Why Sex Makes Us More Likely to Spill Our Secrets

Having sex, or even just being turned on, can make you open up more (whether you want to or not)

February 8, 2022 9:11 am
Close-up photo of a woman whispering into a man's ear
Got a secret? Maybe avoid sex if you're trying to keep it.
PhotoAlto/Sigrid Olsson

Did you know there’s a link between being turned on sexually and wanting to tell secrets? Anyone who has ever basked in post-orgasmic bliss with a relative stranger and suddenly found themselves revealing that they drove by their ex’s house 20 times in one night sophomore year (while listening to Blink-182, obviously) will understand this potentially frightening (but common) phenomenon. 

What’s more, you don’t even need to boink to start spilling. A 2017 study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that you don’t need to get busy with someone to want to reveal your most classified personal information. Simply engaging with erotic content before interacting with another person is enough to make you bare your soul.

But, uh, why, exactly? What is it about sex that makes us want to spill our guts? Asking for that person who drove by their ex’s house 20 times (it was me).

Your guard drops when you’re turned on

According to the study findings, participants who saw erotic content and then engaged in dating app conversations were more likely to share more details about specific experiences. There is no one reason why this happens, because it is born out of a combination of emotional, psychological and physiological factors. Still, there are some interesting happenings in the brain during sexual arousal that may offer some clarity.

Lucy Rowett, a certified sex coach and clinical sexologist, asks us to consider the effects of the “love” hormone, oxytocin. This brain chemical aids in pair-bonding. This means that you can feel close to someone you’ve had sexual contact with, even if you only met three hours ago on Tinder. 

Additionally, the neurochemicals dopamine and norepinephrine contribute to feeling euphoric and giddy. When we’re (metaphorically) drunk on the feel-good hormones that come with horniness (and orgasms), our guard drops. Our logical mind stops taking DMs. We get lost in the moment, so to speak.

“When we are sexually charged, our brains are sending our bodies signals of trust,” says Daniel Saynt, Founder of The New Society for Wellness (NSFW), a sex and cannabis friendly private members club in NYC. “We are bonded with people not based on our physical attraction to them, but rather by the stories and secrets we feel comfortable sharing.” 

As intriguing as this may be, to say that this is a ubiquitous experience would be an irresponsible overgeneralization. It does happen for a lot of people, nonetheless. Every person is different and will have a different set of factors that determines their feeling loose- or tight-lipped when horned up. 

Telling secrets (and hearing them) can get us going

If you’re a person who has a knack for spilling the beans only to regret it later, we have news. When you’re aroused, the part of the brain that registers disgust and horror goes quiet. This is why people get turned on by all kinds of “gross” or intense things like spitting, BDSM, sploshing, Freddie Krueger masks or alien dildos. Since our threshold for the socially frowned upon and utterly taboo is lower, it “makes us more susceptible to sharing our secrets,” Rowett says.

The short breakdown: We get an erotic charge out of the taboo. Telling secrets to randos is pretty damn taboo. Thus, we do it when we’ve got the horn.

We also have to bear in mind that story-telling during sexual encounters actually is, in many cases, dirty talk; it’s a chance to create fantasy. “It’s like being a voyeur into a sexy story,” says Dr. Valerie Poppel, a Clinical Sexologist and Co-founder of The Swann Center, an organization offering inclusive sexual education and training across diversity, inclusion and sexual harassment. “Looking at [a person] telling the story and watching their body language brings you into their story, and it’s very sexy. Look at it like this, it’s a personal erotica.”

Emotional closeness can, for some, serve as erotic fodder. Information sharing has the potential to offer this closeness. In these instances, “Sexual feelings may increase the desire to feel emotionally intimate with someone, which may manifest in secret-sharing,” says Sarah Melancon, Ph.D, a sociologist, clinical sexologist and resident expert at The Sex Toy Collective. 

Unveiling your classifieds to folx IRL (or on the apps) may even be a subconscious “test” of sorts, one designed to figure out if this person is someone worth spending time on. “If this person can accept my secret, then they may also accept my largely hidden body and sexual self,” Melancon says. “Sharing secrets is the equivalent of getting emotionally naked and can be part of the trust-building process most of us find important before engaging in sexual behavior.” 

The benefits of sharing intimate details with a potential new partner

While revealing personal information can feel unnerving, it can also have some positive outcomes, especially if you’re interested in a relationship. Telling secrets shows our humanity, “which is something many of us find quite sexy.” says Melancon. We’re being vulnerable and allowing someone to get a little bit closer to us. 

Figuring out if you’re aligned on values, sexual interests, etc. can help you get to know each other on a deeper level, which can aid in developing a lasting connection. “When we share and the other person is caring, accepting and non-judgmental, that builds trust,” says Melancon. 

The drawbacks of sharing too much, too soon

Emotional closeness and getting to know each other sound great, sure. But sharing secrets can also spell big trouble. Arousal can “create a feeling of false intimacy and [make you feel] like you are closer than you actually are,” Rowett says. “You may think that you know this person very deeply, but then find out you didn’t know them well at all, and they weren’t the person that your oxytocin-flooded brain was telling you they were.” 

It can be helpful to self-reflect and determine if you’re somebody who tends to get easily emotionally attached to new partners. If you are, you should consider exercising some caution during new sexual encounters, because your brain chemistry could be messing with your ability to discern if this person is a good match for you. 

Take some time to consider why you’re sharing these secrets in the first place. Is it because you want to build trust, or is it because you’re getting a bit loose with boundaries? “Over-sharing may be more about anxiety or external validation than connection,” Melancon explains. 

As always, self-reflection is your friend. Secret-sharing can be a good thing, but it can turn sour if you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. Or, in my case, because I don’t know how to act like a normal person.

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