There are notches on the bedpost, and then there are fuck lists so lengthy a Brazilian rainforest couldn’t contain them. The latest example: Wrestler Ric Flair, who said he’s slept with some 10,000 women in his 68 years, give or take.
“What I said was the truth, but I feel bad now that I said some of it,” Flair told People of his confession to ESPN, which airs Nov. 7 as part of the series 30 for 30. “Ten thousand women. I wish I hadn’t said that because of my grandkids.”
Not all legendary tail-baggers regret their lifestyle as Flair claims to. For Hugh Hefner, who recently passed at age 91, getting loads of tail with quadruple digits of women (and his fair share of men) was a core brand pillar he never really wavered from. He told Esquire in an interview at age 86 that, though he was always faithful when he was married, he made up for it in his single years, sleeping with “over a thousand [women], I’m sure.”
Hefner keeps good company in the 1,000 to 2,000 range. Actor and comedian Russell Brand claims to have slept with over a thousand women, too, including Katy Perry and Kate Moss. But at the height of racking up that count, he was really going to town. “I was having sex with different women three, four, five times a day,” Brand told The Big Issue in 2010. “In Ireland, nine in one evening,” he added, which likely sent men everywhere to the internet to look up cheap flights to Europe. (Brand has since admitted to a rehab stint for sex addiction and even going celibate.)
There are lots more. According to a roundup at The Sun compiling the sexual claims of famous men, Jack Nicholson, Simon Cowell, and British club mogul Peter Stringfellow have all hit digits somewhere in the range of 1,000 to 2,000. Rolling Stones lead gyrator Mick Jagger lays claim to laying some 4,000 women. Kiss bass player Gene Simmons says he’s hit it with some 4,600 women. Charlie Sheen: 5,000. And Warren Beatty claims he slept with one woman every day between age 20 to age 55, totaling over 12,000 women over the course of that time.
But such exploits pale in comparison to the sex scoreboard of NBA Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain, who famously claimed in his 1991 autobiography A View From Above to have slept with 20,000 different women. And rounding out the seriously unbelievable top end is Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, who allegedly slept with 35,000 women during his lifetime, according to documentary filmmaker Ian Halperton.
But what’s really going on with men who, unlike the adage that a true gentleman never kisses and tells, cop to ridiculously high numbers of sexual partners? There’s really only one common question in reaction to such outrageous boasts. After we say “Whoa, that guy sure fucks a lot,” we ask, “Wait, wait, how is it really even possible to fuck that many people?”
Fucking that much requires at least two things: time and options.
The options bit is easy. Famous men, particularly the touring kind such as politicians, athletes and musicians, have access to the widest, most varied pool of potential sexual partners on earth. It’s easy to imagine that they can merely point to a desirable lady and have her ushered directly onto their dicks.
In truth, it’s not like men need that much time to fuck, either: these are unlikely to be all-night sessions of boning heavy on the foreplay. This is the kind of fucking you get done in a matter of minutes before zipping up and getting back to more important business, like tuning your guitar. And, at least when these men are young, the refractory period can allow repeat business in a matter of minutes.
Still, lots of people ask these men to back up their claims. According to Chamberlain’s own calculations, he hit 20,000 women by sleeping with “1.2 women a day, every day since I was 15 years old.” Some accounts from contemporaries who knew Chamberlain claim that he figured out this number in the ‘80s, when he admitted he’d noted every woman he slept with in a personal organizer. When he discovered there was a check for about 23 women every 10 days, he arrived at 2.3 women per day, then cut that in half to “be conservative.” Then he multiplied that by his number of days on earth since age 15, ending up with the now-infamous number.
Castro’s story is a similar one. “He slept with at least two women a day for more than four decades — one for lunch and one for supper,” according to an official in his regime who went by Ramon, Halperton wrote. “Sometimes he even ordered one for breakfast.” Ramon claimed that Castro’s security would “comb Havana beaches each day recruiting the hottest babes.”
Skeptics still call bullshit on the numbers. Professional fucker Ron Jeremy told TMZ that Ric Flair’s accounting of 10,000 women is basically bullshit, because in order to have that much sex, he’d have to be constantly fucking. This led Men’s Health to crunch the numbers: They deduced that if Flair really started all that boning at age 14, he’d have to have sex with a new lady every two days, which might have been doable at his peak, but is ultimately “unreasonable when averaged over a lifetime.”
The Atlantic recently took apart the Wilt Chamberlain claims, too. Their conclusion? Maybe, if he started having sex at age 18 and continued to do so for 37 years. Maybe, if he really nailed about 500 women a year, rain or shine, sickness or health. He did love threesomes, they argue, and was also a noted insomniac, so maybe that explains it. But any man who slept with 20,000 women would surely face some STD claims, unwanted pregnancies or paternity suits. And Chamberlain had none. Furthermore, they note that in his last interview before dying, the number 20,000 suddenly became 1,000.
“Having a thousand different ladies is pretty cool, I’ve learned in my life,” he said in an interview in 1999. “I’ve (also) found out that having one woman a thousand different times is more satisfying.”
But all of this hides the real questions underneath such behaviors: Why is a bedpost count such a top-shelf indicator of a man’s real success and fame in the world? Why do certain men rack up numbers like this so singlemindedly?
It’s simple: Because they can. The one thing all these big scorers have in common, other than the fact that they’re all men, is that they are all rich and powerful — rich and powerful enough to move about the cabin freely.
In the broadest terms, women who sleep with even a handful of men can be labeled sluts, whereas there is no true male equivalent. Manwhore, Casanova, and gigolo don’t even come close to packing the same punch.
But another, better question: Why do we consider this many sexual partners a good thing?
“I would say if such behavior confounds the ability to sustain long-term relationships and they are upset by that and want that, then it rises to a clinical level, where they would reach out and make some changes,” relationships therapist Michel Horvat tells me by email. He asks, as someone who has worked with men on sex and intimacy issues, “Does the desire to be with an inordinate amount of sex partners point to dysfunction or difficulty attaching in a truly intimate way?”
Horvat says it’s really on par with the behavior of an adolescent — someone like Hugh Hefner may have had trouble committing to an attached, more adult form of intimacy. Other concerns Horvat would address in a therapy setting include whether these men are able to see their objects of desire as “anything more than objects.”
But it all comes down to — again — the fact that these men have the privilege to do exactly that. “It allows them to employ the double standard, because ultimately, if he [Hefner] were not a sexual celebrity of sorts, the same standards would’ve been employed against him,” Horvat writes. In other words, he continues, “Hefner would’ve been replaced by as many women as he has replaced.”