Is it wrong to masturbate to one's exes when in a relationship?
December 8, 2009 8:30 AM   Subscribe

Autoeroticafilter: Are certain self-pleasuring activities not OK?

I have pictures and video of a sexual nature of a couple of my exes. While I would never show them to anyone else and am careful to make sure they remain confidential, I don't plan on getting rid of them.

Since I still find my exes very physically attractive, and I'm not very turned on by most pornography I can find, I tend to make use of these materials for personal satisfaction. I don't think there's anything wrong with this.

What I am wondering about, is whether it is wrong to do this when I'm in a monogamous relationship. I've never had problems being faithful, and I would never date anyone who expected me not to masturbate, or who had a problem with me looking at pornography, but I'm not sure this is the same.

If it makes any difference, one of the exes I don't expect to ever be in contact with again and have no desire to reunite with. Another, I am good friends with and could imagine getting back together if the timing and geography were right, but we're currently platonic and respect those boundaries.

I don't feel that looking at this material changes my feelings towards these people; it just gets me off. But, I could see where if my SO knew, it might be upsetting. Since starting a committed relationship, I haven't been looking at these things because of my uncertainty. I have two basic questions:
  1. Is using these materials for self satisfaction wrong when I'm in a relationship?
  2. Should I talk to my SO about this? I'm not sure I really want to ask permission, since I don't think anyone has a right to tell you how to masturbate, but I really prefer to be open and honest about things. However, I wonder if this is one of those situations where it's better to just keep it to myself.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (66 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

Wrong is relative in relationships. It is a function of what you agreed to do.

Here you have a doozie. Just asking is difficult. How about pictures of your current SO?
posted by Ironmouth at 8:36 AM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

I definitely wouldn't tell your SO. I would be massively upset to hear that my SO was masturbating to pictures or thoughts of an ex. Porn, who cares, but an ex? That raises questions of why you don't find thoughts or pictures of your SO as compelling as those of the ex.

Whether you do it or not is probably your own business, but I definitely wouldn't tell anyone.
posted by musofire at 8:41 AM on December 8, 2009

If I were your SO, I would personally find it unacceptable for you to masturbate to pictures of your exes. But that doesn't mean what you're doing is wrong; it just means you and I would be sexually incompatible, which happens.

Is it wrong? That depends on whether your SO is okay with it, whether you told your exes you destroyed the pictures but didn't, and so many other factors that we can't really answer your question. The better question is whether you think it's wrong, and why.

Should you tell your SO? Well, again it depends. Is she likely to find out? Do you keep the pictures in a place she might eventually discover them? More importantly, do you think she would mind? You know her better than we do.
posted by balls at 8:42 AM on December 8, 2009

Having stumbled across the naked photos of a boyfriend's exes myself, I would strongly urge against using them. The only reason it wasn't terribly scarring was that the boyfriend said something along the lines of, 'Oh, those. They're not even very interesting. I had really forgotten about them.' Were he to have been actively using them, I would have been really upset (but perhaps your girlfriend is different...).

Definitely seconding the using pictures of your current SO. I'd definitely put these pictures someplace where there is no way your current SO could accidentally find them.
posted by brambory at 8:45 AM on December 8, 2009

This definitely depends on the relationship. If you were with me, I would not be pleased to know you still fantasized about your exes. And if I were your ex and found you were still masturbating to pictures and video of me, I would be horrified. If you've got material of your current SO, use that instead unless you want to have this conversation with your SO too.
posted by katillathehun at 8:50 AM on December 8, 2009

Just another datapoint. Am completely okay with porn. I would not be okay with this.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:52 AM on December 8, 2009 [9 favorites]

Totally normal. Don't rely on them too much or treat them as taboo and you'll gradually lose interest. If you lock them away in a super secret box, engage with them furtively and invest them with all sorts of transgressive eros, they will become an object of fetishistic fascination in their own right. That would be bad if your current partner isn't down with that sort of thing. If you treat them as a normal, historical aspect of your sexuality, then your current relationship will have space to grow and eclipse those reminders of past lovers. All things being equal, warm three dimensional bodies are far more interesting and engaging than material representations anyway.
posted by felix betachat at 8:53 AM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

Well... for what it's worth, I don't care if my husband gets off to pornography when I'm not around, but pictures of exes would be fairly upsetting; while you might know it's not the case, I don't think it would be unreasonable for an SO to get the impression you still want to get back with those exes or that you don't think your current SO holds a candle to them physically, etc. Even with a lot of trust someone could easily feel like they're being a complete fool for believing you and that later they're going to regret trusting you. Imagine the AskMeFi of your SO if she found out: "I just found out my boyfriend still keeps sexual pictures of his exes to masturbate to. One of them is still a good friend of his. He says there's nothing else going on and I generally trust him but now I don't know what to think. What should I do?" It would be a big DTMFA pile-on.

