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Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. The Bear community exists as a subculture in Sex and fun dating Bear to the larger gay community. It rejects the normative idealized male beauty revered by mainstream gay men. Our studies indicated that Bears were more likely to be hairier, heavier, and shorter than mainstream gay men. They reported wanting partners who were hairier and heavier. They were less likely to reject sexual partners and the partners they did reject were more likely to be young or weigh too little i.
Bears were more likely than mainstream gay men to enact diverse sexual behaviors e. Bears had lower self-esteem but were no less or more hypermasculine than non-Bears. We concluded that Bears are intensely sexual. We speculate that Bears are viewed as less attractive than what is traditionally considered to be attractive.
The partners they can attract may be limited and, in response to this limitation, they may be particularly attuned to seek out partners who will not reject them. The gay community is ultimately a heterogeneous one with many subgroups and subcultures—one of the commonalities among them being the desire to have same-sex encounters.
One such subculture is comprised of gay and bisexual men who identify as Bears. They favor instead a body-model that may be predetermined by genetics, age, or heteronormative masculine beliefs i. There are many different subdivisions within the Bear community. Men are categorized primarily by their hairiness, but also by their weight, age, and ethnicity. Divisions within the community may consist of: Grizzly Bears White, hairy, heavier menCubs younger hairy menPolar Bears older men with greying or white hairBig Teddy Bears men who are hairy, yet heavier than Grizzly BearsOtters men who are hairy but thinand other classifications encompassing ethnic variations such as Black Bears hairy men of color or Panda Bears hairy Asian or Pacific Islander men Monaghan, Despite physical differences within the Bear community, most of the men subscribe to a shared identity: masculinity is praised and therefore celebrated within the community.
Because there is a dearth of general research regarding this community, and no studies to date that use quantitative methods, we decided to explore this community quantitatively—using an Internet-convenience sample, followed by a purposive sample. Bear culture is complex and inextricably tied to heteronormative and hegemonic masculine ideologies. Though ostensible similarities and overlapping traits exist between Bears and other gay male subcultures e. For example, where Leathermen revere hypermasculinity as a trait that encompasses embracing danger, fearlessness, power, and sexual callousness.
Bears do not.
Sexual partners matter and are egalitarian. In response and in contrast with Leathermen, Bears maintain their masculine identity without adopting negative hypermasculine tendencies to accommodate all partners, despite their size or body hairiness. There is some theoretical support for why the Bear identity splintered from the gay male mainstream culture.
Social identity theory suggests that groups adopt social creativity strategies. It even has been noted that, as a result of the extreme importance placed on body image, physiological e. The Bear culture also exists to facilitate same-sex sexual encounters. Ethnographic research indicates that Bears may be more accepting and caring of partners with traits that mirror their own Monaghan, That is, partners who are heavier, hairier, and eschew normative instances of idealized male beauty may be preferred.
Alternatively, partner selectivity may simply be more relaxed. A similar, and arguably traditionally masculine, proclivity may be present for Bears where, as long as a male partner meets minimum trait criteria, sex can ensue. Finally, men who possess a Bear identity may be more likely to enact desired sexual behaviors than do men who are not part of that culture.
Accordingly, men identifying as Bears may be intrinsically more interested in enacting diverse sexual behaviors, some of which are equated with masculinity, and push the limits of what may be considered socially acceptable or normative sexual behaviors e. Health disparities may exist for some of these subcultures. Additionally, subcultural differences may unknowingly confound future studies on sexuality and health.
Researchers may be ignorant of such differences, fail to for them, and find that are mere artifacts of the flawed or underdeveloped initial social identity measures. It is Sex and fun dating Bear this concern and considering the dearth of extant Bear research that we explored the following hypotheses.
Bears will report being shorter, hairier, less muscular, weighing more, and having smaller erect penises than non-Bears. Bears will report wanting partners who are shorter, hairier, less muscular, who weigh more, and have smaller erect penises than non-Bears. Bears will report fewer rejections of partners on criteria e. Bears will report engaging in a higher prevalence of diverse sexual behavior than non-Bears.
Data for our two distinct studies were derived from two separate samples a total of 2, men. Our two-study structure emerged from the preliminary analyses of the first, encouraging us to ask a second independent sample psychological questions.
Specifically, our first study was more exploratory and focused on the physical traits, partner selection, and rejection criteria of gay men within which we collected enough Bears for analyses. The second was more purposive, where we actively recruited Bears to test the psychological variables never asked by the first study that might be associated with the identity.
There were gender and sexual behavioral inclusion criteria associated with both studies. Specifically, men who have or have had sex with other men were solicited to participate. Bear identification was not an inclusion requirement, but rather a grouping variable to distinguish individuals. In the Craigslist study, This subsample of could be further dissected by location i. At IML, of the were recruited leaving 96 to be recruited from Pridefest. In terms of a percent of subsample: of those sampled at IML, This was an international sample recruited from all of the Craigslist.
