Richards, James (2022) Gay on Instagay: A Critical Examination of the Instagram Safe Space used by Male Gay Communities through Portraiture Photography and Gay Iconography Analysis. Masters thesis, University of Huddersfield.

The growth of social media has created a new form of online phenomenon within gay culture: the Instagays, gay men who have thousands of followers on Instagram. These Instagay accounts form a new community space for gay men, incorporating fans, followers, commentators and spectators. It is widely agreed within the gay and academic communities that the online space can function as a safe space for gay men, with comparable benefits to physical spaces such as gay bars. However, are such spaces entirely safe? What are the potential “unsafe complexities” of such a space, especially when saturated with highly sexualised selfies? Through the practice of portraiture photography within the homes of Instagays, and through critical visual analysis of Instagays’ online aesthetics within the context of gay iconography, this research critically examines the limits and complexities of gay men’s online safe spaces. As a result, the research discovers that the highly sexualised body continues to function as a commodity within online gay communities, while Instagays use their bodies to gain attention, which may not be entirely beneficial to their own wellbeing or that of their followers. Additionally, the research discusses the virtual safe space before confirming that similar to a physical safe space, the new Instagram space is not free from politics, prejudice and struggles between the desire to have an idealised body and the mortal reality.

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