As for whether you should bring it up... man, I'm usually all for honesty, but in this case I find myself hesitating. Part of me says I wouldn't even want to know, that if it's like you say it is, maybe it's better to keep it to yourself. But if you keep it yourself and she were to find out somehow, then it would be even messier. Also, it's more complicated because you say you're just starting the committed relationship, and if a guy tried to get me to be okay with that so early on when there's not as much trust built, I would just get the hell out, personally. I'm a bit fearful that you'll just become the story about "that one guy" she dated that her friends bring up as a joke. I regret that it sounds so harsh, but it really is a harsh thing. But if you brought it up after you were in a relationship long enough to build more trust, it would be even worse because she'd feel weird that you didn't bring it up before.

Somewhere in there, there's room for some especially relaxed girl who doesn't care and doesn't worry she's being an idiot, but I don't think the odds are on your side. Even those that are into polyamory often have rules about staying away from people you'd potentially have feelings for, so however sucky it might seem to you, I just don't think you're going to find many people that are entirely cool with it. Which isn't to say you shouldn't keep trying and looking, but things might be easier on you if you can find other ways to get off than using pictures of exes.

I guess I would have to say that while I don't think there is anything morally wrong about what you're doing, it would be a foolish thing to continue doing in a committed relationship just because the potential for disaster is so high. I'm with Ironmouth; if porn doesn't work for you then try hitting up your current partner for pictures.
posted by Nattie at 8:55 AM on December 8, 2009

I'm probably not the best person to answer because my boundaries -- and that of my relationship -- are probably not typical because I grew up reading too much Savage Love and that just solidified my belief that traditional monogamy might not just be for everyone. I'm a big believer that honesty is my only relationship requirement and that I'd rather know what you were feeling and doing rather than you doing something and not telling me to "protect my feelings" and I can only be involved with folks who feel the same.

So though I'd think it was hot if my SO did that and I'm pretty sure my SO would feel the same, this would only fly if we both felt comfortable in the relationship and that this reviewing of the past wasn't a longing for it or an escape from the present. And this is different than you feeling that way -- this feeling also has to be communicated to and shared by your SO.

If this is something that is bothering you/causing guilt, you should think about why that is. Likewise, if it's something that you feel shouldn't be upsetting to your SO but it would be, then you should examine that as well.

Even though you're right that no one has the right to tell you what you can and can't get off to by yourself, if you prefer to be open and honest about things, and by not telling you feel that you're not being open and honest, then you should either share it or not do it.

Proceed carefully if you're worried about your SO's feelings, but I feel like, since this is such a specific topic, it is something you can bring up hypothetically without it being "I'm doing this - what do you think?" or "I'd like to do this -- can I?" Also, do you have pictures/videoes of your SO? If so, you can bring up the question in regards to your SO -- and your SO's feelings about porn in general? If your SO was included in the mix, this might make things smoother. (On preview, others have suggested this. But it could also complicate the issue, but if your SO starts doing things like asking "Which one of these is the one that finally gets you off -- them or me?" then you've got much larger problems.)

If you two are on completely different pages on this specific topic, it may be a sign that you aren't compatible for a long term sexual relationship. Or your discussion may lead you both to question why these things would be a bother and lead to more open honesty which is pretty much the key to a good sex life .

In other words, communication is key (which might as well be the default answer for all love/relationship/sex questions)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:56 AM on December 8, 2009

Also, possible relevant: are you sure your exes would be okay with you still having these, much less your using them? Sure, once you send pictures off, you pretty much lose control of them, but I'd feel a little, well, unsettled, if I knew this was happening with nudie pics of me in the possession of someone who is now a platonic friend. My preference, were I in their position, would be for you to delete them, not to keep them as masturbatory aids for years to come.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:00 AM on December 8, 2009 [4 favorites]

You're safe until yur partner finds out. I they find it, say "I meant to tell you, but I forgot."
posted by 29 at 9:02 AM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

How would you feel if you found your current partner doing the same thing? That's pretty much your answer right there.
posted by Space Kitty at 9:03 AM on December 8, 2009

I wouldn't be happy if I found out my SO was doing this. Porn, fine. This, no.
Also, would you be okay with your SO masturbating to pictures of his/her ex? Factor that one in, too.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:03 AM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Your current gf has a pretty good case for you being not entirely 'over' your exes, given that you're still actively reliving your memories with them through recorded sexual experiences. I don't think you should tell your girlfriend (for reasons you've stated above). But I also think you should tell your girlfriend (for reasons you haven't stated). This constitutes a problem. It's up to you to decide whether or not to solve it. May I suggest the solution that doesn't focus on telling or not telling her, but rather actively involves reuniting the part of your brain to the wonderful world of porn and endless possibility, and disconnecting it from the ex-girlfriend reel?
posted by iamkimiam at 9:04 AM on December 8, 2009

I am female. I consider myself pretty open minded when it comes to porn, as long as my boyfriend is giving me all of the attention I want, I do not care one whit. That said, if I found out about my boyfriend had pictures or videos of his exes and he was still watching them, well, I like to think I'm pretty confident and open minded, but that would have the potential to be not just unpleasant but devastating. It would make it very hard for me to trust him and I'd probably feel like an idiot. If he told me about it in advance it might be a dealbreaker. I certainly wouldn't trust him enough to ever make any videos or take any photos with him.

