“A social media gloryhole:” Students use anonymous social media to express sexuality


Tyler Nachilly

Photo Illustration: Students solicit sex through anonymous apps like YikYak as a way to be upfront without vulnerability.

“tall blonde alanna, i know you would give me the nastiest head of my life,” a Nov. 18 post on Instagram account @uvmhottiefinder reads. This and more raunchy content can be found all over the multiple anonymous platforms present in UVM’s online culture.

Students solicit sex through anonymous platforms as a low-risk, thrill-seeking behavior, said Jenna Emerson, UVM health and sexuality educator. This happens most often on Instagram accounts like @uvmhottiefinder and @uvmmissedconnections, as well as on the anonymous localized social media platform Yik Yak. 

“Being vulnerable is usually a pretty high emotional risk,” Emerson said. “Anonymity is the opposite of vulnerability. […] You say, ‘who wants to have sex with me?’ anonymously on Yik Yak and a bunch of people say ‘no,’ you’re probably not emotionally hurt by that.”

Research indicates that college-aged individuals most frequently communicate sexual desire through indirect, nonverbal communication, Emerson said. Social media provides a way to be direct and upfront about intentions without any of the vulnerability or fear.

This behavior has also been exacerbated by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Emerson said. Most college students went into lockdown during a time in their life that was extremely formative for sexual experiences, driving them to channel these sexual feelings in a nontraditional way.

“It’s porn, […] a social media gloryhole,” said junior Erin Jaspan, who works at Living Well. “No one’s expecting any responses, it’s just the thrill. The way you’re putting it out there is naughty, it has allure, it’s fantasy.”

As a result of growing up in the digital age, a lot of this generation’s first sexual experiences were online and media-based, such as sexting and sending nudes, Jaspan said. Online posts about sex are a natural progression from that starting point of quick and accessible sexual content. 

“We’re in a culture of fast-food sex,” Jaspan said.

Eighty-two percent of UVM students have never posted on Yik Yak looking for sex, according to a Cynic survey with 110 respondents. However, 88% of people have seen other people do so. 

Thirty-two percent of respondents believe people post on Yik Yak for sex as an outlet for sexuality, 18% believe it is for laughs, 27% believe it is because of the ease and comfort anonymity offers and 24% believe it is out of loneliness and desperation, according to the survey. 

Forty-two percent of respondents have submitted a post to @uvmhottiefinder and 54% have submitted to @uvmmissedconnections, the survey stated.

“I personally submit to hottiefinder to say things like, ‘I like your style,’ or some compliment along those lines,” one anonymous respondent stated. “While I think a lot of people do this, there is also a lot of people who are actually looking to meet up (as a hookup or just as friends) with the person.”

Many respondents believe people use online and anonymous forms of seeking out connections with others due to lowered risk of rejection and avoiding anxiety, according to the survey results. 

“I think it honestly has a lot to do with hookup culture in itself,” an anonymous respondent stated. “DMs and online forms are easier because you don’t actually have to put yourself out there or put in any effort to likely get something in return.”

Sophomore Emmett Smith met his girlfriend on Yik Yak after he posted about meeting her as a casual acquaintance, he said. 

“I’m an anxious person,” Smith said. “I thought about potentially reaching out to her but before that, I was like, ‘well, why don’t I just shot-in-the-dark say something on Yik Yak?’ She saw it and ended up responding to it. We started talking and then we’ve been dating for over a year.”

Smith believes it is ultimately easier to find someone online when you want to get to know them better, both out of ease of access and avoiding the fear that may be elicited by an in-person interaction, he said. 

There is also an easily-accessible level of fantasy people likely get when seeking sex online, he said. 

“There’s a certain level of interest and excitement to be like, ‘oh, I could do this thing with a mysterious person on Yik Yak,’ and then the potential is really all you need to satisfy yourself and you don’t actually have to follow through,” Smith said.

The admins of @uvmhottiefinder, who wished to remain anonymous, allow people to submit sexual posts to their account and choose what to post based on their own discretion, the public relations admin said. 

“Our posts have just been getting crazy lewd lately,” the PR admin said. “People love it. The horny posts get more people commenting for sure.”

Generally, the @uvmhottiefinder admins believe the account is mostly for fun and don’t believe people often meet from the account, they said. For their three-thousandth post, the admins posted on the account’s story asking if anyone had ever met up with someone they found from the account, the CEO admin said. 

“Even if someone did put something raunchy in our submissions, there’s like a 5% chance they’re actually going to have the bravery to go up to them,” the PR admin said. “Most of them are just trying to be funny and we post them for the bit.” 

Two respondents from the Cynic survey reported they had met up with someone from the @uvmhottiefinder account and one stated they met their current partner from the account. 

“I get [why people post] because there’s so many times where you are out and don’t get someone’s name or number but you really liked them,” the founder admin said. 

For the future, the admins of @uvmhottiefinder want to continue to allow people to submit any posts they want while also drawing a line of being respectful and not going too far, the CEO admin said. 

“We’re for the people,” the PR admin said. “We have to have more discretion with it, but it’s hard, you don’t want to censor the people.”

@uvmmissedconnections did not respond to the Cynic’s request for comment.