Fulfilled but Nervous

Friday, August 09, 2013

Question

Dear Patrick:

I've only been with two other men, but I feel as if I am having the first love affair of my life. My new boyfriend is a very special person. He is so good to me! He supports my hopes and dreams. He is also an amazing lover. He especially likes to buy me lingerie and have me model it for him before we fall into bed. The pleasure that he gives me is like an amazing gift that never ends, he is just incredibly sensitive and generous. He knows so much about women's bodies and I feel lucky to benefit from all that experience even if I am also a little jealous.

            Because I trust him completely, we are talking about exploring some of his fantasies. I feel that making some of his erotic dreams come true would be one way for me to return the care I've received. I don't want to just take from him, I want to show him that I care for him as much as he loves me. But I am a little bit nervous about one of the things he wants to do, which is to take pictures of me in fancy  lingerie. Nothing too revealing or explicit, just sensual images.

            I've just never liked being photographed. My mom used to complain that there were never any snapshots of me to put in the family album. Scrapbooking was her hobby, and she was always trying to trick me with her Polaroid, but it was like I had a sixth sense about the darn thing and just disappeared. He tells me I'm beautiful, and I believe him, but I also believe in privacy, and I don't think he understands that I need to feel secure that way before I can lose my inhibitions.

            I tried to talk this over with a friend of mine, but she kind of laughed at me and implied I was being a naïve little country girl full of old-fashioned scruples. I don't think I'm that (for one thing, I've lived in cities all my life). But she seemed so casual about it, all she did was scare me even more. Every time she told me it was no big deal, I felt more and more cautious.

            What do you think? Do you know of cases where this has caused trouble between couples? I want to be with him for the rest of my life. It would be just terrible if a fight about this made him decide I wasn't really committed to him.

Answer

I hate to rain on your parade. I know what it feels like to be caught up in an intense feeling of rapport and freedom with a lover. It turns ordinary, daily life into a blissful sequence of transcendent experiences. Since I don't know him, it could very well be that he is as deeply in love as you are. But some of the dynamics you describe are subtly disturbing, and I wonder if you are being set up for a rude awakening.

            I'm concerned about the fact that you feel beholden to him. True, he is buying you lingerie and showing you the full potential of your body and psyche. But for most guys, the opportunity to buy sexy outfits for a woman who is also available for lots of sex … well, let me just say that they wouldn't feel, later on, that she owed them anything. They wouldn't expect her to prove her love by going past her comfort zone. A love affair like this one is its own reward. She is reciprocating already, so she doesn't need to do any more for him.

            Sadly, I have heard of many times when sexy photos wound up being hurtful, especially to the female partner. Once you allow a photograph to be taken (or pose for a video), you lose control over that image. It could turn up literally anywhere and haunt you for the rest of your life. While some people are trustworthy, you never know who will have access to their computer files. Roommates, computer repair shops, hackers—they all love to steal titillating images. In the hot agony of a breakup, many people lose their ethics and become spiteful. Sharing a private moment with crass strangers is too tempting to resist. Then there are also people who know how to manipulate others into feeding their appetite for porn. This can involve a fairly lengthy campaign of seduction. If you pose in a chemise and lacy panties this week, what can he get you to take off in a month? “I just miss you so much when you aren't here, I want something to look at to remind me of how much I want you.” “Wouldn't you like to have a record of how beautiful you are at this moment? Let's capture it forever.”

            Of course, there are exceptions. There are lovers who set up rules about what they can and cannot do with any sexy material created for mutual entertainment. If the relationship ends, they return the material to the model or destroy it. Some people have a streak of exhibitionism. If their face or body shows up in a different context, they don't care or they find it exciting. But most people are afraid that these revelations could interfere with a job search or an application for graduate school. It's now quite common for universities and potential employers to do an internet search on applicants as a sort of amateur background check. Are your future plans immune to disruption by having somebody you don't know see sexy photos with your face in them? Some women agree to be photographed by a lover as long as their identity is protected; but you have to absolutely trust the person who is framing the image so you know they will not include your face.

            The fact that he doesn't understand your aversion to the camera or the high priority you place on privacy also concerns me. Both are very simple concepts. You shouldn't need to explain them or justify them. A man who really loved you would not want to push you to do things that make you feel threatened or over-exposed.

            I have a couple ideas about ways you could test his motivation for requesting permission to photograph you. Write a contract that specifies what he can and cannot photograph, and detail what you want to have happen to the images if the relationship ends. Be clear about the fact that they are for private use only and cannot be shared with others or posted to the Internet. If the terms of the contract are violated, specify damages owed to you. Make the amount high enough that it would hurt to have to repay such a debt. See how he reacts to being asked to sign such a document.

            Another suggestion is for BOTH of you to pose. You probably like looking at him as much as he enjoys looking at you. Would it make you feel safer to have a file full of images of him flexing his muscles in a Speedo or a tight pair of briefs? The only problem with this is that our society continues to punish women who are sexual and wink at men who break the rules. But I'm sure you can think of Web sites where he would rather not have his full face and body appear.

            Every relationship involves negotiating boundaries and limits. Some limits change over time, while others are hard and fast. It never feels good to hear the word, “No” from a lover, but it's just a part of real life. If he can't accept a refusal, is he enough of a grownup to fulfill all of your hopes and dreams for this relationship?

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