Back in late 2006 and early 2007, I was on an invitation-only social networking site called Late Night Shots. It was a site that allowed those on the Washington, D.C. social scene to “see and be seen” by others – set up profiles, find out where everyone was gathering at, and the like. Sort of a private Facebook for the D.C. socialite crowd.
One of the more interesting features of LNS then was an anonymous message board where people could ask all sorts of dicey questions and give all manner of unbiased, unfiltered replies, since their answers were in no way tied to their profiles or real world identities.
I wasn’t terribly interested in the gossip section of those boards (”Who’s dating whom in the scene?” “What new girl has rocketed to the top of the scene the fastest?”), although it did make for good occasional reading on how different people evaluated social status competitors in the scene (and worked to build up their and others’ reputations, or tear others down through rumors). What interested me more were the various relationship topics that got posed and debated to death.
One of the most frequent of these was the question of “Do women’s pasts matter?”
While nearly all of the female commenters seemed to argue quite vehemently that they didn’t matter one bit, the male commenters were divided right down the middle in their positions: half that they did, half that they didn’t.
Among the half arguing that they didn’t, there was a further divide: the men who didn’t care about women’s pasts because they had no intention of ever ending up in any form of committed long-term relationship... and the men who didn’t care because they legitimately thought a woman’s past had no bearing on her future.
I’d argue that the past matters even in a fling, hookup, or a casual or open relationship... simply because crazy girls can wreck your life in all kinds of terrible ways even when you’re keeping things arms-length with them, and a one-night stand with the wrong kind of girl can quickly turn down Bad News Lane if she fixates on you or brings other bad stuff into your sphere. But what about commitment? How much a woman’s past matter if you want something serious?
If you’re a long-time reader, you’ve seen a number of articles dealing with screening in women who are better relationship candidates, and screening out women who are less-stellar potential partners:
- Passive Screening in
- Choosing the Right Qualities in a Woman
- Find the Right Girl: What to Look for in a Potential Girlfriend
- What to Look For in a Girlfriend
- Why I
Quit Dating Girls Who Club, Party, or Drink
- 8 Red Flags She’s a Crazy Girl You Should Stay Away From
- Spotting (and
Avoiding) Cluster B Women
... and of course, the article on how many partners a girl has had, which dove into the research on partner count and fidelity, finding that each additional sexual partner a woman tacks on increases her infidelity risk by an extra 7%.
I’ve also talked repeatedly on here about the value of being the fastest-to-bed, most dominant, and most memorable lover a woman has had, for the purposes of retaining respect in your relationship over the long-term; it’s simply easier to keep this up if you are the most impressive male reference point a woman has when she compares you to all of her other experiences with men.
And, conversely, I’ve discussed why you probably don’t want to go getting too serious with a very inexperienced girl... simply because if you yourself are fairly experienced, and are good in bed, and can help her to orgasm and cause her to undergo a sexual awakening (either on purpose or accidentally), if you’re living in a society that presents numerous sexual options to women (like anywhere in the West), at some point her curiosity is liable to get the better of her... especially when you’re one of her very few or only sexual experiences, and she’s able to look at you and say, “Wow, sex with him is this good... how much better might it be with other men?!”
So, we’ve discussed a variety of ways already that:
- Her traits and characteristics impact your relationship
- The impact of the speed and manner in which you took her as your
- How her partner count impacts you and her relationship with you
Even without talking about anything else, it’s blindingly obvious that a woman’s past is without a doubt one of the most IMPORTANT factors to consider before you wade into a long-term commitment with a girl... and the longer the time horizon you’re looking at possibly being with her for, the larger in significance her past looms.
Yet, there is more to the puzzle of a girl’s past even than what we’ve previously covered.
