How do I deal with my boyfriend's secret?
October 19, 2011 10:08 AM   Subscribe

I have accidentally discovered my boyfriend's secret fetish. He is ashamed and upset. I'm terrified of losing him. Please help me navigate this. (Some details NSFW.)

Some background: my boyfriend and I have been together for just over a year. We're compatible on many, many levels and I love him to pieces. I've also recently taken a job in his city and have moved in with him while I find my own place.

Yesterday I was using his computer when I came upon a number of pictures saved to his desktop. They were a cam shot of a young teenage girl (about 16-17) and what appeared to be a screenshot of the girl on webcam with a guy, who was masturbating. There was also a text file containing verious biographical details of girls - names, ages, birthdays etc.

When I asked him about it, he became very upset and admitted to me that sometimes he likes to pretend to be young girls on webcam/adult chat sites. He creates fake profiles to talk to guys and masturbates while they're chatting. Apparently he finds it exciting that the guys don't know he's not a girl and that they're getting turned on by him. He always ends the sessions by pretending to be the girls' parent "discovering" the chat. These chats take place maybe once a week, when he's bored and looking for (his words) "a shallow masturbation session".

He was incredibly, deeply distraught that I had found out about this, explaining that he had never wanted anyone to find out. He told me that he considers it to be wrong and shameful. I tried to reassure him that I don't think that it's wrong and that I care for him and will support him always. I am very open-minded about sexual stuff, and so long as he's not hurting anybody I don't consider this to be a deal-breaker. He's still the same person I met and fell in love with, and far be it from me to judge how he choses to get himself off. However, he believes that he has been doing something bad, for which he doesn't deserve forgiveness. He is also upset because I was cheated on in my last relationship and he considers his secret a breach of trust. He can't stand knowing that I know about it.

I love him and I want him to be happy. I feel perfectly fine with him expressing his sexuality however he wants to and would support his decision, even if he wants it to be private from me. But I'm absolutely terrified that if I'm not careful it will drive a wall between us.

AskMe - how do I handle this? Is there a way I can reassure him that his fetish isn't something he should be ashamed of? Or is this something he should come to in his own time? How do I go about discussing this with him as helpfully as possible?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (46 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

Mod note: Folks, this is a relationship question, not a legal one. Please try to make your comments answers to the question being asked? Thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:18 AM on October 19, 2011

Your boyfriend's "fetish" seems to include both inviting others to participate in his sex life on false pretenses and and representing himself as an underage person. I think this is beyond the boundary of "open-minded" and has the potential (if not the immediate effect) to hurt people. There's a difference between being open-minded and being wilfully blind to genuinely skeevy behavior, and I think you're in danger of ending up in the latter category.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:22 AM on October 19, 2011 [35 favorites]

If you got the message across that you're not going to dump him right now, then let it go for a few days because he's still going to be freaking out. Don't dwell on it. You need to convince him with deeds, not words, that you support him.

After he's relaxed somewhat, you just raise the subject really briefly that you really do support him and want to be involved in all aspects of his life and would he mind telling you a bit about this special interest?

And if he freaks out again then say maybe another time, but I would keep visiting it every couple of weeks along with really making sure that you are supportive and caring in other ways so he continues to feel reassured about your relationship.

Any kind of suddenly revealed secret can be a shock. Take it slow and gently. Attacking him with a prybar repeatedly is just going to make him clam up.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:26 AM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

(Note that my answer does not address the specific form of the fetish but is a more general answer for this kind of situation.)
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:28 AM on October 19, 2011

I think you just leave it alone. It's really unlikely that he wants you to bring it up randomly or discuss it with you except at his own initiation. In fact, I think you just tell him, "hey, your deal, not going to bring it up again," and then do that.

