I am getting an insight into toxic laddish behaviour – and it’s making me sick

Tell Me About It: ‘My ex is dating a friend of a friend who openly talks about their sex life’

PROBLEM: I had been in a relationship that broke up before the lockdown. I have made my peace with the break-up and while it was a challenging period, I do know it was for the best for both of us.

Since Christmas I heard my ex is dating a friend of a friend, a guy I would meet a bit and is a part of a wider gang of my friends. This has created a lot of gossip and nastiness among my group of friends. I am finding out stuff that I really don’t want to know, this guy is really making the most of this drama, loving all the attention and seems to be playing victim in this whole thing.

This guy isn’t very bright, and I have found out that he is discussing all intimate details of their relationship with anyone who will listen, their sex life is an open conversation with about 10 of my good friends. I really hope my ex has enough discretion not to share intimate photos or videos of herself as I expect they will be shared also.

I do feel really sorry for my ex, but I can’t really do anything. We have agreed not to be in contact and even if I did contact her about it, I don’t think she would even believe me and think I was interfering. I am consoled by the fact that I don’t think she will ever realise what is going on behind her back, she is a good person who always tries to see the best in people and as a result has a track record of being gullible with people, so hopefully it will always be a case of blissful ignorance for her.

Unfortunately, I am all too aware of all that is going on, I am sickened by this lowlife and also the response of some of my friends. This ranges from false two-faced talk to really immature and toxic comments. I am really getting an insight into toxic laddish and locker-room behaviour, which is making me sick. Some people who have axes to grind with me are also making the most of this.

I still have such respect for my ex, I hate seeing her degraded and portrayed in this horrible and unfair manner. I wish it could all go away. I am dreading when the lockdown is over, as I will have to face all these people in the flesh, at least for now I can hide away.

ADVICE: I’m afraid this issue will not all “go away” and you are involved whether you like it or not. This behaviour needs to be called out and if you do not do it, you are condoning it and allowing it to continue. The reason we need such force and commitment behind our growing number of sexual consent programmes is that this “laddish” culture needs to be changed and all of us are part of bringing about that change. In fact, the only way real change can happen is if men themselves insist that this degrading way of speaking about a sexual partner stops. You are now that person.

It seems that you have people who are trying to get even with you, lads you don’t respect or approve of and an ex that is a little too close for comfort

You have genuine respect and value for your ex, but you are listening to 10 of your friends chat about her sexually behind her back. At the very least, you need to call out your friends for doing this. Of course, this may mean that your friends try to intimidate you, or they may ostracise you from the group – but do you really want to call these guys your close friends? Also, some of them may be uncomfortable about this kind of talk and may be very happy for a way out. This group needs a better influence and if you are not going to be that influence, then perhaps look elsewhere for company.

The question of telling your ex about the way she is being spoken about is crucial – she has a right to know so that she can confront her current partner or at least make choices. It may be that she will find it very difficult to hear this from you (or see it as sour grapes) but nonetheless, it is her decision what to do with the information.

If possible, the best way to give this information is in person – perhaps ask her for a short walk and tell her you want to speak to her about something difficult and then you will go back to your agreement of no contact. This will prepare her a little. Be as clear and honest as you can and check if she has support in dealing with this information when she gets it. Then you need to stay away from any talk of her, and her relationship, and trust in her ability to handle issues in her life.

What you might look at is your own life and what it needs – it seems that you have people who are trying to get even with you, lads you don’t respect or approve of and an ex that is a little too close for comfort. Lockdown is almost over and there is an opportunity for a change of direction: commit to spending time with people you admire and even though it might be lonely at the start, you should find that you will be happier with your social connections and they in turn will have a positive influence on your life.