Age at First Sexual Experience
What age a woman had her first sexual experience matters:
“This research investigates whether first sexual intercourse during adolescence is associated with increased risk of first marriage dissolution and tests whether the results are consistent with causal or selection explanations. Drawing on a sample of 3,793 ever-married women from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth, this study estimated event-history models of first-marriage dissolution. Results indicate that wanted sexual debut in later adolescence does not directly increase the risk of marital dissolution but is linked indirectly as a result of subsequent premarital sexual outcomes. Sexual debut that is not completely wanted or that occurs before age 16 is associated with increased risk of marital dissolution. The results suggest that the timing and context of adolescent sexual debut have important implications for marital stability.”
That’s from “Adolescent Sexuality and the Risk of Marital Dissolution”, published in the Journal of Marriage and Family. The findings there, teased out, are:
When a woman’s first sexual experience comes before 16 – whether because she wanted it, or it was wholly or partly unwanted (anything from full on rape down to a boyfriend pressuring her to sleep with him) – either way, she’s at a higher risk of having her committed relationships not pan out
When a woman waited until age 16 or 17 to have sex, there was no direct link between age at first sex and marital dissolution
That said, the study found that sex partner counts, as well as becoming pregnant (even if miscarried or aborted), and bearing a child outside of marriage, all contribute to dissolution rates of women’s marriages, and these all tend to be more likely and higher in number the earlier a girl gets her start on sex
Interestingly enough, only 16% of women had sex before age 18 and said it was fully wanted, with 42% stating that their first sex at this age was not fully wanted, and the remaining 42% of women in the study waiting until after age 18 for their first sexual experiences.
“One possibility is a selection explanation, that the women who had sex as adolescents were predisposed to divorce,” says Anthony Paik, the study author. “The attitudes that made them feel OK about having sex as teens may have also influenced the outcome of their marriage. The other possibility is a causal explanation –- that the early sexual experience led to the development of behaviors or beliefs that promote divorce.”
Sleeping with Friends
Another common tactic among men looking for committed women is to
search among their friends. But are women you’re friends with more
likely to be loyal to you and only you? And should you screen for women
who’ve primarily only dated friends, under the assumption that they’re
more likely to have had faithful, monogamous relationships?
Not so much, says another study by Paik:
“CONTEXT: Concurrent sexual partnerships may facilitate the spread of STDs, but little is known about partnership concurrency and its association with the relationship contexts of sexual involvement.
METHODS: Data about demographic characteristics, sexual histories and the most recent opposite-sex partnership among 783 adults aged 18–59 were drawn from the 1995 Chicago Health and Social Life Survey. Wald chi-square tests assessed gender differences in the timing and type of sexual involvement and in concurrent partnerships; bivariate probit regression analyses examined associations between concurrent partnerships and sexual involvement and other characteristics.
RESULTS: One in 10 of both women and men reported that both they and their partners had had other partners. Men were more likely than women to have been nonmonogamous (17% vs. 5%), and women were more likely than men to report that their partner had been (17% vs. 8%). The probability of having been nonmonogamous was 44% higher among women who were sexually involved with a friend, and 30% higher among those with a casual partner, than among those in a serious relationship; the corresponding figures for their partners were 48% and 32%, respectively. For men, the probability of having been nonmonogamous was elevated by 25% among those who were sexually involved with a friend and by 43% among those with a casual partner; for their partners, the figures were 27% and 24%, respectively.
CONCLUSIONS: Increased awareness that nonromantic sexual involvement is associated with partnership concurrency may enhance individuals’ understanding of the risks and rewards of their relationships.”
That’s from “The
Contexts of Sexual Involvement And Concurrent Sexual Partnerships”,
published in Perspectives on Sexual
and Reproductive Health.
More men report being nonmonogamous than women, but since this is self-reported data I’d hazard a guess that there’s a similar bias in these numbers as has been seen in other self-reported data, with underreporting going on by women (and overreporting going on by men).