Nobody likes getting busted doing dumb shit. It could have been you and the meal you only eat in super-secret-private or maybe a little fantasy about some guy who was in a boy band in the 90s. It's totally cringey if someone else finds out, and awful walking around thinking "god he's going to bring up Donnie any minute now". So if you just let it be known that, hey, that door is closed, no biggie, I think you'll have shown yourself to be understanding.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:30 AM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

You did the right thing the whole way through and considering there's no way to get the genie back in the bottle, he's basically just going to have to acknowledge the fact that you know what's going on and that (fortunately for him) you're cool with this. He knows you're not leaving him over this, so now he's just got the embarassment/shame to deal with, which is his lot, not yours. There's no discussion necessary here. Bringing it up will only help build that wall you're afraid of as he is convinced what he's doing is objectively shameful.

From hereon out, I suggest you drop it -- both in conversation and in your head -- unless he brings it up. This is clearly a thing he has that he has no plans to include in your sex life (which is completely normal and okay) so he's got to either come to peace with it or cut it out.
posted by griphus at 10:36 AM on October 19, 2011

Wow, this is not at all how I was expecting this to work out. You're already doing the best you can and that's awesome. Like posts above say, let him work through this on his own.
posted by modernserf at 10:38 AM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

The problem here is basically years of programming vs. you; you are not more powerful than years of programming, but you can do your bit. You can show him that you're okay with it, and that's going to take time.

This kind of feels different than if, say, you'd found out he was into feet or something - it's not really something you can share with him. That may be contributing to his reaction; this is something incredibly personal and private for him, and having it brought to light evokes feelings of shame and self-recrimination.

So the best you can do is what you're doing now: Have it out in the open that you're aware of it, that you accept him for who he is and are not judging him for doing this. And then don't bring it up again. If he's ever ready to talk about it, he'll find a way to let you know. He might never be, and that needs to be okay, too.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:39 AM on October 19, 2011

It's possible that the idea that it's bad or shameful is part of the reason he does it.
posted by empath at 10:40 AM on October 19, 2011 [6 favorites]

There's nothing you can do, you're already being incredibly understanding and open minded about it. You can't go back in time and not discover it or not tell him you discovered it. I vote for not mentioning it again unless he brings it up.

...although I do perhaps wonder if what he wants from you is admonishment rather than acceptance. I mean really, who saves their 'secret shame' on their desktop?!
posted by missmagenta at 10:45 AM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

I really hate to bring this up, but is it possible that he invented his story as a cover-up for a much worse fetish? Maybe I'm alone in thinking this, but my immediate reaction was to assume that the 16-17 year old girls were who he was talking to, and not the other way around. Perhaps there's some of that going on here too, which would explain his extreme anxiety. I just think you should consider this long enough to rule it out if you haven't already.
posted by Nixy at 10:50 AM on October 19, 2011 [38 favorites]

Nixy's comment is what I assumed what going on as well. Just a data point.
posted by amicamentis at 10:52 AM on October 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

You're not alone Nixy, that was the very first thing I thought about too, and seems way more likely to me than anything else. If he's the one on the webcam chat, it would make sense for the photo for him to be in drag or for there to be no photo, only chat. A photo of another girl talking to a guy doesn't make any sense.
posted by cairdeas at 10:53 AM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I really hate to bring this up, but is it possible that he invented his story as a cover-up for a much worse fetish? Maybe I'm alone in thinking this, but my immediate reaction was to assume that the 16-17 year old girls were who he was talking to, and not the other way around.

That doesn't explain the picture of the guy.
posted by empath at 10:55 AM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Also, so many things just don't add up about this situation and contradict each other.

-This is his deep dark wrong secret of shame that he never wanted anyone to find out about, but he's saving it on his desktop when he knows you're using his computer?

-He's upset because his secret created a breach of trust with the OP, but what he's upset about is that she now knows about it?

-Although he says it's him chatting with other guys on webcam, the picture is of another girl chatting with guys on webcam.

The OP's question: How do I deal with my boyfriend's secret?

I don't know, OP. Honestly, I would bail after this, NOT because I couldn't handle the fetish that he said he had. But because he told me a whole string of things that don't quite make sense and don't add up. That's bad enough by itself, but this string of things also somehow involves underage teens in a sexual way.

Clearly you're not going to bail though, so I would just say... the way to deal is to just keep your eyes open. You don't have to keep bringing this up if you don't want to, you can believe him if you want to and be supportive of him, but don't bury your head in the sand either.

