This article contains spoilers for the Are You the One? season eight finale.
Instagram’s restrictive content policies regarding nudity and sexuality have affected sex workers, queers, artists, and even journalists, censoring sexy pics and jokey dildo selfies alike in the name of building a profitable, child-friendly platform.
Now, it looks like our fave reality stars might be next.
Remy Duran—one of the 16 contestants on the sexually-fluid eighth season of Are You the One?, the finale of which aired Monday night—discovered that his Instagram account had been taken down on Tuesday. The takedown came only a few hours after he’d announced that he and Paige Cole, another contestant from AYTO, were dating, despite not having been each other’s Perfect Matches on the MTV dating show. The couple broke the news to their respective Instagram followers with similar posts including a selfie showing the two licking either side of a dildo hanging on a wall behind them, which is still viewable on Twitter. As far as Duran could tell, that post was the cause of his account takedown.
“I’m so pissed,” Duran tells me over the phone. “I thought, ‘Oh, shit, my picture got taken down,’ but my whole account got deleted without warning. I didn’t get an email. Nothing.”
“I see so many things on Instagram that are a lot more adult than a dick on the wall,” Cole adds in a separate phone call. “You see car accidents where people probably died, you see photos of animal abuse on popular pages. There are real issues on Instagram, but they have a problem with sex workers. They have a problem with a titty popping out. They have a problem with a gay man and his gay girlfriend posing with a dick on the wall. We say ‘Homophobia!’ jokingly, but there’s no excuse for deleting his account and not mine for literally posting the same content.”
For Duran, the loss isn’t just personal: The fashion designer-turned-party promoter says that the @remdelarem Instagram account he’s been using since 2014 has been instrumental in helping him build a platform, promote parties, and sell merch, providing him with a stable source of income to support both himself and his mother. The loss hits especially hard right now in the wake of the AYTO finale, when public interest in the show’s cast members has never been and will likely never be higher.
“Instagram is the biggest platform I have to promote my work,” Duran says of the account where he was planning to promote his own products and merchandise. The account had more than 49k followers at the time of its takedown and was gaining about 100 new followers every 20 minutes on Tuesday.
While Duran’s account was taken down, Cole merely had her post taken down, an inconsistency that confused and annoyed them both. “I’m sick for him,” Cole tells me. “Being on the show has enabled me to be contacted by brands for influencer gigs. I’m hoping to use it to build my modeling career in the entertainment industry because people watching you is worth more than currency. Get the right person watching you, and your whole life can change. We know all the right people are watching us within 24 hours [of AYTO’s season finale], and they can’t even look at Remy.”
Instagram’s Community Guidelines explicitly prohibit things like “sexual intercourse,” “genitals,” and “some photos of female nipples.” Accounts that violate those guidelines can apparently be “disabled without warning,” though it’s unclear why Duran’s account would be disabled but Cole’s would be left standing after violating the same thing. During our conversation, Duran noted that Instagram had previously taken down two of his Instagram posts for violating the platform’s adult content policies, so perhaps his record played a role in the account takedown. I’ve reached out to Instagram for clarification as to why Duran’s account was deleted and why Cole’s posts were taken down. No representative for the platform has responded, but I will update this story if they do.
For their part, Duran and Cole blame Instagram’s adult content policies, which they find homophobic, misogynistic, and needlessly harmful to sex workers.
“Instagram’s rules are ridiculous,” says Duran. “They punish sex workers—anybody in any sort of sex industry unfairly.”
Instagram has a history of shadowbanning and deleting sex workers’ accounts, using the same adult content policies that Duran and Cole appear to have violated as justification for doing so.
“They’re on some extra hater shit,” he adds.
Update 9/11/2019, 4:53 p.m.: A spokesperson for Instagram says that Cole's Instagram post was taken down because it was "in violation of our policy around nudity/adult sexual activity, which we prohibit in some specific ways." They added that "imagery of adult sexual activity is in violation of our policies if it portrays the use of sex toys placed upon or inserted into the mouth; this isn’t something we would allow." I've yet to hear back about why Duran's account was taken down.
Update 9/12/2019, 5:47 p.m.: Instagram restored Duran's account, @remdelarem.