Advice

Miss Information: When Your Boyfriend Collects Sexy Photos From Facebook

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Having two X chromosomes does not undermine your ability to reason, and being a dude is not a lifetime hall pass.

Have a question for Miss Information? Send it to missinfo@nerve.com. Submissions may be edited. 

Dear Miss Information,

My boyfriend and I are both in our early 30's. I'm a model/actress and he's a freelance producer and camera operator. He's sweet and kind to me and has always been there for me when I needed him. We've been together 2 1/2 years (but knew each other as friends for 10 years) and talk about marriage and the future. We love each other and have a great time together. We have a great sex life. Our careers and personalities both really compliment each other’s, and everyone says how great we look and seem together. I really wish that what I'm about to reveal didn't bother me so much, but it does. However, I know that girls (especially me, haha) can be a bit crazy and insecure, so I want to determine if this is normal male behavior, or if it's a really bad sign.

He's behaved on Facebook in a way that has hurt me greatly (and led me not to trust him). "Liking" sexy photos of other chicks, liking pages named "I love boobs" and "gym hotties," things like that. He also would make douchebag-sounding comments on mutual friends’ walls, for example: "that's why I want to move to tropical island and live off of topless women", things of that nature. I also noticed he would become FB friends with random girls it didn't seem like he could know in real life, girls who it seems are just on FB to post sexy/insinuating pics of themselves. I have talked to him about all of this: he was defensive at first and would brush it off like it wasn't a big deal, but I finally got him to understand and he doesn't do it anymore. He's also reassured me that I'm the only one for him and that it's "normal" guy behavior and I have nothing to worry about.

Since then, I have recently discovered on his phone and on his computer naked/revealing pics of girls. I asked him about it, and he admitted they were pictures of random girls he found on FB and from those pages. I asked him why he felt the need to do this, and he said "because I'm a guy. That's why these pictures exist." On his computer I found that he saves pictures of the girls from FB (like the ones he randomly became FB friends with) and also, worst of all, one of my friends from modeling. All these pictures were naked/half naked/extremely suggestive pics, and not pretty pics of them showcasing their face–that's an important note. There were pics of me too in the mix, but I just feel like especially because I'm a model, including lingerie, that my pictures should be enough, or close to enough, where he shouldn't feel the desire to download all these pictures of other women, and so often.

Porn watching doesn't bother me, and I don't mind here and there him wanting to look at a Victoria’s Secret, Playboy or Penthouse-type mag, but the fact that he's perving on girls’ pictures (including my own friend!) on social networking sites while he's in a relationship with me feels very wrong. I have had issues with OCD and depression in the past and I just can't stop obsessing over this. I have already talked to him about my feelings on this, and he said "I love you. You are the only one for me in real life." I truly believe he has never cheated, or even ever hit on another girl. I don't want to ruin an otherwise amazing relationship over this, but this behavior makes me feel horrible and like I can't trust him. I feel like his behavior is a red flag.

Please tell me, is this behavior normal? Or is it a terrible sign about him, and our relationship?

—CyberGirl

Dear CyberGirl:

Your letter has some interesting gender stereotyping. “Girls are crazy and controlling!”, “guys do or say piggish things! What can you do!” Having two X chromosomes does not undermine your ability to reason, and being a dude is not a lifetime hall pass. I know when I say it outright, these are all “duh” statements. Intellectually, we all know these things, but we’ve gotten conditioned to believe them anyway. “You guys have fun setting frogs on fire! Boys will be boys! I’m gonna go eat some Ben and Jerry’s and cry about the moon.” I don’t think this is any sort of flaw in your relationship, Cybergirl, but it does conveniently allow you both to chalk the stalemate up to, “Oh well, gender differences,” rather than find a solution.

Overall, I see your boyfriend’s behavior as largely harmless with undercurrents of “ick.” Keeping a folder of sexy photos: fine. Taking them from Facebook pages, whether “random” or friends of yours? Ick. And, while “douchebaggy” comments might not be in line with his real-life personality, they are coming from somewhere in his brain, which makes them harder to dismiss. These are very, very blurry lines, of course, and largely a gut feeling. (…You know how we ladies are!) The take-home message: in such wiggly social spaces, you just have to trust your intuition.

While I see the behavior as “icky,” I don’t quite see the leap in how it has so deeply wounded you. His Facebooking may be sleazy and annoying, but shouldn’t be a drain on your happiness. If depression and OCD are recurring issues for you, bring them up with a good therapist: they can help you sort which of your reactions are valid and which to ignore far better than I can.

It’s hard to read in your letter whether your boyfriend is an overgrown frat boy mouth-breather, or just an enthusiastic dude with a busy social media presence. Before you talk to him again, do some soul-searching. What about this bothers you most? If you’re okay with erotica but not with these photos, what is the difference? Are you upset by the amount of time he spends searching out these pics? Are you offended that they are of people he knows? Pinpoint what, exactly, is bugging you. Then acknowledge that you can’t control what he does or thinks about in his spare time, but tell him it would make you much more comfortable if he weren’t so public about his porn search/ posted fewer comments about his friends’ bikinis/ would stop “honking” your boobs at parties/ whatever. Since it clearly bothers you, he should be willing to meet you partway.

This is one of those sticky zones of our modern era. As long as your boyfriend is loving and wonderful in real life, his online pervin’ shouldn’t be so wounding. Fixing that may fall on changing his behavior, your mindset, or both. If you find this is seriously impacting your life, stand up for your lady-feelings: boys may be boys, but men should act better.