To be perfectly honest, I think that he wanted you to know what he was doing, and also set the situation up so that you would feel guilty ever asking him questions about it, questioning it, being suspicious of what he is really doing, or having a problem with his behavior in any way. Otherwise you will be the unsupportive, unaccepting, uptight girlfriend prying into his life.

Just be careful.
posted by cairdeas at 11:00 AM on October 19, 2011 [21 favorites]

I am always simultaneously tickled and horrified by how lesbian chat rooms are almost exclusively populated by straight men getting each other off. Tickled by the absurdity of the situation and horrified by how actual lesbians are forced to invitation only services in order to find other real lesbians. You seem to be asking for ways in which you can rationalize this fetish with your boyfriend and create a situation where he can feel good about the fetish himself, feel good about his exercise of it, and not be ashamed that you know about it.

I would start by reminding him that attraction is not a moral act, period. He could get his rocks off on the sounds kittens might make while being declawed and drowned while getting a lion haircut in a crowded movie theater and that would not make him a bad person, awfully strange, but not bad. Hurting kittens in any way, hell being near kittens, or distracting movie goers would make such a fetishist a bad person. Once you shift the conversation from a what he is conversation to a what he does conversation, you both can work on making the what he does much more ethical and less worthy of shame.

Using a photo of an under age girl, much less one who is not you, to titillate men on the internet is fundamentally wrong and absolutely zero kinds of ok. That your boyfriend is ashamed of it shows that he at least has some character, it is worth being ashamed of. Perhaps he could go looking on sites that show women of legal age and send emails to independent actresses explaining the fetish and the desire to go about it ethically and asking for permission to discretely use an image without attribution? Remind him of how sexy creepy men find college girls who are of age. The basic narrative of his fetish is pretty sketchy in that it is dishonest to the other participants in his sex play, but I don't think misrepresenting yourself on the internet on a freely open and fundamentally anonymous adult sex chat site is really the crime of the century.

Really though the other answerers are right, this is something he will have to work through on his own. However, if you want and have an opportunity to these are some ways in which you can have that Come To Jesus Talk he was probably expecting but without asking him to give up this part of his sex life.
posted by Blasdelb at 11:02 AM on October 19, 2011 [7 favorites]

-Although he says it's him chatting with other guys on webcam, the picture is of another girl chatting with guys on webcam

I don't know why this is hard to understand. He's going on omegle or chat roulette. He's using a picture of a girl as his webcam shot. And he's taking screenshots of other guys getting off to it. It's 4chan-level trolling, and I don't think at all uncommon.
posted by empath at 11:07 AM on October 19, 2011 [6 favorites]

"I am very open-minded about sexual stuff, and so long as he's not hurting anybody."

You've got the open minded part down pat and another way to state the second part of your statement is that "do no harm," is a value of your's. I think this is also a value of your significant other's and he feels shame because he knows his actions are in conflict with his values. You seem to be a very understanding and empathetic partner -- good, giving and game, if you will -- but being giving also means listening to your partners' concerns. Your partner has a conflict between his values and his behaviors. He might be really relieved to have someone listen to his internal conflict and set a boundary that resolves it because he truly believes that his behavior causes harm to others. If he finds chat partners who are consenting, the "do no harm" conflict mostly resolves itself and he may feel less divided and that division is less likely to manifest itself as a division in your relationship.
posted by Skwirl at 11:16 AM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

If he finds chat partners who are consenting, the "do no harm" conflict mostly resolves itself
Except having consent would ruin the experience for him since the thrill for him is in knowing that he is deceiving these guys.
posted by missmagenta at 11:21 AM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Not necessarily. Lots of people role play scenarios that are otherwise unachievable and are perfectly happy.
posted by Skwirl at 11:26 AM on October 19, 2011

Not necessarily. Lots of people role play scenarios that are otherwise unachievable and are perfectly happy.

