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Gender Differences in Sex Secret Disclosure to a Romantic Partner

Abstract

This research investigated whether there are gender differences in revealing sex secrets to a romantic partner, including the number and type of secrets kept; method of disclosure; and outcome of that disclosure. Analysis of data from a 39-item Internet questionnaire completed by 195 undergraduate students revealed that over a third (36%) of respondents reported having one or more sex secrets, with gendered differences in the type of sex secrets being kept. Analyses revealed that women hid being the victim of sexual assault and/or that they had practiced or were interested in BDSM/kink play significantly more often than men. Men, by contrast, kept secret that they had engaged in sex with multiple partners at the same time (i.e., a ‘threesome’) significantly more often than women. Women hid their sex secrets because they feared their partners would not understand their past actions; men worried that their romantic partner would disapprove of their secret behaviors, whether understanding such experiences or not. Overall, both genders reported that disclosing sex secrets to their romantic partners had a positive outcome, individually and interpersonally.

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Data is available by request from the corresponding author.

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No funding was garnered for this project. All work was completed voluntarily by researchers, with no incentives or profits provided by any university or external entity.

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Correspondence to Lacey J. Ritter.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. In addition, this project was approved by the university IRB prior to beginning the study.

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Fox, K., Ashley, A.M., Ritter, L.J. et al. Gender Differences in Sex Secret Disclosure to a Romantic Partner. Sexuality & Culture 26, 96–115 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12119-021-09880-3

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12119-021-09880-3

Keyword

  • Sex secrets
  • College students
  • Romantic relationships
  • Disclosure
  • Communication