The Heteronormative Male Gaze: Experiences of Sexual Content Moderation Among Queer Instagram Users in Berlin

Rachel Griffin


Recent research suggests that social media moderation policies banning sexual content systematically disfavor LGBTQIA+ people. However, specific impacts on particular communities remain understudied. This article contributes to the literature with a qualitative interview-based study of LGBTQIA+ Instagram users in Berlin. Participants perceived Instagram’s policies as not only homophobic, but heteronormative in the broadest sense, enforcing interrelated norms around gender, sexuality, and bodies that privilege cis-straight male perspectives. These policies significantly limited queer self-expression. Importantly, these impacts were largely relational: Users were not only affected by the moderation of their own posts but by broader impacts on self-expression and sociality in their communities. This study also explores the transparency and appeals processes introduced by the EU’s 2022 Digital Services Act (DSA) as a primary safeguard against arbitrary and discriminatory moderation. The participants did not see such processes as an adequate response to moderation systems built to enforce a heteronormative “male gaze.”


social media, content moderation, sexual content moderation, heteronormativity, platform governance

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