How do you get your sexy photos back?

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Tea Time & Lingerie | Editorial
I’m in the unfortunate situation of breaking off a long term engagement. It’s been a painful yet necessary process, and I’m pretty proud of the way we’ve both handled it thus far (very maturely).

Having said all that, here’s my question:

I had gifted him some boudoir photos shortly after we got engaged. Now that we are no longer, I’d like them back but he’s not willing to part with them. Not that this is an apples to apples comparison, but for what it’s worth, I did return the ring (duh, in my mind).

Any ideas, thoughts, guidance on getting your sexy photos back from someone? -Sharon

Comments on How do you get your sexy photos back?

  1. Hmm. That’s a tough one… my first reaction is to simply say “too bad” since they were a gift and I never understood why anyone gives back keepsakes/gifts/personal items from their relationship when that relationship ends. Gifts are not meant to be conditional (or, I don’t believe they should be) and only kept if things work out. You give someone something, it’s because you know they would appreciate it and enjoy it, period. It’s theirs now–not on loan until you decide you want it back.

    That said, obviously sexy photos are a bit different. I find it a bit odd that he would refuse to give them back because of the personal nature of them… but, it is a memory of you and your time together and if he wants that as a keepsake he should have it. The problem here is that although they’re admittedly higher-class, sexy boudoir photos are essentially in the same category as sexting–once they’re out there, they’re out there. Hopefully you can trust him enough not to share with anyone else, but if he just wants them for himself… you might just have to chalk it up to a loss & move on. I don’t know if there’s much else you can do.

    • I disagree that he should be allowed to keep them, even if they represent a happy memory. It is very creepy to want to hold on to sexy pictures of his former fiancee, even if they are professional or well-done. Severing a relationship means the sexual part of it, too, and holding onto sexy photos “for the memories” is very suspicious. I would be very uncomfortable to know that any of my former partners still looked at my sexy photos, and if they refused to give back any hard copies, I would probably go with the other suggestions and contact a lawyer.

  2. I would consult a lawyer – I don’t know how much they can help you, but given the nature of the photos they may be able to do more for you then if you had gifted your ex with something else (clothes, furniture, etc.) The fact he doesn’t want to part with them even after you gave him back the ring is a big red flag for me that he may not keep things private. And even if he does, the thought of my ex hanging onto boudoir photos of me would make me feel icky..

  3. I agree with k., above: the fact that he won’t give them back is icky. Can you tell him that? Are you able to be honest with him and say ‘The thought of you keeping those photos to either masturbate to creepily or use as revenge porn (or whatever reason you think he’s keeping them) really squicks me out’? Maybe confronting him will help him see that doing that is not okay.

    On the other hand, even if you get them back, do you trust that he won’t have copied them? A few snap shots with his phone and he can give you back the photos but still have them in an easily printable, easily dispersable form. Again, I think being honest about the possibility and asking him directly is the way to go, but you may have to become comfortable with the fact that those photos are out there and may have repercussions 🙁

    • Masturbating to the pictures would be a narcissistic presumption and revenge porn is punishable by law … So what deeper insecurity is the real reason to not want him to have them later?

  4. I think it’s fully possible that you may never get them back. There’s some reason he’s not giving them back, whether it’s sinister, icky or genuinely clueless.
    If they’re printed, physical photos, I think you should suggest a burning party. Set them on fire in his yard–that way, neither of you gets the images and you have a cathartic moment. If he’s secretly afraid you’re going to give them to someone else, that’s alleviated. If he’s hanging onto them to remember the good times, maybe this will help him let go. If he’s keeping them to be gross or shitty, you’ll probably be able to tell by his reaction to the idea.

  5. Something definitely seems fishy since he won’t give them back. They aren’t just a gift, they’re pictures of yourself. I would contact a lawyer and just have them send him a letter stating that you want them back or you will have to pursue the matter further.

    While you think the break up is being handled in a civil, mature manner, that sounds like it is only true for your side of things.

