Dealing with a dealbreaker
June 1, 2017 12:37 PM   Subscribe

Someone I had a probably-ill-advised (but still exciting and pleasurable) sexting thing going on with revealed offhandedly that she had shared our texts (and maybe images) with a friend.

About a month after my divorce, I got myself into a sexting relationship with someone I met on an online dating site. (POF, if it matters.)

Stipulated: I should have waited before "getting back out there," especially since my marriage was long enough to have seen the advent of Netscape Navigator. This episode is a good example of why.

I always had reservations about it, but the woman I met online was funny and sexy, and we progressed rapidly from playful banter to full-on erotic fantasies, with some pics. Never met in real life, though she definitely knows my real name.

Last weekend, after another exchange, she casually mentioned that her friend, another woman, also thought it was pretty hot.

I was taken aback - a third party knowing my name, my fantasies, etc, then going out into the world was alarming. I didn't explain my objection, but there was a loooong gap between texts, to the point where she said, "oh don't worry Nessa is cool and she's a pervert like me."

I've half-ghosted since, but she keeps reaching out.

My question: do I...
+ get specific and say, nope, sorry, here's my reason?
+ explain nothing, but say it's not gonna work out, best wishes?
+ go no contact?

Please help me think through this, maybe with special attention to the culture online dating, which is a new planet for me.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (14 answers total)
Tell her it was a deal breaker! If you're worried she ll publicize your texts out of anger, the chances are good that she ll do that anyway if you ghost her! Maybe shame will work. You don't know. But damn, it's the least you can do to stand up for yourself.

And then block her number.
posted by charlielxxv at 12:45 PM on June 1, 2017 [5 favorites]

"Hey, I was into this thinking it was private between us. Not into a group thing. Best wishes."*

*not because what she did wasn't wrong, but just because hopefully treating her nicely might be less likely to provoke her into harming you some way.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:49 PM on June 1, 2017 [24 favorites]

I might be a bit naïve here, and I've never done online dating before because I've been with the hubby forever, so please take everything I say with a pinch of salt, but:

In my experience women, and men for that matter, do talk to their friends about these kinds of things.... on a more often than not basis.
She probably thought it was "no big deal" and likely wouldn't have said anything to you if she had known you would have been taken aback. Maybe she just assumed you would be ok with it.

Now, I'm not saying what she did was "OK", but I don't think it was "wrong" per se, particularly if all she did was talk to her friend. (I can't tell from you question if she has SHOWN her friend these images or just talked to her about it so forgive me if I'm mistaken)

I hate ghosting. I hate people not giving a reason for things and just disappearing into the ether. It's just as bad as her telling her friend about the things you've been texting about in my opinion.

So I mean, it's cool if it's a deal breaker for you, but I do think you owe her SOME sort of explanation before just cutting her off without warning. I mean, just be honest with her.

"Sorry - I'm new to online dating and perhaps I was a bit naïve, but I'm really uncomfortable with you sharing these details with your friend and was completely caught off guard by that revelation, and now I'm not sure where I stand or how I feel or if I can continue talking with you! I was enjoying it up to that point but I feel completely violated and vulnerable now."

Then just have a conversation about it. Of course if you really want to break it off and don't want to talk to her or give her an explanation, then you can use the script that fingersandtoes used above!
posted by JenThePro at 2:06 PM on June 1, 2017 [40 favorites]

I think that are criticizing yourself, and your sexting friend, more than you need to. You criticize yourself by saying that your initial engagement was ill-advised and that you should have waited longer. Maybe instead of saying that, say "It sure is understandable that I got into some hot sexting with a person I didn't really know, and it sure is understandable that I didn't take time to make clear my assumption or my preference that they not mention it to anyone else. I was having fun, of a sort that I hadn't had in a long while (or ever). Now I have learned something about myself." As you "get out there" you will find - whether in online dating or otherwise - that different people have different assumptions about privacy. As for your sexting friend, I don't think it was unreasonable for them to unthinkingly assume "This guy who barely knows me is hot and heavy on the sexting, so he's not hung up, and he hasn't said anything to me about secrecy, so there's no problem in my telling my friend a bit about it." Again, you live and you learn and you haven't done anything wrong and I don't think that anybody else did either. You will get better about figuring out what you want, and communicating it.
posted by sheldman at 2:28 PM on June 1, 2017 [7 favorites]

I'm fairly prudish, but I don't think this would even phase me. You have never met this person and don't seem to be interested in meeting her, nor does it seem that she is interested in meeting you. This is all fantasy, and not only might she not have a friend or thinks you're hot, for all you know, she might not look like you think she does, or even be a woman at all.

If it makes you uncomfortable, just stop responding to her.
posted by empath at 2:40 PM on June 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

You don't need to apologize for your side of this. It's fine, people have to make their way in the world after a relationship ends, you don't deserve punishment for that.

I think what she did was uncool and kind of speaks to her character, but I also agree that this is always a risk and you should probably assume it IS happening and then also they shouldn't tell you and they should take some steps to at least obfuscate your identity.

