How can I make up for calling him an aspiring softcore pornographer?
July 7, 2014 3:41 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend & I are in a fight right now, and I believe we're going to break up tonight. For background: We're both recently separated. He moved 350 miles to live nearby me (I'm ostensibly the one he let get away 10 years ago) and we've been actively dating 7 months. He is a hobby photographer. Before he moved up here, and while he was still married (his ex-wife knows this...), he did a couple photo shoots in a hotel room with 2 models of the shapely, fake-breasted variety. There was no nudity, just suggestive poses and skimpy clothing/lingerie. He posted the photos to a special page dedicated to them on FB, and captioned the photos with mildly suggestive comments like "Come here" and "Time for bed" and other things to that effect. These girls are "ring girls" (for boxing matches) and so have somewhat of a following. The photos drew loads of comments from the audience of males, and they were of the semi-lewd, drooling, 13-yr old boy variety. To be honest, I feel both offended and sexually threatened by this piece of my boyfriend's history.

My boyfriend says I'm beautiful, and moreover says he loves me for my mind, but I'm no chesty model.

So yesterday, he made an unrelated joke about "the quality of girls at a strip club out in the sticks", and I took offense to his "quality of girls" terminology, since it implied some sort of rating system. The usual "you're being insecure and oversensitive" argument ensued, and I'll totally admit that there's probably some of that. The fight culminated in him basically exasperatedly asking me why I'm so insecure, and me saying well, it's kind of a lot to expect every woman to be able to cope with knowing her boyfriend is an "aspiring softcore pornographer". And cue the offense. He left my home, asking me why I'd love him if I thought of him that way. He said he didn't want to be seen that way, or loved by someone who saw him that way. I think he a) wanted me to view his work as an artistic endeavor (despite how he showcased it) and b) was irritated with me that I might feel insecure and maybe even unloved, imagining myself on his rating system. "How could you feel I don't love you when I moved 350 miles for you?" We are going to chat tonight to follow up on this argument.

Granted, we have other issues, and tbh, I'm inclined to break up with him regardless of the outcome of tonight's discussion, but on this one topic, I feel I was hurtful, and would like to make it clear that while I find his work a bit hard to swallow, I didn't mean to make him feel disrespected. I don't completely understand why he's so hurt, so any light shed on that would be appreciated. I also feel like the original reasons that I'm offended are now lost/buried in the conflict. Could you help me with thinking this through and helping craft some language to better express myself while staying true to my POV? Thank you.
posted by phreckles to Human Relations (42 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If you feel you hurt him say "I did not mean to disrespect the photos you took from an artistic standpoint, but the content was very disturbing."
posted by Ironmouth at 3:45 PM on July 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

Photos can't be "disrespected"; they're inanimate objects.

It sounds like you pushed a button of self-recogniton in this dude. Since you say you're already inclined to break up with him, here's your ready-made out.
posted by BostonTerrier at 3:47 PM on July 7, 2014 [11 favorites]

It sounds like you should probably break up from the small amount you've shared. That said, a good apology basically does a few things

- I get what I did
- I get that it made you feel ________
- That wasn't cool and I am sorry
- Here is what I am doing to make sure it doesn't happen again

"Hey I'm sorry I said that thing to you about being a pornographer. Obviously I'm working through some of my own discomfort with your photography hobby and I could have been a lot more constructive about how I phrased it. I know it made you feel disrespected and that was not my intent but I understand why you felt that way and I'm sorry. I'd like to continue to work things out with you because $REASONS (insert reasons) and I hope we can move forward from this."

That said, his hobby combined with what you say about how he talks about women may represent an irreconcilable viewpoint and it's totally okay for you to not want to be around that if that's what you decide. In my own universe, storming out of the house in a huff is also pretty much not=okay so hopefully when things are calmer you guys can work out some other strategies for dealing with disagreements and frustrations.
posted by jessamyn at 3:48 PM on July 7, 2014 [28 favorites]

I feel I was hurtful, and would like to make it clear that while I find his work a bit hard to swallow, I didn't mean to make him feel disrespected.

"Hey, last night I mad a jab about softcore pornography. It was unfair, and I'm sorry."

I also feel like the original reasons that I'm offended are now lost/buried in the conflict.

