She Found Photos and Videos of Her Boyfriend's Exes on Her Boyfriend's Phone



@106. ECarpenter. Trans women have always been part of the gay male community, and might think like 'men' or 'women' in your terms. Otherwise I agree with the rest of what you say.


Fortunate @100

"I’d expect lesbians to be as likely to say the same thing"

Can't speak for lesbians, but as a bi woman with experience of both same-sex and opposite-sex dating, I agree with most of what Ricardo said upstream.

In my subjective opinion, lesbian relationships can suffer from their own version of "toxic monogamy", but it seems counterproductive to fret over exes, when we're likely to see a few of them socially over the weekend :)

In fact, this is how I tend to explain the relative scarcity of ex-partner jealousy in gay and lesbian relationships vis-a-vis het relationships. Most gay men and women don't have the luxury of completely disentangling themselves from all their exes once the romantic relationship has run its course - our social communities and dating pools are smaller, and chances are we'll be seeing quite a bit of our exes (and our partners' exes), and have friends and lovers in common. So out of necessity, we've had to develop other coping strategies in order to co-exist in the same space. Like learning to be friends with our exes, and our partners' exes, and our patners' exes' exes...


Now that Ricardo declined I am free to extend my offer to LostMargarita and ciods.


@109 - Yes, I think it's likely that Trans women may be in a better position to understand how men think and respond because of their experiences with other people back when they were assumed to be a boy or a man. That's a cultural influence few non-Trans women have.

I have also, though, known a couple of non-Trans women who were tom-boys growing up in small communities where they were accepted in that role. They had a good understanding of laddish behavior and had romantic relationships with men that seemed to me to be more like gay men's relationships. More equal and blokey than most non-gay relationships I've seen.


Thanks for dropping by @99.. do not defend yourself here, ok. You are allowed to feel what you feel.
Now what? Is the question you need to ask yourself. Do you want to keep investing with a man who keeps such videos, with or without the past gfs’ consent, or don’t you. There is no right or wrong here, despite what this lot are trying to claim. Personally, I would not be interested in continuing with a man who didn’t show more respect to a past gf, by deleting such videos once the sexual relationship is over.. she might hate him and the thought he is still viewing her like that.. and a present one, you, who has clearly said she’s not happy with him having such videos around.


I didnt' see the LW's comment at first, but having seen it now...

What I read is a pronouncement that you are not trying to change a man, followed by all the ways you are trying to change him and then disappointment that this did not work.

Aside from this, why do you think he lied about just overlooking those videos? You think he intended deliberately to keep those? Did he admit that?

If you really believe that he is being careless with your feelings to the point of lacking respect, why do you want to stay with him?

There are men out there who don't keep loads of pics and videos of their exgirlfriends on their phones. If there is something about this that troubles you, move on. Where you are going wrong is in being hurt that he is who he is and then being hurt that he doesn't change.


@113: He gave her permission to look at photos of their weekend together. She jumped at the chance and went far out of her way to find something else entirely: “...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...”

For all we know, his then-girlfriend gave him permission to keep the videos, but not to show them to anyone else. You fret over “a man who didn’t show more respect to a past gf, by deleting such videos once the sexual relationship is over.. she might hate him and the thought he is still viewing her like that.. ” without noticing the LW was the one taking liberties to view those images!

Dan’s advice stands, and whether he or she ends this relationship is secondary. Relationships are difficult enough without one partner casting aspersions upon the other’s motives (“I can't help but feel like it wasn't simply the oversight he says it was.”) after making needless demands.


LW, so sorry for the mean comments you’ve endured on this thread. There are several issues at play here.

I totally understand where you are coming from. The other posters are correct when they say most of what this letter has do with is your own insecurity. That is clearly the issue, and I empathize. HOWEVER- what you asked is not an unreasonable ask of a partner, and I find it a little creepy how many people here are defending keeping and wanking to exes photos and videos. I now realize I need to send some messages to my exes asking them to delete old content, because since I don’t date assholes- it never even occurred to me that an ex would still be jerking it to my photos or videos while in their next relationship, and I find that kind of yuck. Like dudes we are obviously done for some obvious reason- jerk it to your new girl or porn- leave me out of it. And if. I’m being honest, I totally probably have some nudes and such of my exes on my cloud somewhere, out of sheer laziness of never having deleted them - or keeping them as more of a journal entry. But as a generally monogamous heterflexible woman, when I’m over a dude I’m over it. Even if I was wildly attracted to them before and we ended on good terms, I can honestly say I’ve never revisited an exes memory or photos to get off (once I was actually over them). If this is how you are LW- I can understand why finding what looks like wank material would be upsetting. Your brain (like mine, can’t reconcile or relate). That’s okay.

Fundamentally, you and your boyfriend (and lots of posters here) have true, fundamental differences in how they view and feel about their exes and sexual histories. Trying to reconcile two wildly different paradigms is what’s making you feel bad. Snooping is bad, and insecurity sucks, but wanting to be with someone with the same standards of sexual “decency” or ethics, ( for lack of a better term) is totally fair. It is not wrong for a dude to jerk it to exes. It’s wrong for them to lie about who they are as a sexual person- and not to defend their true beliefs about sexuality, masturbation, and exes. If he feels fundamentally different than you- it could be a dealbreaker where no one is wrong.

Unfortunately that means you need to quit trying to get your boyfriend to say what you want to hear (for comfort) and get him to say the truth. Then you need to reconcile the truth and if his sexual paradigm can mesh with yours. Maybe he really is okay with deleted them and being done with them, and just missed a couple. Maybe he thinks it’s okay to wank to exes videos sometimes. Both are okay, but you two need to mesh. The thing other posters are hollering about with you “trying to change him” is kind of fair. You want him to be someone it seems like he might not be. If he isn’t, find someone else. Dan is harsh in who he says that might be- but I do think there is a het man out there who would respect your wishes not to keep an ex’s spank bank. And if you have these conversations honestly and upfront, they aren’t unreasonable asks, and they prevent the need to snoop.


