I will start this one off by saying in the past couple of years I have met some incredible and wonderful people in the bear and gay community as a whole, some of who I call my best friends nowadays. So this isn’t a cry for help or woe is me article whatsoever. Just my problems with the bear community from my point of view.
To me, the word “bear” is so unbelievably skewed that I don’t think people even know what it really is meant for anymore. There are so many different definitions in this community that in a way I still don’t know what I am considered (nor do I care really, I am just Ryan). From my understanding, when the bear community started back in the 80’s it was meant to be a community of guys that were in a way shunned from the norm and had an outlet to be themselves in a very stereotypical gay world.
That still rings true to this day I believe. The context though is all screwed up. If you look at a lot of porn sites advertising “bears” the ones that usually show up are chiseled guys who just happen to not have shaven their body that week. That doesn’t make any sense. A bear to me is a naturally hairy guy who happens to be of a certain weight or size and not necessarily a 6 pack with purchase. The former is becoming the norm, which I take issue with because several of those ones that like that have a very fucked up elitist attitude and walk down the street like they are god’s gift to this earth. Just stop.
Being in New York City already has its challenges in the gay world as stated before, but to be labeled as something as a “bear” or “cub” or “muscle cub” and so on and so forth quite frankly just gets tiresome and annoying. Be yourself. I’ve said it before that individuality in this community is hard to come by as many a gay man tend to group themselves and become clique-ish and very high school in that matter. The ones that I am friends with I hang out with individually, as I like to get to know a person like that and not at some stupid bear event or circuit party where their focus is who the next guy they will sleep with as opposed to a nice conversation. People in this community try to figure out who they are immediately because they want to fit a certain type. Take your time, relax, and eventually it will come to you. In other words, don’t fake it til you make it.
This is why I rarely go to gay bars and only see my friends at a str8 place or parties. Bored with all of that. I’ve been told I’m to skinny, too hairy, too uncut, too Ginger, too fat (belly), not enough belly (I’m muscled with fat), too old, too young. Yet I get twinks, bears, girls, guys hit on me at other places so to me its all bullshit. I’m just me.
Wkycornhole2000 – you can never be too “uncut” 🙂
Ruaidhrí O'Brien says
Ruaidhrí O'Brien says
Yep exactly the same problem here.Too fat, not fat enough. Too hairy, not hairy enough.Too much of a belly, not enough belly.Too much facial hair, not enough facial hair.Too muscly, not muscly enough.Basically if you don’t fit the cookie cutter ‘Bear’, ‘Muscle Bear’ or ‘ Twink’ image you haven’t got a chance. No one will give me the time of day, despite me being fairly good looking, and fairly interesting.
It annoys me that the bear scene markets itself as this all accepting welcoming scene.. it’s not, in many ways it’s more shallow and body fascist than the mainstream.I think a lot of ‘bears’ are queeny twinks that got old, fat, grew a beard and carried on being bitchy and exclusive, but in a different way..
Roberto Ruager says
Your article was posted on Facebook but, rather than making a comment over there I’d prefer to do it directly to the author first. Bear is bear, gay is gay and clichés are fabricated whenever a community holds more than three people. We live in a society that, more than ever, references itself to images. Instead of having a couple of dozens we have trillions… so that’s one thing. Shakespeare made famous the phrase “to be or not to be”, disappointingly enough many choose to be like rather than to be… it is how we were educated and it is easier, most of the people just need to kill their innerself a little bit and they are on the road. I tried in my twenties, but in the end it didn’t work. You force yourself to be something you are not? You are bound to end up with the wrong friends AND the wrong guy… I ended up with many, many, many wrong guys. I entered the bear-gay community in my late twenties (very late twenties) and discovered I actually didn’t need to be anything. Here is what I see. Chiselled guys pervade almost any community (gay, hetero or whatever) in some they are taken more seriously than in others. Most of my bear gay friends envy their looks but they don’t look up to it. In my opinion they are a different kind of “Diva” not to be taken seriously. Being labelled can be annoying as long as you take them to the heart… take your own name as an example. You were labelled when you were born and you have nothing to do with that, a lot of people care if your name and/or surname is this or that. Use your labels as a way to discern who you have in front of you rather than letting them define you.
Sorry for my english, I try my best but I know it is kind of awkward.
Wouldn’t it be appropriate to credit the photographer, whose name is actually watermarked on the opening image (ReyRey’s Photography), instead of Tumblr?
Just a thought. It’s not because an image has been stolen once that it falls into the public domain.
