'Weird New Way to Flirt' Involves Evoking the Oldest Double Standard in the BookS

The other day, a 25-year-old woman I know mentioned that "a weird new way for guys to flirt is for them to be inquisitive and ask about the girl's sexual experiences." Ew! This is a thing that is still happening?

Used to be, everyone knew that talking about your sexual history on the first date—or the first meeting—was taboo. (Note: I am talking about straight people here; I cannot pretend to understand the dating and mating rituals of the gays.) There's a reason for that. Not only does it make you look insecure and needy (whether you're a dude or a lady), but it also paints you into a corner: There's no right answer. If your number is too low or your sexual experiences too vanilla, you're boring and, possibly, a loser. If your number's too high or your sexual experiences too wacky, you're a freak. Unfortunately, it's usually the woman who's on the losing end of this conversation.

Silly old me, thinking we'd moved beyond the double standard, or even raunch in the name of equality! Welcome to dating in the aught-tens, where everything old is new again.

"This is a new trend—and a bad one," says one twentysomething lady I'll call Jane. "In the last two years before I met my boyfriend I'd say that most to all of the guys I dated asked very early on—often on the first date—how many other men I'd been with."

Jane continues: "I think the only answer they can handle hearing would be eight. Eight dudes—enough to know you're sexually desirable to other men, but not so many that you're a slut. And it seems they can never, ever get over the idea that you've been with more people with them, and most dudes don't have especially high numbers, so if you've been with more than 30 or 40 guys, you're fucked, so to speak."

A 33-year-old woman I'll call Rachel said she learned the hard way not to engage in these discussions: "A guy I was dating after college asked me how many guys I had slept with, and then, when I told him, started saying things like, 'What, me, and the 18 guys who came before me?'" says Rachel. "He also asked about the ethnicity of guys I had slept with, and then would say things like, "Yeah, you and your rainbow coalition." Obviously, this guy was a racist, jealous creep, but I also realized that sexual history persists in guys memory in a creepy way and provokes a response that other information doesn't."

On the other hand, I asked a 29-year-old guy I'll call Matt whether this is something he's done, as someone who has been forced to ford the waters of the often icky Manhattan dating scene, and he adamantly denied that this is in any way a "move" to pull. "I polled my friends," says Matt. "None of us do this. In fact, the consensus was that we don't really want to know and just assume/are in denial that it's a low number."