Very Online

Uh Oh, The Internet Is Horny For Your Man

More and more couples are confronting a very 21st century problem.

Last summer, musician Shane Trainor posted a guitar-riff-heavy cover of Taylor Swift’s “Style.” More than a million viewers watched — and flooded the comments. “I just fell in love,” one said. “This is what I mean when I said my type is guitarists,” another wrote.

Trainor’s Netflix-love-interest hair and Swift literacy had acted like a siren call to straight women who had no problem being thirsty on main. Trainor, however, was not single. And he wasn’t the only one reading the comments: “As much as I was excited for him, I can’t lie, it made me insecure,” his girlfriend, Nataly*, tells Bustle.

Nataly has watched Trainor amass more than 250,000 followers on social media, and as he becomes more successful, getting attention from fans and even celebrities, there’s been an increase in romantic attention, too. “Although we have been together for three years, I have some jealous tendencies, and seeing ‘marry me’ or ‘weird way to propose,’ ‘you should take me home’ was definitely annoying,” says the 22-year-old, who is a student based in New Jersey.

Up until recently, romantic attention from strangers was a problem typically reserved for traditional celebrities — actors and musicians who’d spent entire careers gaining mainstream recognition. The worst a regular person might experience was an unwanted pickup line at a bar. But with the rise of social media, particularly the powerful algorithms of apps like X and TikTok, anyone, anywhere can be crowned an Internet heartthrob overnight.

Anyone, anywhere can be crowned an Internet heartthrob overnight.

For Quinn Hardy, a 23-year-old content creator with more than 2.5 million followers on TikTok, it came as quite a surprise. “I was a little overweight when I was younger; I had really bad acne; my outfits and stuff weren’t great,” says Hardy, who lives in Los Angeles. “So it was a very sudden burst of people being like, ‘Wow, this guy is what we like to see.’ That is such a weird revelation.”

Once he realized his followers felt a certain kind of way about him, Hardy leaned into it, lip-syncing trending audios from films like The Notebook and dancing to artists like Hozier. His videos are routinely bombarded with, put simply, abject horniness. “Just one chance is truly all I ask,” one user begged. “The hand thing he did made my belly button do the thing,” another wrote. “I kid you not, this guy changed my type in men,” a comment with 869 likes reads.

As a rule, Hardy keeps his sexuality and relationship status private, but he says his fame and the romantic attention it brings has come up with potential partners.

“The level of things that I receive sometimes, whether uncomfortable or not, is very public,” he says. “It’s one thing to receive things in private. It’s a whole other thing when it’s publicly accessible to anybody who has relative interest in you. I’ve had trouble navigating that.”

He’s had a particularly difficult time dealing with the “small minority” followers who feel an unjustified sense of ownership or intimacy. He says he’s received enough nonconsensual content that he no longer checks his Instagram DMs, and that people feel entitled to grab him in public or, in one case, follow him home.

For a partner — the one watching declarations of love and lust — this dynamic can understandably lead to paranoia. Jean Fitzpatrick, LP, a licensed relationship therapist in New York City, says these reactions are understandable. “Jealousy and possessiveness are not the same thing. It’s natural to feel jealous when you worry an outsider is intruding on your intimate relationship,” Fitzpatrick says. “If one partner has a following of admirers, both partners need to find emotionally safe ways to discuss boundaries they both consider appropriate.”


For 28-year-old Max Schneider, he and his girlfriend, Taylor, were friends before they started dating. She watched him develop the L.A.-dirtbag persona that’s earned him more than 175,000 TikTok followers — along with comments like “I’ll know I’m healed when I stop finding this man attractive.” However, despite the fact that Schneider began incorporating Taylor into his content, proposals of marriage and other compliments still fill his comments.

“It definitely stresses her out,” he says, adding that they’ve had “millions” of discussions about it. She recently received a message from an acquaintance who said a friend of a friend had shared one of Schneider’s reels, along with a caption saying he had asked her out the previous week. The claim was “completely fabricated,” he says, but it shook Taylor regardless. “I’m frustrated that somebody is that bored to go out of their way to do that, but I also know that comes with the territory.”

When asked how she felt about Schneider’s social media presence, Taylor replied, “I wish Max worked on an ethical dairy farm and his only means of social media were the local newspaper.”

While this kind of romantic attention can find anyone, it’s no coincidence that men tend to be the subject of viral lust. The “Internet boyfriend” — a person whom the Internet collectively has a crush on, first applied to celebrities like Harry Styles, Pedro Pascal, Michael B. Jordan, and Timothée Chalamet — is a pop culture archetype for which there is no female equivalent. While attractive women certainly have male admirers online, it tends to happen in the form of DM solicitations, lewd comments, and harassment, and is often seen as aggressive or creepy. Female admirers, on the other hand, are largely perceived as innocent fangirls — despite sometimes being just as inappropriate.

I wish Max worked on an ethical dairy farm and his only means of social media were the local newspaper.

In cases where the attention has crossed a line, partners have coped by taking matters into their own hands. Shortly after her boyfriend went viral, Nataly responded with a video of her own.

“POV: your boyfriend blows up from playing guitar and being fine, and all the comments are ‘marry me,’ ‘ur hot,’ ‘i’m in love with you,’ ‘be mine’ this aint for the weak,” she captioned the post. Her video got more than 5 million views, and suddenly her boyfriend’s comment section was filled with a different kind of female attention.

“Wow!! Marry… your gf !” one supporter wrote. “This sounds beautiful BUT have you seen his girlfriend?” the comments continued, to the point that they almost completely buried the initial thirst.

“It was like an army,” Nataly says. “It was so cool how girls can come together like that and support one another.”


Nataly also shared her feelings with Trainor, who she says has been great at assuaging her anxieties. It’s an “unspoken” rule that he won’t follow or engage with any of the women confessing their affection, and that she’d operate similarly if she got attention on her own posts.

What’s most important, says Fitzpatrick, the relationship therapist, is that these boundary conversations are “negotiations” and not “one partner controlling the other.”

Ultimately, while the attention can be difficult, Nataly is happy that TikTok is bringing her boyfriend success. And if someone does comment something thirsty on his videos, Nataly now has 5 million allies to keep them in line.

*Nataly requested Bustle use only her first name.