That's because you have a couple of different conflicts running at this point. You could roll them all together into a big ball of PROBLEMS that may make you feel better about walking away from the relationship, and there's nothing wrong with that approach. If you want to work through all of the issues, I'd break them up (the photography/offense, the security/insecurity, etc.) and deal with each individually to the extent you can. Sounds like you may be past that though.
posted by craven_morhead at 3:52 PM on July 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

I once dumped a guy and was ugly about it. I later briefly got in touch to remind him I had recently been in a car wreck and to apologize for being so ugly in the process of leaving. I feel that part went just fine.

So, I think that since you sincerely regret being ugly about it, you can sincerely apologize for that piece of it. You can do that even if you break up with him and you don't need to get into "BUT...I really think BLAH about the photo shoot...". It might help if you can kind of point to a reason why you were ugly that isn't blamey of him. You might admit to some insecurities or even suggest that you kind of felt this break-up coming on and it hurt and it was kind of just a thing to focus your negative feelings on and admit that was kind of childish but you are human and all. Or something along those lines.
posted by Michele in California at 3:57 PM on July 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's a difficult question to answer, because it's clear from what you say that you absolutely do not respect this particular aspect of your boyfriend's history. It seems like the real quibble is whether he aspires to be a softcore pornographer or whether it was just a thing he did in the recent past. Neither one reflects well on him, but to take a generous stance toward his point of view I can understand being put off by the idea that because I took some softcore pornography twice that it reflects my ideal of women in such a way that you should feel you weren't meeting my standards because you don't fit that model.

You should break up with him, because you want to, and I don't think you need to apologize for what you said, but if you want to apologize for your argument, I would say that the history as a softcore pornographer was one symptom in a general pattern of him making you feel insecure and that it's too bad that this had to be the breaking point. And then you should leave, before he tries to blame you for feeling insecure, because he obviously doesn't want to take criticism.
posted by vathek at 3:59 PM on July 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

You should quit judging his hobbies. Either break up with him, or accept his opinions and interests. It doesn't matter what those opinions and interests are, changing them is not your job.
posted by Megafly at 4:02 PM on July 7, 2014 [11 favorites]

I guess I'm all for clearing the air and being nice but . . . he gave you shit for taking offense to a "quality of girls" comment, which was offensive to you for its underlying misogynistic implications, but then he got all offended and left in a huff when you criticized (perhaps with some hyperbole) something concrete that he actually did?

So, he says, "General man-centric devaluing comment," and blows you off as oversensitive and insecure when you express offense.

You say, "Actual criticism of Thing That is Real that makes me feel like X," and then you're the huge asshole and HE stomps out of the house in righteous offense?

Geez, I've dated this guy. DTMFA without apologizing for calling him a softcore pornographer.
posted by mibo at 4:05 PM on July 7, 2014 [97 favorites]

Just because you said something you regret doesn't mean that reconcilliation is the best solution. Feeling regret at lashing out and wanting to heal the recent wound is normal.

Think of your relationship in longer terms to make your decision.
posted by vapidave at 4:05 PM on July 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't really understand why he would do those things and then take offense at the pornographer comment. Like those two things are so different or something?

I would probably apologize and say you hadn't meant to attack him for his hobbies, but then say that you wouldn't feel comfortable in a long-term (or whatever) relationship with someone with that kind of hobby. You shouldn't have to defend yourself on this point; he might try to convince you that what he does is fine and "not pornography" or whatever, but it's fine for you to just not want that in a long-term partner.

Also, his comment about ugly strippers or whatever is just stupid trashy talk and I don't think you need to apologize for taking offense to that.
posted by stoneandstar at 4:07 PM on July 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

You can have said something wrong/bad and still be justified in breaking up with him. It's not an either/or thing.

"I said something hurtful, and would like to make it clear that while I find your work a bit hard to swallow, I didn't mean to make you feel disrespected. I apologize. However, I don't feel like we should continue this relationship because [insert your feelings/reasons here.]"
posted by mudpuppie at 4:09 PM on July 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

You don't have to submit a good enough reason to break up with him and hope it gets approved. "I don't want to do this anymore" will suffice, and closes the door to negotiation.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:11 PM on July 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

The red flags here are not the photos, but how he handled your objection to them. He tried to pin the blame on you for being "insecure" - which it sounds like he does a lot - and then pulled that "but I moved 350 miles for you!" thing. Partners in a healthy relationship listen to each other's concerns and take them seriously; they don't instantly dismiss them by blaming their partner for overreacting, and they don't keep score.