The way you present the question here makes you sound like a totally cool guy, you're concerned about your SO's feelings and are being thoughtful about it, and the fact that you prefer to watch that stuff instead of porn suggests you're all about keeping it real, which is good. However, in the actual fiber of a real relationship, I know that I myself would weigh that against the sort of skeevy feelings I had and those uncomfortable feelings would win out. Of course that's me. However, when I think about presenting this to any of my female friends, I feel like their answer would be similar.

It's not a matter of "not OK" -- if you're single I think it's way ok. Who cares what I think anyway, but I think passing judgement on what excites people is silly and just makes those proclivities more alluring.

If you're currently single, why not try exploring other avenues, maybe find porn that's more interesting to you, or start experimenting with other things? That way, if and when you do find that perfect someone and you start dating her, if the fact that you would like to watch or look at sexy videos or pictures of your exes DOES bother her, you won't have such a hard time letting go of it, or on the other side, you don't experience feelings of shame and high-assholery when you do cave and do it?

In other words, I feel like it is not something that should be a shameful thing for you, but it could be a problem in future relationships and so you should just look at it from that perspective.
posted by pazazygeek at 9:14 AM on December 8, 2009

"Right" and "wrong" are not useful words here. How about "helpful" and "harmful"? Is this helpful or harmful to your relationship? I think you know the answer to that.

The obvious solution is to make videos of your SO so you can use those when he/she is not around, instead of your exes.
posted by desjardins at 9:19 AM on December 8, 2009

Sorry, I managed to miss that you mentioned you are just starting a committed relationship at the end of this question, so my answer kind of sucks.
posted by pazazygeek at 9:22 AM on December 8, 2009

Would you lay mines in your back yard and say "It's nothing to worry about, hardly anyone goes back there"?

The only question you need to ask yourself is this: "What's more important, jerking it to my ex or the relationship I'm in?"

It's clear both from this thread's respondents and from general common sense that there is (at the very least) a %50 chance that this will cause a problem for your current SO. Therefore, if you choose to continue jerking it to your ex, you are willfully putting your relationship with your SO at risk.

If you are willfully putting your relationship at risk, that says something about your level of commitment to your SO. Whether you tell your SO about this particular quirk or not, you should absolutely be honest with them about your commitment level.
posted by Darth Fedor at 9:25 AM on December 8, 2009 [3 favorites]

I wouldn't be OK with it if we were dating, and I'm not the jealous type. There's just a huge difference between porn and images of people you used to date. HUGE. In fact, I'd wonder how much psychic space these exes are still taking up in your brain, and I'd suspect/worry that you would be lacking the ability to be a full partner yet. Consider that.
posted by Stewriffic at 9:38 AM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

Telling your SO isn't asking permission, IMO. It is being honest, and giving your SO the ability to make an informed decision about whether you are a person with whom your SO wants to be in a relationship. You seem to recognize implicitly in this question that, knowing this fact, your SO might not want to continue a relationship with you. It needn't be an ultimatum, but honesty about your erotic interests and a respectful discussion of your SO's boundaries.
posted by bunnycup at 9:38 AM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

1) If I were the ex, and I found out about this, I would be deeply disturbed.

2) Even if the ex you're still friends with never, ever found out about this, I still would say you are doing harm to her. You're supposed to be a platonic friend with her, and platonic friends do not use images of each other as porn. You're no longer romantically or sexually involved, so you should respect that boundary. Part of respecting that boundary is not using her body, in picture-form, for sexual gratification. Others probably disagree with this, but this is at least how I feel about it: using her images as pornography is using her for your sexual gratification, and, given that you two are no longer in a relationship where using one for the other's sexual gratification is appropriate, doing so is inappropriate.

3) If I were your SO, I would never, ever, ever want to find out about this. It would be deeply harmful to the relationship. Pornography is okay because it's all fantasy and unrealistic. The moment the porn star is no longer someone completely unattainable (and probably not really desirable as an actual sexual partner), it becomes problematic.

4) I would say that, thinking just of your SO's sake, you should stop using these pictures and never tell her about it. There just isn't a single thing to gain from telling her. However, that doesn't mean that you should just hide the pictures from her so she doesn't find out, just using them when she's not around. This is another thing people will likely disagree about, but here's my take: if you are doing something that would hurt your SO significantly were she to find out, then you shouldn't do it, even if you know she won't find out.

Everyone's comfort levels about these sorts of things are different, so you can't really take any one person's answer in this thread as obviously true. However, the above is how I would feel about it, and how I would reason about it. I provide this answer so you might have one more bit of data to think about.
posted by Ms. Saint at 9:41 AM on December 8, 2009 [8 favorites]

Another questions that goes along with all of this is: Is it okay to objectify someone you actually know without their explicit (heh) permission to do so? These photos were taken within the context of being in a relationship with these women, yes? Using them for sexual pleasure now -- when the emotional connection with the women is dead -- it's got a weirdly necrophiliac vibe to it.