Every electronic communication you make, you should assume might come back to bite you in the ass. You may want to be careful about giving out your full name or using your primary phone number for this kind of thing, until stuff gets more serious. Get a special gmail address and a google voice number, use the google voice app on your phone/computer for sexting and early-stage dating contact.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:56 PM on June 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

Like so many social-interaction AskMes, it's hard to say without more context, but from what you've said, it sounds very much to me like she was very gently trying to broach the possibility of multiple partners with you.
Because of the privacy and consent issues that you raise, it's not a great approach. But imagine how tricky and awkward it is for people who are into that sort of thing but aren't embedded in a poly scene, or are trying to date outside of it. If she were to come right out and ask about it, she runs the risk of inviting some heavy hostility. As it is, she has blown it with a potential partner even with being very oblique about it.
I'm absolutely not saying that you should give her another chance if the situation makes you uncomfortable. In your position I would probably be reacting much as you are. It's just something to think about, and a perspective nobody in the thread has brought up directly.
posted by Krawczak at 3:04 PM on June 1, 2017 [6 favorites]

describing the content to her friend is different from showing her the actual texts. though you might be bothered by both. but did she definitely do the latter, was it clear?

For your own protection, always assume a person you send explicit materials to will share them around on a whim, either to brag when things are going well or to humiliate you when things go badly. Men (if you are one) should be as aware of this as women are forced to be, because even if we don't let it dictate our behavior or let it intimidate us, it's worth knowing.

but that doesn't mean it's your fault or that the predictability of it means it's ok that she did it. It is not. It is acceptable to share this stuff around when the explicit content is unsolicited and unwanted (to shame the sender) or wholly anonymous (because there is no personal information or relationship to protect), and only then. You don't share private sexual communications around without asking the sender first -- you know this; she should know it; she probably actually does know it. If you wanted to nicely tell her that a gentle(wo)man doesn't do this shit, she might learn something. but I doubt it. Safest course is to keep your full name and face to yourself in the future. you can still share personal stuff without those.
posted by queenofbithynia at 3:04 PM on June 1, 2017 [4 favorites]

Don't blame yourself for indulging in a little harmless consensual fun. Really! What you're discovering, though, is that people often tend to have attenuated expectations of privacy and discretion when it comes to quickies with Internet randos (virtual or not). Unfortunately, knowing her so little, it's not possible for you to trust that she would change her ways if you explained your own expectations to her. So I think you're stuck with a "Sorry, this isn't working for me anymore." Any attempts to explain will only be met with attempts to justify.

In future, torsos only! And no real names, email addresses, etc., unless you decide you want to take it offline.
posted by praemunire at 3:15 PM on June 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I don't think it's at all uncommon for some women to feel like their sex life, including sexts and the photos that go along with them, is fair game to share with their friends. Now you know; going forward you can either cultivate a DGAF attitude or have a discussion about distribution rights before the dick pics start flying. I'd kind of recommend the former, as those sexts are always no more than a two-step authentication away from being plastered all over Imgur for the rest of eternity by an angry ex who knows their security questions, right? For this particular case, I'd break things off gently but with an explanation, leavened with plenty of it's-not-you-it's-me to mitigate any possibility of the sexts getting an even broader release just to spite you.
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:16 PM on June 1, 2017

Couple things:

1. I agree to some extent with Krawczak that her telling you that her friend though your sexting was hot was, if not a specific suggestion of a threesome, at least intended to be sexy and not upsetting.

2. That said, you are of course free to see this as not sexy at all and if it is a dealbreaker, then it is a dealbreaker, but I also really really hate ghosting, and I think you should give her the courtesy of a clean break, if not an explanation.

3. You should be up front about this in any future relationships you have, to prevent these sorts of misunderstandings. Not that I think your stance on it is weird or radical, but I think most women would assume most men would be turned on rather than turned off by this behavior.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:25 AM on June 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

You get to say anything is a deal breaker, and you're one month out of a divorce so holy heck you're probably figuring out a lot of stuff and not feeling a huge amount of emotional security.

But also you may be missing out on some awesome sexy funtimes with someone who is into you. I mean when friends tell me about their dating texts the ones I hear about are the horrible ones. That she's telling her friend "hey I'm really into this hot person" is not what I'd call a bad sign.

On the other hand who knows. So much of this is impossible to gauge accurately unless you build trust and meet. And maybe this is the end here, maybe you're not ready for something and this is the event your brain is going to pick to give you permission to take some alone time or a breather, maybe this person isn't trustworthy, etc.

There's a lot that could be going on at once.

Give yourself permission to feel ok about sexting or not sexting right now, but maybe also see this event from more than one angle. You're going to be ok.
posted by zippy at 7:28 AM on June 2, 2017 [4 favorites]

Tell her: "I have to say, I was taken aback at a third party knowing my name, my fantasies, etc. I should have waited before "getting back out there" after getting divorced, and this episode is a good example of why. Sorry."
posted by John Cohen at 3:28 PM on June 2, 2017

Mod note: This is a followup from the asker.
Thank you, everyone. Your guidance was extremely helpful.

I contacted the woman with a modified version of my question here, actually - something like what JenThePro suggested. She answered very thoughtfully, saying she's glad I spoke up, doesn't want to make me uncomfortable, she should not have assumed I'd be okay with it, thinks I should maybe pump the brakes a bit, and similar sentiments. She was really, really nice about it, and she emphasized that she learned from the whole episode, too.

We've texted some friendly, totally non-sexual stuff a couple of times over the last week. At one point, she suggested that I stop texting and go on a bike ride like I keep saying I want to do.

I feel lucky - for the chance to get feedback from a good-hearted community, and for the results I got when I applied that feedback to my life. Friends, cheers.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:34 PM on June 8, 2017 [4 favorites]

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