Gay bears are a subculture within the queer community that is characterized by masculine dress and behavior. Several books, including Ron Suresha’s 2002 collection, Bears on Bears, and Les Wright’s novels, have explored the complexities of the bear culture.
Research suggests that gay bears are reactionary figures against normative idealized male beauty. However, embracing the bear identity does not eliminate internalized negative self-perceptions about physical traits.
Gay bears often have substantial body hair and a muscular frame, which is sometimes referred to as “their rugged masculinity.” These men are known for their leather clothing, masculine appearance, and love of sex with other men. They also participate in bear events and competitions, such as the International Mr. Bear contest, which is a masculine beauty pageant that awards titles and sashes to winners.
While research into the sexuality of gay males focuses on heterosexual behaviors, researchers may overlook the importance of these smaller subcultures that can influence their own unique psychologies and behaviors. These differences, if ignored, can unknowingly confound future studies on gay sexuality and health.
Aside from a preference for body hair, the Bear culture is associated with discovering forms of masculinity that go beyond sex, such as urination, fisting, and exhibitionism. This type of exploration can lead to a more holistic sense of what it means to be masculine and contribute to the development of the Bear community as a whole. In addition, the popularity of Bear films such as BearCity has made the culture more accessible to the public.
A great way to add a masculine touch to your look is with a well-groomed haircut. A quiff, a classic side cut or a fade are all excellent choices for gay men. The best part is that these styles can be used for both formal and informal occasions. Make sure to use hair wax to keep your style in place.
Gay men often show off their hirsute features in bear contests, a kind of male beauty pageant that awards trophies and sashes. The competition is held at events such as the International Mr. Bear Rendezvous in San Francisco and attracts men from all over the world. Other events include leather contests, which award trophies and sashes made of real leather to contestants.
As more gay men adopt these queer styles, they are pushing the boundaries of gender. While dandy dicks, perfumed dandies, dilly boys, skins, clones, mods, new romantics and fierce vogueing queens were once relegated to the fringes of popular culture, their hairstyles are now on the heads of everyone from Miley Cyrus to King Princess.
In addition to body hair, gay bears often sport a variety of tattoos that reflect their personalities and interests. For example, a tiger design on the back of an individual may symbolize his strength, while a wolf tattoo could be symbolic of his sexy side. Tattoos are a way for gay men to express themselves and create their own identity.
The physical image of a bear is often eroticized by the community, especially in the media. The hirsute, large-framed men who identify as bears stand in contrast to mainstream heterosexual and gay notions of attractiveness, which usually favor thin, smooth bodies.
Like any other subculture, the bear community has its own jargon and values. It has bars, events, music, magazines and films that promote it. There is even a term for its members, “bears,” which includes all those who embrace a large-framed, hirsute physique. However, some men who consider themselves bears have been accused of discriminating against men with lower levels of body fat and a more muscular build. This is a form of homophobia, which can be incredibly damaging to relationships and communities.
The Bear community has become a major player in gay culture, with its own magazine, film, and television productions. The film and TV series BearCity, BULK: The Series, and Skeleton Crew are some examples. In addition, the documentary films Small Town Gay Bar and Bear Nation have been screened at the Newfest GLBT film festival.
The Bear identity may also represent a desire to discover forms of masculinity. The stereotyped physical image of a Bear often reflects this, with men appearing more muscular and wearing rugged clothing. The masculine gender role is also emphasized through a preference for facial and body hair, as well as an emphasis on large girth.
In contrast to the Leathermen, who promote a positive form of hypermasculinity, the Bear community appears to be less interested in these characteristics and more focused on a desire for acceptance. This is supported by the fact that neither Bear identification nor attendance at events moderated self-esteem in the studies. This suggests that the desire for a masculine appearance is less an attempt to achieve positive self-esteem and more of a way to cope with indelible negative self-perceptions.
A gay man with large hirsute body hair and facial hair is typically called a Bear. The term is used to describe men who portray a rugged, masculine image and are comfortable with their natural size and body hair. The Bear community is a subculture within the larger gay community and has its own jargon, values, and commodities. There are Bear-oriented bars and festivals, music, movies, and magazines. A 2002 anthology, Bears on Bears: Conversations and Essays, and Ron Suresha’s books, Bearotica and Bear Cookin’, have contributed to a burgeoning literature on the subject of gay male attraction and erotica.
Unlike the Leathermen, who revere hypermasculinity, Bears promote a more traditional concept of masculine beauty. They are more likely to accept the physical traits of their sexual partners and may be more tolerant of behaviors traditionally associated with masculinity, such as fisting, exhibitionism, or urination. Nonetheless, their self-esteem remains lower than that of the general gay population (Manley, Levitt, & Mosher, 2007). The societal stigma against these supposedly “ugly” physical attributes is believed to contribute to the depression of some Bears.