My answers to your questions would have to be:

1. Wrong? Yes.. but in the sense that I don't think it's probably psychologically healthy to objectify your former lovers in this manner.

2. Tell your current SO? Good lord, no!

Destroy the photos, perhaps taking a moment for silent appreciation of how hot they were. Focus on your current lover and/or learn to find pleasure in photos of women who get paid to be objects of sexual gratification.
posted by rhartong at 9:47 AM on December 8, 2009

Slightly different take: Is it OK to masturbate to thoughts of an Ex? Yes. Should you maintain photos to facilitate that? No.

My personal belief is that we all have a right to fantasize about whatever we like. (Insert standard caveat about recognizing and strictly avoiding thoughts that could grease the slippery slope to illegal or harmful real life actions, etc.) Our histories create who we are, and we have a right to those histories. We also have a right to the mental images and emotional experiences that make up our history. Nobody has a right to take those away from us or alter them for their own purpose. They are ours, and they should be respected as private unless we choose to ask for help with them (therapy) or willingly share them.

But photos are different. Photos are real, and should they be found by another (or should your Ex come to find out you still use them), they begin to involve others very real feelings and rights. You have moved from something you have a personal right to, into an area where you must consider others emotions and rights. The pitfalls of this are well listed above. Should you decide that the pictures are vital to your happiness, the only fair course is to come clean, make both your SO and Ex aware of the situation and abide by their wishes whatever those may be. Because that's what you do in important relationships and don't knowingly hurt the people you are with. Communication and honesty (should) trump your desire for a few specific photos, no matter how enticing.

Plus, dude, it's jerking off. It happens to be one of the things I'm best at, but still...are the photos really that important that you can't satisfy the fantasy internally without involving the reality that may end up hurting others and jeopardizing present and past relationships?

I can tell you this...chances are very good that you will feel better about yourself if you let them go.
posted by nickjadlowe at 9:51 AM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

I would be totally creeped out if I found out an ex was using pictures of me to get off!
posted by mareli at 9:52 AM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

1. Is using these materials for self satisfaction wrong when I'm in a relationship?

This is framed incorrectly, and you need to address why you chose to frame it in this black-and-white manner. Are you seeking absolution or condemnation? And why? You've framed it so that you'll either receive one or the other. As others have pointed out, right/wrong in relationships is relative and is based on what has been consented to, what is desired, what is lacking, what is given and what is withheld. There's been no discussion of this issue within your relationship, so this question is premature. You haven't disclosed your sexual needs/preferences to your partner, and you haven't given your partner a chance to determine if that is something they are comfortable with in the context of their relationship. Until you have, the rightness and wrongness in the context of your relationship can't be answered.

2. Should I talk to my SO about this? I'm not sure I really want to ask permission, since I don't think anyone has a right to tell you how to masturbate, but I really prefer to be open and honest about things. However, I wonder if this is one of those situations where it's better to just keep it to myself.

Yes, you should talk to your SO about this because SO deserves your open and honest communication about important issues. And this seems to be an important expression of your sexuality.

But again, you've framed this in a pretty negative light. Why would talking about this necessarily mean that you're asking permission? Because you're afraid of what your SO will say. And given the number of people who might react negatively to this disclosure, I think you have a valid reason to fear the potential response. But guess what? Without the disclosure you only have the illusion of intimacy, companionship without closeness.

Great romantic stories aren't written about STD disclosures and sheepish fetishists who finally get up the courage to share their needs with their partners. And culturally, we like to support a fiction that trust is blind and that we're all supposed to be above honesty and open communication. We're not. Keeping politely silent about difficult subjects is no way to achieve intimacy with someone.
posted by greekphilosophy at 10:02 AM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

I apologize to everyone for being discordant, but don't LOTS of people have very fond memories of exes? Don't LOTS of people rely on those memories in the context we're discussing here? I don't know about the rest of you people, but there is often little reason to discuss those memories, or their current context, with your SO, and much reason to stay quiet about it. And I don't see much difference between the memories and the physical records of them (e.g., photographs), especially since I suspect that what is really, importantly, being experienced is not the immediate visual data of the physical records, but the memories.

I hope this doesn't horrify everybody. This reminds me of when my dad's brother died. Dad's brother was a terrible person and impossible to live with, angry and paranoid and frequently accusing others in the family of criminal actions that no sane person could imagine, etc. I asked Dad if he felt bad about his death. "No," he said, "I guess I'm just an inhuman monster."

Maybe I am just an inhuman monster, but I think there's a strong chance that you can have very fond memories (and even photos) of exes that you don't need to (and perhaps shouldn't) discuss with anyone -- and that you can simultaneously have a happy and healthy monogamous relationship.
posted by Mr. Justice at 10:08 AM on December 8, 2009 [6 favorites]

Lots of people are picking their pronouns assuming Anon is a straight male, even though the question doesn't specify. I guess a lot of the things people have been saying would apply whichever way around the genders were.

