The sexual secrets we don't tell our partners about.

Sexual secrets can be defined as anything sexually related which is kept hidden. These are not the kind of secrets which are shared between partners within a couple of relationships, but secrets which may be kept from the partners and from the outside world.

Masturbation

Masturbation is a sexual secret which isn’t really a secret at all. Whether or not they acknowledge or talk about it, partners often assume the other sometimes masturbates. However, masturbation can be denied or compulsively hidden if one or both partners feel it is some sort of betrayal. Or they may worry that there is something wrong if their partner masturbates, believing that they should only be fulfilled by sex with each other.

The difference between masturbation and partner sex, however, is like the difference between a snack and a banquet. Masturbation may be comforting or help you to relax, or it may deal with intense moments of arousal; what it doesn’t usually do is provide the sense of occasion, connection or achievement which may be associated with lovemaking.

A negative attitude towards masturbation sometimes develops when someone has been in trouble for touching themselves as a child or actively told that it is wrong or damaging. However, even when they have no memories at all associated with masturbation or self-touch, many people still feel guilty about it.

Fortunately, improved sex education should convince future generations that masturbation is a natural way to experiment and learn about your body in ways that can also be very helpful to partners. As an occasional or daily practice, it can be relaxing and can cause no harm to yourself or anyone else. Some couples masturbate together; this can be both arousing and help you show each other how you enjoy being touched.

Fetishes

Generally speaking, a fetish can be considered anything – usually other than the human body – which, in itself, produces sexual arousal. Commonly, this can be rubber, especially rubber clothing, items of underwear, boots or high heels. However, fetishes can attach to anything with an erotic association.

Sometimes, the individual likes to wear the item themselves or encourages their partner to wear it, which may be considered as an occasional and completely acceptable variant to lovemaking. For instance, you may like to see your partner dressed in frilly underwear or only become properly aroused if you or your partner wears a particular scent.

Rarely do fetishes involve more than a strong desire to include some item or idea in fantasy, lovemaking or masturbation. On their own, individuals with a fetish may want to hold the object(s), rub themselves against it, kiss it, touch it, insert it, wear it, be near it. Problems usually arise when the amount of time spent focused on the object starts to interfere with everyday life or lovemaking.

In some couples, one partner is tolerant of or turns a blind eye towards, the other’s fetish. Some partners feel able to participate and others can’t continue with the relationship unless the fetish stops. Initial responses on either side may not be your reaction given more time to think things over, and possibly more information. Some partners find confiding in friends is helpful. Even just searching the internet to learn more may be useful.

Internet porn

How prepared couples are to share their sexual interests varies a great deal. The use of erotica and pornography is an issue which provokes great controversy. Some people have ethical or moral objections to pornography, objections to some types of pornography or only find it acceptable when associated with couple arousal. Nevertheless, it is now so widespread and available that, for some individuals, its use has become as routine as a nightcap in providing a way to relax and unwind.

An orgasm stabilises the body, returning it to a calm state. It is understandable, then, to use sex to relax at times when you are jangling with stress. Internet porn can provide a quick and easy way to help you achieve that. Unfortunately, however, it can become a problem if it starts to be the only way you can become aroused or deal with stress, or if you feel you will be stressed if you don’t use it.

Relate counsellors are increasingly seeing problems with relationships and sexual functioning that are associated with the use of internet porn. This isn’t about having a healthy sexual appetite or multiple partners but about a compulsion to keep returning to the activity which is causing them problems. This can happen surprisingly quickly because internet use can actually change the brain.

The above is an excerpt from our new book: The Relate Guide to Sex and Intimacy. Buy your copy online now.

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