Reader dilemma: 'My boyfriend jokes about putting photos of us having sex on Facebook'

"I would say, calmly and rationally, that you don’t like being teased and if he goes on like this and refuses to delete the photographs, it’s over"

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Dear Virginia

A month ago, my boyfriend and I got very drunk and he started taking pictures of me while we were having sex. It was all very funny until I woke up the next day and asked him to delete them, and he refused. He kept teasing me and said that now he could do anything he wanted to me because he always had this hold over me, and threatened to put them on Facebook. I know he was joking, and I don’t think he’d ever do it, but I now feel paranoid about these pictures. When I ask him to delete them, he just laughs and turns it into a joke. What can I do?

Yours sincerely, Carys

Virginia says

There are some people who use teasing as a way of communicating. It seems to be one of the only ways they can make emotional contact with others. Giving someone a dig in a tender place and getting a rise out of them is a way of getting emotional attention. A bit of knowing laughter and a complicit acknowledgement of what’s going on makes them feel close, but if that’s not forthcoming, a spurt of anger or, even pain, can also make them feel more secure and, in an odd way, loved.

I have a near-pathological horror of any hint of teasing and I either burst into tears or throw a wobbly of major proportions. Criticism I can take, or even grumpiness or anger, but teasing is like torture. Reason goes out of the window.

In your case, however, this is not mere teasing about your propensity to be late,  or the fact that you’re fussy about how  your eggs are done. Your boyfriend has got a major hold over you and he obviously loves not only the power that this gives him, but also the way he can get you emotionally close, even in anger, and upset at the drop of a hat. He only has to point to his mobile phone with a wink, and I imagine your blood pressure rises at once in a vertical line.

Many people advise that the best thing to do with teasing is to ignore it. “Don’t rise to the bait,” they say. But we all know what happens then. The bait gets bigger and bigger and more and more cruel until, eventually, you can’t help but lose it. And I suspect that, however hard one tries not to rise to the bait, there are tiny evidences of discomfort that can’t be disguised. Slight flushing of the face. Pupils going a different shape. Slightly different tone  of voice.

So the method you need to employ is coldness. That is the opposite reaction to what teasers want. I would say, calmly and rationally, that you don’t like being teased and if he goes on like this and refuses to delete the photographs, it’s over. If you can summon up the inner Scottish headmistress. This is the tone that’s needed. He’ll probably give in, but, later, he may well say he was only pretending. At this point, you walk out.

The other thing you can do is to call his bluff. Describe the situation in front of mutual friends. Say that while having sex, he took some photographs of you and refuses to delete them. They will be horrified and he will be unnerved at being socially shamed.

You could, also, simply pinch his mobile phone and delete the photographs yourself.

Legally, he can’t put them on Facebook. But do you want a man around who threatens such a thing, even in joke?

I’d drop him like a stone.

Readers say...

Don’t ignore the warning signs

Firstly, get the device where the photos are and flush it down the loo. Secondly, ditch him. The man is a creep.

A loving relationship requires more than protestations or even feelings of love; it requires kindness and respect. It is much more about what you do than how you feel.

What kind of person treats someone they love like this? Using teasing and blackmailing, and saying it’s just a joke when you are upset about it?

Sadly, I suspect that you won’t be able to take advice like this. I think you already know that he has a controlling and cruel side and you are ignoring it and the warning it should give you. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be feeling so awful and asking what to do, and he wouldn’t be playing with you as he is doing; he would know he couldn’t. Really, you deserve better.

Jan

Northumberland

This is really not funny

As you have asked this man several times to delete the pictures of you having sex and he has not done so, simply pack your bags and leave. It certainly isn’t a joke.

And for goodness sake, don’t go back, whatever he says.

If your ex-boyfriend does put the pictures on Facebook, or otherwise passes them around, seek legal advice. The same applies if he harasses you to try to continue contact.

Better luck with your next relationship. Not all men are such rotters.

Frederic Stansfield

Ramsgate

Stop wasting your time with him

This boyfriend is not much of a friend, I am afraid. He has no respect for your feelings and seems likely to want to keep you (and I use keep in the most possessive sense) by emotional blackmail, or at the very least to make any parting very unpleasant indeed. The fact that he is laughing off your requests for deletion does not make the situation any lighter.

On the positive side, you now understand this and can extricate yourself. Consider the life chances you are wasting on this crude and insensitive person. And do not worry about his threat: make its very illegality clear to him as soon as you leave by sending him an email telling him that you are aware of his keeping intimate pictures, do not approve and will report any public postings to the police.

Cole Davis

London

Next week's dilemma

Three months ago, after 15 years of marriage, my husband told me he had fallen in love with my best friend, and left that afternoon. I am totally devastated. My children, in their early teens, are very unhappy and disturbed and I hardly know how to go on being strong for them. I’ve been to see a solicitor, but I’m finding it very hard to make ends meet as my husband hasn’t made any provision for us financially. Everyone’s kind, and keeps assuring me it’s his loss and I’ll meet someone else. But that’s not what I want to hear. I just want him back.

Yours sincerely,

Tessa

What would you advise Tessa to do? To answer this dilemma, or to share your own problem, write to dilemmas@independent.co.uk

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