And, if what I've read/heard*, lot of people online realize that they are doing this when they are allegedly talking to underage girls online. That's not to say it's not creepy and that there shouldn't be , but, and I don't say this to short circuit the OP's thrill, but it's very, very, very likely he's not fooling as many people as he thinks he is.

And OP, I think you should keep this in mind when deciding how you feel about the whole issue as well.

* This is not the proverbial "my friend has this problem" use of this phrase; I have about as much sexual use for chat involving underage girls as I do the ballpoint pen next to my elbow. Actually, when forced, I can think of some fun things I'd enjoy with the pen. I'll totally step up and wave my perv flag proud, damn it!

posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:33 AM on October 19, 2011

should be: "there shouldn't be consideration made for those whose pictures are used for such things"
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:34 AM on October 19, 2011

Okay, so you have a boyfriend who:
  • likes to have sex with men, but doesn't admit that even to himself
  • encourages other people to have sex with minors
  • distributes photographs that he has identified as child pornography
  • is dishonest with his online partners
  • has been dishonest with you
This goes beyond "being open about sex." Your boyfriend has some serious work to do. You need to take a serious look at whether he wants to face this work and whether you want to do it with him. Do you want to be with someone who could be tagged as a sex-offender for distributing child pornography? Do you want to be with someone who may not have figured out what his sexual orientation really is? Do you want to be with someone who is dealing with these issues in a dishonest way, rather than openly and honestly?

This would be too much for me. I would separate from this person, at least until they got their shit together. But if you decide to stick with him I'd just advise you to tread carefully and encourage him to really face what he's been doing.
posted by alms at 12:14 PM on October 19, 2011 [34 favorites]

In a way your boyfriend is providing a service, keeping guys who are seeking underage online sex away from the real underage girls. I guess you could try to look at it this way in order to help you to come to terms with it as that's what you seem to want to do?

It's going to take you a while, as in several months, to really untangle your feelings and live with this situation before you'll be able to figure out whether you can accept it or not. I personally couldn't but that's up to you to decide.
posted by hazyjane at 12:17 PM on October 19, 2011

I don't think we know that the picture of the girl was in any way 'porny'. The OP didn't say it was.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:18 PM on October 19, 2011

Mod note: folks, this is in MetaTalk, if you have responses that are not answers to the question, you may want to bring them over there. Thanks
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:22 PM on October 19, 2011

cairdeas: Although he says it's him chatting with other guys on webcam, the picture is of another girl chatting with guys on webcam

empath: I don't know why this is hard to understand. He's going on omegle or chat roulette. He's using a picture of a girl as his webcam shot. And he's taking screenshots of other guys getting off to it. It's 4chan-level trolling, and I don't think at all uncommon.

My reading of what the OP said could have been wrong, but it didn't sound to me like there was just one static photo of the girl. Here's what the OP said about the photos:

They were a cam shot of a young teenage girl (about 16-17) and what appeared to be a screenshot of the girl on webcam with a guy,

My reading is that there was:

1. A cam shot of the girl. To me a "cam shot" is a shot that's capturing the girl in action on camera, not just a posed still photo.

2. There was ALSO a screenshot of the girl on webcam with a guy. So, a DIFFERENT image of the same girl, in action, on webcam.

My reading is that these images clearly show that the girl is in action on the cam. Not just a still image shown on the cam that the guy is jerking off to.
posted by cairdeas at 12:24 PM on October 19, 2011

Yesterday I was using his computer when I came upon a number of pictures saved to his desktop.


...he considers his secret a breach of trust. He can't stand knowing that I know about it.

He set himself up.

You're going to have to be careful here. Consciously or unconsciously he's decided to bare his deepest darkest secret to you. Either he's trying to drive you away or he's testing if you really accept all of him. Maybe both.

Unconditional support is probably the best approach you can take. You could also find out if there was something you could do to participate in his fetish in some capacity -- I'd give even odds that you getting him off while he does his thing would be welcome.

On the other hand if he is trying to drive you off then he will find other ways to do it. Keep an eye out; that's a whole other ballgame.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:25 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

My reading is that these images clearly show that the girl is in action on the cam. Not just a still image shown on the cam that the guy is jerking off to.