I feel like I'm older than dirt. In my mid-50s, and in all the years my ex and I were married, it never occurred to either one of us to take naked photos or videos of each other. No way would I be comfortable dating somebody who had naked pictures of an ex, and I think videos of an ex masturbating would 100 times worse. Looking at porn is fine. They're strangers who the whole world can see. Keeping pictures and videos of somebody you've known intimately, intimate pictures of their naked bodies and sexual play? No way. I actually asked at work today about this... a dozen or so women, ranging in age from 25 to almost 60. Pretty much across-the-board they all said no way could they ever be with a partner who kept sexual mementos of exes. A photograph of your prom date? Sure. Vacation pix with the woman you lived with for a year, the two of you on a beach together? Why not? Down and dirty naked pictures and videos? No. Just no. It's fine it works for other people, but to me it's not a matter of insecurity, it just not something I understand or could feel comfortable with.


@115, tensor, yes she snooped and it’s not ok to snoop. Either you trust someone or you don’t. And she doesn’t, because of the nude photos that she saw without snooping.
Did the ex give him permission to hang onto the videos, true we don’t know. The relationship is still over, so why is he keeping sexual momentos that are so explicit. His business to be sure.
To then say to the LW that it’s no big deal, rather than respond as he did with her request to delete the nude photos, indicates attachment to this girl, his ex gf, to me.
There’s lots of women who would have no issues with this, a few have said as much on this thread. It’s best he find a woman who doesn’t have an issue here.
The LW does have an issue with it and it’s her right to have that issue, if he’s said he’s in a monogamous relationship with her. That he keeps videos of his ex pleasuring herself says to me his view of monogamy is much looser than the LW’s.
They need to talk seriously to each other and face if they do have a future together.


The videos were made when there was love and intimacy between this man and his ex. Porn doesn’t have that connotation. We all know those people acting in porn on the whole are faking it for money, even ethical porn doesn’t involve one’s ex gf.
It is this man’s business how he feels about whom. He needs to be honest with himself first, and maybe the LW’s ideas of how monogamy works are not for him. And vice versa.
I feel sad so many of you gave this young woman such a hard time, so much bullying. Shows her strength that she came on board and fronted you all.


In the course of my relationships, I've had (as we all have) intense emotional conversations, including particular-to-the-person-and-moment declarations of love and so on. Because my memory is not as perfect as I'd like, I have sometimes written parts of those conversations down afterwards. I also have love letters written to me by exes. I doubt anyone here would assert that I don't have a right to those written records, or that keeping them means I didn't "move on," or that the fact that I still have them means I must sit around and do some sort of emotional wanking to them. Arguments could be made (and I would agree) that I have a responsibility not to share them with others--if we're going to criticize the LW's boyfriend, I think that's the front on which to do so--but not that I don't have a right to keep them. I also have sexual memories from past relationships, and I have, from time to time, written down in journals tasty bits of sexual moments I particularly wanted to remember. So I ask the assembled commenters who are arguing that he should delete the pics: would you also argue I should throw away my written memories? And if not--apart from his laxness in who else sees them, which is, I agree, an issue--what's the difference?

And @CMD @111: kisses to you, too :)


What exactly do most gay men know about monogamy anyway? Isn’t their story a free for all. All sex and no romance or however the varied stories go. That’s the main image I get. We don’t see many letters from monogamous gay men, dealing with monogamous issues.
Yeah, it’s not right for some. We Get It. It is right for others and it’s arrogant to assume non monogamy is somehow superior.
Know it all men, nothing ever changes. Just because gay men are oh so free about videos of every dick they ever sucked, having a private stash of old partners on standby, doesn’t mean it’s some universal ok-ness. For some. It’s not ok.


Baby @51: He DID delete them. Nearly all of them. It does stand to reason that he just missed a few because she was more thorough at searching than he was.

Ricardo @52: Not a huge surprise to discover that I am an outlier. If I were to let someone take videos/pics of me in the first place, I would totally expect that the person would keep them for posterity. Any other expectation is unreasonable.

EmmaLiz @56: Well said. Harriet's post squicked me out too and you've pointed out exactly why.

Sportlandia @57: Yes, I think LW is using "attracted to" as a substitute for "interested in." My exes are attractive, well several of them still are. That does not mean I would shag them if I had the chance. LW seems to equate the two.

Cocky @59: It was Dan who suggested, "Yeah, sure, I get it: some people use their photo archives as wank banks. What are you gonna do?" Thank you also for confirming that I am not just naive in assuming that not every man would wank to this sort of thing.

Too many comments on this one!


JDEN @97: Thanks for checking in.
As one of our commenters has charged, no, your feelings are not invalid. Feelings are valid, but not all actions based on those feelings are. As Harriet asked, can you vocalise exactly why it's so important to you that your boyfriend delete these videos? Sure, you were shocked to discover them, because this is not something you would have ever thought to do. After getting over the shock, can you try to see this from his perspective? And as for your view that "carelessness shows lack of respect," you've never locked your keys in the car or forgotten your mobile phone? Do you love this man? Can you see cutting him some slack in this situation?


I blame the internet.

Pre-internet, I frequently jerked off using my imagination. Post-internet, I almost always masturbate to porn. Before I was carrying around a good camera everywhere as a part of my cell phone, I took occasional photos. Now, it seems, anything that catches my interest, I photograph.

It's not called the digital age for nothing.

LW, why would you wish that your man no longer have attraction for his exes? Would you prefer he'd had sex with persons he was not that into? Why would you seek to take his memories away from him?

I see those photos and videos as being the present-day version of saved correspondence from former lovers. Like letters, those keepsakes become momentos of the recipient's intimate life. The obligation they have is to keep them private. Since today privacy is moot, one does the best one can.

It's lovely to read about how, as a result of reading this letter, so many gays are glad they are gay; lesbians, lesbian; bi peeps, bi and straights straight.