No compensation was provided for participants. A total of men answered the questions. For the second study, data were collected using an Sex and fun dating Bear survey administered at two independent gay events in May and June the International Mr.
We also selected PrideFest due to the relatively large of Bear commercial and cultural booths. Thus, we considered the sampling at these locations to be more purposive than convenient. Booths were set up and men attending the events were solicited to take the minute survey.
A total of men from IML; from PrideFest answered the questions necessary to complete the analyses for our hypotheses. In the Craigslist study, we only asked about community affiliation. Similarly, we asked the participants to rate the body attributes of their partners using the same 7-point scale on the same attributes: height, weight, body hairiness, muscularity, and erect penis. These measures have been ly published Moskowitz et al. All of these behaviors were defined on the survey.
Differences between receptive and insertive behaviors were also clarified on the survey. Receptive meant that the individual took either the literal or figurative receptive role i. Insertive meant that the individual took either the literal or figurative insertive role i. Higher scores indicated higher self-esteem. Masculinity and femininity were first measured as two separate items. The men rated themselves against other men i. This inventory was comprised of forced choices between a non-hypermasculine response and a hypermasculine response. Scores were averaged and higher scores indicated a tendency towards hypermasculinity.
The sample sizes varied across tests by the few instances of missing data. For the Craigslist study, we used logistic multiple regression and cross tabulation with chi-square to Sex and fun dating Bear for differences between Bears and non-Bears on self- and partner-physical attributes, rejection criteria, and differences in sexual behavior prevalence.
Age was controlled for across all tests in both studies. It was positively associated with being heavier i. As Table 1 shows, the majority of both samples was White and fairly educated. Most men reported being homosexual. About one in five men identified as part of the Bear community across both samples. There was a difference in the distributions of sexual orientation between the studies; however, this was not ificantly related to any independent or dependent variables included in any of the analyses.
In fact, both samples virtually had the same mean ages and Sex and fun dating Bear Craigslist sample: These men also reported wanting partners who were above average on height, muscularity, and erect penis size and below average on hairiness and weight. A majority of men reported engaging in receptive and insertive oral and anal intercourse and anilingus. Other noteworthy sexual behaviors enacted by the sample were exhibitionism A small minority of the men reported experiencing sexual assault 6. For of bear events attended, participants were told not to include IML or PrideFest as an event.
For more information regarding the relationship between these variables, see Moskowitz et al. These were scales that assessed masculinity, hypermasculinity, and self-esteem. Hypermasculinity was not correlated with self-esteem or masculinity. The third hypothesis was tested through a series of chi-square tests, the of which are shown in Table 3.
Specifically, Bears were more likely to reject partners due to their being too young. They were less likely to reject individuals who were less attractive than they appeared or who weighed more. Finally, they were more likely to report having never rejected partners. For our fourth hypothesis, we predicted that Bears would report engaging in more of the 20 sexual behaviors than non-Bears.
The less normative sexual behaviors produced some of the largest differences. For example, Bears were 3. Bears were 1. Due to the differences found between Bears and non-Bears within the Craigslist study, we explored three psychological constructs i. Also, and as suggested by qualitative research, these constructs were likely to vary by the maintenance of a Bear identity.
Therefore, one final logistic regression model was conducted in which the relationship between these three variables and the Bear identity were tested. The null hypothesis could not be rejected for the seventh hypothesis regarding hypermasculinity. No ificant were found. Supporting qualitative research, our quantitative indicated that Bears were more likely to be hairier, heavier, and shorter.
They reported wanting partners who were hairier and, due to their own increased weight, heavier. They reported rejecting partners less and the partners they did reject were more likely to be young. Bears reported the enactment of diverse sexual behaviors and reported being more masculine. However, in contrast to qualitative research, Bears actually had lower self-esteem and were no less or more hypermasculine than non-Bears. Our describe a subculture of men who were different than mainstream gay men in their personal looks, partner preferences, behaviors, and psychologies.
The regarding body traits and partner selection confirm, for the first time in a systematic manner, findings documented in interview and ethnographic studies. However, the sexual behavioral and psychological differences between Bears and those not identifying as such were novel and, to some degree, confound what members of the culture have verbally expressed in the literature.
Bears reported enacting more sexual behaviors, many of which are relatively esoteric and physiologically extreme Grov et al. These behaviors may be associated with, or an expression of, both the higher degrees of masculinity and lower degrees of self-esteem reported by such men in our studies. To be able to take a fist or urinate on another man may be how the men exemplify their form of masculinity—particularly in a sexual climate where most gay men do not want to, cannot, or will not enact these behaviors.
Alternatively, these behaviors may stem from the lower self-esteem reported by Bears.Sex and fun dating Bear
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Physical, Behavioral, and Psychological Traits of Gay Men Identifying as Bears