The OP can clarify, but I don't think you can assume that from the question. If she had seen a naked underage girl, she probably would have made a bigger deal about it.
posted by empath at 12:34 PM on October 19, 2011

Honestly, I think what he was doing IS wrong-- either he's circulating child pornography or exploiting a photo of a teenaged girl to get off. I don't think either option is appropriate. It's fine (neutral) for him to be turned on by this, but there's no reason he can't imagine the same scenario in his head while he masturbates. People seem to have this idea that they have a "need" to escalate their private sexual escapades (particularly using the internet), and I think it's less a useful release valve than a slippery slope.

I wouldn't be so sure he meant for you to find out-- sometimes people are just forgetful or dumb about something they've been hiding for a long time. If I were you, I wouldn't necessarily shun him based on this, but I would tell him my honest opinion and then move on. There's not much you can do if his shame keeps him from having a healthy relationship with you.
posted by stoneandstar at 12:37 PM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

(Really, if this is just a picture of a teenaged girl that he found, imagine how she would feel if one of these guys screencapped their video chat and started circulating it on the internet. Is that really okay with you?)
posted by stoneandstar at 12:38 PM on October 19, 2011 [6 favorites]

AskMe - how do I handle this?

Given that this is very new, big news, try to step back, "breathe" some, think about various issues people have related--to include the fact that a lot of people would be more than disgusted if a picture was one of their daughter, niece, sister, etc., to say nothing of how the girl or girls would react--and focus on what serves your best interests.
posted by ambient2 at 12:51 PM on October 19, 2011

I think it's funny that a lot of the answers have been judging your boyfriend and telling you to have a problem with it, when you say clearly that you don't and just want to know how to talk to him about it.

For what it's worth, I don't think this kink is a big deal either, and certainly not a deal breaker. I'm also unconvinced this is objectively a morally bad thing. I doubt anyone believes cam conversations, and if we let scantily clad 15-16 year old models use sex to sell us things, I don't think his use of a photo is worse. I'm understanding your use of cam pic as legal pics, not child pron, I'd change my answer otherwise.

I think you should just give him some space for now. Just tell him you love him, don't have an issue with it, and when he's ready to talk about it you'll be there for him. Then just things blow over, and focus on the other parts of your relationship.
posted by fruit sandwich at 1:01 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

OP, you don't mention if you guys regularly talk about your fantasies and fetishes (and this is one he kept from you because of his shame), or if this is the first time either one of you has talked about your fetishes, or if you usually talk about them, and he doesn't......

Because the history of how you communicate about sex is the difference between (oh, we've hit new territory land and are talking about our fetishes) or (oh, dang, the having her call me marky mark thing was totally acceptable, but this feels slightly over the line of what I'm willing to talk about). Because it is sort of the difference between opening a whole new door (which takes longer), or pushing the line back a bit (which is quicker).

It might help rather than saying that you want to talk to him about it, that you don't know how to talk with him about it. Part of the issue is that he isn't fine with it, and it may be because beyond the kink factor, he has questions about the legality, morality, sexuality, etc. of it, and doesn't really know what to do about it, or have registered how to live with the feelings he feels.

But so much of this is just really outside of your control - it isn't necessarily the case that there is any particular thing you can do, when a person is behaving in a secretive, perhaps irrational way. For all you know, you not knowing was part of the kink for him, and you knowing, and being okay with it, actually messes it up for him. Perhaps you knowing and being okay with what he is doing because he is so obviously not okay with it makes him question your morals and values (which is messed up, but when people feel cornered, irrationality comes to the fore).

So perhaps, once again, it might help if you tell him that you don't know what to say or do, but are worried that this will cause a wedge to come between you, and see what he says from there.
Ask him if he thinks this will cause a wedge to grow between you. Ask him if he can ever see a day where he can accept his fetishes. Listen to what he says. And.....and I admit that this is kind of odd, but consider that your, "I accept you and your fetishes unconditionally" might really not be helping him as much as you'd like right now. You can love people unconditionally, but not approve of their behavior. For him, there could be a lot wrapped up into a very specific sort of fantasy tricking and sort of 'catching' other men who are already engaging in potentially illegal behavior with what they believe are underage girls, only to have an authority figure of 'parents' 'catch' them again. Maybe not, but maybe. Not the least of which that he is associating this with cheating, and you just 'caught him'.

