Advice

Miss Information: Why does my boyfriend have nude photos of his ex in his email?

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Miss Information - Sex Advice by Erin Bradley

Have a question? Email erin@nerve.com. Letters may be edited for length, content and clarity. 

Dear Miss Information,

I am a twenty-six-year-old gay male, and have been with my partner for eight years now. We were monogamous until about two months ago, when we decided to open up our relationship. It's been very nice so far, but I keep having an issue. I've hooked up with a friend of ours a few times now, and each time I have a difficult time keeping my erection, let alone reaching orgasm. He is a very attractive guy, so I see no reason for this problem. When my partner and I have sex, I have little trouble reaching orgasm. But for some reason I can't do it with someone else. I can get hard when we're just messing around, but when the time comes to actually perform I lose my erection. I'm not sure if I have some sort of mental block going on from just having sex with one person most of my adult life or what. I'm worried about having this issue with any future sexual partners. What can I do to get over this? — Mind-Blocked

Dear Mind-Blocked, 

You were eighteen when you started dating your boyfriend. A tiny pink tadpole. You and your boyfriend essentially grew up together in your own little boy-on-boy bio-dome. Now you're swimming in the big-kid pond, and its occupants are no longer tadpoles. Chances are they're less closeted and more self-actualized than the guys you were meeting in your teens. It's going to take time to feel comfortable around this new group of people. You're not meeting them for a croissant, you're having sex. Fear of being judged — whether it's your dick size, your kissing style, or the way you smell, sound, and taste — is an unavoidable part of the equation. Unless you're Russell Brand, the perennially naked poster boy for body-acceptance, you're probably going to feel uneasy about it. 

Add to that the length of time you've been with your partner. You spend eight years with someone and it's natural for a new partner, even a very hot one, to throw off the machinery. Have you ever moved into a new apartment? Started keeping your toothbrush in the medicine cabinet instead of on the sink? Your brain expects one thing, you're met with another. It's discombobulating. You also hit your head on the wall, stub your toe, or in your case, lose your erection. 

And let's not discount the emotional element. I bring this up last because your letter doesn't seem to indicate any angst over the new dynamic, and I hate when people assume angst where there is none. But now I'll go back on that and ask: is there anything that's bothering you about the open relationship? Was the decision mutual or was one of you more into it than the other? Were you guys getting along before you decide to bring in other people? What about after? Your erectile problem could be a manifestation of guilt or anxiety. 

The way out of this? Practice, practice, practice, and stop with the cataclysmic boner theories. You will be able to fuck for another person. Multiple people. Don't you worry. Focus on having a good time, not whether everything goes according to script. There is no script. Try having your boyfriend there, if that's within the scope of your agreement. Try screwing around with another person. Go on a masturbation diet, or watch porn while you're doing the dirty. Most of all, relax. This is one of the few times a learning curve can be fun. Enjoy it while you can. Don't worry about this guy (or other random guys) judging you. You've got a great boyfriend you can get off with. This is just extra credit. Your sex partners will understand if they have any shred of sensitivity. If not, fuck 'em. They're a side dish.  

Dear Miss Information,

I am in a long-term relationship with a great guy whom I love immensely. Recently we took a year-long break — we stayed in touch but were both dating other people. I've always had issues with his friendship with his cheating ex, and he knows it, so he tends to keep their interaction to a minimum. Recently, I was printing something from his email — which I had permission from him to check — and did some snooping. I found some nude photos of her in an email from October with the subject line, "Here you go! Use them well!" We got back together officially in September.

I went to see him, cried, apologized for violating his privacy, and asked what the hell was going on. He said that he'd forgotten they were there, apologized profusely for their existence and for being an asshole for having them, and told me that it wasn't what I was thinking. She was asking his opinion on her submission to a SuicideGirls-type website. He also said that they're barely friends any longer. She only calls when she's having issues and needs advice. The most recent contact they've had was last month when she had a breakup.

I still feel it's grossly inappropriate for him to have allowed her to send them in the first place. Despite knowing that he loves me, and trusting that he would never cheat on me, I still feel cheated on. I'm totally fine with him watching porn and fantasizing, but nude photos of an ex are different. I can't imagine our relationship continuing happily if she's still involved in our lives. Is it reasonable to request that he cut her out of his life — explain to her that they will no longer be friends, defriend her on Facebook, and block her calls? — What the Actual Fuck

Dear What the Actual Fuck,

Fuck yes, it's a reasonable request. Friendships with exes are a privilege, not an unassailable right. Every relationship starts out with certain privileges: a regular guys' or girls' night out; an office crush you playfully reference as a running gag; friendship with exes. It's an important part of the bonding process: I let you have freedom. You let me have freedom. We both do our best to be neither unfaithful nor nosy.

You broke the nosy portion of the contract, though by no means would I make you hand over the keys to the deep fryer and turn in your apron. You were put in a tempting position, and you cracked.

Your boyfriend's infractions are much more serious. Nudie shots are an obvious no-no and that line about the SuicideGirls audition sounds about as authentic as a nautical tattoo on a hipster from a landlocked state. Even if the audition story is true, he's still a fuckwit for looking at the pictures. Why did it have to be him? Have either of them heard of the Internet? It's this really cool place with nine galaxies worth of anonymous horny dudes, boners in hand, waiting to offer commentary.

To his credit (and I use that expression loosely) it does sound the rest of what he's telling you is truthful. It did happen only a month after you got back together, and October is a long time ago. I would tell him to cease all contact and let you watch as he sends the adios email. In it, he should tell the ex that he needs to concentrate on the relationships that matter most to him, including yours, and that he doesn't want to have any contact for a while. Don't call me, I'll call you. She doesn't have to know that "a while" most likely means forever. It's better to be vague. Forbidden fruit just ratchets up the drama. Ask him to loop you in on her response, if any, and then take a break from the email policing for a while. 

If he accepts the agreement and refrains from doing anything remotely sketchy, you may want to consider reinstating his friendship-with-exes privileges. If he doesn't, dump his ass and find someone more trustworthy.

Readers, what do you think? Am I being too lenient? Too harsh? Is it possible that this was simply a bad judgment call, or is What the Actual Fuck's boyfriend a dyed-in-the-satin-sheets cheater?