Here's a way to look at the problem: You don't have to be right to break up with someone. You only need to be unhappy. You can have 30 commenters on Savage Love saying that the snooper shouldn't snoop or that the LW shouldn't mind photos of exes or that asking photos to be deleted is unreasonable and therefore the Partner didn't have to delete them. And not one of those commeters is you in this relationship! Me, I think you have good reason to be upset, but don't listen to me either because I'm not running your life. Decide for yourself if everything else about this guy makes up for the fact that he's going to keep photos of his exes masturbating with butt plugs on his phone and lie about it when asked to delete them for your sake.


Re@121; that was a bit harsh, I was angry and wanted to show how it feels to be told what one feels and does is somehow not good enough. Which is what this LW copped. Too much of others saying she just wasn’t good enough. Her feelings not the correct way she should be feeling. It’s like homophobia has been replaced with heterophobia.


@116. itsmyfirsttime. Jerking off over pics of the ex does not imply a resumption of the emotional connection. Cranking one out, for old times' sake, once every 18 months or so is pleasantly nostalgic. In one part of your brain you see an arousing image, in another you know it's your ex (your ex for a reason, in a third part of your mind). It’s almost identical to reading old journal entries.


@122. Bi. But you weren't squicked out by EmmaLiz's misgendering my partner? Not only did I say 'he', I further put in humorous signifiers of well-heeled maleness like cuff links and tie--to place the fantasy in the space of gay-male horniness and mental independence of your partner.... I'm a femme-of-center NB person, raised as a boy, living in a privileged personal and professional context (for which I've struggled) in which the specifics of my gender identity don't come up. My early sexual identity was as an effeminate (more; always gender-dissonant) gay man. My romantic partners have all been men. Though Emma is now prepared to talk to me, I'm not sure she has grocked to these not-hard-to-grasp facts. Twinges aside, there is the basic respect of attentiveness.

The point of the fantasy was to suggest that, often, people say they would have a hard time being nonmonogamous for 'moral' reasons, when actually they are mostly held back by logistical inconvenience. This can lead to the moralization of monogamy as better, easier, psychologically more tractable than ENM.


And being heterophobic is code for being anti woman. Because she’s the odd one out.
‘ why can’t a woman, be more like a man..’ because she doesn’t want to be more like a man.
This young woman sounded solid to me, when she commented. He’s been talking long term, they are in the Big M relationship. This guy on an unconscious level, wanted her to see those videos. He knew if she was pissed about the photos she’d be a zillion times more pissed about the videos.
He should have come clean with her after the photos incident. Told her he had the videos. And this whole painful path this poor girl has gone down, here, with us, could have been avoided.
Straight men with their say what she wants to hear bs.


Well, if my partner wanted me to avoid eating radishes, because radishes were the vector of a nefarious state-sponsored sterilisation or mind-control program, after four hours of discussion (and possibly in lieu of four hours of discussion), I would not eat radishes in their presence. There would be no radishes in the house. Would I pass up on radis au beurre if offered by chance in the staff canteen? Probably not. But it wouldn't be a huge deal either way to me.


I never understand why people are jealous of past partners. They didn't work out; they are in the past tense. I don't see the threat.

The desire to be assured that someone isn't still attracted to their exes is rooted in such insecurity and the need to be assured that one is everything--past, present, and future--to their partner. I'm not saying it's ridiculous; people have the right to be/feel however they do/are, but it sure causes a lot of anguish for everyone, most especially the person afflicted with it.

I don't know how other people feel about their exes, attraction-wise. In my own experience, I have exes for whom I feel no attraction--and that's why we broke up in the first place. I have exes whom I haven't seen in years, and who still have a powerful hold over my erotic imagination, whose memories are wank-fodder sometimes. I am still attracted to them as they exist in my memory and I have little doubt that I'd still want them sexually, were I given the opportunity--which I am not. One dumped me and has since married--I have no contact with him, and our paths don't cross. He's no threat to any relationship I've had since or might someday have. The other one and I broke up and stayed sporadically in touch very lightly. He died unexpectedly some years ago--so he's no threat.

When I've been in love with someone since those two, I don't spend my time pining for them, I don't wish I was with them instead, even assuming that was a possibility. But if someone asked me to delete them from my memory or neutralize the erotic charge they occasionally give my masturbatory sessions? I'd be out of that relationship, citing micro-management of my private life and thoughts.

The main difference is that I don't have erotic photos of them--all my wank material is in my mind (well, I have written a lot of it down, turned it into fiction, but even there, names are changed, etc.) and not on a phone, which means I can protect my fantasies. Which is one reason I'm not all gung-ho on nudes.

I do wonder about that masturbation video, though. I don't know if it would bother the woman who made it to know that other people can see it and have seen it (though it is probably limited to this one woman who had to snoop with a purpose to find it). Someone upthread said he wouldn't mind if his ex had a dirty vid of him on his phone and it was seen, but I know that I sure would be upset to think that someone other than the person I made the video for saw me masturbating, and I know that that's always a possibility with digital media--which is another reason I don't share stuff like that.

Lastly, I, like a few others here--hello, Fortunate! It's been a while; I'm glad you're back--have never snooped in any way for any reason. It has never even occurred to me. When I'm in a relationship, I'm extremely honest and open and hide nothing, so not only is there nothing to find if one did snoop, but likely nothing new to discover. But sheesh! What is it with all these people who don't trust their partners, or want to police their every thought?


Of course gay men know well what it feels like to be told their feelings and behaviours are not correct, not good enough. So why hit this woman with the same energy? Identification with the aggressor is what Freud called it.


And there are exes whom I was attracted to initially, but after so many other things sullied the relationship, my attraction died or withered away to almost nothing. They look exactly the same, but I am no longer attracted to them.