My opinion is that I'd prefer it if my partner were masturbating to pictures of myself than of her exes; but I'd be wary of giving her pictures of myself if I knew she was in the habit of hanging onto such things long after a relationship ended.

So I guess the best thing my partner could do, if she were Anon, would be to toss the pictures of exes, or at least archive them somewhere (like on an encrypted CD in a storage unit somewhere, safe and not in arm's reach), and then to ask me for pictures of myself without going into the stuff about exes in too much depth.
posted by Mike1024 at 10:10 AM on December 8, 2009

Another, I am good friends with and could imagine getting back together if the timing and geography were right...

Do you intend to inform your girlfriend that you could see yourself getting back together with your ex who you are currently friends with and whose image/videos of you are jerking off to if the timing and geography was right?
posted by The Straightener at 10:19 AM on December 8, 2009 [5 favorites]

Fantasizing is one thing. But pictures take your fantasies and make them tangible.
If I were your SO, I might be most disturbed about that ex for whom you have lingering feelings and whose dirty pictures you jerk off to. To me, it would seem like she's very much on your mind and in your life, to the extent that the current relationship might suffer.
As Liz Lemon would say, that's a dealbreaker.
posted by bookgirl18 at 10:34 AM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Don't tell your current partner about the photos until and unless you're willing to get rid of them if your partner objects.

On the other hand, if you wouldn't be willing to get rid of them even if it bothered your partner, I think that's something you might be well-served to ponder.
posted by KathrynT at 10:48 AM on December 8, 2009

I actually dont see the problem. I would understand that if your SO were to find out why she would be mad but what if you werent using any videos or pictures to masturbate but rather you were masturbating to your own memories of the event? Would this make it any different? There are fantasies and there is real life....if you have no problem distinguishing between the two then you are a good man/woman...others that cannot do the same should not blame him/her for this as long as their SO is being treated in the right manner.....
posted by The1andonly at 10:50 AM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

Neat question, in a razor's edge sort of way.

I'm also pro-porn, and even pro-keeping old pictures... but in this combination? No, I don't think this is smart for your own mental well-being or for your relationship.

In most relationships, exes are fine, and should be, as long as you are over them.

This doesn't come across as over. This comes across as still-obsessed.

And please pardon the pun.
posted by rokusan at 10:55 AM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

I actually dont see the problem. I would understand that if your SO were to find out why she would be mad but what if you werent using any videos or pictures to masturbate but rather you were masturbating to your own memories of the event? Would this make it any different?

Yes, it would. These aren't fantasies and aren't memories. These are tangible items (or bits of data--video even!), some of people that the original poster still seems to still harbor feelings for. Part of what makes fantasy-in-one's-head about exes acceptable is that it's abstract--there's nothing physical that a significant other can stumble over and misunderstand and it lacks the specificity of something that was created for consummation while engaged in a relationship that no longer exists. It's also essentially private--a series of thoughts. This is neither abstract nor private.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:55 AM on December 8, 2009

1. Yes
2. No

... fantasy is one thing but get rid of these materials completely and permanently so you don't have to deal with the temptation. Free yourself from this guilt.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:57 AM on December 8, 2009

It seems like you don't need them because you haven't been using them, so it's probably not worth any risk or guilt that might result.

I'll be easier and more convenient for you to just get rid of them. You'll eventually find something else.

For what it's worth, this would not bother me (monogamy, meh) except for the fact that your exes would probably not consent to you using their images in this way.
posted by kathrineg at 11:06 AM on December 8, 2009

Even in this thread you see the strong reactions that this provokes...if your girlfriend had a similar reaction her trust in you could be shaken. Be practical.
posted by kathrineg at 11:09 AM on December 8, 2009

If I was your ex, I would be really creeped out by this.

If I was your SO and found out/knew about this, I would wonder why you were masturbating to pictures of them and not me, since it's not your standard-porn.
posted by biochemist at 11:23 AM on December 8, 2009

I would so not like it. It would freak me out.

And I have no issue with porn or wank mags or whatever; whatever strangers' pictures my partner likes to groove on is fine with me. But someone wanking over pictures of an ex-partner would still freak me out.

I also can't believe that you can't find porn that captures the same traits you found physically attractive in these exes. There's porn of everything. I think you want to wank over their pictures because they're your exes, not in spite of. Which I would hate, if I were your partner.

Why not find some porn that's reminiscent of what you found appealing in your exes, without it being their naked pictures?
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:24 AM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Let me unpack my response a bit more:

I don't care if my partner wanks to porn, because he (in this case) is getting off to pictures of strangers so what difference does it make?

I don't care if my partner wanks to fantasies about his exes, because that's in his head and I don't have to know about it.

But there's something about wanking to pictures of exes that is too much investment in those specific people and their sexiness that would freak me out.

Also, the part where you're using something that was given to you as an expression of intimacy as wankfodder would keep me from giving you any nekkid pictures of myself, ever.