    Those pictures are of a sexual nature. You two (I am assuming, here) have also cut off a sexual relationship as well, so he definitely doesn’t need them for any reason. Yes, he can copy or take snapshots, but A letter from a lawyer shows him you are serious and will probably scare him from sharing them as well.

    Good luck!

  6. Is there any way to split them up? They obviously mean something to him and since the split has so far been fairly amicable I would be inclined to give him the benefit of a doubt and say they represent happy memories, etc. Perhaps he can hang on to one or two of the less risqué ones and you could get back the others?

  7. I am probably going to be a bit of a rain on the parade here and for that I apologize in advance.

    Depending on where you’re located, he may not have to give them back to you at all and even pursuing a lawyer will get you a consult fee and more frustration. So, maybe it would do more benefit to do some Google searching on laws in your specific jurisdiction on property law about gifts.

    You did a very noble thing in giving back the engagement ring, but it falls into a promissory token. When the promise is broken, you can be legally required to give it back in some places. These photos may not fall into the same thing and I would see if you have even the basics before consulting any further.

    It sounds like the two of you have spoken about them and he’s just refused to give them back. It could be a control thing as everything is “falling apart” (think about if the tables were turned and you may be having trouble letting go), or it could be more sinister. There’s no real way to know until you approach the subject with a solution which means no one gets them, like Dootsie said.

    You may need to come to terms that you’ll never get them back, but I’d do some research first and see what your full range of options are before going in guns blazing.

    • Definitely this. You need to look into the laws in your jurisdiction about these kinds of materials before you go running to a lawyer. If you have any friends locally who practice law, they might have resources for you, so long as you ask them as a friend and not in their professional capacity. The other thing I would look into and be aware of is the legal status of revenge porn in your jurisdiction. Even if things are amicable now, his refusal to hand over or destroy boudoir pictures could be a red flag for problems down the line. Arm yourself now.

  8. This may be unpopular, but I think it’s pretty unreasonable for you to request that he return them. No matter how much you love someone, if you put sexy pictures of yourself out in the world (and we all do), we have to accept that we’ve lost control of them. Period. My experience is that men like to hold on to these things. He could easily scan them and give you the hard copies if he was just being creepy. His refusal is clearly on principle and I’m guessing that he feels like returning them would somehow erase the importance of what you shared (not logical but typical emotional reaction). You are going to have to decide if it is worth straining the cordial nature of the breakup by insisting that he return something that he’s not in any way obligated to return… My guess is no.

  9. What specifically makes you uncomfortable about a former partner having sexy photos? If it’s the possibility that he could “leak” them or that they’d end up on a revenge site, then there’s a lot more that needs addressed than the photos themselves. However, if it’s that they may become a road block to his ultimately moving on, everyone heals from trauma in their own ways. As to getting them back, do you guys have a mutual friends who could potentially mediate this conflict and retrieve the photos?

  10. I would want them back too, but when i think about it this is what comes to mind:
    -no matter how much in love we are, there’s always a possibility of a split (Life doesn’t come with a warranty unfortunately), so any gifts that were given during the relationship are his to keep. It sucks, but…oh well.
    -a ring is a “contract”, legally you keep it if you get married, otherwise you need to give it back. Your pictures, unless they were given to him under the same conditions of an engagement ring, are his forever 🙁
    -because of the private nature of the gift, there might be a way to force him through a lawyer but not sure

    Good luck! I wish you a good outcome and hopefully he will be civil enough to understand your feelings and give them back.

  11. My ex deleted all mine, even from before we were together (we had been sharing a computer). Well he claims he deleted. Weither he kept them or not….i never got them back which is what bothered me. What was so frustrating to me is I had just had a baby. There were before baby and early pregnancy photos….I can never go back to that time in my life. Not that mine were horribly explicit (like really seriously just any pictures of my body, even like fully clothed, were in that folder) but it felt very violating that he took them from me. It’s my body. If he had just kept a digitial copy, eh whatever, but the not returning to me for me to enjoy seemed messed up. I had no sense of body positivity pre baby. I hated my body even when it was thinner and such. Now I do have pride in my body. Even if its bigger. So it bothers me to have all of those gone. I can’t even remember what my boobs used to look like, you know? In that sense he should return them. Even if he makes copies.