You're right to break up with him, and you don't owe him an apology. Maybe you should ask him why he's so insecure and oversensitive. (Or don't, but the point is you're not necessarily wrong here.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:12 PM on July 7, 2014 [19 favorites]

It sounds like he does a good job of triggering your feelings of being sexually threatened and/or insecure and that you respond with disparaging and hurtful jabs about a hobby that he feels is an artistic expression. It doesn't sound like you two are particularly sensitive to one another's tender spots. If you can't find a way to effectively communicate about it and adjust behaviors to not hurt one another, breaking up wouldn't be the worst idea.
posted by quince at 4:20 PM on July 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Data Point: I was briefly involved in the fetish scene, for a time it was how I made a living. What he is doing with the photos IS soft core pornography of a sort.

Similarly, his comment about the "quality" of girls at a strip club IS objectifying and offensive.

**In short, I don't think you have anything to apologize for on these two points you made.**

Usually amateur photographers like your (ex) BF pay the models for their time, or otherwise compensate them. See the movie Bettie Page. I'm assuming he took offense about your photography comment because you hit the nail on the head, not because you are exaggerating.

Sad for him he's not thinking too deeply about his opinions and pursuits.

As for you? You're fine.
posted by jbenben at 4:26 PM on July 7, 2014 [20 favorites]

The apology advice is good if you want to apologize.


Someone who blames you for being oversensitive because you found something he said sexist is someone you might not to be with.

And his taking offense at labeling his softcore pornography for what it was -- isn't that exactly the insecurity that he was using to label you?

I wasn't there. I don't have the full story. You've both invested a lot in this relationship in terms of time and so on. That's what's on the table.
posted by plinth at 4:54 PM on July 7, 2014 [8 favorites]

So he took some soft core shots and was offended that you identified them as such and then objectifies women and can't understand why you'd get offended by that? I think that an apology is warranted but I'm not sure it's from you.

Also, if your boyfriend is going to continue to pursue his hobby, he'd better get used to people categorizing him the way you did, that coupled with the way he speaks about women, well, it doesn't really put him in the artist category. The fact that he finds this hurtful does not make it less true and maybe he needs to think about why he's so offended - probably because he sees that you were right. I think you two are better off apart, either way.
posted by Jubey at 5:00 PM on July 7, 2014 [5 favorites]

It is possible BOTH to have said some unfair things to an SO during a fight AND for the two of you to be better off without each other.
posted by deanc at 5:00 PM on July 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Boudoir photography of lingerie clad models with sexually suggestive titles IS softcore pornography. So either he was angry about something else, or he is gaslighting.

I think what's going on here is that he's hearing your expressions of insecurity as an accusation, and your correct assessment of his hobby hits a sore spot. What he's hearing you say is "I find your hobby sleazy, and I think you want to have sex with those girls." And while I don't think you have anything to apologize for, I think what he wants you to say is "you can't be as sleazy as your hobby suggests; you are a good person and a trustworthy partner, who moved to be with me, and therefore I know you love me and I have no reason to be jealous of models; also, because you are such a good person, your hobby is arty and not sleazy."

Anyway, if you believe that, great; but if you don't, it would be a lie to apologize and pretend you do.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:16 PM on July 7, 2014 [8 favorites]

I did a photo shoot with a group as a private calendar for a friend of ours. We had a blast doing it. So now there are pictures of me out there in the universe in a bra, underwear, fishnets and heels and I'm okay with that. It was tasteful and fun. We all made a pact that the pictures would never get posted online, but that's always a possiblity that I can live with. I'm also in this picture.

Your post still made me feel icky. So he took pictures of scantily clad women in a hotel room? Eh, to each his own. Posted online? Whatever. Then this:

There was no nudity, just suggestive poses and skimpy clothing/lingerie. He posted the photos to a special page dedicated to them on FB, and captioned the photos with mildly suggestive comments like "Come here" and "Time for bed" and other things to that effect. These girls are "ring girls" (for boxing matches) and so have somewhat of a following. The photos drew loads of comments from the audience of males, and they were of the semi-lewd, drooling, 13-yr old boy variety.

