The “PILLOW TALK” series allows anonymous kooyrigs to share intimate stories while incorporating words of wisdom, sex-ed, and sociopolitical awareness.

I sat up on his bed, we had just finished having sex. He was the second guy I had ever slept with, and he was Armenian. I remember staring at the clock on his nightstand as he sat cooling off and reflecting. It took a moment for me to look him in the eyes. Once we made eye contact, we began to chat.

After some small talk about the weather, he quickly shifted demeanor. I could tell he had something to say. It only took a moment for him to blatantly ask me, ‘how many guys have you slept with?’

Almost instantly, a stream of thoughts began to flow through my head. Why would he ask me that after sex? Did I seem inexperienced or something?

In reality, it was only my second time having sex. He didn’t know that, and the idea of telling him he was only my second partner made me uncomfortable. I didn’t want to answer his question, but I was in a pretty vulnerable position as I laid naked in his bed. So…I did what felt tolerable in that moment. I lied to him.

‘five…-six guys’ I answered half heartily, hoping he heard five more than six, or maybe even six more than five. Honestly, I didn’t know what I wanted him to think. I felt stuck. I’m a girl that doesn’t believe worth is measured in sexual experiences. I believe humans can make sexual decisions for themselves, and shouldn’t be judged for their frequency or lack thereof. At the same time, I didn’t want him to think I lacked experience or be called a slut.

He quickly responded nodding and shrugging, “Ohhh. Six. Ok. That’s not bad.”

— not bad? Then what’s bad? Where did I fall on his invisible slut spectrum? I knew I should say something back. Something sassy and edgy and full of girl power.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get myself to speak the words quickly enough. He had already jumped to the next topic while I remained stuck in my head wondering what he was actually thinking and why he asked in the first place.

Maybe he’s asking in terms of sexual health, I thought, trying to rationalize the odd experience. But then again, he never mentioned STIs. Also, the amount of previous partners you’ve had does not determine your STI status. Yes, more exposure increases risks; but even a single sexual encounter has risks. (For example, let’s assume you’ve slept with one person and that one person has had sex with 5 people, and then their previous partners have had sex with another 5 people, and theirs another 5….)

The bottom line is, even sleeping with one person exposes you to their sexual network and the global sex network as a whole. Let me take a moment to clarify that talk about sexual health is pretty important to have before sleeping with someone. What’s not important? Asking a woman questions about her sex life in order to blatantly judge it. With this bro, the latter seemed to be the case.

So, why did I try to accommodate his whack question? Here’s the honest answer:

I care about how I’m viewed by the guys I hook up with. Even as an empowered woman, I find myself consistently trying to prove that I am capable of having sex for the sake of sex. I believed that this guy would mistake my lack of experience as sexual conservatism. I didn’t want him to think I was a sexually conservative girl because those girls are followed by a stigma that claims they only have sex with people they reallllyyy like. And trust me, I did not really like this guy. I just wanted to have sex that night.

In reality, the most space he occupied was as a best friend emoji on my Snapchat recents. Our relationship consisted of selfies, banter, and calls for attention. And I’m not complaining! I enjoyed his consistency, comedy, and compliments.

Did I know for certain that his view of me would worsen if I honestly answered his question? No, of course not. But I had a good guess that he was ready to assert his opinion about my sexuality regardless once I answered his question. Ultimately, it’s important to recognize that I felt so uncomfortable by impending sexual judgement, that my immediate response was to lie.

A film roll of possibilities filled up my brain when this guy asked how many people I’ve slept with. My entire sexuality and his satisfaction was reduced to unimportant numbers. I felt that the value of the sexual experience depended on my answer, and I didn’t want to disappoint.

Trying to accommodate others’ expectations is tough- especially when you’re lying naked in their bed. The perpetuation of slut-shaming and prude-shaming only feeds into the issue. It’s hard to have positive sexual experiences when there’s an expectation to hit a sweet spot that leaves our partners satisfied knowing that we aren’t “too slutty” or “too inexperienced”.

A big contributor to this imbalance is a lack of gender equality. Gender inequality contributes to our partners unrealistic expectations and judgmental notions. Judgments that not only kill the sexy vibe, but also really impact our self esteem.

The ideal of being both sexually innocent and experienced is extremely challenging to grasp mentally, let alone physically achieve. It’s not objective. It’s unattainable. We shouldn’t feel forced to change our personal sexual preferences to fit into the “knows-how-to-throw-it-back-but-still-wifey-af Armenian girl” mold. We don’t need to fit that mold. We can be great wives, mothers, and/or independent individuals and our sex lives have nothing to do with it. Our sexual experiences, or lack thereof-do not speak to who we are as people.

I’ve given this topic a lot of thought. Enough to know I definitely don’t want to lie about my life experiences to please a bro ever again. I’m out here exposing my Armenian sex life to bring attention to the fact that judgement does follows us into the sheets. There is a serious problem when sexuality is transformed into levels and held as a social obligation. As kooyrigs, we shouldn’t have to accommodate expectations if they don’t fit our preferences. Whether you’ve had your first time at 16 or 38 or never at all, you are worthy of respect without feeling shamed for your “level of experience”. Sex and abstinence is different for everyone and it’s not up for judgement.