Dear Graham Norton: 'Does my boyfriend have an S&M secret?'

Graham Norton
'His buttocks were covered in red and purple stripes,' writes a reader Credit: Andrew Crowley,

Dear Graham

I have been with my boyfriend for nearly four years, we’re both in our mid-20s. He has a high-powered finance job and for the past year has been living and working overseas; I see him at least once a month. We were at a friend’s wedding last year and I dropped lots of hints about us, and he seemed keen at the time but nothing has come of it yet.

Last month I sprang a surprise visit on him. We had a good time; but he did not want to be intimate, and was even a bit coy about me seeing him naked. Just before I left I found out why: his buttocks were covered in red and purple stripes. He was mortified that I had seen this and he eventually admitted that a (male) friend had caned him. He said it was something to do with motivation and his gym regime. I could tell he was really embarrassed about me knowing about this and I agreed not to discuss it with anyone.

Is this just a case of “boys will be boys”?

Although I don’t want to break my promise, the more I think about it the weirder it seems. I had always thought he was, if anything, a bit dull: long days in the office, going out with his mates for a beer or going to the gym. Now I am worried – or maybe intrigued – that there might be a side of him I know nothing about.

Is this just a case of “boys will be boys” (he is an ex-public schoolboy) or should I be worried that he has a side he’s not told me about? We have a healthy physical relationship but we’ve never done anything out of the ordinary.

Charlotte, London

Dear Charlotte

To say that there are bits of this story missing is more than an understatement. Do you seriously believe that caning is part of his gym regime? If it was as simple as that then why would you be sworn to secrecy? What would be his reason for hiding the marks from you, his girlfriend of four years? I suspect the caning has something to do with sex – and, be it with men or women, I think you have a problem. This certainly isn’t something you can just brush under the carpet before you walk down the aisle. You can’t force him to tell you the truth and I suspect he never will. So begins the lack of trust, the wondering where he is, the checking of his phone, his emails. Every little thing becomes evidence of some shadowy infidelity that you can never prove.

'If you can’t beat them, beat them" suggests Graham Credit: Andrew Crowley

It may be that this was just a one-off – maybe it happened at a stag do – but until you feel certain you know what went on you won’t be able to decide how you feel about this man. You are both still young and a year is a long time to spend apart. Do you know his overseas friends? A change of location changes people: the boy you fell in love with may no longer exist. I know you want me to tell you not to worry, but at the very least you should be concerned.

You could always suggest that the two of you invest in a cane and try a little role play – if you can’t beat them, beat them.

More Agony

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