So not only was he okay with these sorts of comments on his photographs, but he actively encouraged it? That's an ew.

So yesterday, he made an unrelated joke about "the quality of girls at a strip club out in the sticks", and I took offense to his "quality of girls" terminology, since it implied some sort of rating system. The usual "you're being insecure and oversensitive" argument ensued,

And that's another ew. Does he make these sorts of comments frequently? Seriously, do you always want to be wondering if the person you're with actually respects women?

It's okay for this to be a dealbreaker.
posted by futureisunwritten at 5:24 PM on July 7, 2014 [9 favorites]

To be honest, I think you're confusing your value judgment of his hobby with how you talked to him about his hobby.

In a moment of heated discussion, you basically trivialized and shot his hobby down, which hurt him, because ostensibly to him, he doesn't understand why his hobby should affect his relationship with you, and because he's offended by his hobby being categorized as pornography.

To you, it matters, because you think his hobby is sleazy, and because you feel (as you admit) threatened and/or insecure by the other women he comes in contact through your hobby.

If you're disgusted by his hobby, then you have every right to be, and you can talk about it separately to him by saying so. If you're worried about his commitment to you, then that's a related but ultimately separate issue. You can be disgusted by his hobby and not worried about his commitment to you; you can be not disgusted by his hobby and worried, etc.

I think this is separate from him being respectful to women. Clearly there's some part of his casual language that sounds pretty disrespectful, etc. But if you break up tonight, I don't think it is because he's disrespectful to women; I think it's because you two are still working out how to communicate to each other.
posted by suedehead at 5:28 PM on July 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

It really feels to me like your boyfriend is putting words in your mouth by framing this as being about jealousy or insecurity.

I mean, it sounds to me like the problem is that he's a misogynist and a shitty photographer, and that you don't respect him. Those aren't things to apologize for, and nor are they negotiable. You feel what you feel. You're not required to like his art or think he's pro-feminist.
posted by Sara C. at 5:31 PM on July 7, 2014 [11 favorites]

I think there's a big difference between 'apologize for' and 'make it up to' (your title).

For the former, figure out exactly what it is you want to apologize for. In your last paragraph, it sounds like you are thinking pretty clearly on that front. My only advice is: stick to exactly that, and don't let him stretch it into a broader apology that you don't mean.

The latter implies an ongoing effort to make a change. Here, it sounds like you've got other factors you are weighing, and all I will say is - he does not sounds like a good partner for you, or many women.

Look up gaslighting, and see if it sounds familiar, or helps to put his 'logic' in perspective.

It's always worthwhile to keep yourself on the path of being a good human, which means that you need to think about your own contributions to conflict, but honestly - this is not one you should over think.
posted by Dashy at 6:04 PM on July 7, 2014

The usual "you're being insecure and oversensitive" argument ensued,

You can never win this fight. He's not listening to you and doesn't respect your point of view.

"How could you feel I don't love you when I moved 350 miles for you?"

He didn't move "for you." He moved for his own happiness. That's not a criticism - everyone makes choices that way. But don't feel guilty (or grateful) for his choices.
posted by headnsouth at 6:33 PM on July 7, 2014 [5 favorites]

Is all his photography of the soft core pornography variety? Is this the type of photography he prefers and seeks out in preference to other subjects? Basically, you told him he was a disgusting lech and a pornographer. If this is what he photographs then your description was correct, if tactless and you don't owe him an apology.

However, if he also photographs brides and sunsets, and food and interesting juxtapositions of cracks in the sidewalk and stuff like that then I would think he is a photography who shoots whatever he can and your comment was unjustified.

I wonder, would you be as disgusted and angry that he took and posted those pictures if he was a straight female photography who did boudoir photography? Would you be creeped out the same way if he were a happily married straight female friend of yours.

It seems to me that you are objecting to his having taken the photographs and his speaking about strippers not so much from a feminist political stance that porn is bad, but from a personal one. You mentioned that you're no chesty model. Your appearance would be irrelevant and you would not have mentioned it if you were objecting to his gaze for purely moral reasons. The impression I get is that your primary motivation is insecurity.

