Dating: Your ex's nudes – should you keep or delete them?

Here's what you should do with your post-relationship or situationship nudes

Sexting man and a woman send each other's nudes.
A man and a woman exchange nudes of themselves using their mobile phones. (Photo: Getty Images)

Nudes are complicated things.

While everyone likes the idea of receiving them – some feel a sense of gratification from taking them – not everyone is equipped to deal with the responsibilities of acquiring and owning a nude of someone else. It’s like giving someone inexperienced a highly-valuable NFT and expecting them to know how to use it and what to do with it.

Thankfully, there are unspoken guidelines that come with owning nudes. Most of us know we can’t share these images or texts with others and that we should be careful about how we store them.

However, what happens if the images are from an ex? Do you delete them? Store them for when you get lonely? Or, do you have to tell them you’ve deleted their images? What happens then if you’ve entered a new relationship?

No one really discusses the responsibility of owning nudes.

Currently, there isn’t a socially accepted rule – and frankly, we can’t really blame anyone. While issues like revenge porn are often discussed on social media and in various TV series and films, no one really discusses the responsibility of owning nudes and more importantly, what to do once a relationship (or a situationship) has ended.

Seeing this, I decided to ask some friends what their thoughts are on receiving nudes and what to do about them.

A form of empowerment for some

A photo of a woman in bikini on a laptop screen is reflected on a man's glasses.
A man looks at a photo of woman in bikini on his laptop. (Photo: Getty Images)

“From a man’s perspective, it’s always nice to get nudes, and because they come by so rarely, I cherish them more,” reveals my friend *Tim, 32. “My ex and I used to sext and trade pics when we first started going out but it got less exciting once we settled down. Eventually, I forgot I even had those pictures until Google Photos told me I was almost out of storage space,” he continues.

For some, nudes are a form of empowerment.

“I’ve never met anyone who didn’t enjoy sexting or receiving consensual nudes,” says *Sonia, 29. “It’s really nice when someone enjoys the photos or videos I’ve sent them. I guess I like the idea that when they think about me in the future, they’ll remember how attractive I was.”

Polarising topic

A woman is deleting files from her computer.
A woman presses the icon of a trash can on her computer screen. (Photos: Getty Images)

While Tim deleted the photos of his ex, not everyone is or can be as thoughtful about it as he was and for some of us, it’s not very straightforward.

In fact, some of the comments on Reddit’s r/polls post about whether people should delete “dirty photos” from an ex made me realise just how polarising this topic can be. It also showed me that what I think is common knowledge and polite to do isn’t applicable to everyone.

While some users think it’s common courtesy to delete them and will delete photos if they’ve been asked to, not everyone feels the same way.

There is no control once you press ‘send’.

“If they had concerns about being violated why would they let you take them in the first place? I think once they are taken they are your property,” says one user.

In the end, the tallied results revealed that of those who voted, over 2,000 would always delete their ex’s nudes and about 757 answered, “Not even if they asked.”

“The downside [of sending a nude] is that it is sent and in someone else’s hands. This is the unfortunate part of not having considered this in the first place – there is no control once you press ‘send’,” says Desirée Robinson, a certified sex therapist, and psychotherapist focusing on connection, intimacy, and trauma.

“When a relationship ends, it’s important to consider if these photos keep you stuck thinking about this person or if it’s time to delete them, and move on. Often, people keep them for pleasure purposes. However, there is something to be said about appreciating who you’re with in the present moment as opposed to holding on to memories of a previous partner,” she explains.

Sexting in the heat of the moment

Sensual dark haired model blowing a kiss to the camera.
Sexting usually occurs in the heat of the moment. (Photo: Getty Images)

However, as many of us know, we don’t really put much thought into sending nudes, and sexting usually occurs in the heat of the moment, which means we rarely think about the consequences of sending an intimate photo.

“Unless you’re an OnlyFans star or have access to glamour photographers 24/7, sending nudes is very much organic and something people do out of lust,” says *Janice, 31. “I’ve definitely sent nudes on a whim to people I’ve dated and regretted some of them. Even though I never take any with my face in the picture, I just hope my picture doesn’t turn up on a site like Is Anyone Up? or an NSFW forum.”

Sending nudes is very much organic and something people do out of lust.

For the uninitiated, Is Anyone Up? was a user-generated site that published intimate photos and videos of people without their consent. While some content on the site was self-submitted, the site has been described as a place for “pornographic souvenirs from relationships gone sour.”

According to the Netflix documentary The Most Hated Man on the Internet, the site’s owner, Hunter Moore, was sentenced to two years and six months in prison and fined US$2,000 for his involvement in the site when it was found that he had paid a hacker to steal intimate images from the email accounts of victims.

Causes of concern

A stressed Asian woman frowns while looking at her mobile phone.
Revenge porn, blackmail and sexual extortion can turn to major concerns if you share your intimate photos with another person. (Photo: Getty Images)

Besides revenge porn, blackmail and sexual extortion are two other causes of concern.

In 2018, *Isabel, 29, was a victim of sexual extortion when her ex threatened her with intimate photos of herself.

“He told me he’d send photos and videos of me to my parents if I didn’t agree to sleep with him,” she recounts. Instead of going to the police, Isabel felt she could speak to her ex and attempt to get him to delete the photos.

Every day I wondered if my pictures would show up somewhere or if my parents had received them.

“This went on for a few months before he eventually stopped. It was hell for me. Every day I wondered if my pictures would show up somewhere or if my parents had received them,” she says.

Navigating the conversation around having your photos deleted from an ex’s device can be difficult. While you can always attempt to ask someone to delete intimate photos of you, it’s also worth understanding that they may or may not respect your wishes.

“It’s unfortunate. However, this may be the learned wisdom as we discuss more openly about relationships, revenge porn, and how we can enjoy moments with our partners that don’t cause harm down the line,” explains Desirée.

Ask yourself a few questions

A woman hiding under the blanket and using phone late at night on her bed
Before tapping on the "send" button to share your nudes with someone else, it is important to ask yourself a few questions. (Photo: Getty Images)

Despite its complexity, the issue around what to do with nudes is an easy one to fix. Don’t want them out there? And don’t quite want the responsibility of having to care for them? Don’t take them or make suggestions to sext.

But, as we know, it’s not always easy to say when you’re in the heat of the moment. Before sending pictures of yourself it’s worth asking yourself a few questions.

“I would say it’s important to have a personal ethic around sharing sexy photos with an ex. In reality, as the world and technology evolve, it’s additive to consider how e may want to share intimate and sexy moments with a significant other or even in a situationship, but that may mean taking extra measures to protect yourself,” suggests Desirée.

Be selective in who you share [your nudes] with.

One simple question to ask yourself – especially when you’re not caught in a sexting roulette – is how you’d handle it if your photos get exposed. Another good question to ask is if you trust your recipient enough with such intimate photos of yourself.

“Above everything, I’d say be selective in who you share [your nudes] with and how that contributes to your dynamic,” says Desirée.

If you or someone you know is a victim of revenge porn, reach out to SheCares@SCWO at 8001 01 4616, or contact a lawyer immediately. You can also read more about your legal rights surrounding revenge porn in Singapore, here.

(*Names have been changed and details have been modified upon request.)

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