The UK's Sexual Secrets

by Lovehoney

on 9 Nov 2023

Lovehoney’s latest survey of 1,500 Brits reveals the sexual secrets people are most likely to hide from their partner and why.

The UK's Sexual Secrets | Lovehoney UK

Sexual Secrets: Revealing Brits’ Hidden Desires

Steamy sexual fantasies, clandestine kinks, and even secret affairs… We've all got a few sexy skeletons in our closets. And while we all know open communication is key to a happy relationship, some of us aren’t keeping this in mind when we’re between the sheets.

For a lot of Brits, there are certain things about our sex lives that we're not so keen to share with our partners. Maybe we're worried they'll judge us, or maybe we're just plain embarrassed. Whatever the reason, we wanted to do some digging to find out the most common sex secrets that Brits keep from their partners.

We surveyed 1,500 adults to reveal which secrets we’re most likely to keep hush-hush, as well as the most common reasons why we don’t feel inclined to share them with our partner(s). And with nearly half (49%) of Brits admitting to having unfulfilled sexual or romantic desires they’ve kept quiet about, we enlisted the help of Clinical Sexologist, Ness Cooper, to give advice on how to feel confident talking about things you may be embarrassed to share in the bedroom.

The most common sexual secrets in the UK

1. How many people we've had penetrative sex with

It turns out that the most common sexual secret Brits keep from their partners is how many people they've had penetrative sex with. Over one in five of us (22%) have kept this information under wraps, whether out of fear of judgment or because we’re worried our partner(s) might get a little jealous of our previous hook-ups.

Whatever the reason, it's important to remember that there's no shame in having either a high or low number of sexual partners. Everyone has their own sexual history, and it's nothing to be embarrassed about. Keeping it hidden from your lover might actually make those feelings of shame and embarrassment worse, so it’s better to be open and honest with them instead of bottling it all up!

2. Concerns about our own sexual performance

It's sadly no surprise that concerns about our own sexual performance are the second most common secret Brits keep from their partners, with 17% of us keeping them under lock and key. After all, sex can be a pressure-filled scenario, and it's normal to worry about whether we'll be able to live up to our lover's expectations.

Men are particularly prone to a bit of performance anxiety, with one in five (20%) saying they hide these concerns from their other half, compared to just 14% of women. There are a number of reasons why people might suffer in silence, from worries about disappointing their partner to simply feeling embarrassed to admit that they're not always the best in the bedroom.

Whatever the reason, remember that everyone has performance anxiety from time to time. It's a part of being human. And it's okay to not be perfect in the bedroom. The most important thing is having fun, and making sure you and your partner are on the same page about what you both like. Try to relax and enjoy the ride — maybe you’ll even surprise yourself with how well you can perform when you take the pressure off.

3. Our sexual preferences and kinks

Sexual preferences and kinks are tied with performance concerns for Brits’ second most common secret, with another 17% admitting to hiding this from a significant other. There are all kinds of reasons why we might feel the need to cover up our kinks, including fear of judgement, rejection, or disapproval, as well as feeling ashamed or embarrassed.

Some of our sexual desires might be a bit more niche than others. But whether you’re really into bondage or have a foot fetish, there’s absolutely no need to be ashamed. Everyone has different things that turn them on, and that's totally normal.

4. The sex toys we'd like to try out

Among the sexual secrets Brits tend to stash away, the desire to try out new sex toys ranks as the third most common. One in six (15%) of us have tucked away our fantasies of introducing a buzz, throb, or gentle hum into the bedroom, perhaps because it can still be a bit of a taboo topic.

It definitely shouldn’t be, though. There's no shame in wanting to try out adult toys — they can be a lot of fun (like, a lot), and can help you explore your sexuality in new and exciting ways.

So, if you've ever thought about spicing things up with a little battery-powered assistance (or even a good old-fashioned dildo), rest assured that you're not alone — and maybe think about sharing the idea with your partner if you ever want to bring those fantasies to life.