I think that is the thing you need to tease out in your own mind: Basically, is he a filthy-minded guy who is leching over women's bodies and who has broken and will break his commitment to monogamy? Because that sounds like what you believe.

There is a difference between the quality of the strippers in the sticks and those who work in the pricer clubs in larger metropolitain areas. Any sociologist who studies sex work will tell you so. But of course your boyfriend may have made that comment because he was mocking and disparaging the women who work in the clubs in the sticks, or he may have made the observation because it was a fact and he feels a kind of rueful sympathy for the women who are valued less, or he could have been talking about strip clubs because it turns him on, or any number of reasons we can't tell from your description. Was the joke at the expense of the strip clubs, or at the expense of the sticks, or at the expense of the women?

But no matter what his motivation for mentioning strip clubs may be, it does sound like your opinion of him is that he is a nasty exploitative lecher and that he will break a monogamous bond with you. It doesn't really matter if he is a lecher or not, if you feel like he is one. If he is one then your comments were unkind, but truthful and you are better off out of the relationship and you can apologize, if you like, for having said something to him that made him unhappy.

Or else he is not one, and you don't respect him and despise him because of things that are inside you. Your question makes it sound like you think that your own insecurity is the problem and I think it is. The photo shoots with the ring girls took place at least seven months ago at a time when you had no right to his fidelity or his attention, and the person who did have that right was unperturbed. If the guy were going to strip clubs, or surfing lots of porn, or seeing prostitutes or making frequent nasty comments about women you'd have better evidence that he was an exploitative sexist, over-sexed pig. And I could understand you feeling insecure if he were trying to set up other new soft-core porn shoots. But you seem to have this disgust of him because of a photo-shoot months in the past, and because of one comment that we can only see out of context.
posted by Jane the Brown at 6:44 PM on July 7, 2014 [7 favorites]

Could you help me with thinking this through and helping craft some language to better express myself while staying true to my POV?

"This relationship is no longer working for me. I wish you the best."
posted by Gray Skies at 7:23 PM on July 7, 2014 [5 favorites]

Some context OP: this thing - dudes taking photos of young girls on their lingerie - is a small but significant and quite intense sub culture in photography circles (I'm not into it myself but it's a real sub culture).

Unsurprisingly, this sub culture regularly faces accusations of: exploitation, pornography, jollies-getting and being shitty photography pretending to be artistic. Whatever the merits of the accusations (personally, I'd be ticking "all of the above"), the community is hyper sensitive to them, and typically reacts very aggressively when they are made. This is reinforced within the subculture (like NO women do this hobby, it's such a weird thing when you see it overlapping with general photo forums etc), so there's a very persecuted, wounded vibe to it.

I say all this not defend your bf, or his porny hobby, but to point out that his reaction was probably not entirely in reaction to you. He's heard these accusations many times before, and he moves in what could charitably called the black sheep of hobby photography. So don't take too much of this on yourself.
posted by smoke at 8:09 PM on July 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hello. OP here. Want update?

We are still discussing (and are now on a dinner break). He's positioning the photography that he did as a big "eff you" of sorts to his ex-wife ...for 5 years of a sexless marriage during which she'd manipulated him and often accused him ungroundedly of being flirtatious. He does acknowledge, then, that the photos can be hurtful.

me: "You intended to hurt her. In a way, I guess I got caught in the line of fire."

Him: "I actually didn't intend to hurt anyone. It was simply the act of doing something she wouldn't approve of that was ... liberating after being sold this bs about [her being] pure as the snow while she was lying to me and running around [with other men]."

But because he no longer does the photography, and it was something he did for a specific time for a sorta specific purpose, it's not something I should expect him to do again. And he maintains the "quality" comment was just a silly joke.

Still don't know how this will play out. Just thought since you were all so helpful & insightful, you'd want to hear that development.
posted by phreckles at 9:29 PM on July 7, 2014

+1 to everything jbenben said.

Speaking as someone who's also been involved in the fetish scene, you aren't being hurtful, you are being accurate. His photos and the website they were posted to ARE softcore porn. Your original objection to them was because you've already detected red flags about his attitude towards women-- that he is objectifying and contemptuous.