I mean to say that you might be totally okay with it, and sound as if you have an optimal outcome for him (that he knows that you are okay with his fetishes, even if he doesn't want to talk about them with you). But he might be at a fork in the road where on one path he wants to be totally okay with it too, and on the other, he might be totally mortified with his actions (not what gets him off, but what he's doing to get himself off), and both want to/not want to stop, a feel powerless. Those are really different internal processes, and it's not clear which way he's going right now.

Go one day at a time, and acknowledge the behavior you see and how it makes you feel, sort of a - I feel you are avoiding me, and that hurts - sort of statements. If there ends up being a wedge, once again, it probably won't be because of what you did or didn't do. You can't stop other people from behaving irrationally, no matter how rationally, and unconditionally you approach them.
posted by anitanita at 1:05 PM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

As for all the people saying, "Why would he leave the secret where it could be easily discovered by his gf?"... because people are like that.

Bank robbers have been known to leave wallets, cellphones, and even filled-out deposit slips - all with incriminating contact info - at the scene of their crimes.

Likewise, I heard from a friend about a guy who knew a dude that was cheating on a girlfriend, and left incriminating info on his passenger seat when he went to pick her up.

My belief is that sometimes we have a powerful desire to both be "bad", and to be caught and punished for it. Certainly children do this - why assume it suddenly stops when they grow up? For some of us, being "bad" can mean being really pretty bad, and getting caught can be completely humiliating... which itself can be a powerful psycho/sexual trigger for a lot of people.


None of this addresses the OP's question. I say drop it, for now and maybe forever. It pressed pretty hot buttons for your BF. Let him know through your actions, not your words, that it's cool. Bringing up a hot-button does the opposite.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:08 PM on October 19, 2011

What cairdeas said but also: your boyfriend gets kicks out of putting people through an emotional ride where he starts off making them happy, then makes them shocked and upset.

By leaving these files on the damn desktop, he put you through an emotional ride where you became shocked and upset.

He's playing you for kicks, just like he plays them.

As long as you're with him, he will keep playing you the same way: build you up, knock you down.

posted by TheophileEscargot at 2:55 PM on October 19, 2011 [16 favorites]

I was itching to get to the computer so I could say what TheophileEscargot just said. You are being emotionally manipulated for your boyfriend's entertainment.
posted by tel3path at 3:25 PM on October 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

I agree with alms that the biggest problems for me (and possibly for him) isn't the nature of the kink in very broad terms (ie, video-chat-sex), but the parallel processes of self-deception, other-deception, and you-deception. Basically, it's not just 'a lie', or 'a secret', but this incredibly overwrought tangle of deceptions, plural. The most worrying one to me (as a GGG-type person about sex) would be the self-deception. So, perhaps as a step 1, accept there are good reasons for him to be concerned and upset. He was very likely going against his own values, even if this doesn't hurt you or anyone else except himself; hurting himself is also wrong, especially compulsively.

Further, I'm of the opinion that any kink that has to necessarily be a state secret is unhealthy in the context of an intimate relationship, and should be addressed as such. The whole issue where he's upset you know because you know you were 'betrayed': that is one issue. But his compulsive need to keep it a secret in the first place is another huge red flag. Any 'normal' kink might easily get corrupted by a relationship within the person that includes such reactions to it within himself. The fact that it's a secret and he's not admitting what's really happening to himself (ie, the homoerotic element) is very problematic in terms of being a concern of his emotional health. Anyway, it's got a lot of the signs of addiction, and further of the sort of self-consuming addiction that's a sign of some darker issues being worked through (some history of abuse? gender questions? sexuality questions?). To be honest, this behavior sounds like more of a gender-based kink than a sexuality-related one (that is, homosexual); that is, his extreme reaction could be some hint of gender identity issues he's repressing and not dealing with and I would be concerned about that. Not that you can or should drag him out of the closet, but I would continuously (and slowly) engage him by talking around these issues without directly referencing the kink.