But that's me. You're not dating me, so the person you want to discuss this with is the person you're actually dating. It's not a question of "right" or "wrong", it's a question of your own squick factor and your partner's (and perhaps the exes, who might be truly squicked if they knew you were wanking over their pix).
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:28 AM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm also creeped out on your exes' behalf - I would have a big, big problem if I found out any of my exes were using old pics of me for sexual gratification - particularly if I still saw them socially.

I would actually be somewhat less disturbed if my parter were the one doing the wanking, but I would still be a little put off and be worried that it was a sign of drama to come.

(for reference: female, lesbian.)
posted by restless_nomad at 11:29 AM on December 8, 2009

I was initially willing to come in to the defense, because sometimes the fantasy isn't about a person, but about that specific kink, act, or event that rang your bell but probably couldn't or shouldn't be recreated.

But I would argue that unless you have an explicit agreement to the contrary ala Edward Weston, you have something of an obligation to give back or destroy sexually explicit materials after a breakup.

So yes, I'd consider this thin ice.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:29 AM on December 8, 2009

Phrased another way, this is what you're asking "Oh hey, I know we're starting to get a bit serious here and fall in love, so in the interest of being honest, I'm really not into porn, do you mind if I get off on pictures/photos of these two ex's?"

Honestly, I haven't heard of many other surefire ways to kill a relationship, be it new or old.

Were I still dating, I'd make a mental note of it, to use in case I mixed up with a crazy stalker type, 'cause it would be the perfect way to destroy that vibe. "Oh, you're so into me and can't without me? Well, as long as you're ok with me getting off to these old pictures of my ex's...."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:47 AM on December 8, 2009

If I entered a relationship and found out that my new partner owned and still masturbated to sexy photos of multiple exes, I would be deeply disturbed, likely to the point of breaking up on the spot. Not only because of the implication that the exes may still be in the picture (metaphorically speaking), but also from fear of being added to the collection.

If you've ever been to the taping of a TV show and read the fine print of the contract they put in front of you, it will usually have this scary line about how the studio can use whatever they record of you "in any and all media whether now known or hereafter developed, throughout the universe, in perpetuity." Though I trust that you'd never show another soul those pictures, holding on to them long after the relationship ends reminds me uncomfortably of that clause. If your exes have granted you explicit permission to keep those pictures and use them as you wish, then that's fine and dandy, but I am guessing they did not agree to them with the idea that they'd be yours for decades.

Sure, we can't control who fantasizes about us, but those pictures imply consent that was there at the time and may no longer be present. Better to destroy those pictures.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:13 PM on December 8, 2009

I have absolutely no problem with my partner fantasizing about exes, and I sure as hell happily fantasize about mine. I would have no problem knowing that exes jerked off to photos of me.

And wow, I wouldn't tell your SO about these photos/video. I wouldn't necessarily destroy them, but I think it would be better to lock them away and not use them to jerk off. This strikes a much touchier chord than merely fantasizing -- it's a whole lot more intimate.
posted by desuetude at 12:16 PM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

i'm with the "this is just the same as fantasizing about your former partners" camp. some people are able to think back to a past experience and recall every detail. most of us have those hair trigger type of memories that by merely recalling them we're able to get aroused/get off. some people are more visually stimulated and they need a little help. some people solve that by getting porn that harkens back to those memories. some people just look at old pics/videos.

having said that - nearly everyone is very understanding up until that last part. your girlfriend is probably not the type to take this in stride. most people would be incredibly hurt if they found pictures/videos of exes in the spank bank. i personally would only be really hurt if it were kept a secret. you're the only one here who has enough information to decide which side your girlfriend sits on.

as to the you're victimizing your ex by jacking off to pictures she gave you - ceci n'est pas une pipe. the only potentially squicky part is the 'we're still friends and might one day be more' part. i would probably get rid of those pictures/store them inside a zip/not use them, but only for the reason that it's not just a memory, it's not just a fantasy, but it's part of what you think might be your future. that's not terribly fair to your current girlfriend. hoping you find yourself back together with an ex and actively seeking out getting aroused by her borders on emotional cheating, and if it were discovered you chance losing both of them.
posted by nadawi at 12:21 PM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

My SO can masturbate to whatever she wants to. Presumably, she found her exes sexually exciting, so why WOULDN'T she occasionally masturbate while thinking about them?

Yes, I don't want to find those pics (should they exist), but what she does with her alone time -- as long as she IS alone -- is her business.

My advice: Encrypt and enjoy.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:23 PM on December 8, 2009 [3 favorites]

as an addendum - don't ever give naked pictures to someone if you're uncomfortable being part of their porn folder for life. you gave them a gift, a token to think of you when you're not around. like any other gift, to ask for them back seems totally weird to me. if pictures i gave to an ex ended up online/in the hands of friends/kept unsecurely, i'd be angry at my ex for being malicious/an idiot, but i understand that once you take a picture/video and give it to someone else (or let someone else take vids/pictures of you), you are no longer in control of them. i have no urge to dictate what my exes can and can't jack off to, up to and including things i might have given to them.
posted by nadawi at 12:29 PM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

Just another datapoint. Am completely okay with porn. I would not be okay with this.