Oh wait, just loaded the page-- he got into sexy photography as a 'fuck you' to his ex wife because he claims she didn't give him enough sex and wanted to sexually humiliate her by doing a photoshoot of models with big breasts? Wow. You've been dating seven months? Girl, run.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 9:44 PM on July 7, 2014 [14 favorites]

I'm sorry, but three items in his story to you here:

"...for 5 years of a sexless marriage during which she'd manipulated him and often accused him ungroundedly of being flirtatious."

are really setting off alarm bells for me. Smells fishy. Proceed with caution.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 9:50 PM on July 7, 2014 [12 favorites]

We are still discussing (and are now on a dinner break). He's positioning the photography that he did as a big "eff you" of sorts to his ex-wife ...for 5 years of a sexless marriage during which she'd manipulated him and often accused him ungroundedly of being flirtatious. He does acknowledge, then, that the photos can be hurtful.

This entire concept + the "quality of the girls" thing REALLY squicks me out. Like, it's just setting off these alarm bells of types of dude behavior i have a sort of familiarity with, but is hard to explain. He sounds like the type of guy who would go "how could you say i'm a misogynist? i LOVE women!". Know what i mean?

It's just that saying the two things he's said, especially the entire concept of getting "revenge" by doing something like that, and getting really offended at you "disrespecting" him like that is just reminding me of several people i've met/known... and more i've read about on here, or encountered online.

Him: "I actually didn't intend to hurt anyone.

And yet the entire concept of the revenge he was describing was to do exactly that. This is a really feeble flaccid backpeddle. He admitted to a supremely immature thing, and i think the breadth and width of what he had just admitted to sort of kicked in for him and then he started trying to reframe and minimize.

There's a definitely quality of "manbaby who has deep-seated shitty beliefs about women" in here, and the more you post the more of that shell you're chiseling away for me here.

Like, i mean, obviously i don't know this guy or anything. But by the time i finished your update post i was pretty much like red alert all hands to battle stations, as far as red flags go.

He's basically doing the "blame stuff on the crazy bitch ex" thing here, and doubling down on it by admitting he did something really kind of odd to get revenge on her. That's pretty serious, especially in the context of the other conflict you guys had.

In a vacuum, i wouldn't think the photo thing was a big deal at all. With the story behind it and the other comments though? ughhhh.
posted by emptythought at 10:48 PM on July 7, 2014 [20 favorites]

Just jumping in to add: I don't think there's anything ~wrong with softcore or fetish porn but think making any kind of porn of other people to hurt your SO is pretty despicable. I think that you, phreckles, had the intense reaction of disgust and jealousy when you saw your boyfriend's photoshoot and the ring girls' fb page because you were listening to your instincts. The photoshoot was done to elicit those exact emotions-- sexual jealousy and outrage-- although in his ex-wife, not in you. But you saw it and understood what was going on, because some part of that shoot's emotional context had, not unusually for any subject in photography, translated to the shots themselves.

That combined with the "quality of girls" comment says to me that he's using these models and (hypothetical) strippers and sex workers both as objects of general contempt for himself and as pure objects to hurt the women in his life who he's formed attachments to, like you and his ex. Super gross.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 1:11 AM on July 8, 2014 [8 favorites]

Dump him because he is not being honest with himself.

Dump him because he used those models to hurt his wife, instead of being genuine and appreciating them for helping him realize a fantasy he (obviously!) had an interest in actualizing.

Dump him because no successful romantic partnership takes this much work in the first 7 months.


For the record, OP - I'm not "internet yelling" at you when I bolded the above. I'm yelling at him.

He's not a mature individual. You can and will do much, much better.

posted by jbenben at 1:44 AM on July 8, 2014 [8 favorites]

Getting to the point where you end up taking pics of two models in a hotel room is not light kink - it is A Thing.

I know because I have experience in this realm.

Just wanted to add this in case you're questioning Reality.
posted by jbenben at 1:48 AM on July 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

You don't need this. Like, at all. You don't owe him any apology. If you really feel like you do, put one in a letter and send it to him when you've put 350 days or 350 miles between you, whichever comes first. Good luck and keep looking ahead.
posted by iamkimiam at 1:53 AM on July 8, 2014 [5 favorites]

Also, jbenben brings up something which i had missed because there were just so many layers of weird attitudes and mindset here.

