research conducted by The Health Survey for England last year, the average man has 9.3 different partners during the course of his life twice as many partners as women reported.
A New Zealand survey conducted by Marie Claire in 2010 found that Kiwi girls have an average of 20.4 partners in their lifetime. The survey found blokes with the highest number lived far away in Austria where they scored an average of 29.3 partners.
It appears the numbers fly up and down depending who you ask. And, are people being honest? If no, why?
No right or wrong
Sleeping with around 10 women isn’t necessarily the 'right' number. It's probably true to say that many men would jump right in if more opportunities arose, and indeed over a quarter of The Health Survey study's male respondents said they'd had sex with more than 10 different partners.
Which is fine, of course. While some men meet The One early in their sexual careers, others are happy to 'play the field' well into their 20s, 30s or beyond. Experts say that having many more partners than the average is not in itself a problem.
But there are a couple of provisos to that.
Most obviously, the more women you sleep with, the more chance you have of catching a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
If you sleep with 1,000 women there's a decent chance not all are meticulously planned encounters. Having sex with multiple partners becomes a health issue if your desire for another notch on the bedpost overrides your common sense. If you don't have a condom, you shouldn't have sex.
And even if you always carry one or two around (you know, just in case), condoms are no guarantee against either unwanted pregnancy or an STI. Studies have reported breakage rates during vaginal intercourse ranging from 0-6.7 per cent. Most studies report that condoms break less than 2 per cent of the time during intercourse.
That makes them a pretty reliable method of contraception and disease prevention. But the more sex you have, the more likely you are to experience a condom failure. The more women you sleep with, the more likely that failure is to occur with someone carrying an STI.
Still, we shouldn't scaremonger. Men who sleep with multiple partners and use condoms consistently and correctly are unlikely to experience too many issues with pregnancy or physical health.
But what about mental health? Can constantly chasing women lead to psychological issues? Experts think that, in extreme cases, it can.
There's no magic number, and no precise cut-off point when being a bit of a player becomes something a little more sinister. But Paula Hall, a relationship expert and sex addiction specialist, says that it can become problematic, "when it feels out of control. When you can't stop even though you want to. When it's getting in the way of you doing other things with your life that you'd rather be doing."
Even if you never reach 1000 partners, the desire constantly to chase sexual novelty can be a sign that something is wrong in other areas of your life.
"Many people use multiple sexual partners as a way of soothing away emotional pain," says Hall. "While they're lost in the thrill of the chase or the final catch, they can forget about the problems or stresses of life."
Relationship expert Elly Prior agrees and says that sleeping with 1,000 women or anywhere near is a sign of addiction. "Any addiction has a negative impact, as the primary need becomes servicing the addiction with an ever increasing urgency, whether sex, drugs, alcohol and whatever it might be," she says.
Prior also makes the point that any future long-term partner may be intimidated by a particularly adventurous sexual history. How can she keep you sexually satisfied when so many other women have failed to tame your rampant libido?
Paula Hall says this type of behaviour often creates lasting problems. Even players want to be loved eventually, but a compulsive need for fresh sexual experiences makes long-term love unlikely.
"Without the intimacy that a committed relationship can bring, many people find their life feels meaningless and so they drown their sorrows in more women," she says.
"In time this can develop into an addiction in the same way as any other, leaving its sufferers feeling unworthy of the love they so desperately crave."
The magic number
So what's the magic number? In truth, there isn't one, though most experts agree that Roache's 1,000 or Chamberlain's claimed 20,000 isn't it.
There's nothing wrong with sleeping with one woman in a lifetime. Equally, there's nothing wrong with sleeping with many more than the average, if you always use condoms, always take the feelings of the other party into account and never let the quest for new sexual experiences become the be-all and end-all of your life.
What do you think?
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