Regardless what the actual numbers are, the difference between the increase of nonmonogamy seen among women dating friends vs. that seen among men dating friends is rather stark; while men are 25% more likely to be nonmonogamous dating a friend, women are 44% more likely to. Compare that to sleeping with a stranger, and the level of nonmonogamy is higher among men than women; you’re actually more likely that a girl is monogamous to you if she’s a stranger when you begin your sexual relationship with her than you are if she’s a friend.
And if a girl you’re talking to has a history of dating friends,
she’s actually got a fairly higher probability of having a history of
nonmonogamous relationships than a girl who’s dated men from the
periphery of her social circle, or men who are strangers.
So much for the girl next door.
Religious Attendance as Reproductive Strategy
Our last bit of research is one that’s a bit less surprising: is she a religious girl?
The one surprising fact here, though, is that according to the research, religious attendance may be caused by the mating strategy a girl selects, rather than the religious attendance causing the mating strategy:
“We argue that a central function of religious attendance in the contemporary United States is to support a high-fertility, monogamous mating strategy. Although religious attendance is correlated with many demographic, personality, moral, and behavioral variables, we propose that sexual and family variables are at the core of many of these relationships. Numerous researchers have assumed that religious socialization causes people to feel moral reactions and engage in behaviors promoted by religious groups. On our view, mating preferences are centrally involved in individual differences in attraction to religious groups. In a sample of 21,131 individuals who participated in the US General Social Survey, sexual behaviors were the relatively strongest predictors of religious attendance, even after controlling for age and gender. Effects of age and gender on religious attendance were weaker and substantially reduced when controlling for sexual and family patterns. A sample of 902 college students provided more detailed information on religious, moral, and sexual variables. Results suggest that (1) moral views about sexual behavior are more strongly linked to religious attendance than other moral issues, and (2) mating strategy is more powerful than standard personality variables in predicting religious attendance. These findings suggest that reproductive strategies are at the heart of variations in religious attendance.”
That’s from “Religious attendance as reproductive support”, published in Evolution and Human Behavior in 2008. Because this study finds women’s reproductive strategies as predictive of their religious attendance, it’s suggested that it may be the selection of mating strategy influencing the attendance, rather than the other way around.
For more on religious attendance and partner reliability, see "Religiousness
and Infidelity: Attendance, but not Faith and Prayer, Predict Marital
Fidelity" in the Journal of
Marriage and Family, where it’s shown that attendance of
religious services (but not other aspects of religiosity) is predictive
While it isn’t clear which one causes the other, what is clear is that the two are strongly correlated... thus, if you want to know how monogamous a woman is likely to be, just take a look at her church attendance.
And if you want to know how her sexual mores have changed with time,
just ask her how her religious
attendance has changed with time, instead. It’s a convenient
shortcut that correlates the answer without being a question she’ll
feel a single bit of need to fudge the facts about.
I, for one, love asking women about their pasts.
Usually I am subtle about this, and non-judgmental. In truth, I don’t judge women by their pasts... anymore. You get to a certain point with women when you’ve spent enough time with them and been with enough of them that it’s pretty hard to pass judgment on a girl just for being a human being and doing human things.
At the same time, I am rather discriminating about what girls qualify for what roles in my life.
If I’m a little obvious in my questioning – or a girl is especially sensitive – sometimes I’ll get a mini-speech about why “the past doesn’t matter”, and this always gives me a big smile. That’s because any woman going on about how the past doesn’t matter has outed herself – she’s shown her hand.
She’s just announced that there are things in her past she would much rather the world didn’t pay attention to, and that she’d prefer to sweep under the rug.
You see, women who think they have “nothing to hide” in their pasts don’t care much about people inspecting those pasts. They know that, contrasted against their female competition, they look good and desirable by comparison.
In theory, a woman with a tidy past could take a principled stand
for the sake of all womankind, to protect the rights of her sisters
with more colorful pasts to have those pasts and still have equal
access to the high caliber men that the women who abstain from such
indulgences have access to. In practice, women are not so charitable
toward one another, and if a girl has an advantage in gaining a higher
caliber mate, she’ll put it to use.