@125. Fichu. But one of the people ostensibly affirming PH, attesting her feelings' validity, is saying she can either have her feelings (of upset, hurt, maybe a sense of betrayal) or she can have her relationship (!). The other, much more sizeable camp saying the vids don't mean what you think they mean, that men are just different, are in practice being much more helpful. As is anyone encouraging her to try to articulate why the non-expunged files are so important to her.... What do they mean for her? What is she afraid of?


Harriet @128: I sometimes wear cufflinks and ties. So no, Emma's saying "her" when she should have said "them" did not "squick" me like the idea of anyone mentally projecting the image of an ex over a current partner, or wishing them out of the room so someone else could take their place. (Nor, I may as well mention, someone giving "advice" they know is ill-advised but which in reality is nothing more than an insertion of themself into the sex lives of Savage Love LWs. Ahem.) Your gender identity and those of your partners have zilch to do with this letter.

Lava @132, this woman is taking it upon herself to make demands of her boyfriend and snoop through his private photo archive. I think you're the one who's identifying with the aggressor here.


Re "you have a right to your feelings":

What, exactly, do people think that means? Since there's no legal issue going on in this context, to me the phrase means that the feelings are morally correct or otherwise justified. Because, so far as I know, that's what "right" means.

Whereas I'm reading its usage here as "We understand why you have those feelings," or maybe even "You have correctly identified and expressed your feelings."

Would you say to someone, "You have a right to be angry," if you thought their anger was unjustified?

(Note my increasing comfort with the singular 'they.' Growing as a person.)

I realize I'm being ornery, but to me it's worth not confounding these two separate categories of meaning into the one phrase; that leaches the meaning from it altogether.


@135. Bi. I will not give LWs advice again, jocularly, hypothetically, as a thought-experiment or with the intention of softening or deflecting personal criticism, that conflates my sexual imagination with their sex lives. Your point has been taken. This story didn't do that. It stood back from any circumstances recounted by PH to say that fantasies don't necessarily entail continued emotional connection. Coming back in the next morning, in my scenario, when a presumed partner was presumably getting ready to go to work, would in an ordinary context have marked this imagined person as a guy--so I'd think your attempted exoneration special pleading here. Nor was I mentally projecting an ex over a current partner. The question was, 'would I, in a monogamous relationship, without cost, fault or effort, occasionally and in fantasy like a night with someone else?'--and the answer was 'sure'. Your main point hadn't occurred to me and is taken.


Firstly, to @131, Hey to you too nocutename!!!!

Secondly, to the LW and those making this some kind of moral argument: I am a full on advocate for breaking up with someone for whatever reason you want. I think the idea of a good or bad reason to break up is pointless. Something like this isn't something I would even consider breaking up with someone over, but if someone else would I wouldn't tell them they were wrong to.

You don't need a "good" reason in anyone's judgement to justify breaking up. And personally in this situation I think they should break up. Not because the reason is good or not, but because they clearly aren't right for each other.

My only points, and there are two, is that there is nothing "wrong" with the boyfriend for having the pictures based on the information we have. There is no evidence that he was being deceitful at any point. So break up with him if you are not happy, but don't blame him for it. If you want to break up own it and do it and accept that you broke up not because he was horrible person but because you didn't feel you could trust him. That's your choice.

The other point I was making is simply that if you don't want to find a reason to break up don't go looking for one. If you snoop on your partner's phone you are basically looking for wrong doing, and by extension looking for a reason to break up. Just break up. You don't need a hard evidence supported reason. You can just do it. And if you really don't want to then stop snooping because if you snoop long enough you will eventually find something you can use to convince yourself to break up.

If you don't trust the person you are with to the point that you feel the need to snoop then why are you with them? It almost seems to me that people who snoop already know on some level they want out, but they don't want to take the responsibility and pressure of being the one to just walk away for not being happy, they want to find something they can use to justify to the world why they just had to end it.

If you want to end it just end it. THAT is your right. No need to break someone's trust by snooping in order to try to find some justification to vilify them so you can rationalize being the one to leave.

This story shouldn't be about who was right and who was wrong. That she didn't like something he did doesn't mean that what he did was wrong. The follow up implying that he did something wrong is speculative and unsupported by facts.

But I will say, I do think snooping is wrong. And completely unnecessary. Break up already, move on, and hopefully you both will find someone more suited to you next time (or at least better at hiding the things you don't like better when you snoop, because I am willing to bet you are going to snoop on the next guy too).


LW here... thanks for all the comments and feedback. I will start out by saying that BF was the one that asked me to write into Dan. We have been reading the comments and have talked (and laughed) about all the different opinions together. Many of which have helped me to look at the situation from a very different point of view, so thanks - to most of you. I think the reason that I wanted him to delete the photos to begin with were mostly insecurity and a lack of understanding bc I had never seen such a collection like that, or any collection for that matter. Ya, I know, send me back to the covenant bc my partner and I have different pasts. I am not looking to be with someone who has the exact same ideologies as me and neither is BF. We have a happy and fulfilling relationship on all levels, so the pics / videos seemed "excessive" in a sense. I never asked him to stop looking at porn or to change who he is, this isnt about that. And I don't believe a request like mine = I am trying to change this person. I asked him to delete photos initially because I thought that was fair or the right expectation to have. Perhaps it was harsh and perhaps I would take the request back if I could; however, I still standby my desire for him to rid his phone of videos of his ex GF masturbating. There is an infinite amount of porn in the world, and ya know.. theres also me, so I think the videos can go.


@136. ciods. 'You have a right to your feelings' can mean 'I acknowledge that people have a variety of presuppositions, givens or emotional responses on this matter' and 'my saying that I disagree with where you seem to be going with your response should not be taken as any attempt to invalidate your feelings'.

