Anyway, the question became, what counts as a number? Like the whole Clerks thing where the guy's mad because his girlfriend had given so many blowjobs. Should oral sex count? Or any kind of non-sex hookup? What's an average number?
Well, let me start by saying that I think you're right: the numbers question basically never leads anywhere good. If Sex and the City has left any legacy outside of truly ridiculous lines for mediocre cupcakes and a plague of over-sweet cocktails, it is a thorough treatment of the question of sex numbers and all of their attendant complexity. Spoiler alert: that blonde lady from Mannequin fucked a lot of dudes and it made everyone feel sort of weird about themselves, or something. I couldn't watch that show without flying into real estate-based rage, so I am not entirely sure.
Yet we are such quantitative little animals! There are so many just-as-arbitrary numbers that we use to measure ourselves against each other: height, weight, salary, age, shoe size, dick size, whatever. Numbers are so much easier than the complexities of lived human experience!
And then of course there's the issue of whether your partner's previous sex life is any of your business, which, no, of course it's not, duh. But then at the same time, usually when you're with someone for a while, all that stuff comes out anyway in the form of telling each other about your life and the hang-ups left over from exes, so it's easy to convince yourself that asking for the number will just speed up the inevitable.
So yeah. Numbers: we know they are fundamentally unimportant and yet we want to know anyway. Isn't that always the way. I'll tell you this. According to the Kinsey Institute, and based on numbers compiled from 2002 and 2005 surveys (and stat nerd types, I have no idea how valid this study was in terms of sample size and diversity) men aged 30-44 reported having an average of six to eight female partners in their lifetimes, and women aged 30-44 reported having an average of four male partners in their lifetimes.
Which, is it me or is that really low? I guess I have slutty friends. Just goes to show that you always come away from those conversations feeling weird.
To the second part of your question, what should "count," I guess everyone has to decide that for themselves. I mean, for non-straight people it certainly wouldn't be the ol' penis in the vagina, right? I'm going to rule that since the whole concept is sort of made up anyway, you all officially have the right to decide for yourselves if you're going to count oral as an instance of sex.
Though a friend I was talking to the other day pointed out that she couldn't think of anyone she'd given a blowjob to that she hadn't also had sex with, so there's that I guess. In conclusion, I think we can all agree that that character from Clerks is a douche.