Thus, any time someone tries to steer or direct you away from investigating any particular aspect about themselves, that’s a loud and clear sign that that is exactly where you ought to be focusing your attention.
Skeletons in Her Closet
Even if you’re good at spotting a liar, you’re never going to catch 100% of what you’re being told. Fortunately, you don’t have to.
That’s because when you’re getting to know a girl and figuring out whether she qualifies for some sort of serious long-term role in your life, you need to be conducting a rather extensive probe into her background and relationship history.
And while it’s possible for a woman with a few things in her past that make her less desirable for the long-term to cover these up, the more of them there are and the more blatant they are, the harder it becomes to cover them up (which is what she will normally try to do).
Thus, when you’re getting into the details on a woman’s past, what you’re really keeping your eye out for is revisionist history:
- Are the details thin?
- Are the details changing?
- Is she evasive about things you’re asking her about?
- Is she really having to stop and consider about things you’re asking about?
The change in her life over a period of time is also instructive. For instance, when she tells you she was religiously devout as a teen but grew away from religion in her twenties, that’s very frequently another way of saying she was sexually conservative in her teens but became increasingly sexual liberal as a young adult.
It’s another way of telling you she racked up more partners than she’s probably letting on to you.
How Paranoid Should You Be?
If you haven’t given much thought to this before, an article like this probably comes off as overly paranoid about women’s likelihood to have checkered pasts that will influence their having checkered or disruptive futures. But if you’ve never much delved into women’s pasts before, you usually won’t have a frame of reference for what women’s lives are really like.
Women are forced by society, by their female competition, and by men who are trying to minimize their own risk to revise their histories and leave choice details out. Just like you’d usually “leave off” those details about if you’ve ever done drugs or ever been convicted of a non-traffic offense when filling out a job application, women also typically “leave out” those “irrelevant” details like prior incidents of infidelity, real sex partner counts, and the like.
Typically, then, what you want to look for are peripheral indications of a woman’s risk factors as a long-term mate, rather than any obvious details, which she’ll know to cover up and has an easier time doing so with.
The things you look for are:
- When did she first have sex
- Has she ever had sex with friends (and what was the relationship
- How religious is she, and if she is religious, how often does she attend service
- Has she ever cheated on a romantic partner before
The last one is one that all but the most conniving women, you’ll find, won’t lie about, because it’s too “big” a lie – they’re not able to reconcile lying about it with their self-identities. It’s easier for a woman who’s been unfaithful in the past to just say, “I did, but I learned my lesson and I’d never do it again,” than it is to bald face lie about it and say, “Nope; never done it.”
Of course, whether she says, “Yes, and he absolutely deserved it!” or, “I did, but I was young and immature and I’ve grown tremendously since then,” your response has to be the same: she’s out of the running (unless you’re going for an open relationship).
Usually, a quick skim of the facts is all you need to find out whether you have cause to be paranoid and, hence, need a deeper probe of her background, or whether you’re probably fine not having to worry too much with this girl.
If the first time she had sex was 22, she was too busy focusing on her studies in college to date, party, or spend an ounce of time on boys, her first lover was her tutor in school right before she graduated, and she attends religious service regularly, you’re safe not probing any further, usually.
If, on the other hand, she first had sex at 15, though only because her boyfriend was pressuring her; many of the men she’s been with since then were friends of hers; she’s not remotely religious, or used to be but cast it off; loves parties and dancing and drinking; and yes, she’s cheated before, but she’s grown a lot since then... you’ve got some cause to be concerned.
An Un-Fun Topic
This isn’t a “fun” topic, because it involves finding out information from someone that she doesn’t want you finding out, and dealing with uncertainty, doubt, and distrust. Most women with checkered histories will be actively working to dissuade you from investigating those histories too deeply, and will work to convince you that all that’s behind them and that these tigresses have changed their stripes.