Let's suppose that someone in PH's position was upset because she thought, or viscerally felt, that jerking off to a video of a friend masturbating was disgusting. (I'm not saying this is her position or basic reaction). I'd say she was entitled to that feeling. Entitled, too, to regret that her bf was not someone with her primary or unreflective moral views--who would never do such a thing. The issue, though, would be what, on deliberation and after listening, she did with this reaction. I'd say there's agreement that she would be within her rights to say something neutrally-worded like, 'you know your old videos faze me out. You've tried to reassure me, to the best of your knowledge, that your holding onto them doesn't impinge on how we get on or say anything about your ongoing commitment to me. Now could you get them off your phone and onto somewhere I'll never find them'?

You're not being ornery :)


@139. JDEN. It speaks hopefully of the future of your relationship to me that your bf was the one who suggested you take your problem to Dan.

Has he sufficiently reassured you he isn't carrying a candle for this particular ex? Are you coming round in your mind that his having the images in safe keeping no more detracts from his commitment to you (by itself) than his having old personal journals?


@141: I would add: "JEDN's boyfriend, do you have your ex's consent to still have a video of her masturbating on your phone? Should you get it? Should you offload that onto a memory stick and put it somewhere less accessible? Should you delete it?"



You did not mention a gender for your partner at all. How in the world can I misgender someone for whom you do not mention a gender? The thing is, your imagined scenario of being able to snap out your fingers and replace one partner with another at your whim for your sexual pleasure hits one of the reasons that women are perplexed by certain aspects of male sexuality. Loads of us don't feel jealous about what men wank to, but we do feel at times that we are just interchangeable body parts, living dolls which they can move around for their own fantasies- the whole thing about "objectification" is that it disappears the person. Which can be plenty hot to play around with btw and I personally don't GAF about what porn my man watches, but I don't see how it would be reassuring for the LW to hear your description of why these fantasies are harmless (even though I think they are) since it's hitting on one of the very things that bothers her about it. She's imagining him waking to his ex and then fucking her, a phone full of female bodies, all the same to him. So it makes you feel weird in your own skin- how is he seeing YOU? (Again, not saying I agree with her as I've indicated, but THIS is usually at the core of women being uncomfortable with porn, not some bitchy jealousy).

You did not mention a gender of your imaginary partner. For my response, I assumed the partner was female because the LW is female and I assume you were making an analogy to talk to her.

I reread your post to see if you did mention a gender and you did not. What you said was that it was someone with whom you have cohabited in the past, and for some goddamn reason I'm supposed to remember the genders of the people you've had relationships with in the past?

And as for misgendering you, I've asked repeatedly what pronouns to use and said I'd use them and you never give a clear answer - or if you have finally I can't remember in the midst of all the other things- and you've frequently described yourself as both gay (in that you are attracted to men) and femme (though not as a woman? I can't fucking remember) but if you are gay then you are man or queer or GQ or NB- whichever it is. And you've answered before with explanations that don't clarify, and while I wish you the best of luck in any scenario you want in life, I'm not going to muddle through all that each time I respond to something you said. If you want me to call you "she", I will. "He", I will. "They", I will. GQ, NB, anything, yes I will .But even in this case, how the fuck am I supposed to know the genders of your past partners, especially in a fantasy scenario, omg, that's insane.


Harriet, here is your post:

"Suppose that I've been in an exclusive cohabiting relationship for a while (something I've done but once in my life). It’s bedtime; I've gone out to the bathroom and, coming back to the bedroom, I can snap my fingers--'SNAP!'--and find my partner replaced with an ex of my choice. We spend the night together; in my morning I go out to the bathroom, come back and there's my current partner, looking for his shirt cuffs, choosing a tie, whatever. No suite. No knowledge, no recriminations. A wrinkle in time. A fantasy. OF COURSE I would do that. "

Considering that you are writing to an LW who is a het female and then concluding that women consider this fantasy is "emotional infidelity", it's not weird for me to assume your partner here is female. You say "his" at one point and I missed that. I saw it now on the third time I read it. I don't know why in the world YOU of all people would expect that someone's clothes choice indicates their gender, but aside from that, the analogy is supposed to be made to the LW's situation which is how I took it. It makes no difference to my response anyway what the fucking gender is of any of the people involved.

BTW there's that whole "emotiona infidelity" woman thing again- you will not hear what people actually say- which yes is what we always argue about.


@143. Emma. You reread the post and still didn't see 'HIS SHIRT-CUFFS ... a TIE, whatever'? You read (past tense) too quickly and responded on the basis of your background beliefs. Of course I don't expect you, or anyone else, to be up with what I cumulatively reveal of my personal life on here, especially if you gave up reading my posts, or read them selectively; for information's sake, my romantic partners have all been male, and serial; my lovers have been both main genders. Further, my 'type' in men is the older, avuncular or older-brother figure, capable, protective, assured, authoritative ... of course this is signaled through clothes-choice(?). Is this surprising to you?

I did not say, and do not believe, that all women understand fantasy as emotional infidelity.

Your other point is maybe too complex to deal with summarily, but I guess that for many men (or people with 'male' sexual equipment) a degree of objectification in sex, even in sexual intercourse, is necessary to get them off. Fucking in itself is depersonalising. You imagine you're with someone else, in some confected scenario, especially if visually you can't see your partner. It involves different beliefs at different levels--you know who you're with on one, but at a level of sometimes quite crude and unguarded fantasy you make-believe you're with someone else. Sometimes.


Yah JDEN.@139. I agree. If he wants to be with you in the BigM relationship, he has to hear your feelings. Which is not the same as indulging them. Acknowledge feelings then look at them to see how rational they are. And yours are spot on, imo. Those videos would have to go or I would.
His ex gf doesn’t want to be in his spank bank till he’s seventy.
That he asked you to write to Dan shows he was brave, so good on him.
There are two people in this living relationship you have, and both have to feel justly served by decisions made.
Good luck to both of you.


@143: "The thing is, your imagined scenario of being able to snap out your fingers and replace one partner with another at your whim for your sexual pleasure hits one of the reasons that women are perplexed by certain aspects of male sexuality."

It's pretty bizarre to use this as an example of "male" sexuality, given the thousands of studies, articles, narratives, books we have as evidence that many women actively fantasize about other partners during (heterosexual) sex, thereby "erasing the real person".

