If we take the axiom "when you sleep with someone, you're sleeping with everyone they ever slept with," and disregard time so it becomes "you're sleeping with everyone they ever slept with or ever will sleep with," and extend it to include anyone their partners sleep with and so on--how large does that group become?
This image shows the romantic relationships over 6 months in a high school. A lot of people stayed in pairs, or switched partners only once. Some of them paired up in ways that created "effectively slept with" groups of six or eight. But then there's the structure on the upper left. The kids who dated a lot of people tended to date other kids who dated a lot of people, and this core group of hyper-daters plus all their partners formed one enormous network.
What I wonder is if you could draw a sexual map of America--or hell, of the world--that looks the same way. Obviously there are some people who've only been with one partner and that partner's only been with them, or have otherwise formed insulated groups with their sexual history, so we can't say that everyone sexually active is connected. But what I wonder is: is there a single mega-network? Is there a certain level of sexual activity and social/geographic mobility (and random chance) at which you join a group of hundreds of millions who have all effectively slept with each other?
I would like to believe that there is. I would like to see it as--better not say an honor, but a distinction--to be "on the network." I wonder which partner first put me on the network--and I can think of a few people I almost certainly put on it. I imagine that most of my current friends are on the network. And I imagine the network as global and possibly reaching into the billions.
This is a depressing demonstration, but think of the spread of HIV. It began with a very small group of people--maybe just one originally?--in the 1980s. Currently there are about 35 million people with HIV. Although there are other ways to transmit HIV, I suspect that for the most part this represents a 35-million-person network.
(Does the fact that not everyone has HIV disprove the existence of a truly global network? Given that my network rules ignore chronology of partners and disease transmission obviously does not, and that the majority of sexual encounters with a HIV-positive person do not transmit HIV... it's unclear. HIV proves that a mega-network can exist, but not whether or not there's just one huge one.
Still, I'd guess that any network that gets to 35 million plus would have at least one instance of sex connecting it to any other network, right? It would only take one. So most likely there is only one mega-network in the world, and the only remaining question is how large it is.)
I would love to see a visualization of this network. I can imagine the relatively thinly linked gaps between localities and social classes, the individuals serving as unknowing hubs or key links, the comparative isolation of small towns, the tight little knots representing swingers' clubs and theater tech crews. There would be lines crossing every national border and every political hatred. It would be beautiful, sad, and complicated as all hell.
So... if my theory is correct, I've most likely slept with you. Whoever you are, if you've had more than two or three sexual partners, we're probably meta-partners. We're on the Network. We're connected by pleasure with the entire world. How cool is that?