  12. I’d be tempted to ask him why he doesn’t want to part with them, if you’re amicable enough to discuss it. Then I’d try to have one of those discussions where its “I feel that….” and “I would like them because…”. If you can both explain why you want them, it might shed light on who should be keeping them (if anyone). You need to be clear with him why you want them. If that’s because you don’t want him to have them or you don’t trust him not to be using them for revenge porn or the wank bank, don’t word it so as to blame him. Explain it as you don’t feel comfortable having photos out there that you don’t have influence over anymore. Make your reasoning about you, not accusing him.

    Possibly agree to have a mutual friend (one who will not start taking sides if things start to go sour) or some kind of legal service hold these items in escrow (is that the right word?) for you? There’s likely to be other items that you cant agree on straight away. Have them held elsewhere for a month or two and see after that time if you or he really still want them.

  13. Honestly, I don’t think there is anything you can do. He could make as many copies as he wants, even scan them into his computer, so even if he says he’s giving them back… well, you’ll never know. If you’re close enough to his mother and father, you might be able to get them to shame him into returning them. It’s a low blow, and requires you admitting you took the photos, but it could work. Talking to mutual friends might also work, provided they’ve stayed neutral enough. Could they come back to haunt you? Sadly, yes. I actually personally know someone that happened to, when her ex sold the photos to an amateur porn site. He got a pretty tidy sum for them. She’s still in legal proceedings, two years after he sold them, trying to get the site to take them down and her ex to pay her reparations. I’m not saying that to freak anyone out, but it is a reality. Obviously her ex is a monster, and hopefully yours is not. I wish you all the best.

  14. I’m with a lot of the ladies here – I think it’s pretty strange he doesn’t want to give them back. From what you wrote, I get the sense things have been fairly amicable up until now…is there a reason he would want to hold them over your head?
    Besides that, unfortunately, I think if you force the issue, it will end badly. I also think if you involve a friend, or even an unbiased third party, it will end badly.
    If I were you, I would have a serious think about how important they were. If it’s really just the pics that you wanted, if they were professionally taken, you could always check with the photographer and get copies.
    Any way you cut it, the situation stinks, but the fact that your ex won’t budge about the photos may be an indicator of why it didn’t work out.
    Good luck – I truly hope you find a positive solution.

  15. Maybe check with the photographer on copyright? If you are afraid of him copying them, or selling them, maybe you can have the original photographer send a copy of their original agreement outlining what you can and cannot do with them. Some photographers include copyright in their package (i.e., you can now do whatever you want with them, including sell for profit) some photographers only include personal usage, and technically copyright is theirs still (you can have the photos, but if the photographer finds them anywhere else, copyright infringement!) I work as a freelance artist, and I am very strict with my copyright and what the buyer can and can’t do with my work, and you better believe that means no reproducing or selling my work for profit, even though they bought the original.

    You may not get the originals back, but if you remind him of what the photographers original copyright agreement was when the photos were taken, you may be able to ward off any selling, or redistributing. A legal battle on your end may be messy, but if that photographer still has copyright, and they find out your ex is selling THEIR photos, then it’s a little more clear.

  16. The discussion in the comments is making me a little uncomfortable because a few people seem pretty invested in the idea that it’s somehow a problem that Sharon wants these pictures back. This isn’t about gifts or even about breakups, it’s about consent. If your ex won’t return these photos, it’s a violation of your consent and that’s wrong.

    Consent for any type of sexual activity can be retracted at any time. The exchange and sharing of sexual photos is a type of sexual activity and hence, requires consent.

    Sharon, no matter why you want these photos back, the fact that you do means that you’ve withdrawn your consent for your ex to have them. THAT IS VALID.