Should we be "squicked" out by that too? Or, shall we visit a bookstore and count how much woman-authored, woman-centered erotica we can find where women writers write about wishing they could do exactly what Harriet describes?

This just seems like a case of disliking a poster on a personal level, and choosing to take an inappropriately uncharitable reading of their post because they didn't express a very commonplace thought in EXACTLY the right way. That doesn't mean Harriet's post is helpful to the LW, but you're way out of line here.


JDEN, you were the braver one, you wrote the letter. Wonder what he would have said about why he hangs onto those videos.
It strengthens you, copping all this flak. Forces you to be a tougher woman.


Ytterby There are far more women concerned about men watching porn and how men can continue to look at naked ex pics and how men find teenager sexually attractive and any number of "why does my bf jerk to this when it's different than me" type letters than there are in the reverse. And yes absolutely there is far more objectification of women in porn than there is of men mainly b/c so many more men watch porn than do women and therefore most porn is made for men. Given that discrepancy (which we see here in letters time and time again), I'm calling this "male". Not all men, not all women, etc- but it's just true that it's extremely unlikely that this situation would have prompted a letter in reverse, mostly because fewer women have a hundred of pics of their exes jacking off in the first place. And yes, I agree that female sexuality (again a word I'm using generally to describe obvious trends) tend more towards things like erotica than visual porn- if we look at the consumers of those two things then we definitely see a gendered pattern. It could be that Harriet was trying to make this comparison, but if his/her/zir/their (Harriet still hasn't told me which pronouns to use despite complaining that I misgender him/her/zim/them) purpose was to ease the LW's feelings about this, I don't see how it's helpful to explain that really he just sometimes fantasies about replacing the LW with his exes from time to time on his own whims, something women don't do because they would consider it emotional infidelity. My response is that this is exactly what she appears to be worried about, that it's not analogous to how most women fantasize / view visual sexual media (at least according to the trends in the letters we receive), and this isn't necessarily about "emotional infidelity" but rather about a greater discomfort/perplexity/misunderstanding of how most men experience sexuality- namely that they continue to lust after exes in a way that women tend not to. (Generalizations, yes, because we are generalizing.)

As for disliking a poster on a personal level, that is well-established. As for being out of line, who is establishing the boundaries? I find that people say things I consider out of line frequently enough, but unless someone is being a bully or displaying some sort of bigotry or trolling, it seems well within any boundaries of discussion here.


And to be clear, since apparently I need to be, the "he" above refers to the LW's ex.

Harriet, yes I missed the one 'his' in your post in which you otherwise used entirely gender-neutral terms and in which you talked about TWO PEOPLE (the ex and the current partner).


*bf not ex


Ciods @120. Words are not pictures. Still pictures are not moving pictures. The images written words bring up are like sexual fantasies, in the mind, self generated pictures; not real ones.
My answer to your question is no. They are not the same thing.


Again ciods @101; people don’t have a right to their feelings, you say, in an intimate relationship?
Feelings are a big part of any relationship, they keep it going or close it down. Yes, people do have a right to their feelings. Not every feeling must be acted out, or even shared. We do have a right to them, it makes us humans and not machines.


I agree Fan, snoopers deserve what they get. And what JDEN got, was the truth. She is the one in the relationship with this man, she is the one doing the yards to help maintain this monogamous relationship. So what, she pretends the truth isn’t the truth, because snooping got her to the truth. That sounds very punishing. Finding them seems to have been punishing enough. Don’t you think?
I hate porn. Not in any moral sense, in an aesthetic sense. Thinking of a man crouched over a computer watching girls being exploited for their gaze is a big big turn off for me.
I’m no longer pining for a mate, the body changes, the desires change, funny that. If I do go with a man, I expect his porn habit be right out of my face.


JDEN @139

I think the fact that you were both able to go through 140 strongly-worded internet comments on your personal life and actually take something positive from it shows a lot of maturity and, as Harriet says, bodes well for the future of your relationship :)

"There is an infinite amount of porn in the world, and ya know.. theres also me, so I think the videos can go"

This still sounds kind of "off" to me, as I don't think it's our place to decide that for our partners. The videos are his - they don't belong to you, and were never intended for you. I agree with nocutename @142 - there's an issue of the ex's ongoing consent - but I think it's important to mentally separate this issue from whatever controlling impulse you may have around these videos, and not latch on to it as a convenient ethical excuse to get him to do what you want. You've made your feelings about these videos clear. Now it's time to back off and let him decide what to do with them.

That said - I'm not involved in your relationship, and if your partner is happy to grant you this level of control over his personal media (or accepts it as a reasonable price of admission for being with you), then there's no problem. If not - keep talking I guess :) Good luck to you both!


CMDwannabe @111


Ugh, the crazy formatting in this comment section is such a drag.

CMDwannabe @111 ~blushes~


Ciods @136: What that phrase means to me is that no one should be shamed for feeling what they legitimately feel. It's not like we can control how we feel, right? Shaming someone for having "unjustified" feelings will only lead them to feel worse, and to suppress those feelings they "shouldn't" be having instead of dealing with them in productive ways. I have seen the phrase used to imply that someone who is, for instance, angry or jealous is justified in acting those feelings out in inappropriate ways. No. If I am feeling angry, I don't have the right to lash out. I have the right to feel that emotion, but I need to deal with it appropriately. JDEN has the right to feel shocked, the right to feel jealous and insecure. She does not have the right to make unreasonable demands or invade her boyfriend's privacy because she feels shocked, jealous or insecure. In other words, I agree with you and don't think you are being ornery -- the distinction is very important.

JDEN @139, thanks for bearing with us through all of this! Glad you are working through this with your boyfriend. Question, would you be satisfied if he copied all the photos to a memory stick somewhere and deleted them from his phone? Seems to be like an acceptable compromise, since neither you nor anyone else will ever see them, accidentally or on purpose. You sound to me like you're standing your ground here; what does your boyfriend say to that? You think the videos can be deleted? Of course they can be, but it's his decision, isn't it?

