I just went through a pretty nasty breakup with my now ex boyfriend. Let’s just say there is still a lot of animosity on both sides. And now I am worried because during happier times we sent some back and forth sexts. How do I make sure his anger doesn’t cause him to take my personal photos public? I am tempted to reach out to him, but worry that by calling attention to these photos (which were sent more than a year ago), I might end up putting an idea in his head.

You say the break up was pretty nasty and clearly you’re not kidding. Because, to be perfectly clear—normal, decent people do not post their ex’s naked photos on the internet, no matter how hurt they are, no matter how the relationship broke down. It’s not like it’s the modern day equivalent of cutting his/her head out of all your old photos (standard break-up practice in pre-digital rom coms). What you are talking about is called revenge porn, which both incredibly horrible and illegal.

Has your ex done anything to make you think that he might go to these extreme lengths? Or are you just a doomsday/worst case scenario worry wart?

If it’s the latter, I think you can rest reasonably easy. Because, like I said, this is not normal behavior. Even if your ex doesn’t think much of you, chances are he still has some kind of moral compass. I mean, this was, at least at one point, a person you trusted with most, ahem, sensitive material.

Which brings us to a more general discussion about the decision that got you here: To sext or not to sext, that is the question. And while right now you’d probably kill for a time machine, the truth is that there is nothing wrong with sending fire-emoji hot photos to a trusted partner. Sexting can be a fun way to establish intimacy, keep things hot when you’re doing long distance or reignite the spark in long term romance. My point is, don’t feel bad and don’t beat yourself up.

Of course if you did have that time machine, I do have a few pointers:

One would be to make an agreement with your sexting partner that you both erase the photos the following day. Yeah, yeah, you’re in love and trust each other to the ends of the earth, but what if the phone was stolen or hacked? Note that if he has any issue with this erasing idea, that should be a red flag.

Another would be to send photos that don’t feature your face. Not that faceless sexts aren’t personal, but I’m pretty sure the gen pop doesn’t know how to identify you by your private parts.

Finally, if you absolutely never ever want to have a naked photo of yourself on the internet, you can not take them. I feel kind of gross giving this advice in that it sort of seems like victim blaming. On the other hand—it seems ridiculous to ignore. Abstinence may not be fashionable, but it’s sure fire.

Of course, in your case, that train has long since left the station. It sucks that the breakup has gotten so acrimonious. It also sucks that you don’t have a crystal ball because without knowing more about the guy in question, I have a hard time offering concrete advice. I’m pretty sure that guys who have naked photos on their phones don’t forget about said naked photos, so I don’t put much stock in your concern that by having a conversation with your ex, you might be encouraging him.

Maybe wait for things to cool down a bit and then send him an email asking him to delete the photos. Again, you can pretend that your concern is around the possibility of the phone getting stolen or hacked, which is a lot softer than “I think you may be the kind of creep who would post these photos.” Keep it casual, but straightforward. And then see what he says.

If his email back is anything but agreeable, you can always tell him that you’ve consulted a lawyer and that the photos that you took and sent to him are legally your property. I’m not saying you actually have to go to a lawyer—it’s just that by dropping the “l-word” you’re conveying that you mean business.

Again, I think you are probably worrying about nothing, but it sounds like the only way past the anxiety is to address the situation. Yeah, it’s sad to think the relevant “l-word” in a relationship can shift from love to lawyer, but in this post Brangelina reality, we shouldn’t be too surprised.