    • I actually agree with Gabrielle on a moral level, but I think that most people are viewing this from a purely practical place. They are sexual in nature and should require consent. Unfortunately, there is no practical way to require consent after you’ve already given him the photos. The law doesn’t cover this situation in most states. I think implying, even gently, that he is violating her sexual rights by refusing to return the photos is sticky. It would definitely insult him, and could turn this amicable split into something dark pretty fast. Yikes.

      Side note: This is the same reason I’m opposed to pirated pornography and free “amateur” porn sites. I don’t feel good about people who go into strip clubs and don’t tip, either (unless it’s one of those shows you buy tickets for). For sex professionals, the money changing hands is what implies consent. If you aren’t paying for it, you aren’t obtaining consent.

    • I guess I disagree that consent can be retracted at ANY time. Consent can be retracted, e.g. A guy asks a girl to give him a blow job and part way through she decides she is uncomfortable and stops. She removed her consent; the act ended. However, with photos I think things get trickier because she can remove her consent to give him any more photos, but the photos she has already given are already consented to. Just like it would be silly to retract the consent you gave for sex 2 weeks ago because you are now in a fight with your partner. The consent was there at the time.

      I don’t disagree that her wanting the pictures back is a valid desire. It’s part of the reason I’ve never allowed any such pictures of myself to be taken. I’m married and wouldn’t give those sorts of images to my husband. I hope she is able to retrieve the pictures, but it’s going to be a sticky path doing so.

  17. They’re his pictures. They were a gift from you to him therefore they belong to him. Did you tell him that you were loaning the pictures to him under the condition that he could only have them as long as you both remained in a relationship? If not I don’t see where you have a leg to stand on. Nothing is stopping you from asking for them back but he is not required by law to return a gift if he chooses not to. You can get a lawyer, and he may return the photos to you just to avoid the headaches of it all but he sticks to his guns not only will you NOT have his photos but you’ll be out the price of an attorney. Even more frightening is that then you’d have someone angry with you for putting them through all that hassle and that person will have nudes of you.

    You say you’ve both been mature about the break up. I say let him keep his memories.

    • I am following this conversation right now because I have the same issue. I have not yet asked for them back. There are two books my ex has of my body — one fully nude shoot, and one boudoir. I’m not concerned with him sharing, nor publishing them, as I know he won’t, but I want the books back. I don’t think he should keep them. I’d also like to have them for when I am very old and wrinkly one day! I do not have negatives from the first book. Yes, they were a gift to him, but I was also given gifts from him: a $135,000 diamond tennis necklace, and a $5,000 ring, which he took back (because I “didn’t deserve them” under threats of docking alimony. I don’t care about them. I was embarrassed to wear the necklace anyway, as none of my friends have that much money and it was so ostentatious. I don’t miss it. The photo books he has are of my body. It’s not the monetary value that matters. If he can take away material gifts, does he deserve to keep gifts of sexy photographs of me? And if he had let me keep his gifts to me, that would be one thing. I mean, I could have sold the necklace and used the proceeds to fix my roof or use them for whatever emergency pops up in life. Then I would agree with your “no returning gifts” stance. What do you think?

      • Oh, just to be clear, when he gave me the jewelry, he did not tell me that he was loaning the diamonds to me under the condition that I could only have them as long as we both remained in a relationship. So when he said I couldn’t keep them, I did not argue, and turned them over. Should he do the same when I ask him to return $1000-$2000 gift of photographs of my body (which he has no right to in real life anymore?) I am seriously looking for a guy’s opinion, especially from one who believes that nude and boudoir pics belong to an ex if they were given to him as a gift. Help!

  18. I think it honestly depends WHY he wants to keep them. Either way it’s kind of creepy that he wants to keep them. Is he still in love with you and wants to cherish the photos of you? That’s sweet but I’m sure there are billions of non-sexual photos he can keep. The fact that these are boudoir photos is the key issue here. I would go with what Dootsie said. Ask why he wants to keep them. If there are no red flags, then suggest you burn them/get rid of them so NO ONE can keep them. If he gets upset and angry about it or there are red flags when you initially ask…I would be tempted to go with Michelle’s suggestion. EFFING STEAL THEM. Or get a friend to. And the USB drive too if your photographer gave one. Once you have them back, contact the photographer to make sure they are aware of the situation so they don’t give him any other backups/copies should your ex come asking.

