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How Do You Get Rid of Your Sexy Pics and Videos After a Break-up?

You might not like the answer, because some things really do last forever.
 
 
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Photo Credit: Studio10Artur/Shutterstock.com

 
 
 
 

There is nothing new under the sun, and nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to couples taking sexy pictures of each other. Engravings of female genitalia dating back 37,000 years have been found etched on cave walls, and just think of the oodles of Victorian erotica – unsmiling ladies lifting up crinolines. As long as there has been sex, couples have been thinking to themselves, "Hey, let's paint/film/Snapchat this!"

In a pre-digital age, what happened to your homemade erotica when you split was a pleasingly low-tech issue. If the break-up was fairly amicable and you were a man and a lady, the lady got to keep the sexy stuff. I don't know why, it's an unwritten heterosexual law – a throwback to the age of chivalry if you like. Sometimes you both had images of each other and that acted as a deterrent to the other party doing anything mean-spirited with the material – a bit like owning nuclear weapons. Burning was a popular choice, of course, although Polaroid pictures tend to be pretty robust, so I recommend a sharp pair of scissors.

But what to do in a digital age when we're drowning in risqué pictures and videos? Break up with a budding Robert Mapplethorpe at your peril. Unlike, say, a VHS video tape – I came across one of these from a previous relationship when I moved recently. I looked at it fondly, imagined what was on it and that was that. Oh, innocence – there's a real possibility that naked pictures of yourself will live forever in your ex's hard drive or on their phone – or on the internet itself if they are really mean.

This is demonstrated by the fact that  a court in Germany has ruled that a woman has the right to ask her ex-boyfriend – a photographer – to delete erotic videos and intimate photographs of her taken, with her consent, in the course of their relationship.

While there is no suggestion that he intended to distribute the material – such as with odious cases of "revenge porn" – the court agreed with her demand, saying her consent could be withdrawn on the grounds of her personal rights, on which it placed a higher value than her ex-boyfriend's ownership rights.

Aside from how this is in any way enforceable – I have visions of the judge standing over the hapless fellow as he deletes photographs one by one from his laptop – my first thought was that this was great news for embittered lovers everywhere, and for anyone who has ever had their photograph taken. Does our personal right not to have a picture of us with four chins appear on Instagram – even with a lovely filter – trump the rights of the photographer? Well, why not? Better yet, what about our personal right to have regrettable texts and emails deleted?

I am not in the habit of handing out naked pictures of myself to lovers. I am, however, an enthusiastic and prolific drunken texter. Nothing stops me. I once listed a popular recipient of my late-night ramblings in my phone as "DON'T DO IT whatever you do". As if. My texts to Mr whatever-you-do ranged from the gnomic ("I wish I wasn't so disappointed") to the mad and needy. Oh the mortification the next morning. I am sure my personal right not to feel chagrined trumped his right to "own" the texts.

However compelling the idea that we can erase our digital pasts, I can't help but think that a high-profile court case with an ex, whether the issue is sexy pictures or a text you shouldn't have sent at 1am, will only draw attention to the fact that they "own" said pictures in the first place. It seems that the female partner in the German case did not suspect that her ex intended to distribute the images and videos; she simply didn't like the thought of him owning and looking at them anymore. Well, tough luck.