Who is behind the popular Instagram?

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There’s a message circulating online right now — in Instagram stories, in screenshots on Twitter, as green screen wallpaper on TikTok — questioning the biblical implications of Hot Girl Summer. “The Bible warns us of the sinful nature of Hot Girl Summer,” it read. “Try practicing Pious Girl Summer. A summer full of scripture, sunshine, and self-improvement through religious piety. And remember: Modeste is the hottest!

He comes from the so-called Brigham Young Virginity Club, a “Utah-based club dedicated to preserving and promoting virginity on college campuses.” The account, by its own admission, has no formal affiliation with Brigham Young University. Studying the account, analyzing its posts, is an exercise in about-face. At the beginning… of course, okay! Perhaps a group of Mormon students at a university in Utah run by the Church of Latter-day Saints is using the Internet vernacular to promote a pro-abstinence agenda. It’s actually a pretty smart idea. But, then, take a closer look at an article about the “poophole loophole” – anal sex as a workaround for the religious principle – and you come back to laughing and thinking that storytelling is just good art of the performance. But then, if you’re me and TikTok is convinced that you’re an ex-Mormon, so you’ve spent an inordinate amount of time watching videos of ex-Mormons, your mind immediately drifts to the stories you’ve heard about” soaking.” (I won’t explain this, but it’s yet another “loophole” that I would recommend not googling on your work computer.) And all of a sudden you go back to thinking, for a moment, that the account might be real after all.

I’m not the only one doing these mental uneven bars. On TikTok and Twitter, many people were also asking me the big question that was running through my head: This thing can’t be real, can it? So my ICYMI (In Case You Missed It, Slate’s Internet Culture Podcast) co-host Rachelle Hampton and I started investigating, like a low-budget Sherlock and Watson. The first thing we did was go through all the accounts @BYUVirgin followed on Instagram: a group of students from Utah schools. (Reasonable.) A good number of Barstool Sports accounts. (Perhaps less reasonable for an account claiming to promote chastity.) And… at least a dozen other college virginity club accounts – a network of similarly voiced accounts, many with nearly identical posts all preaching the gospel of abstinence according to an internet shitposter. Most of them appeared during the same two-week period in December 2020, many on the same day. The Brigham Young Club, however, was the first, launching last September.

By asking if some or all of these accounts were actually run by the same person, we’ve tried a trick that can be a good starting point when trying to deduce who’s behind an Instagram account. And by “trick”, I mean that we exploited a privacy flaw that Facebook should probably fix. It works like this: if you try to log in with the account in question and say you forgot your password, Instagram will show you a censored version of the email associated with the account. It’s supposed to help jog your memory, so you’ll know which email to check if you’re seriously trying to change your password. But in our case, it helped us find at least one other account associated with what appeared to be the same email used by the Brigham Young group, that of the National Virginity Council. (That email was easy to find; it was in their bio.) We also found a third account, but after double-checking the email had been changed. (The downside to this little trick is that most people will change their email address and password for security reasons.)

Suspicious, yes, but not exactly a gun. We then called the Brigham Young University communications office; the account states that he is not officially affiliated with the school, but there is an internet petition with an average number of signatures attempting to gain official recognition from the club. BYU, as expected, only noted that anyone is free to post whatever they want on Instagram. Which, it’s true, and maybe the answer to this whole investigation.

A suspicious video ad was also posted on the account featuring BYU Virginity Club’s “first brand ambassador,” The Soniregun, peddling the club’s merchandise. For $30 you can get a ‘Purity Power’ sweatshirt that comes with a free ‘V-card’. (Expiry dates are pre-inked for…”my wedding night.”) The video is complete with ’80s infomercial music and lines like, “I was tempted the other day when A young lady asked me if I wanted to get sucked off by her on a Tuesday night And if you scroll to the next slide in the post carousel you’ll find a promo for the music of Le Soniregun A classic tactic straight out of the box from Lil Nas X’s playbook of exploiting the internet for free publicity.

Still mostly offshore, we decided to go straight to the source. A few email exchanges later, the person who runs the BYU Virginity Club agreed to speak to us on condition of anonymity. He seemed to be using some sort of voice modulator during our recording session to further obscure his voice. (Although I can recommend, if you’re trying to hide on the internet, changing your Zoom display name before you walk into a room.) He pretended to be a junior at Brigham Young University and said he was worried about his status at school. “I haven’t come out to some of my friends as a virgin yet, so I’m dwelling on it a bit,” he said, which sounded more than questionable, given that the Abstinence is incorporated into BYU’s honor code for unmarried students, and violation of said honor code is grounds for expulsion. (Also note the “come out virgin” language, a turn of phrase frequently used by many virginity club accounts.) BYU Virginity Club said he was a “born-again virgin” and a Mormon. And then we started talking in circles.

“I think in general there’s just a lot of very casual stigma and prejudice against virgin people. If someone doesn’t seem as cool or as popular, you might think they’re a virgin,” he said. “We wanted to create a safe space where people who choose to remain single can somehow come together and discuss strategies for staying strong and faithful.” He said he founded the account with a group of people who co-manage it, and they’re in a group chat with a network of two dozen. other virginity clubs in various colleges. The group chat is supposed to be called “hot tub of virgins”. He admitted that he also managed the National Virginity Council account, as we suspected, but insisted that the other accounts that appeared around the same day in late 2020 were all organically created, uncoordinated. “Obviously some of the other accounts are taking a lighter approach,” he said, when we posted a post from the Saint Louis University account that explains why Pangea, the landmass, should be brought back. in the service of abstinence. “Honestly, I think some of them are even genuine. It’s hard to tell which ones are real and which ones aren’t.

In a 2020 post, the account claimed it was “facing institutional bias” and that “administrators in the student leadership department are biased against Virgins and the very idea of ​​a Virginity club at BYU.” Which, again, seemed counterintuitive, given BYU’s policy on premarital sex. “[The school doesn’t] take it totally seriously,” he said. Frankly, neither were we, but no matter how many times we asked, BYU Virginity Club insisted that the club was not a satire. Not an elaborate piece of performance art. Not a scam to sell merchandise and promote an album. And at that point, we were at an impasse. BYU Virginity Club remained fully, almost impressively, committed to its message and principle, and Rachelle and I remained totally skeptical.

The culture of purity is toxic, and the very concept of virginity is one that I better abolish all together. Embedded in this is the idea that being a virgin is embarrassing, shameful or weird. (Cut to that clueless scene: “You’re a virgin who can’t drive.”) None of these things are true, and there’s certainly a world where an internet-savvy student at Brigham Young University realized that pairing the language of memes with the visual language of Instagram could be a very useful way to talk about chastity among young people and get them to actually engage online. That is, according to our findings, not what is happening here.

You are of course free to make your own decision, but we might suggest you check out the recorded highlight of Instagram stories titled “Politics”, where the club acknowledges that, while banning sex on college campuses is illegal, they offer “cap and trade”. type system where artificial ceilings are placed on the number of sexual encounters allowed in universities each year. Students can then buy/sell these permits ensuring that students who are not interested in virginity are still able to do the deed. It reads like an Instagrammed 2021 version of A modest proposal. Funny, absolutely. Real, absolutely not. ICYMI PI declares this file: closed.

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