So... I don't know if I agree he just has to work on it himself, though obviously it's the rational response to 'can't do anything to fix it'. But your job isn't to fix it-- rather, it is to engage your SO even on issues he's reluctant to engage with you on, at least if you think he needs help. Which, he definitely seems like he does.
posted by reenka at 4:33 PM on October 19, 2011

Yeah, that was kind of my hit too. It sounds like he's protesting a bit too much. I don't know if it's for his entertainment, exactly, but it really does sound like he wanted you to find it, and now he's more upset by your non-reaction than anything else.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 4:36 PM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Nibbly Fang reminded me of something else that occurred to me reading this.

It's hard to really describe clearly, but there's this dynamic where one person keeps insisting on something that is supposedly on the other person's behalf, even though the other person insists that's not what they want, or it's not what they think.

I usually see this when the first person is trying to break up with the second person without being the bad guy. "I'm leaving because I'm no good for you and drag down your life." "No, you don't drag down my life, don't leave!" Really the first person is just leaving because they want to.

Or it's passive aggressive, "I won't be coming because it was clear I was only invited out of politeness." "No, we invited you because we want to see you." "No, it was just politeness."

It's this weird manipulative thing, and I don't think I'm really describing it well, but I see it in these circumstances where you keep telling your bf you don't care what his fetish is and you don't feel betrayed, and he keeps insisting that you were betrayed.

I don't know what he's after with that, maybe he is trying to come up with a weird lame justification for breaking up or something. But it's another thing on my list of things that just don't add up or make sense here.
posted by cairdeas at 4:47 PM on October 19, 2011 [4 favorites]

Shame is a powerful and terrible thing. It often hurts more than it helps. Shame compels people to keep their vices secret, to avoid asking for help, to deny that their problems exist. So it's good that you don’t want him to feel ashamed about this. Wallowing or cowering in shame is unproductive.

However, the opposite of shame isn't hunky-doryness. The opposite of shame is owning up to something, and facing it head-on. You can tell your guy "you shouldn’t feel ashamed" and "what you did was hurtful" in one breath; those statements do not contradict each other.

Everyone's going to have their own standards of how acceptable your boyfriend's actions were. There are quite a few things to be concerned about: the potential legal issues, the deliberate dishonesty to his chat partners, the apparent use of teenage girls' likenesses without their consent, the fact that he was ashamed enough of something to hide it from you, potentially forever. Where you stand on each of these is up to you. (I know your question isn't "should I be comfortable with what he did?" but I'd recommend you reconsider your okayness with this fetish, since it crosses a few lines that many people would consider bright and hard.)

Maybe you've thought it through, top to bottom, and you're totally fine with all of these things. Maybe you're not totally fine with all of these things, or you're not sure if you are, but you're trying to be, because you consider yourself open-minded, supportive, and sexually healthy. If that's the case: it's still okay to draw the line somewhere; it doesn't make you a worse partner. You don't get more cool-girlfriend points for rolling with kinks you're only sorta-comfortable with, or that are harmful to you/your partner/other people. If you say you're okay with this, be sure you are truly, genuinely okay with this, not just "well, it's important to be open-minded" or "I'll put up with it because I love him."

Whether you don't mind this at all and just want him to feel better, or whether you want to issue a this-stops-now ultimatum, you need to communicate to him that you still love him and don't think less of him and you want this relationship to work, and for that to happen he needs to be honest with you, and comfortable discussing issues like this with you. Then hang back and let him meet you there. It's his call. If nothing changes, he's not interested in the health of this relationship. But he can change. He can learn to be more okay with this and less secretive, he can outgrow it on his own, he can make an effort to stop it.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:57 PM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Admittedly I found this thread via MetaTalk

I read very few of the responses. Answering from the heart.
He feels ashamed and you want to know how you can sincerely convince him that it is not a breach of trust and that you understand.
Toss away any idea of a quick fix. This will be a work-through.