  19. As a photographer you might have some legal leeway if you paid for them and you signed the model consent with your photographer you can get copies and ask for them back as artistic property, but to be honest to me it seems as a moot point he can easily copy them (which is a copy right violation) and as said they were a gift, but I can also understand you wanting them back. Good luck!

  20. I would talk to the photographer first, and find out what the agreement was there. I know a few photographers who write out that they own the copyright and that whoever signs the contract is the person who may use them for personal use. On that footing, you legally own the photographs and that alone might make him give them back, pending a threat of legal action. Other than that, I’m not sure there’s any other legal option? It’s worth looking into though.
    Also, since you said you were both mature about the split, perhaps you only need to discuss this further? Like explaining to him that these signify a sexual relationship and that now that has ended, you are no longer giving your consent. It’s part of the closure process, that if he continues to harbor such personal items, that you might not have the closure you need. It’s also a respect thing, since you are withdrawing consent. I wouldn’t accuse him of anything (revenge porn, spank bank, or holding on to memories) because that could shut down communication. But it could have very well been an emotional reaction the first time you asked, and a simple discussion could clear things up between you.

  21. Since they were gifted to him, he isn’t required to give them back unless there was a contract. Now, if he were a gentleman, he would give them back, but obviously he isn’t. The potential good news, more than likely the photographer holds the copyright. So if he does something super sleazy like publishes them publicly, he could be held libel under copyright law if the photographer wants to pursue it. It might be a good idea to remind him of this, just to help keep him honest. Unfortunately, this is a case of ‘don’t give things away that you might one day want back.’ Chalk it up to lesson learned.

  22. Since it sounds like you both are on good enough terms and overall the break up was pretty mature, I would say just have another talk with him. My experience: break ups are a process. Your feelings change week to week, day to day. It’s possible that he was not willing to give it up when you first asked, maybe he’ll be ready to now. I personally think getting a lawyer involved could escalate this situation in a negative way and should be used as a last resort.

    I’m of course giving him the benefit of the doubt and assuming it’s because of a broken heart and he’s not going to use them in some sort of terrible revenge scheme. I like Dootsie Bug’s suggestion of burning them together, it might bring him more closure. Maybe try negotiating and seeing if there’s anything he wants back? Best of luck, my friend.

  23. I’m so sorry this is happening to you. It’s really shitty of him, boundlessly shitty, and you have every right to withdraw your consent at any time to him having access to photos of that nature. Practically speaking, if he flat out refuses to return them, there is probably not much you can do about it. For your own mental health, you might choose not to pursue the matter, and that doesn’t mean you have to be okay with it, or feel like it was your fault for trusting him. Trusting someone isn’t wrong, violating someone’s trust is. Hopefully he was just being a thoughtless douche and if you feel comfortable explaining what his refusal means to you, he will do the right thing and return them (and not sneakily copy them for himself). I just want to let you know that I feel for you, and if things turn really ugly from here, it is not your fault. It’s his. Just because it’s common for guys to do this, doesn’t mean it isn’t a violation of your consent, and it doesn’t mean it isn’t wrong. He’s the one who brought it do a dark place. He’s the one who turned it ugly.

    -internet hugs, if you want them-

  24. I can’t comment on what his intentions are . . . it DID cross my mind that he might have malicious intent, but either way . . .

    Let’s just say, for a moment, that the ONLY reason he wants them is for the memories – not to masturbate to, not to get revenge, but just because he thinks they’re beautiful and isn’t over you yet. Perhaps you could offer him versions that are cropped to show your face and neck only? So he can still have a memory, but you feel more comfortable? Make a professional-grade copy and crop them, and then ask him to swap you? I dunno, not a perfect solution, and it doesn’t address many of the uncomfortable issues here (him wanting to keep photos of an ex fiance at all is a little weird, do you have the right to ask for them back if they were a gift, him denying your request is creepy, etc.) but at least it’s an option.

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