“What about my nudes?” probably isn’t the first thing that occurs to many people when they split up with a partner. But new research shared exclusively with VICE reveals that an alarming number of people in the UK are perfectly happy to cling on to revealing photos of their exes once the relationship is over – and in some cases, even forever.
Almost four in 10 people admitted to holding on to intimate photos of their partner after a break-up, according to a survey by specialist law firm Bolt Burdon Kemp. Shockingly, one in 10 said they didn’t ever intend to delete those images.
The survey of 1,000 Brits also found that millennials are the most likely age demographic to keep intimate pictures of their exes, with 47 percent holding on to such photos and a third keeping them for over a month after the relationship ended.
Men are more likely than women to hang on their ex’s nudes, with almost half of men fessing up to this, compared to a third of women. Higher earners are also more likely to keep these photos, with the income group most likely to do so earning over £45,000 a year.
Londoners come off especially badly in the survey, with almost four in 10 from the capital keeping explicit photos for over one month, and over one in 10 admitting to holding on to them for over six months.
The new figures come as an increasing number of people of all genders have spoken out over the debilitating effects of revenge porn, after their nudes were shared without their consent. Figures from March of 2021 suggest that the number of victims in the UK has doubled over the last two years.
“People may keep intimate images of former partners for a number of reasons,” explains Emily McFadden, an abuse lawyer at Bolt Burdon Kemp. “This could be intentional, or just simply that they’ve forgotten that the photo(s) or video(s) even exist on their phone. Some messaging platforms save photos automatically, and people may not realise that a picture they’ve received on WhatsApp, for example, has saved a copy to their camera roll.”
“It’s not necessarily malicious to keep photos that you have been sent by someone consensually. What is a criminal offence, however, is publishing or circulating these without a person’s consent and with the intent to cause distress.”
Revenge porn has been illegal in the UK since 2015. Politicians are now considering a major change in the law that would make even threatening to share intimate content without first obtaining consent a criminal offence.
“Unless you consent to this image being shared, it is a criminal offence for the recipient to do so if they intend to cause you distress or embarrassment,” McFadden says. “There is no time limit for the need to gain consent to share, publish or circulate someone else’s intimate images.”
So what can you do if you suspect your ex has still got your nudes? “Practically, the first thing to do is to ask them to delete them,” McFadden says. “If they refuse, or they threaten to share – or indeed do share - the pictures, we would recommend that you check out this advice from the Revenge Porn Helpline, and consider contacting a solicitor to take further advice.”