Yep. Me too.

I wouldn't be ok with knowing that you were still having a sexual relationship with any of your exes, even if that relationship only existed inside your own head. Fantasizing about an ex wouldn't but me if I knew about it, but *ex-porn* crosses that line into "reliving old relationships" territory that would make me question how committed my partner was to OUR relationship.

How about creating porn WITH your partner and then watching THAT?
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:42 PM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

As others have pointed out above, this crosses too many lines at once to be anything other than a than a potentially devastating disaster.

If you were my partner, I would be deeply upset and hurt. I'm not a jealous person and I'm pro-porn, but finding out that you masturbated to images of your exes (especially ones you say you might want to get back together with!) would be very hurtful. All kinds of doubts would be in my head: aren't I attractive enough? do you want to get back with the exes? Why are you with me if you're still so mentally involved with your exes that prefer to masturbate to their photos? Why do you still look/have those photos accessible at those photos, anyway? I would doubt and question your past statements of affection, caring and intimacy. Looking at porn is an intimate thing, but its about a realm of fantasy. Looking at porn of your exes is way, way too concrete. I'm fine with hanging on to them and pulling them out once every few years, as a way of thinking about relationships past, but not the active use.

If I was your ex, I would be creeped out, especially if we were friends. Friends don't usually have naked photos of each other they masturbate to. If we're not in contact and I would never, ever know, that's a bit less squicky. As above, pure fantasies are not as damaging as they have no physical component and are less about a specific time and place with emotional resonance.

Naked photos taken in the context of a relationship have an erotic shelf-life of that relationship. Maybe a bit longer while you're getting over them. But into a new relationship? No. Find some better/different porn, amateur stuff maybe.
posted by foodmapper at 12:51 PM on December 8, 2009

This thread reminds me a bit of this one...only taken a bit further.

Fantasy is wonderful...many of my exes have a starring role in self-gratifying activities, but as I stated in that other thread, pictures of them went bye-bye when I got married.

Get rid of the photos.
posted by teg4rvn at 12:55 PM on December 8, 2009

I've never dated a guy who didn't do this.

No biggie. To me, anyway.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:04 PM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh CRAP I missed this I have pictures and video of a sexual nature of a couple of my exes.

Yeah, jeez, no! Get rid of it for the sake of your relationship and also out of respect for those women -- they would NOT be jazzed about this.

Sorry, I thought the question was just about the masturbating part, not the nostalgia porn.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:07 PM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

How is this any worse than fantasizing about your exes in your head while masturbating? You obviously think it's okay. If your SO freaks out, they freak out and it's their problem.
posted by beerbajay at 1:35 PM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Is using these materials for self satisfaction wrong when I'm in a relationship?

Should I talk to my SO about this? I'm not sure I really want to ask permission, since I don't think anyone has a right to tell you how to masturbate, but I really prefer to be open and honest about things. However, I wonder if this is one of those situations where it's better to just keep it to myself.

Are you asking us permission? Because the only one who can give you that is your SO, and I don't know how many people would be okay with knowing you're jerking off to videos of exes that you admittedly would get back together with.

I agree with the consensus that it's probably wisest to get rid of these.
posted by too bad you're not me at 1:46 PM on December 8, 2009

An SO can NEVER stumble across MEMORIES of an ex used as masturbatory material. That's why there is a very CLEAR distinction between the two circumstances. Memories are safe and hidden.
posted by greekphilosophy at 1:49 PM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

My reflexive response is "your body, your fantasies, your business" - You shouldn't have to ask an SO for permission to fantasize about anything. It's not really their concern. Practically speaking, though, when you've made a monogamous commitment, this could be playing with fire, especially if you're this overwrought about it and see one of the women in the materials as a potential future partner.

My solution would be to stash this stuff well away and only make use of it when you're single. When you're in a relationship with a monogamous commitment, take grapefruitmoon's advice and create some new sexy stuff with your partner. What fun!
posted by EatTheWeak at 2:04 PM on December 8, 2009

Is what you are doing morally wrong? no
Is Porn ok in a relationship? absolutely

But, if I found out my boyfriend was jerking off to pictures of an ex I would leave him because I would feel like I was just being used until he could get back with the ex or something, if not cheating on me already. If your SO finds out about the pictures your relationship is over. Just get rid of them and get into furries or something.
posted by WeekendJen at 2:14 PM on December 8, 2009

greekphilosophy: An SO can NEVER stumble across MEMORIES of an ex used as masturbatory material. That's why there is a very CLEAR distinction between the two circumstances. Memories are safe and hidden.

That, and you never know what's going to pop into your head in the heat of the moment.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:19 PM on December 8, 2009

I for some reason seem to not have a problem with this. Which is weird because I can in general be a pretty jealous person. But then again I know of men I've been intimate with, who have photos of me, that I sent to them, and they most definitely keep them for personal sexual gratification. And I'm not really all that creeped out by that.