5. Concerns about our partner’s sexual performance

Worries over our own bedroom abilities aren’t the only thing we keep quiet about — it turns out 15% of us have also been reluctant to share concerns about our partner’s sexual performance with them.

It’s understandable if you want to avoid bringing this up with your lover, as it could be a pretty uncomfortable conversation and you might be worried you’ll hurt their feelings. But chances are, they’d much rather know if you’re not feeling satisfied in the bedroom, and what they can do to improve. Just make sure to share your concerns in a kind and caring way, and you’ll probably find your partner is open to hearing how they can do better.

Brits' Most Common Sexual Secrets | Lovehoney UK

Why do Brits keep sexual secrets from their partners?

It’s pretty clear that there’s a whole load of reasons why we might hold back certain sexual details from our partners. Some reasons pop up a lot more often than others, and we wanted to find out which are the most common of all.

Our survey showed that the number-one reason we keep sex secrets from our other half is not wanting to be judged, which nearly a third (32%) of Brits admit prevents them from telling the truth. This is also the most frequently reported reason among men specifically, with 33% saying they keep secrets out of fear of judgement.

Meanwhile, the second most common reason — and the most common of all among the ladies (32%) — is feeling embarrassed, which 30% of people we spoke to said keeps them from being honest. Feeling nervous comes next (27%), followed by thinking their partner wouldn’t accept the information (23%) and feeling ashamed (19%).

Why Brits Keep Sexual Secrets | Lovehoney UK

It’s important not to let these feelings of judgment take over and hold you back from being honest. Keeping your sexual preferences, desires and experiences a secret can make you feel even more ashamed of them, which isn’t healthy and will only hurt you (and maybe even your relationship) in the long run.

On why it’s important to be open about sex with a partner, Ness says, “We’re forever changing in how we like and respond to sexual stimuli, and how our senses process sex can be different on different days. Being open about how you’re feeling in your mind and body can help you navigate the sex you’d benefit from the most at that given time. This could be changing sex positions to feel gentler or more comfortable, or explaining that you need something more intense on that particular day.

“When we’re not open about sex, sometimes it can feel like a vicious cycle where we’re hoping for our partner to either change or problem solve the dissatisfaction. Learning to be open about when something isn’t working for you can help reduce this negative game in the bedroom.

“Some sexual preferences may take time for you to share though, and that’s ok. It’s not always a quick and sudden process.”

Sexual secrets across generations

Our survey also revealed some interesting differences in the kind of information different age groups aren’t being totally honest about.

We found that people aged 35 and over are the most likely to lie to their partner about how many people they’ve had penetrative sex with. The over 55s are most likely of all, with 29% of them admitting they’ve kept this number a secret from their significant other.

For 25 to 34-year-olds, the most commonly kept secret is their sexual preferences and kinks, which 21% of them said they’ve kept hidden. This was also the most likely age group to list fear of judgement as a reason for keeping secrets (36%), so it seems there are a fair few millennials out there keeping quiet about their kinks in case they get judged.

For 18 to 24-year-olds, it’s a tie between their own sexual performance concerns (18%), feeling their sexual preferences are kinkier than their partner's (18%) and that they don’t prefer unprotected sex, but their partner does (18%). The youngest generation is also most likely to say they haven’t been honest due to feeling nervous, with a third of them (33%) giving this reason.

Although it can be hard to overcome nerves, you should never lie about things such as not liking unprotected sex, even if your partner prefers it. Unprotected sex can lead to unwanted pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases, so it’s super important to speak up if you don’t feel comfortable with this.

Star signs’ most common sexual secrets

The majority of star signs are in line with the general population, as hiding how many people they’ve had penetrative sex with is the most common secret among Taurus, Cancer, Leo, Libra, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces. Meanwhile, sexual preferences and kinks are the most common secret among Aries, Gemini, Virgo and Sagittarius.