You hit the nail on the head there! To me the bear community is just filled with fat retired disco queens who think having a beard makes them a car mechanic. There is no normalcy anymore. When i first stumbled across a bear site when the internet was in it’s preteen years i was so happy i found a group of men who were just comfortable in their own skin. For me it was like finding the holy grail. Sadly it’s all gone downhill from there. And if i have to see one more butch man clutching a teddy bear i am going to have an aneurysm!
Ruaidhrí O'Brien says
Completely agree, nice to see I’m not the only one who thinks the bear scene is basically just mainstream queens, that have gotten a little older, fatter and grown a beard…. and suddenly think it makes them Charles Bronson.
I can only speak from personal experience. When I first came upon the bear scene, I saw a lot of me like myself: overweight men.
They were called bears. Fine I thought.
There were also a lot of men who were thin, or just normal build, who liked the bears. They were called chasers. Fine I thought.
Then somebody decided that bear meant hairy, and muscley, basically an unshaven gym bunny.
And I no longer was a bear.
And then chasers were thin or normal guys who wanted to get together with other thin or normal guys who maybe had some chest hair and went to the gym to pump iron.
So, basically, I was kicked out of the bear world by the same people who decided I belonged there in the first place: the thin, normal build guys who, not content with having their own non-specific scene, decided to penetrate into someone else’s and take over it.
The amount of times I see thin, normal build guys on a bear-spefic website who specify “Not fat or out of shape men” is ridiculous.
If you don’t like bears, why go to their website?
Of course, now that it seems like the term ‘bear’ applies to anybody EXCEPT overweight men, I really don’t know what to make of the scene.
James Nelson says
a bear is hairy….have you ever seen a hairless bear in the wild? no
Funnily enough, I thought we were talking about people, not wild animals.
Furthermore, a bear is not an animal considered to be lithe.
Jerry Mazzola says
Honestly, I am as attracted to the muscled handsome hairy man as the next guy. I am as attracted to the hairy sexy daddy who is in somewhat good shape for his age. There are men with facial hair or a big hairy chest or big guns who can instantly make me weak in the knees. All this admiration comes at a distance. When attending a bear event ….I always feel like the one in the room who just does not conform in any way . I am too old, too young, too small too big etc ..I am not muscled enough…I own a shirt and I wear it all the time….especially when in public places…which does not seem to occur all that much in the bear community.
When I thought that being a gay man in a straight man’s world was hard ..what I find harder to bear, pardon the pun ..was not even being accepted by my own peers….that will make you feel like a real outsider for sure . The last “coffee hour” bear event my parner and I went to….all the muscle bears and the guys who like them …circled the wagons…they pulled thier chairs into a circle , no lie, thus putting thier backs to everyone else …and they closed the circle so only people they wanted to get in …got in , which of course was the cute young things who arrived late….I cannot tell you what that made us feel like …total pariahs. May I add that half of the bears in that circle hit a few branches of the ugly tree on the way down…..and we aint bad on the eyes ..and both of us are way more established and accomplished than many of the people we have met in the local “bear community” . And we both make great friends . But because of the current views….no one will ever find that out .
Here’s an idea… let’s move on. I bet the fact that the definition of bear is becoming muddled and that the community is finding room for fat or muscled or hairy or not or skinny or whatever… I bet that’s not a real problem. The real problem is likely to be in personal identity and that is not a gay thing or a bear thing… it is a human thing. Like who you are and be who you like. A friend of mine developed the term “post-bear” as a joke… but it seems more and more logical everyday to me.
I think the definition is being muddled by people who can’t be bothered to do a little research or just take a look around. I laugh at the amount of thin-normal guys who go to bear clubs trying to pick up guys who look like they do and who get told to fuck off. Obviously some people need to do a little bit of research.
I was introduced to the ‘bear community’ at the age of 40. For decades I had no idea that hairy men were appreciated by other men; I was fumbling in the darkness of the closet because I thought I would never fit in. But then one of my first dates in the ‘real’ world showed me that having hairy arms, chest, legs, back, and face were not ‘bad’… but I still didn’t know what a ‘bear’ was. He took me to bear events, and I saw how the others behaved… and for someone who had just come out of the closet, it was a real eye-opener.
I think the people mentioned in the article, however, are a type of sub-culture within the bear community. The chiseled and hairy gym bunnies are known as ‘muscle bears’ but are not the entirety of the community. But in my humblest of opinions, it’s not the physique that really makes one a bear anyway. I think it’s more about how one sees oneself, and the overall mental state. But I do know some bears can be very clique-ish.
Scott McGillivray says
I’m biting my tongue so hard right now it’s bleeding.