The entire concept of "the one that got away" is incredibly objectifying, bizarre, and almost related to all of that PUA "oneitis" stuff. It isn't a cute crush or remembrance of some "d'aww" puppy love crush from years ago, it's like a supercharged version of the friendzone.

He has an idealized version of how he thought you were, at some previous point in time that he's fixated on. And essentially, he never got over some obsession with that fictional version of you, which became ever more fictional with time as he idealized it more and more.

I think it's extremely unusual to have those sorts of beliefs and actually have it be the genuine, healthy, adult kind of love. More often than not it just comes off as more of an obsession or infatuation with their mental version of you than the actual you. And then whenever you question that persons mindset, or break out of their mold of what they want you to be, you get sudden anger and shit.

I don't know how well i executed that explanation, but yea, the one that got away this is super disgusting. And i feel like part of what's happening here is that at least to some extent, you're playing out the same scenario that happens when a little kid meets their favorite TV show "character"(ie some person in a costume) at some event and has a complete meltdown when they realize that they can't actually climb walls and fly.

Obviously you've had some real human interaction here, this isn't a 100% or 0 black and white thing because nothing is. But i'm saying that as a conceptual thing to believe in, and present to you frankly and straight up it communicates some fucked up ideas about how he sees people(and really, mostly women) as like, conscious complete human beings. Or not. And as i said in my previous post, when you take it all as a package... ugh.

A lot of what he's said here, especially the explaining the phootshoot and backpedaling thing is a very good example of something that comes up in a lot of ask threads. Mainly, listen to what people tell you. It's just like when someone says "Oh yea i'm a huge flake" or whatever but with just a very thin veil of obfuscation. By openly admitting to these things he's basically saying "this is what i do, this is the kind of stuff i believe". I think there's just enough self awareness in there that he then goes "shit, that sounded really bad, i mean actually..." but you need to listen to the first part.

It's like "i did this thing, but..." and you just delete the part after the but. "This is a thing that i did" is what's being said here, and it's really doing one thing representative of that attitude and doing more things without any real communication or proof provided or any point at which he decided he needed to stop acting like that, and actually stopped. The behavior and attitudes that lead to that stuff in the past is going on right now.
posted by emptythought at 2:57 AM on July 8, 2014 [7 favorites]

From your update: Your boyfriend is communicating to you that he is willing to take sleazy pictures for the sole purpose of hurting his partner. Sexless marriage or not, that's extremely immature and disturbing behavior.

Did he actually defend his decision to act out in this way , or did he sound apologetic? Because if he told you it was a "big eff you" to his ex to sort of make you feel better, and to rationalize his actions, you should read this as a pretty damning portrait of his character.

This is not a relationship that most healthy, well adjusted people would try to salvage. Trust your gut and leave. You can do better.
posted by Gray Skies at 3:52 AM on July 8, 2014 [5 favorites]

He's positioning the photography that he did as a big "eff you" of sorts to his ex-wife

And he seems to think this somehow makes it better, or justified. It doesn't matter if that's his real reason or just another attempt to deflect blame. If AskMe allowed us to post images, I'd have a wall of nope.gifs for you.

Trust yourself here, and get out.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:12 AM on July 8, 2014 [6 favorites]

He objectified women in order to feel "liberated." He objectified women to make a "joke" about strippers. He seems to think his ex-wife owed him sex, and he seems to think that he doesn't have any responsibility to take your feelings into account in your relationship.

These are all things you might want to address if the conversation continues.
posted by jaguar at 6:39 AM on July 8, 2014 [13 favorites]

Listen, I think of myself as a feminist and respectful for women, but I don't think the pile-on here is entirely warranted, simply because I don't think we have the full picture here, nor do I think it is helpful.

It sounds like he could be a misogynist who objectifies women. It sounds like he could have also had a cathartic break after a divorce from his wife and done those photoshoots to be liberated, more than 7 months ago. It sounds like he could be an active sleaze; it sounds like he could be someone who isn't fully conscious of his own casual sexism, and needs some active learning or understanding why talking about "the quality of girls" is actually pretty misogynist.