Harriet @141: You don't think Mr JDEN suggested it because he knew Dan would agree it was no big deal? ;)

Lava @146, JDEN never mentioned marriage.

Ytterby @147, that is a fair point. I stand corrected.

Mr JDEN, care to give your side?


JDEN- you asked an advice columnist for his opinion, and as it turned out his expert-or-not words resonated with the vast majority of the commenters.
Of course the choice is yours and strangers should not decide your future, just keep this in mind when you evaluate/reevaluate the situation and don’t be tempted to make a decision based on other strangers’ compliments who may tell you what you want to hear.

Bravery and toughness may also include recognizing differences and allowing space for a partner.
Best to all.


PSA: There are password protected apps for photo storage.

Ugh to LW needing assurance her dude no longer finds his ex attractive. LW will be his ex someday, too. Will those rules still apply then? The need to police a partner's thoughts and memories is a bigger red flag than the photo snooping.


For the record I don’t condone snooping thru phones.
The first lot of photos JDED saw by mistake. Then she snooped and found the videos. To some these wouldn’t matter, to others they do.
I’m sure this man can have all the space in the world CMD, if JDEN leaves him. Or if it’s important to him to keep the videos, he leaves her.
She was brave writing the letter, given the excessive negative reactions she’s got.
Did he ask his past gfs if they minded he keep nude photos of them or videos of them, once the relationships ended? This is a violation of their trust, if he didn’t.
Personally, I’ve deleted any erotic images sent to me, once the connections and intimacy have ceased.


@147. Ytterby. Thank you. It is my aim to try to be helpful to LWs and to listen to them. I'd guess the most good any commenter can do might come about, perhaps, through speaking directly to LWs and asking them gentle questions. My fantasy--which I still read now as sly and genial--probably wasn't helpful; but I was standing back from the run of posts and trying to suggest that fantasy wasn't cheating; it was too exigent a norm of fidelity to require that one's partner's mind never stray.

Non-normative people--which can mean trans or NB people in cis contexts, queers in straight contexts, or women in historically male business, sporting and other contexts--can find it very hard to say, to be granted the right to say, the most simple things. And to be heard as saying them. As saying, sometimes, conventional, silly or witless and boorish things. The having-difficulty-hearing is in no way particular to EmmaLiz; and she wouldn't necessarily be a marked example of it.


@149. Emma. I don't know how to take your 'well-established' remark. As saying you dislike me? That it's a well-established fact of listserv chat (as was) that interlocutors often dislike each other? There's absolutely nothing to be gained, to my thinking, from cultivating personal antagonisms.

I couldn't care less how you 'pronoun' me. This is younger people's struggle--and an important one, for them--the struggle both of ciswomen who don't want to inherit a naturalised gender, who with carefulness about pronoun-usage want to make gender legible, and of trans women looking for societal affirmation of their transition. My ethos is more of being happy to be no-gender-and-every-gender where gender doesn't matter, and where the 'right' judgment is available to people of any gender designation. In my career, I've always striven to speak with the authority of expertise, not the righteousness of gender. But if I'm not splitting hairs about my own gender, it's pretty important to me that the people I'm in relationships with (actually, of both genders) meet culturally-recognisable gender descriptions. I'm no sort of pansexual.... What?--do you think that all the NBs and ladybois and agendered types (possibly the last do...) go round with types exactly like them? That the bigendered don't often have a particular fascination with the effects of gender, usually found in most concentrated and confident form in the cis? I have the sense you have very little familiarity with trans and non-binary people at all.


@158. Bi. Yes, of course he did. He was 'wiser in the ways of the world' than she was; but it's a good thing for her that she's had to become wiser in this sense--has been confronted with how 80% of those commenting, male and female, consider her wanting him to scrub the old vids an overreach or unreasonable request. It's right that she can't fall back on 'it's normal', 'that's what everyone would want' or 'deem reasonable' now--even as JDEN will have seen her impulses reflected in the responses of a handful of commenters.

They have to work out a solution together. It would be wrong now for him to strongarm her into giving him a pass, if the videos still genuinely upset her or make her doubt his commitment or attraction to her.

And--further--it can't be that he listens to Savage Love, but that she doesn't ... can it? They must be broadly on the same page, nodding in agreement with Mr Savage's sexual ethics? If this is a case of JDEN listening to Savage Love and hearing only in it those themes and affirmations she wants to hear, that's also a good thing for her to have been pulled up on...?

@158. Bi. My bespoke solution would be he transfer all the material onto a password-protected space he can't access from their home. Then when he doesn't want to fuck her and is moaning in the bathroom, she can believe with some assurance that he has indigestion, and not entertain fears of something else. I acknowledge this is again an possibly unhelpful interposing fantasy (!), but you will grant it does not involve me or play out my own personal sexual imaginary (!).


Lava @162: She saw the first lot of photos by accident, then she snooped -eight months later- to find the videos. In that eight-month space, what effect did those videos have on their relationship? Absolutely none. She owed him privacy and she didn't give it to him.

Harriet @163: "My fantasy--which I still read now as sly and genial--probably wasn't helpful." Lesson learned the second time, I hope. If anything, your fantasy probably made things worse; he probably -wasn't- picturing his exes in an elaborate scenario before, during and after sex with her, but now she thinks he is!

Harriet @165: No, you didn't learn! Now she's going to think, whenever he has indigestion, that he "doesn't want to fuck her" (harsh!). You've put these fears of something else into her head, don't you see that? And where, out of the home, do you suggest that he store these videos so that no third parties will see? "Hey Mom, can I keep this memory stick here? What's on it, that I can't keep it at my place? Never you mind..."


