I F*cked an Instagay. Here’s What I Learned.

His pixels revealed as much about him as they did me.

It was winter in Montreal, which meant it was simultaneously beautiful and cold as ice‚ the Cersei Lannister of Canada. Some friends and I were in the French-Canadian city for a weekend getaway that couldn’t have come at a better time: I was recently ghosted by somebody I’d been seeing for months and felt defeated (think Shangela losing the All Stars crown). My confidence was shot.

On the second night, I retreated from a loud, smoky bar around 1am. I was tired and not on the party drugs my friends took. But after the 20-minute walk back to the Airbnb, I felt re-energized by the frigid temperature and the torrents of snow. I figured I had a couple hours to myself, so I pulled up Grindr. I was met with a host of hedonistic messages and unsolicited dick pics—fully understanding I was new to the city and that was the reason I was suddenly so popular. Nevertheless, my interest was piqued.

One message came from an absolute Adonis. This mountain of man for, whatever reason, decided to ping me, a guy who is regularly told he looks like Tormund Giantsbane. After I wrote back, he was ardent we meet. I was flattered and nervous, but decided, Fuck it, I’m on vacation. I invited him over.

Twenty minutes later, I received a text that he was around the block, so I went outside to meet him. There Adonis was in the distance, illuminated under yellow streetlights. He was stumbling a bit—clearly he’d had few drinks like me. As he drew closer, the sheets of snow slowly revealed the man behind the thumbnail like a poorly glued wig during an ill-fated lip sync.

Admittedly, he began looking much more civilian and less like the fantasy portrayed in his profile. His face was brutish, each feature stronger than the other, and his expression read brooding and dangerous. His polished online presence was evidently the result of filters and face-tuning apps. But still, he was beautiful in that worn-leather, gruff kind of way.

Adonis was shy during our affable back-and-forth flirtation. He would glance down at the floor a lot, laughing at my jokes like I was performing stand-up. (Could he be intimidated by me, a mere mortal?) His gentle demeanor carried its way into the bedroom, where he proved to be a considerate lover, but far more reserved than I’d expected. I’ll spare you the details, but the sex was adequate—not great, not terrible. As we were putting our clothes back on, still dripping in sweat, he told me to add him on Instagram. Then he gave me a warm hug and left.

I retreated to the bedroom with a post-sex snack and opened up his profile. He had 60,000 followers. His latest photo collected more than 5,000 likes. Reveling in a buzz that made me squint to see the screen clearly, I explored his Instagram page to discover that yes, I definitely just had sex with an Instagay.

An Instagay, for those unfamiliar with the term, is an individual who seeks validation on social media by posting thirsty, near-naked images of himself, usually accompanied by innocuous, unrelated text that your aunt would display on a fridge magnet. Urban Dictionary’s take is slightly harsher (more accurate?): “A master of misdirection, the Instagay carefully constructs an online persona that portrays himself as attractive, fun, rich, outgoing, happy, and confident; in reality, he is typically plain, desperate, awkward, insecure, depressed, and more often than not—tragic.”

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But, admittedly, Adonis wasn’t the shallow Instagay you might expect: He was incredibly kind and thoughtful. He repeatedly complimented my appearance, likened me to his fiancé (he was in an open relationship), and looked fantastic naked. But the further I browsed through his profile, the more discrepancies I found: He stuffed his underwear and retouched his muscles so they appeared larger and more defined; his demeanor was militant, which couldn’t have been further from the real-life truth; his poses were as studied as a Kardashian’s, intentionally shot at angles that gave the illusion of an intimidatingly colossal man (at 6’1, I stood much taller that his 5’8”).

Adonis Instagrammed like it was his career: He attended circuit parties to network, posted daily images of his abs, boasted reputable sponsorships (razors, fiber pills, bespoke care packages). I didn’t know how this fit in with his day job as a lawyer, a testament to an entirely different kind of work ethic and drive.

I don’t mean to come off judgmental, and it’s worth noting that I, too, participate in Adonis-like behavior. I post thirsty selfies on Twitter and even have an alt-Instagram account. While there’s a certain thrill in the likes and affirmations I receive, I personally do it to marry my writing (which is often about sex and queer culture) with my professional brand. Moreover, journalism is a fickle business, and if a shirtless picture can help me accumulate new followers who may read my articles, I’m game.

But do my justifications separate me from Adonis? Who am I to assume the motivations behind my posts are different from his?

Here’s what I do know: Adonis offered me a temporary behind-the-scenes look at the Instagay lifestyle, which—surprise!—is all smoke and mirrors. I’m sure there’s layered psychology at play here about why we look for validation online (read the studies), but here’s one truth I’ve come to understand without the help from an abstract: Adonis taught me that I made a misinformed judgement call; I expected him to look like his image, but I also expected him to be a vapid jerk. Both were untrue. I had so many preconceived notions about the character of an Instagay, all of which were shattered in a meager hour of sex and conversation. In those 60 minutes, I glimpsed the humanity behind the fantasy—I learned more about Adonis and more about myself. The Instagay magic dissipated, but was that such a bad thing?

Months after the meeting of our genitals, I saw Adonis at a sex party. We exchanged eye contact, but neither of us said a word to each other. It was clear: The hierarchy was restored. He was a social media celebrity and I was a social media vagrant. Still, it didn’t bother me one bit. He gave me what I needed at the time: sex, self-confidence, the demystification of the Instagay. For that, I’m grateful.

Bobby Box is a freelance journalist and editor whose work on sex, relationships, culture, and sexuality has been published in the Daily Beast, Playboy, Them., Into, Women’s Health, Complex, PopSugar, among others.
@bobbyboxington