You could spin this scenario many different ways. He could have said, "listen, I was in a weird headspace, and after my divorce the most liberating thing was to do these kinds of photoshoots since I'm really into photography and wanted to try to photograph the female body", which isn't without some casual objectification, but isn't actively malicious either. He could have said, "my sexless marriage was hard because I felt unwanted, even though I knew that my ex-wife didn't owe me sex, so it was especially hard when I realized that she was sleeping with other people." He could have said, "you were the one that got away, in that when I reviewed my past relationships, I really think what we had was special and I think I should have tried harder to have it not work out last time".

Or, he could actually be a sleaze and a misogynist and not worth your time, seriously, in which case, DTMFA. But those of us on AskMe will never quite know.

So most importantly - what do you want to do? How do you want to communicate? If you label him as a Bad Person by tallying up all his previous Bad Person Points, then yes, he will be a bad person forever. Many of us would be. But that process is a justification for breaking up. As Jane The Brown says, "you seem to have this disgust of him because of a photo-shoot months in the past, and because of one comment that we can only see out of context.".

If you'd like to work it out, I feel like tallying up previous behavior is not the way to move forward. It doesn't mean that you should forget it ever happened, or forgive it, but to carefully stow it away and let it inform your judgment -- yet not bring it up as a point for future arguments. If you find that he's continuing misogynistic comments or behaviors, then it would be good to address those comments and behaviors directly. Not by saying "but you did this photoshoot more than 7 months ago!", but by addressing those comments and behaviors, keeping his photoshoot in mind.

If you'd like to break up, then I think you should go ahead and do so. But don't do it because he did the photoshoot. Break up because he's the kind of person who does the photoshoot and makes casual comments that you see as misogynistic and uncomfortable with. That is - break up because of who he is to you, not because of what he did in the past -- however slight of a distinction that may seem to be. The latter is this 'tally' approach in which a partner can only accumulate mistakes within a relationship. The former involves evaluating and understanding your partner and how you feel about him as a whole.
posted by suedehead at 8:07 AM on July 8, 2014 [6 favorites]

Just a note: beauty photography is very difficult. The guys at Playboy, etc, have set the bar very high. Just because the pics look trashy doesn't meant he meant for them to be trashy (though the things you quote suggest maybe he did). Anyway, if he has really stopped doing it, I doubt it has more importance than any other way of acting out, such as getting very drunk.

OTOH, his comments, as you quote them, sound a bit bogus. Some people will go on excuse-making all day rather than admitting fault. It would have been more mature of him to say "I thought it would be fun, but it turned out to be stupid."
posted by SemiSalt at 2:09 PM on July 8, 2014

It isn't clear from your update whether he intended for his ex to ever be aware of the photos he took. If he did them and then sent them to her like "look at this, finally I'm getting some T&A!" that seems completely different to me than just doing a photo shoot of women in lingerie because he felt like doing something fun and liberating after getting out of a bad relationship. I feel like a lot of, maybe even most people probably do something after getting out of a sexless relationship like… have sex with new people. Taking flirty photos of scantily clad ladies (with their consent, and presumably, actually at their request/for pay) doesn't seem like a bad way to get something like that out of your system in comparison to maybe having sex with random women just because hey, suddenly I can have sex again. But again, it isn't clear whether this was really meant as revenge as in "I did it to make her feel bad" (which is what your wording of an "eff you" and "did it to hurt her" makes it sound like) and my interpretation of his comments, which is that he did it for himself and felt liberated that he was doing something she wouldn't approve of, without planning to actually make her aware that he had done it.

Then again, I should add the disclaimer that even though I recognize that in some contexts, making a comment about "the quality of.. girls" could be disturbing and disgusting, I am not the type of person who would be at all offended if someone I loved made a joke about a strip club in the sticks while we were having a casual conversation - I might even find it funny (I am a woman). And unlike some of the folks above, I felt that your comment about him being an aspiring soft core pornographer was a cruel thing to say. Not because the photos he did weren't akin to soft core pornographic material, but because many, many people find taking and looking at sexy photos fun and enjoyable, and that doesn't make all those people pornographers - not that I necessarily even think there is anything wrong with being a pornographer or with porn itself, depending on what it is and how it's done. It just seems like you said it only to hurt him and not because you actually think it is true or that you hate porn.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:34 PM on July 9, 2014

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