Harriet, you and I have butted heads repeatedly, usually about the same topics, and I've been very clear that you exacerbate me and have even once cussed you out rudely, something I felt really bad about and later after weeks of mostly ignoring your posts I offered you an apology which you graciously accepted. Now, we can discuss how there's nothing to be gained from this or speculate as to why I continue to engage when I could ignore or any other perfectly worthy responses, but instead you are expressing disbelief that I have ever disliked you at all? I mean, it's exactly that sort of response that I find so exasperating. This time it made me laugh. But if you really do want clarity, I was simply responding to Ytterby's observation that my seemed to contain some personal bias- yes that is correct and has been for a long time. Ytterby noticed this, even though I was not personally trying to allow that bias to affect my response.

Regarding your pronouns, I know you don't have preferences. And if you don't have preferences, then don't get bent out of shape if I misgender. You can't have it both ways. As to the bit about your ethos and personal experience, again I wish you the best of luck in all that, but I'm not going to reference all of that each and every time we talk about anything. You have every right not to wish to limit your sexuality or gender to an easy label, but then you can't simultaneously get mad if I use the wrong labels. And seriously, that you could have such a complex experience of gender and sexuality and then respond that I should know that a person who wears a tie in a sexual fantasy is a man? Get the fuck off that. I had to wear a tie when I worked in a topless bar for chrissakes.


*exasperate not exacerbate but that could be an interesting interpretation as well ha ha


I have very few trans and/or NB friends b/c there are none where I live. I work with several in organizing circles and so are around them quite a bit in that capacity. As to the details of their private lives, no I'd have no idea. But this is not a letter about a trans or NB person. And I was not commenting to discuss YOU or YOUR relationships, but rather the LW's. Again, I understand that things spiral out of control, but you are getting angry that I misgendered one of two imaginary lovers in your personal scenario, and then saying I should learn more about this? Whatever for? Your sexuality and relationships are not the topic of this letter, and while they can easily be a tangent topic of conversation (that happens naturally in this forum all the time), I did not ever attempt to engage with that topic. I talked about how the scenario could be perceived as creepy- not helpful to the LW- and if I misunderstood, that's likely (as Ytterby put it) or even that we just disagree. But you responded that I misgendered your lover, that evidence of that is that I know so little about how NB people (or you in particular) prefer people unlike them? And so on. I don't care about your personal experience of gender and sexuality in any way more than just a general wish for your good welfare and happiness and a desire to show you basic respect. The rest is your personal business, and if we are making your business the topic of discussion and I choose to engage, then I will attempt to learn about it. But I did not choose to engage with that here. You came at me with accusations of misgendering. (exasperating, but also fascinating)

For example, there is currently a long thread that does in fact revolve around trans people and I am not a participant though I've been a curious reader. I tend to stay out of conversations that I don't know as much about or at least to limit my interactions to the topics that either make sense to me or that I wish to learn about, etc.


@166. Bi. I see that I have too active an imagination--it expanded when I left America! I thought stuff could be stored on the cloud, in a passport-protected space to which access could be denied to some URLs.

@168. Emma. You're again reading mental states into what I say that aren't there in the words. I 'expressed disbelief'? No, I said I didn't 'know how to take'--it means what it says it means. 'I'm getting angry...'--where have I expressed anger? I really tried to give you a pass, not to bring up something I considered hastily crass, since the occasional remark of that kind was perhaps the price of your conversing civilly with me.... It was only when someone I'd consider a closer reader, with a more strenuously exercised moral imagination, complimented you, that I was unable to resist calling it out. It's not unusual that someone relaxed about their own gender identification cares about that of their romantic partners ... at all. This is surely a point you'd accept more readily if you had closer trans friends or co-organisers.

I certainly don't dislike anyone on the basis of these threads. There isn't enough to go on ... to know whether someone would help an elderly person with a groceries from a split shopping bag; whether they would babysit at short notice, or be patient with a partner who couldn't state the grounds of an aversion. If I found these conversations getting to me that way--found myself thinking, for example, 'ah, he mischaracterised women's modesty again!' or 'she had to pull the rug from under my feet!', 'my definitions are always tendentiously heternormative--and what does that mean, 'heteronormative'?--for her'--I'd probably give up on what is, for me, the pleasant diversion of posting.


Geez, I'm glad there were a couple of people who didn't pile on the LW. For me, part of becoming comfortable in myself has been becoming comfortable asking for what I want and not being embarrassed by it. I, in turn, trust that my partner will be honest with me about what they are comfortable doing and that they are honest about their boundaries. Only LW can judge when her bf is being honest, and she has to be honest about when she's snooping (and it seems like she did the second time bc this made her insecure, so that's something to discuss as well - how he can help her get over that since it sounds like that's what they've decided to do). Personally I wouldn't want a long term partner to keep naked photos/video of an ex (and come on - ppl know this isn't the same as non-naked photos, letters or online porn). Where each couple draws the line as far as what is acceptable is their business, though, and it's up to both of them to be honest. After that you decide if you can trust or not. And people saying the request is unreasonable so he should lie?! Why would anyone do that?


Just saw this Harriet. As I've mentioned before, I care very little about being crass or being perceived that way, which has nothing to do with basic respect IMO, and we have different ideas about communicating in general. As neither you nor my co-organizers are my lovers, I fail to see why I should care a bit about the genders of the people in your/their fantasies or relationships or how it's even relevant to the topic here since we were discussing a cis woman with a cis boyfriend, so again I fail to see why I should've thought of it from your POV and not hers. As for your ideas about whether or not you like people or what makes you like them or not, again I just don't care, and if you want to stop posting in some imaginary scenario, go ahead and do that in another fantasy or in real life if it comes to pass, but I don't see what any of this has to do with me. You brought all of this up. I simply said that the idea of replacing one partner with another in a fantasy is exactly the sort of creepy thing the LW appears to be disturbed by. I've learned my lesson, and I will not respond to you anymore both because it tends to spiral out like this and also because Ytterby is probably correct that my personal beef with you affects the way I read your posts.