Today, I’m going to address a question I occasionally get from male retroactive jealousy sufferers: “My girlfriend’s past turns me on. Am I weird? What does it mean?”

Read or watch below to discover why some men may feel “my girlfriend’s past turns me on.”

Zachary Stockill: In today’s video, I’m going to address a common question that I get from male retroactive jealousy sufferers. And the question basically boils down to this: I can’t stop thinking about my partner’s past, it’s driving me crazy and making me feel sick. But at the same time, my girlfriend’s past turns me on. What’s going on?

Okay, I got a comment from a viewer called Jorn, Jorn asks:

How can it be that imagining your partner in bed with others causes you so much pain on the one hand, but turns you on the other? It’s crazy, but sometimes, my girlfriend’s past turns me on. It seems that one part of us is magically drawn to these mental movies, and it draws immense pleasure out of them. While the other part is pushing back. Is it possible to make any sense of that? Would be interesting to hear your thoughts. 

Okay. Thank you for your very interesting question. And, as I mentioned at the top of this video, I’ve received some variations of this question surprisingly often, in my work on this topic over almost 10 years. For a lot of particularly male retroactive jealousy sufferers, on some level, they’ve eroticized their partner’s past. And they’re getting some sexual gratification, or they feel like “my girlfriend’s past turns me on” on one level, even though it’s so painful to think about on another level.

So first off, as a disclaimer, I’ll just say:

The human brain, human psychology, and human sexuality are incredibly complicated. 

I mean, there’s a fetish for everything, anything you can possibly imagine. If you just Google around sexual fetishes, you’ll find all kinds of examples. It includes a lot that I’m sure you haven’t thought of at all. Research shows that we’re pretty much the horniest species on the planet. So to feel like “my girlfriend’s past turns me on” isn’t all that strange in the context of human sexuality as a whole.

We have sex more than just about any other species on the planet. We have sex for all kinds of reasons that don’t have anything to do with reproduction. 

girlfriend's past turns me on

And the human brain is literally the most complicated object in the cosmos.

So all this is to say that humans are complicated. You’re complicated, I’m complicated. And human sexuality is especially complicated. So the fact that you are slightly or maybe even very turned on by your partner’s past could indicate a number of things. 

Number one, obviously, it could indicate that you have somewhat of a cuckold fetish. In other words, 

The thought of your partner making love to someone else, or in bed with someone else or whatever, could be a thought that turns you on. 

And there are a lot of people like that. There are obviously people who take this to the extreme, where they’ll go to swingers’ parties, etc. There are people who go to that extreme, but there are plenty of others who just get some pleasure out of the thought of their partner with someone else, which may sound absolutely nuts to a lot of typical retroactive jealousy sufferers, but it is a fact. So that’s not so unusual. 

And if you do fit in this category, you shouldn’t beat yourself up, or feel weird or strange. If you feel like “my girlfriend’s past turns me on,” you certainly are not alone.

Now that is one possibility. But it certainly isn’t the only possibility. More likely, I would imagine, is two things. 

You’re probably a video pornography consumer. 

I would imagine you’re a porn viewer because when you’re constantly consuming all kinds of graphic sexual imagery, and maybe you’ve been watching pornography since you were a very young man, this can add a lot of fuel to the retroactive jealousy fire. 

I’ve noticed that people who watch a lot of porn seem to be more likely to eroticize their partner’s past. Their girlfriend’s or partner’s past makes them sick on one level, but at the same time, it turns them on a bit. 

If that sounds like you, I would strongly encourage you to take a break, maybe even a permanent hiatus from watching video pornography. Because there are all kinds of data and surveys and research that show that men who watch video pornography, sometimes they get in these modes where they’re watching all kinds of porn, and they’re trying to find new stimuli, and they go to the most extreme versions of pornography to get that original thrill that they once got. 

The point is, consuming a lot of video pornography can skew your sexual perspective, so to speak. 

It can mess up your sexuality, where things that never used to turn you on all of a sudden turn you on. 

And you could argue, well, what’s wrong with that? Nothing necessarily. But if you’re trying to overcome retroactive jealousy, it’s a terrible idea to keep watching video pornography. Because one of the common symptoms of retroactive jealousy is what I call mental movies, where you’re picturing your partner in bed and picturing all kinds of crazy things, you can’t seem to shake them and obviously, consuming more graphic sexual imagery in the form of video pornography is probably not a very good idea. 