The problem with having to sort through what she’s telling you, what the subtext is, and the difference between the two is taxing for most, because most people, I find, absolutely loathe wading through any degree of uncertainty, and prefer to make snap judgments based on whatever the available information at hand is to get themselves back on firm, certain footing.
That’s things like:
“Okay, she cheated before, but I have a hard time imagining her doing that to me, and she said the guy was a real dick and plus she regrets it and has learned a lot since then, so I think she’s safe.”
“Yeah, she quit going to religious service, but I’m not a religious guy myself either – hey, no one’s really religious in this day and age anyway. I’m not going to take that as any sign of anything and I think she’s fine as a girlfriend.”
“Yes, she was raped when young, but that’s a tragedy, and there’s no reason I should think that’s going to have any kind of a negative impact on our relationship; I’d be a bad person for thinking that way if I did. She deserves my sympathy, not my suspicion.”
“Well, the details about her past may be thin and she’s not being the most forthcoming and says the past doesn’t matter, but I don’t want to pressure her too much – what if she gets upset and doesn’t want to see me anymore? I’m sure everything in her past is fine; she’s such a great girl, I’m sure I won’t have any problems in this relationship.”
In my experience, most men inexperienced at relationships are too ready to gloss over inconsistencies they find in women’s pasts and accept what they’re being told at face value, because they just don’t want to deal with the doubt. Most people are also optimistic about both their own relationship abilities and their partners’ relationship-worthiness entering into new and exciting relationships; there’s a good deal of love-blindness that goes on here, due to in love emotions, scarcity emotions, white knighting, sympathy / empathy, and just plain old inexperience and low emotional tolerance for uncertainty.
Checking out a girl’s past is the “hard pill” part about a new relationship – it’s not fun, but it’s kind of like getting a vaccine; painful when you do it, maybe even a little scary, but it saves you from all kinds of unsightly fates at the hands of dread diseases you otherwise probably could’ve avoided.
Like a vaccine, giving potential girlfriends a history one-over is all about probabilities, too; just as you can go entirely unvaccinated and end up never getting any kind of terrible disease the vaccines prevent against, it’s also possible to do zero past-checking on your girlfriends and stumble your way into nothing but happy, faithful, low-drama relationships that improve your life and never tear it down.
However, you improve your odds of having idyllic relationships like this very much by not running away from the discomfort of doing a little probing into her past, but instead by doing it and doing it to real satisfaction (and not immediately saying, “Well, she said the past doesn’t matter – that’s good enough for me!”), and getting it done and out of the way. You will have a far healthier, more trusting relationship if you have it with a girl whose past you have investigated thoroughly and found to your satisfaction predisposes her to committed relationships. Alternately, if you don’t like what you find, you’ve got to be able to relegate her to a less important role in your life, or walk away completely – so you must not fear what your find, or what it will require you to do (all the more reason to screen for a girl’s past early, before you’re emotionally invested).
On how to actually carry out said screening, I laid out some guidelines (and examples) in this article: “Women’s Forgotten Past.”
Again, bear in mind, we’re talking probability – nothing dead certain here. Getting to know a woman’s past is all about figuring out what the probability is that she’s going to be a good fit for the role you’re looking for her to fill in your life... or that, on the other hand, the probability is that she’ll make everything come crashing down around your ears for you.
You can never know what the future will hold for any given relationship, no matter who the girl is, and unless you’ve had her on 24/7 lockdown since you met her you can never really know for sure every single thing that’s happened since you first started seeing her. The best metric you have for predicting the future, though, is her past.
So, yeah – her past matters. If you’re looking for something serious, it matters a lot – it’s one of the most important things out there.
Just make sure you know what you’re looking for, and go about looking for it in the right way. You’ll be setting yourself up for better relationships... and saving yourself a lot of pain down the road.