Initially I thought maybe you could share a fetish of your own
hoping it would break the ice if everyone in the room was vulnerable.
It might be a start.

But now I wonder if sharing this post with him might
loosen his conscious - letting him see your feelings in text.

He has a high level of embarrassment. This is not going to be easy.
I hope the hive mind offers productive advice.
posted by TangerineGurl at 12:46 AM on October 20, 2011

I would recommend finding out for sure if it's the deception that turns him on, or if that is a cover for another fetish he's more ashamed of (gender play, ageplay, sexually attracted to other men, non-consensual stuff). It's possible his deception of other men is his tactic to getting his kink on somehow since he is too ashamed or afraid to ask for it consensually (from you or whomever). If he was into one of these, do you think he would tell you? Have you guys had the "let's list all our weird sexual fantasies" talk? I guess what I'm try to say is... this is a possibility worth looking at, depending on the level of your sexual communication prior to this discovery.

That said, there's ethical issues that I think other posters have already pointed out, and your boyfriend's sense of shame is definitely tied to this. No fetish exists in isolation - there's websites and communities for every single one of them, whether that's pretending to be a girl, deceiving guys online, or something ELSE. People have figured out how to indulge in all kinds of illegal or immoral interests without actually doing anything illegal or immoral (written erotica, porn, roleplay, etc.). If he feels distraught about his habits, but you still want to be on the far end of the sex-positivism scale, then maybe the right direction is to recognize the harmful nature of his actions on others AND encourage him to find a more suitable way to indulge, thereby satisfying his assessment (his actions cause others harm or are rooted in dishonesty) while still communicating your acceptance.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 12:56 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Your boyfriend likely has a sex addiction. These are happening all over the place, and are very enabled by the internet.

It's not *just* this thing he's doing "once a week." This tilts his personality and behavior. He's probably thinking about it lots of the time, either struggling with the impulse, looking at young girls to imagine that he's them, looking at guys and considering what it would be like to chat with them, wondering when you aren't going to be around, planning for his next excapade, etc. It's probably escalated and will likely to continue to do so, after this burst of shame wears off. Don't forget, he's also acclimated himself to a place where he's rationalized that it's ok to lie to you.

I'd strongly suggest you and he read some of Patrick Carnes' works, most espcially In the Shadows of the Net, his book about internet sex addiction.

Don't know where you live, but there are many self-help groups around this issue (Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous) and therapists who are familiar with this.
posted by jasper411 at 8:37 AM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

OP, I would like to contradict a lot of the latter part of this thread and say: he's still the same guy you've been in love with for the last year.

When you find out a secret about a person it can be tempting to try to reinterpret everything you know in a new and sinister light. This is not a bad idea if you're living in a Lifetime movie or something by M Night Shyamalan. Which to the best of my knowledge you're not.

You've been involved with the guy for twelve months. If this stuff is out of character for him, you know it.

So however you do end up dealing with this, please do *not* fall into the trap of thinking you've discovered some new window into what secretly dominates his life and his thinking. People are complicated and you're just seeing a small new part of him is all.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:21 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree with cairdeas's suggestion that there is something off and passive aggressive about this and I think that you may be getting played on some level. If what he's doing is the way he's represented it, his reaction to being found out seems over the top. It is really very common for guys to pretend to be young women online, for whole slew of different reasons. It seems strange for him to be so freaked out about being busted for that, to the point where it is calling your whole relationship into question. Unless of course, you are totally grossed out by it, and it doesn't sound like you are. Now, some people react over the top whenever they are busted by their partner, as a way of encouraging the same caretaking reaction you describe here. If that's it, I think it's icky and it's not something I'd tolerate, but YMMV.

Maybe take this with a grain of salt, though. I never believe the True Love stories in the New York Times, and I don't completely believe your post either; at least I suspected that is was not written by the girlfriend in the situation.
posted by BibiRose at 9:31 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

« Older What should two New Yorkers do in Charlottesville...   |   What should I do to prepare to be unemployed? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.