Why don’t we share our sex secrets?

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Pop art illustration of a woman whispering a secret

Everyone has secrets! But do you or your partner have sex secrets? Apparently we all have about 13 secrets and researchers have found that the most common are sexual in nature. Keeping secrets can have consequences because our minds tend to worry about them which can reduce our relationship satisfaction by literally sapping attention and energy from the relationship itself.  And often not sharing can increase our guilt and shame more than revealing it would. So we looked at a recent research study published in Sexuality & Culture to find out what sex secrets we hide from our partners, why we don’t want to share, and how gender influences our choices.

The goals of this small study were to identify the degree to which a sample of 195 mostly heterosexual undergraduates kept or revealed a sex secret from a current or recent partner, the reaction of the partner, and the outcome for the relationship.

Relationship experts will tell us that both vulnerability and honesty are critical in successful relationships, so what holds us back? Well it turns out that over a third of the study participants said they were keeping something from their current or recent partner and gender plays a big role in what we don’t want to share and why. 

  • Women kept secrets because they thought their partners would not understand.
  • Men kept secrets because they thought their partner would disapprove of their behaviour.

Other reasons included fearing their partner would divulge their secret to others, being ashamed, and worrying that it would end the relationship.

Women are reluctant to share secrets involving:

  • A history of sexual victimisation 
  • Emotionally cheating on a partner 
  • An interest in BDSM 
  • Pornography 
  • Sex toy use

Men are reluctant to share secrets involving:

Whilst disclosing sex secrets to a new or casual sexual partner is not unexpected, it turns out that even in long term relationships partners don’t always reveal everything. Perhaps you cheated on a partner, you enjoy public sex at swingers parties, you participated in a gang bang … more than once, or you have a specific fetish or kink. For some the option to reveal a sex secret to a partner is a “no, never” situation, some will agonise endlessly over it (resulting in increased cortisol, stress and anxiety) and for others it’s only a minor issue. 

Keeping a sex secret impacts the balance of trust within any relationship, while also having the potential to influence future relationships, whether romantic or sexual. This study found that 11% of the participants felt that keeping sex secrets impacted negatively on forming relationships. It also found keeping sex secrets was related to lower relationship satisfaction.

And are there consequences if your partner finds out you’ve kept sex secrets from them? Yes but only a small percentage got a negative response or resulted in the relationship ending. 55% of study participants said that they had revealed secrets to a partner at some point in the past and that most resulted in a positive outcome with their partner appreciating their honesty in finally opening up. 

We need to keep in mind that the study involved college students more focused on hook ups than long term relationships, so a different age demographic would possibly have resulted in different results. For example older individuals brought up in an era where sexual behaviour and desires were not discussed as freely might find it difficult to be open and honest. But as a lot of Adult Match Maker members are on the site to hook up perhaps the study is relevant for our members. So, have you hidden sex secrets from current or past partners and do you advise opening up and sharing them?

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The content posted on this blog is intended for informational purposes only and the opinions or views within each article are not intended to replace professional advice. If you require professional relationship or sexual health advice you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist.


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