I’ll also say that you should probably Google something called the madonna-whore complex. I believe Sigmund Freud was the first one to coin this term. 

But basically, a lot of men slot women into one of two categories. 

So the one category, there’s the madonna, the sort of virginal, matriarchal figure. On the other hand, there’s the whore, there’s the stripper, there’s the porn star. And some guys have difficulty accepting the fact that women can be incredibly sexually expressive and good in bed, and just really adventurous, and a lot of fun and just, wild for lack of a better term… 

But at the same time, that same woman could be an absolutely incredible doting mother. But a lot of guys don’t see it that way. Or they at least get locked into mental patterns where they lose sexual interest in their wife, for example, after she becomes a mother. Because now he only sees her as the Madonna; he can’t get turned on by her. Because he puts her in this “maternal” category that is completely not sexual at all. 

So think about whether you’re experiencing something like the madonna whore complex, where you’re trying to figure out who your girlfriend is, and thus, maybe you’re eroticizing her on some level to turn her into the “whore.” And I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense. I mean, you’re trying to eroticize her, maybe because you’re trying to slot her in a certain category, like you don’t see a future with her. So she’s only fitting into this one category. 

And I’d also encourage you to take some time and consider your own sexual fantasies. Maybe after you spend some time detoxing from video pornography…

If you feel like “my girlfriend’s past turns me on,” spend some time thinking about what really turns you on aside from that, or what you would like to explore sexually with your partner.

girlfriend's past turns me on

Get clear about that stuff in your calm moments and have that as a guiding light. 

Realize that maybe your perspective is completely skewed on what turns you on. Because you’re watching a lot of porn, because you’re eroticizing your partner’s past, because you’re trying to find some way out of this terribly painful retroactive jealousy. So maybe on one level, you’re thinking, “Well, if I just eroticize my girlfriend’s past to such an extent that it actually turns me on, maybe this will help me get over retroactive jealousy…”

I was watching a podcast a few years ago, with the American comedian, Jim Norton, who I really like. He’s very much an open book. He’s into all kinds of kinky stuff. And he’s very unapologetic about it. And he related a story on Joe Rogan’s podcast about retroactive jealousy. He didn’t use that term. But it was very clear that that’s what he was dealing with. That’s what his experience was. 

And when he was talking about retroactive jealousy, just being absolutely tormented by his then-girlfriend sexual past. He said that the way that he overcame that was eroticizing her past to an extreme extent, where he’d be in bed with his partner, and he would ask her to give more details and talk about her past… 

“What it was like when you were with your ex, and what was that guy like? What was this guy like?”

While they were in bed together, he would ask her to open up about these things. And he said that that was his way out of retroactive jealousy, just eroticizing it to an extreme extent. 

Now, I’m not judging that necessarily. When it comes to this issue of retroactive jealousy, my basic philosophy is, whatever works. I mean, if that sounds appealing to you, then God bless, and I wish you well. However, I don’t think that is necessarily a wise course of action for most people who struggle with this issue. 

My opinion is the path to healing, the path to peace of mind, is pretty much the same for all of us, including for those who feel like “my girlfriend’s past turns me on.”

We’ve got 10 years of research, 10 years of data, and 10 years of students’ success stories to prove that the way through this issue is pretty much the same for all of us.

So by all means, be open to everything. And if something sounds really appealing, some pathway to healing or peace of mind, if that resonates with you, and it seems like that could be realistic, then by all means pursue that. 

But I think it could be a bit dangerous to go down that road too much. Because you could end up doing some damage or confusing your sexual psyche even further, the more you attempt to eroticize your partner’s past.

There are much easier, much more straightforward paths to freedom from retroactive jealousy. You can click here to sign up for a free four-part mini-course that will help you get started right now. Or you can sign up for my flagship online course “Get Over Your Partner’s Past Fast”.

Zachary Stockill
Zachary Stockill

Hi! I'm a Canadian author and educator whose work has been featured in BBC News, BBC Radio 4, The Huffington Post, and many other publications. I'm the founder of, the author of Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy and The Overcoming Jealousy Workbook, and the host of Humans in Love podcast.