Love & Sex

In Defense of Holding on to Nude Photos of Exes

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I still like knowing a token of our intimate connection still survives.

This week, a German court ruled that ex-partners must delete all nude or intimate photos if one partner requests it (clothed photos, however, can remain preserved). Some may see this as a dramatic step forward in the protection of privacy and the war on revenge porn. But I can't help but find it a little bit sad.

I am 31, and have been dating for over a decade. In that time, I've amassed a number of nude pictures of a variety of partners: some long term loves, others short term flings; some planned out photo shoots, others quick snapshots spontaneously taken in an intimate moment. Most of them exist somewhere on my hard drive, scattered throughout folders as mementos of times past. I rarely look at them, but I still like knowing that they are there, that years after a relationship, when my ex and I have become completely different people, a token of our intimate connection still survives.

None of my exes have ever asked me to delete my photos. Perhaps it's because of the ephemeral nature of so many of them: a shot taken in the moment and quickly forgotten, unlikely to be remembered long after the relationship ends. Or perhaps it's because my partners have a similar trove of photos, and understand the allure of traveling back in time on nostalgic nights. Or perhaps it's because my partners trust me enough not to worry that I'll leak their visage onto some mean-spirited site at some point in the future.

It's the last point that's the crux of this debate, of course. By limiting the ruling solely to intimate or erotic photos, rather than all photos from the relationship, the court clearly communicated that it was taking a stand against the practice of "revenge porn," hoping to prevent humiliation through the forcible erasure of the memories of many. But this broad sort of ruling seems misguided at best. For one thing, even without laws specifically targeting revenge porn itself, the practice of publishing photos (let alone nude photos) without the subject's consent is already illegal. For another, the hard and fast distinction between nude or intimate photos and clothed ones serves only to further stigmatize sexuality – and create even more humiliation if and when the naked parts of a person's past surface on line.

My love for my naked photos is akin to my love for old letters. They're a way to relive a long lost love, to privately remember tender moments of days gone by. Granted, holding on to those memories means running the risk of them finding their way into the public eye. But I'd much rather that than be forced to give them up entirely.

Image via Jordan Tiberio.