I need your advice! I am a 32-year-old female in a monogamous relationship. My partner and I have been together for 1.5 years and have talked about having a future together.
Six months ago while on vacation he plugged his phone into my computer to charge while at a coffee shop. The phone connected to my computer and all of his media started to load into my computer, including his photos. Out of curiosity, I opened up his photos, with him sitting across from me, and numerous photos of naked women came up. Close to one hundred and all of past partners. I was very upset because we were in a committed relationship and it felt like he had been hiding something from me. I also felt really low because I couldn't understand why he needed to hold on to his past if we were in a happy & loving relationship. After much discussion, and him claiming that he never looked at them and they were photos mixed in with years of his life, he said he deleted them. I will add that this took him a matter of weeks because he said he had so many photos.
Fast forward to yesterday—nearly 8 months later—and we were driving back from a weekend adventure and I asked to see his phone while he was driving to see the photos he took. Out of curiosity, I continued to scroll up on his device to see his other photos. Granted I scrolled back far, but right there in plain sight were photos and videos of his ex-girlfriend masturbating with dildos and buttplugs. There were four videos and a single photo of her naked. I was in shock because he told me he was taking care of the photos and I believed him. I am too embarrassed to share/get advice from friends and I don't know what to do. I can't help but feel like it wasn't simply the oversight he says it was. The videos and photo were amongst numerous other photos of this person, someone he claims to have no feelings for and insists he no longer finds attractive.
I feel betrayed and ashamed. He says it shouldn't be that big of a deal.
The photos were right there! Right there in plain sight! In plain sight of anyone who happened to have access to your boyfriend's phone and the time and inclination to scroll way back through his photo archives for evidence of thought crimes and by so doing not just violate his privacy but also the privacy of the women who presumably sent him dirty videos and pictures with the explicit or implicit understanding that he wouldn't share them with anyone else!
A quick word about holding onto dirty images of exes: many people share dirty pics and vids with the understanding that they'll be deleted after being enjoyed. Others share them with the understanding that they're for the eyes of the recipient only. People often ask their exes to delete old pics and vids after a breakup and those requests should be honored. But holding on to pics and vids shared with us by our exes—or that we made with our exes—seems to exist in a kind of ethical gray zone. Not everyone who is asked to delete old pics and vids does so and everyone who has ever sent someone dirty pics kindasorta knows that and goes right on sharing dirty pics and vids with their future exes anyway. It seems relevant that revenge porn laws criminalize the unauthorized dissemination of dirty pics and videos, not the unauthorized or the no-longer-authorized possession of them.
Anyway, PH, I'd personally like to ask your boyfriend whether his exes are okay with him holding on to these pics and vids. Even if they were okay with it—and some people don't mind—they'd probably feel differently if they knew how careless your boyfriend is with them.
As for your specific objections to your boyfriend's actions, PH...
People store memories on their phones; for many of us, photos archives function as journals of sorts. And you have no more right to edit your boyfriend's photo archives than you have to tear pages out of his diaries. Yeah, sure, I get it: some people use their photo archives as wank banks. What are you gonna do? People have a right to their memories, a right to the solo use of their own genitals, and a right to their photo archives. And while it can be unsettling to learn that our partners sometimes look at photos or videos of their exes while having a wank, it would be just as unsettling to contemplate our partners lying back and conjuring up mental images of their exes while they have their wank. Which is why sane people don't waste their time thinking about what their partners are looking at or doing when they have their wanks.
So is this a big deal?
Yeah, sure, I suppose so: since it's a big deal for you, it's a big deal for the two of you. And while he's probably over this person and she's over him—they're each other's exes for a reason—he obviously still enjoys looking at these old pics and vids from time to time. (I'm guessing he told you he no longer finds his exes attractive for the same reason he told you he deleted all their photos: because it was what you wanted to hear.) And seeing as can't be trusted in this area—seeing as he can't be trusted to delete pics and videos that you don't want him to want to look at—then you'll have to conduct spot inspections of his phone and his computer for the next four or five decades, PH, if you stay together.
Or you can spare yourself the anguish—and spare him the police state masquerading as a relationship—and break up with him now. He's obviously not the right guy for you. What you need is a guy who can either truthfully tell you he doesn't find any of his exes attractive and doesn't use the photo feature on his phone or you need a guy who can lie to you more convincingly about his exes and do a much better job of keeping dirty photos and videos hidden away. And this guy ain't either of those guys.