But as an aside, I don't understand the people who are saying "masturbate to pictures of your current partner instead." Because... that makes no sense. OP can see his/her partner in real life. The photos, just like porn, are part of a fantasy.
posted by dithmer at 2:37 PM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

greekphilosophy: "An SO can NEVER stumble across MEMORIES ..."

Well, duh. But that's not the point. The porn and and a mental fantasy are equally "invasive" in terms of all the jealousy and freakouts described by most of the posters in this thread. What if OP only masturbates to fantasies about the ex that they still harbor feelings for? Is that worse than having DIY porn of someone they don't have any hope of being with in the future? In mental monogamy land, yeah, it probably is worse. It's about the emotional distance, not the pornography. Obviously SO "discovering" the porn is going to be a practical problem, but it's not the real issue.
posted by beerbajay at 4:05 PM on December 8, 2009

You should maybe try to feel your SO out on this without mentioning the exes thing or that it's you thing, because some folks are cool with it and (as you've seen) the majority of folks aren't. Generally, my belief is that if it causes no harm, it's your business, not theirs. But it's kind of like jerking off with a gun lodged in your rectum—it might feel great, but you're running a pretty huge risk of getting your ass blown off. The potential to cause a lot, lot, lot of hurt is there.

So is it wrong? No, I don't think so. Is it a good idea? No. Is it something to mention to your SO? Not without knowing that they're cool with it before you bring it up.
posted by klangklangston at 10:18 PM on December 8, 2009

as an addendum - don't ever give naked pictures to someone if you're uncomfortable being part of their porn folder for life. you gave them a gift, a token to think of you when you're not around. like any other gift, to ask for them back seems totally weird to me.

Expecting them back/to be deleted seems reasonable to me.

I think the reason we are disagreeing about this is because there are two elements to the photos - the gift element (kept after relationship ends) and the sex element (stops when relationship ends).

To put it another way, I can give my partner gifts (i.e. a necklace), and I can give her functional items which allow her to accomplish something I am willing for her to do as part of our relationship (i.e. keys to my apartment, because I'm willing for her to enter when I'm not there) - but if we broke up, it would be reasonable for me to ask for the latter items back, because with the end of our relationship came the loss of my consent for her to accomplish what I gave her those items to help her accomplish.

IMHO intimate photos, intimate as they are, are a member of the 'apartment keys' class rather than the 'necklace' class because of their sexual nature.
posted by Mike1024 at 1:44 AM on December 9, 2009

IMHO intimate photos, intimate as they are, are a member of the 'apartment keys'

It's a lot easier to change your locks than your woo.

At least, that's what mom always said.

posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:06 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Additional data point: I, like many of the other females in this thread, am pro-porn and pro-wank. Sexy videos of improbably proportioned girls doing sexy things is sufficiently impersonal enough to make it not an issue. However, this would be an issue.

If I came home and caught my boyfriend masturbating to a video of an ex, I would be stunned. The first thing I would exclaim would probably be something along the lines of "You kept the video?!". Then it would be, "and you use it to get off?!". Oh, god, just thinking about it is kind of creepy. I love my boyfriend to death but this is icky and I don't know if I could get over it. Why is it icky? Why is this so much different than fantasizing about an ex? Not sure. Perhaps it's something to do with the extra effort involved in finding the video, or maybe it's the vaguely dishonest nature of keeping a graphic video without the ex's consent.

So, there have been enough responses by females that are explicitly negative, which could indicate the direction that your current girlfriend is likely to head if she finds out.

What to do? Well, you say that you don't plan to get rid of them. Okay. I think you should. But it doesn't matter if you are hell-bent on keeping them. Make them inconvenient. Put them on a hard drive that you keep in a shoebox underneath a huge pile of old clothes in the back of the closet. Then find some new porn. I think that if you look around the internet long enough there has to be something that catches your fancy. Maybe some amateur porn if you like the more unscripted stuff. But try to avoid finding porn actors that resemble your ex. Build up enough of a new collection and hopefully your attention will not be drawn to your exes so much.
posted by amicamentis at 4:13 AM on December 9, 2009

One of those classic interesting questions that can't actually be answered very effectively here unless the partners (both current and former) are members here and see the question. But . . .

1) I don't think it's wrong to use them. They're just pictures, and perhaps your exes would be flattered.
2) Sure, talk to your SO, why not. He/she might enjoy the conversation - it might lead to all kinds of fun.

In your life, however, it might end up really terribly. Only you can answer this question (though I enjoyed reading the thread, so thanks for that, FWIW).
posted by Nabubrush at 2:31 PM on December 9, 2009

I'm going to probably be in the minority here, but if my SO were doing this, I'd think it was hot. I've told my partner that I've done this in the past as well, and it wasn't an issue at all.

Look, either you troll annoying web sites for porn that you like, or you watch the porn you made, which is pretty fucking hot, because, well, it's full of people you are/were sexually attracted to, and (hopefully?) have many pleasant memories with. :)

I'd like to think the exes in question would be flattered. I kinda assume they assume I still look at the "material" from time to time.
posted by darkshade at 9:20 PM on December 9, 2009

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