There is one that stood out as different from the rest, however: Scorpio. This famously mysterious (and highly sensual) star sign is most likely to keep secret the sex toys they want to try out (26%), and their most common reason is simply feeling nervous (36%). Scorpios are notoriously private and can have a hard time opening up, but if they can overcome their fear of being vulnerable the pay-off is well worth it. So, if you’re a Scorpio who’s feeling shy about your sex toy bucket list, maybe think about letting your partner in on it — you might just get exactly what you want!

Sexual secrets around the UK

We’ve talked about how the number of previous sexual partners we’ve had is the most commonly kept secret among Brits. Our survey also revealed that it’s most common of all in Brighton, where nearly a third of the population (30%) said they’ve kept this from a partner.

Concerns about our own sexual performance also top the list of secrets in multiple cities, and are particularly common in Glasgow (29%), where 44% of people said they hold back information about their sex lives from their significant other because they feel embarrassed.

Certain cities around the country have some slightly more unique secrets. For example, in Belfast the most common detail people hide is feeling that their sexual preferences are kinkier than their partner's (24%), and 30% said they kept a secret because they didn’t think their partner would accept it.

In Cardiff, on the other hand, almost two in five people (37%) have lied to a partner about whether they’ve previously cheated, with over half (52%) saying they kept secrets because they didn’t want to be judged.

Unsatisfied desires

As well as shining a light on all of the UK’s sexiest secrets, we also wanted to find out just how many of us are currently keeping quiet about unfulfilled sexual or romantic desires, fantasies, or needs.

Considering how many people said they’re keeping secrets about things like their sexual preferences, kinks, and toys they’d like to try, it’s probably not a shock that nearly half (49%) of Brits admit to having unfulfilled desires that they haven’t told their partner about. This is even more of an issue among men in the UK, with almost two thirds (60%) of them saying they have unsatisfied wants or needs, versus less than half (39%) of women.

On why so many men tend to keep quiet about their sexual desires, Ness suggests, “Generally, men in Western society have been taught to be more stoic, and told to hide vulnerabilities and emotions. Some may have even been told to ignore or discount physical sensations. There are also very few resources that cover male sexual pleasure and displeasure, which can make it hard for men to find support.

“Fear of rejection could also be a big factor. A lot of men may have been socially conditioned to see emotional and sexual vulnerability as a risk factor within a relationship. It’s when we push through these risky moments, filled with uncertainty of acceptance, that we can become more authentic within our relationships, allowing for growth and vulnerability.”

How to feel confident sharing your desires with a partner

Ness has also shared advice on how to boost your confidence when talking about things you may be embarrassed to bring up in the bedroom. She says, “Try to make it a two-way conversation. Asking your partner if they like or dislike anything in particular around sex can help them be part of the process and reduce alienation. Also, make sure to bring up the positives of your sex life too, so you aren’t just focusing on the negatives.

“Before the conversation, think about what helps you stay calm, whether that might be going on a walk or watching some TV to chill out. And if you think saying things out loud might be too hard, try using other ways to help communicate. While giving voice to our needs and desires can be important, sometimes using text messages can be a great way to talk about something you find hard to discuss.

“If you’re unsure about what exactly you want or need in the bedroom, using sex toys solo can be a good way to learn about erotic embodiment and what sensations feel good for you. This in turn can make it easier to communicate those likes to a partner. Small dildos, vibrators, or butt plugs can be a great starting point, so see how these work for you, and then you might like to think about introducing them to a partner.”

Methodology and sources:

All data was taken from a survey of 1,500 Nat Rep UK respondents, aged 18+, carried out in October 2023.

Expert commentary provided by:

Ness Cooper, Clinical Sexologist


Written by Lovehoney. For collaborative posts between Lovehoney team members and guest authors
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Originally published on 9 Nov 2023. Updated on 9 Nov 2023