Since the 1960s, Western society has adopted a more liberal attitude to sexuality. Choice of sexual partners, sexual preferences, attitudes and practices are increasingly a matter of individual choice and freedom. These changes, however, have had little impact on the lives of psychiatric in-patients (Eiguer et al , 1974; Akhtar et al , 1977; Taylor & Swan, 1999). ‘Mental illness,’ it has been ... [Show full abstract] suggested, ‘is one of the few disabilities where people run the risk of losing their freedom in order to receive in-patient treatment’ (Cook, 2000). This loss of liberty and rights becomes more pronounced in secure settings where mentally disordered offenders can spend a substantial part of their adult (sexual/reproductive) lives. Prisoners in some US state prisons (of medium and low security) are afforded conjugal visits from their married partners, in view of the rights of the latter. Paradoxically, detention in secure units, which we consider a therapeutic and not a punitive measure, places constraints on the formation of new relationships and the maintenance of previously existing ones. New relationships are, in our experience, viewed with more concern than previously existing ones.