The #Instastuds of Instagram Prove Gay Sex Sells, and That's a Good Thing

If you ever thought Abercrombie & Fitch would sell more distressed denim if only those boys in the posters would just stop pretending and make out already (no, just me?), then there's a new trend of salesmanship pervading your smartphone that may appeal to you. Mike Albo's recent exposé in New York Magazine's "The Cut" about the phenomenon of #Instastuds analyzes the envelope-pushing antics of the hyper-sexualized, gorgeous gay men of Instagram.

The particular envelope that these men are pushing (and stuffing) is not only the "Show It" pouch of their Andrew Christian Speedos, but also the definition of masculine beauty itself. While the male body as object has been used repeatedly as a marketing tool (look no further than those A&F shopping bags now hidden deep in your childhood closet), never before has the tool itself been so unabashedly, uninhibitedly, and unmistakably gay.


While a quick glance at the profiles of these Adonises of Instagram will reveal their marketing prowess, the actual product they are selling is slightly more difficult to lay a finger on (metaphorically and, unfortunately for their fans, physically as well). Since the publication of Albo's piece, many commenters have noted that some of these chiseled bodies are actually for sale as escorts, and the perpetuation of this voyeurism is tantamount to solicitation. But a more carefully curated selection of these Instagram exhibitionists will include young men working in fields as diverse as PR, the arts, consulting, hairstyling, finance, and bartending. Any press is good press, they say, and these flamboyant provocateurs are using their chiseled cheekbones and abdominals to amass thousands of followers and gain an audience for their various entrepreneurial endeavors. If a stranger drawn to one of the #Instastuds' beach selfies sees an advertisement for an event hosted by that same stud's PR firm and then transforms from voyeur to customer, the meat-market economy has served its purpose.


These men, however, are not the thinly-veiled, homoerotic football players of the Abercrombie & Fitch advertisements, nor are they using the "shared, private language" of homoerotic advertisements throughout history that Robert Klara discussed in his recent piece for AdWeek. They are not Gerry Studds, or Steve Gunderson, or any of the countless millions of men and women who had to and continue to have to hide their homosexuality for fear of a disadvantage in the workplace. The aggressive homoeroticism of the #Instastuds offers a distinct advantage in their professional lives, measured by their ability to draw more and more followers by wearing less and less clothing. They perpetuate several harmful stereotypes about gay men and beauty in general, yes, but they also are slowly rewriting the narrative of male sexuality.

It must be noted that most of these men are wealthy, and white, and narcissistic, and the amount of body fat on their stomachs will have you reaching for your car keys to go to Equinox immediately. But as they amass congregations of devotees that include gay men, gay women, straight men, and straight women alike, they are flipping the power dynamic of sexuality in the workplace. They are the Joan Holloways of our time, knowing full well how to utilize their physical advantages to move up the corporate ladder. Like Joan, they may come to rebel against their sex symbol status, following the traditional feminist narrative of women seeking equality in the workplace. But for now, feel free to sit back, relax, and enjoy (not too much) as these modern-day Davids expand our understanding of a successful, and sexy, man.

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Gus Hickey

Based in Los Angeles.

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