Understanding Body Count In The Context Of Teen Sexual Health: A Guide For Parents

Understanding Body Count In The Context Of Teen Sexual Health: A Guide For Parents

If Love Island has taught our teens anything, it’s that at some point, you’ll be asked your “body count” (that’s the number of people you’ve slept with to you and me). And the answer could weigh heavy on the heart or uplift the spirit. Either way, it’s an important discussion to have with your young adult. 

In today’s adolescent society, it’s one of the most talked-about topics in friend groups and on dates. So, there’s no getting away from it. But it won’t feel so scary once we’ve explained all the ins and outs. Consider this your ultimate guide to understanding body count, why it matters, and how to talk about it. Share it with your friends; they likely need this help, too!

Body Count and It’s Significant to Teens

As we’ve already mentioned, “body count” is the slang term used by Gen Z to refer to the number of people they’ve slept with. Generally, this number includes only those they’ve had sexual intercourse with and doesn’t include other sexual activities.

Teens will likely come across/use the term in their friend groups, during party games like Truth or Dare, and when chatting to somebody they have a romantic/sexual interest in. For example, they may choose truth while playing the classic party game, prompting somebody to ask, “What’s your body count?” To reply, they’d state the number of people they’ve had sex with. 

No matter your gender, body count means the same thing in the relationship realm. However, why it’s become such a talking point is a different story…

Why Has Body Count Become a “Thing?”

It’s become a “thing” (as Gen Z would say) because there’s an inherent stereotype that comes with both high and low numbers. And yes, these stereotypes do come with gender biases. 

For instance, men with higher body counts are lauded, while women of the same age and with the same number of partners are considered less than. On the other hand, men with lower body counts are seen as less than, while women are praised.

Of course, this assumption is highly generalized, but it’s this way of thinking that is dominating teens’ minds. They’re worried about having a low and a high body count. Plus, they’re often stressed about their parents finding out about any of their sexual activities, let alone the frequency — and this is where your challenge lies.

Talking about body count with your adolescent is essential. But they won’t necessarily be happy about it. 

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Addressing Misconceptions and Stereotypes

As we have already briefly discussed in the previous section, there are plenty of stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding body count. Ranging from the common, “a high body count means you’re promiscuous” accusation to the lesser-named but still widely felt, “your body count dictates your worth,” maxim, myths and body count are never far apart. 

But myths and stereotypes aren’t fact. So, before we go any further, allow us to dispel some of the most recurrent misconceptions:

Myth 1: High Body Counts Equal Promiscuity

People, especially teens, are quick to assume that a high body count means the person is promiscuous. And while that may be the case, it’s worth remembering that everybody’s journey is different. Thus, making assumptions based solely on a numerical value may be inaccurate. 

It’s worth understanding the length of previous relationships, at what point these partners were in their life, and their varied experiences before jumping to conclusions. 

As previously mentioned, the negative side of this myth often falls upon women, while the positive side of it typically falls upon men. Having many sexual partners is considered “laddy” — a beneficial trait for guys to have in most corners of the teenage dating world. 

Myth 2: Low Body Counts Equal Morally Oriented

On the other hand, people with a low body count aren’t automatically more virtue- or morally oriented.

The reality is that individual beliefs and boundaries lead them to make decisions for a variety of reasons, religious or otherwise. Regardless of the driving force behind the choices that led to a low body count, they must be respected for their decision, yet not held in higher virtuous esteem just because they haven’t had sex with many partners.

Put simply, body count is a decidedly personal matter — your body, your choice.

Myth 3: Body Count Dictates Your Worth

Contrary to widespread belief, body count does not indicate a person’s value to the world. Whether it’s high, low, average, or non-existent, it doesn’t dictate worth.

That said, this can be hard myth to dispel in teenagers’ heads. They’re already living in tumultuous times (puberty, navigating friendships, trying to do decide what to do with their lives), and this unhelpful belief is unknowingly spilling over and damaging their self-esteem — sometimes with the “help” of friends, siblings, and people they follow on social media.

Myth 4: Body Count and Risk Go Hand-in-Hand

Sexual health, particularly during exploratory teen stages, is essential. However, the risk does not lie in the number of partners somebody has. Realistically, the risk likes in practicing unsafe sex, failing to get tested regularly when engaging with multiple partners, and not communicating sufficiently with the other person (or people).

Through your discussions about body count with your teen, you can express (in an open-minded, empathic way) concerns about sexual health and ensuring your child knows various protection methods.

Myth 5: Body Count Is a Relationship Success Indicator

People are quick to assume that those with higher body counts are unable to be in a committed relationship. But that isn’t the case — the number of sexual partners somebody has had doesn’t always correlate to the success of their current or future relationships. 

Generally speaking, relationship success is determined by communication, compatibility, and trust, rather than either body count. Focusing on the past isn’t fruitful in this regard.

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Myth 6: Judging Others Based on Body Count Alone is Justifiable

Unfortunately, we’ve saved the worst for last (arguably). Everybody makes judgments, but it’s unfair and cruel to judge somebody based solely on the number of people they’ve slept with. Yet sadly, it happens a lot in the teen dating world.

As you can see, there are many unhelpful myths about body count circulating the modern dating scene. Therefore, you need to approach related discussions with compassion, empathy, and a non-judgmental mind. Teenagers are dealing with an incredibly complex, nuanced romantic/sexual world; they need adults who’re level-headed and open-minded to keep them safe.

Promoting Healthy Attitudes and Behaviors

Whether you feel awkward about it or not, you (i.e., the parent) need to promote healthy attitudes about sex and give them the tools they need to explore their sexuality safely. Believe it or not, parents influence teens’ decisions about sex the most — even more than the media, siblings, and friends. Talking could be the difference between safe and unsafe sex practices!

In fact, studies have shown that teens who talk with their parents about sex are more likely to use condoms and delay having sex until they’re older. However, what is said, how it’s said, the regularity of the conversation, and how much adolescents feel cared for/understood by their parents can make or break the conversation.

How to Promote Healthy Attitudes Towards Sex and Relationships

When you communicate honestly and openly about pregnancy, sex, STIs, consent, respect, and relationships, you’ll promote their health and limit their chances of engaging in risky behaviors. Here’s how to foster an environment where teens feel comfortable having open communication about such topics:

  • Stay informed about what health messages your teenager is learning, whether this information is accurate, and where they’re getting this information.
  • Encourage them to ask questions, but don’t be afraid of saying you don’t have all the answers.
  • Provide opportunities for your teenager to have conversations with healthcare professionals. Taking them to preventive care appointments gives them the opportunity to discuss confidential matters with nurses or doctors without you overhearing.

Navigating Body Count Conversations with Teens

Talking about body count with your teenager doesn’t have to be as awkward as it seems. And frankly, you don’t need to know their specific body count. In fact, it may be more beneficial to discuss the meaning of the term and dispel the common myths surrounding the number without knowing. If they feel like sharing the specifics, they will. 

Facilitating these conversations may be easier for some families than others, but these tips should help you out:

  • Pick your moments to have these conversations. They may feel more open about having these conversations in the car, through text messages, or straight after a relevant TV show/movie.
  • Don’t schedule a time for “the talk.”
  • Don’t overreact when they tell you personal information.
  • Ask them about other slang terms you might not understand. Allowing them to teach you will help the flow.

The Bottom Line

Now you know what it is, you must talk to your teenager about body count. Following our tips and tricks above helps you navigate this latest slang term and encourage positive sexual behaviors and attitudes in your children. The trick is once you start the conversation, bring it up regularly to enforce sexual well-being.

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