Your number. No, not your phone number, your number. It’s not something you can touch or see. Materially, it doesn’t exist. But oh is it ever there. Haunting you, reminding you of the good, the bad and the regrettable. Branding your loins with the “Scarlet Number.”

When confronted with the question, “How many people have you slept with?” a few things may happen. Your palms may get sweaty, your right eyebrow may cinch up like a cowboy ready for the draw and, inevitably, your mind may start crunching numbers to come up with a reasonable lie.

If you’re a girl, that one-hour stand in the bathroom of some club will get cropped out of the list and, if you’re a guy, that blacked-out just-the-tip teaser will get edited into the bunch. Whether we ignore it or not, our sex number weighs on our shoulders like ghosts of penetrations past. Counting requires recounting and thinking about each set of genitals we’ve rubbed up on can be pretty trying.

So why does this intangible idea mean so much to us? And why are certain numbers better than others? It’s almost like the way we view age. Double-digits is a big step, twenty is the end of an era and thirty is scary as fuck. Which sex number bracket is socially acceptable at which age? And who decides?

I’m sorry to break it to you, but if I can have all the “meaningless” sex I want, yet it still “counts,” there’s no way it’s actually devoid of meaning. Sex always means something, whether that meaning is love, releasing tension, loneliness, friendship or self-consciousness.

Having said that, I don’t think that having “meaningless” notches on your belt is something to be embarrassed about. The numbers you may technically regret make the ones you esteem all the more wonderful. We keep an inventory on our crotch’s social life because our sexual history is part of who we are. And there’s always something to be learned from the past.

Men, since the day your voice first squeaked, you have been under a ridiculous amount of pressure to shove your junk into the nearest receptacle as soon as possible. Your number immediately became a way to measure your masculinity. I think it goes without saying that this is extremely unfair and, if I may add, unfounded.

Not that there’s anything wrong with a good player — someone has to be out there ballin’ the field, taking one for the team, dominating the game — but that shit only matters among you guys. For girls, the amount of tail hunted does not separate the boys from the men. Dudes are putting this pressure on each other, and I just thought you should know, we like you just the way you are.

Women, you take a lot of shit for your sexual resumes. Your number determines whether you’re an angel or a devil, and makes you self-conscious about being too “loose.” (P.S. When the fuck did this “loose” label come to exist? Vaginas are like blowfish, people — they always retract.) I know, we’re all sick of hearing the old, “It’s so unfair that a high-numbered dame is a slut, while a well worn-in dick is an accomplished prizewinner,” but alas, I’ll say it again for reinforcement.

It seems that in the number game, no one’s a winner. It’s a balance we can’t achieve. The best we can hope for is quality and quantity evening out.

So it’s time to just be who you are, closet sex skeletons and all, and own your digits.

Plus, they say that when you sleep with someone you’re sleeping with everyone that person has ever slept with. Thinking about the statistic of how many people I’ve paid it forward to in that regard makes me want to close down my muffin shop. Holy shit.

I’m no mathematician, but there’s one equation I can vouch for with confidence. X + pride = the perfect number.