David Swales says
David Swales says
Sheesh, who gave this guy a pedestal to express everything he is “annoyed” about. Were the editorial team asleep?? Such a shallow and non-thought provoking article? He totally fails to see the complete contradiction in how the pursuit of some stricter aesthetic can in any way equate to a supportive “community”. Bear or not. His soulless aim breeds a sense of exclusion and low self-esteem in many who aspire to be around “bears”. If anything many in this “bear community” have taken his word as gospel and only associate with people who look like them and they would like to f*ck (thereby repeating the apparent “original sin” which led to “bears” having to seek solace with each other away from the mainstream gay scene). In his world the “community” is a masquerade for nothing more than a Mutual Appreciation Society. What an exclusionary and retro-active notion he is peddling. That path leads to abstract, inward looking irrelevance based on nothing more than what somebody looks like. No thank you! I chose to be part of the REAL world where people aren’t so fascistic about something so unimportant and transient.
Phillip Marsh says
Bears and cubs come in all shapes, sizes and fur factors. You get out of a community what you put into just. Just because some people get absorbed by a particular look does not mean you have to do the same. Getting pissed that there are chiseled bears or whatever is like getting pissed at a steak house because they serve meat cooked to a degree you don’t like even though they will cook it however you specify. “I don’t like Steaks R Us because they include ‘well done’ on the list of how they can cook it and I don’t think you should cook steak that long.”
We all like different guys. We all have preferences. Big deal, get over it.
I am very uncomfortable in large groups of gay men because it has become accepted that being gay and being HIV+ are the same thing. I never bareback and it creeps me out to hear it glorified everywhere that gay men gather.
I kind of agree. To me a Bear is a guy with a belly and man boobs and yes the body hair. The hair is and can be all over. I for one totally dislike overly muscled up guys. The term muscle bear is stupid, where in the wild have you ever seen a bear look like that? One thing to remember there is nothing worse then seeing a Bear click. It’s just sad.
For years a did not associate myself as a Bear or Cub,cub cause I’m short. The reason I didn’t was I thought, from experience, was that only bears like other bears. Well, Bears are not my type. I like thin, otter, type guys. When I heard the term chubby chaser or chaser. I looked further into it and found I had been wrong the whole time. And now have been in a wonderful relationship for 10 years.
I guess the point of this is, Bears are nice friendly chubby guys. Muscled guys have several places they can hang out, let us have this.
Oh and my PSA. Guys please stop having your dick hair. It’s just gross! There is only one reason to do that and it’s to get rid of crabs.
In an overall, generalized manner, I have to agree. While I love me my labelled and quantified, structured and organized life; I find both the etymology(right one?) of words have changed and the semantic meaning behind them, thus doing nothing but to add to the confusion, distrust and self-loathing found within the current generations community identities. Possibly stemming from a decreased enforcement of English Grammar and increased laxity towards ‘using whatever word comes to mind, even if its the wrong one’ when composing thoughts and expressing opinions. Which carries back over into every aspect of our lives, making only this context unique in that that is what we’re discussing right now.
That said, if something irks YOU, thats legit. Self examine and find out why. Then ask yourself “is it something that is positive for the community that i retain this irksome outlook and preference? or will it only be beneficial to me?” and “what is the goal of the community and individual? How will this discovery of self impact that progress?” Once thats all done, choose your course of action, and move forwards.
Life,… is so much grander then the labels we apply to it. We can but attempt to describe in words, that which we encounter as experience, and each individuals personal set of experiences creates their own set of personal perception filters. That sense of perception and how it interpolates, extrapolates and interprets new information, is how we create ourselves, our communities, our families. It is also something that CAN be changed if its necessary. Sometimes changed by force (brainwashing, or indifference,) and sometimes by careful and repeated self-examination after each ocurance with repeated meditative mantra’s and reminders that our goal is X not Z.
That said, the ‘bear’ community, is as strong and healthy as it always is, will be and can be. However, the individual components of this community are changing, and that is what causes the troubles. A new set of perceptions, a new set of understanding and comprehensions, experiences and goals; which may not always mesh or coincide with what is currently existing in any given particular area of the globe.
In a race or portion of population that rarely experiences Large stature individuals, but hear of ‘bear’, they may consider the ‘next closest thing’ to be “their” ‘Bears’. Whereas, another portion of the global populace who routinely encounter individuals of such size, shape, furriness, etc, will naturally consider them ‘their’ ‘bears’, since and especially if the individuals present a visual image that is similar or invokes the thoughts of a bear from the woods and forests. Neither label is accurate, but is the closest approximation both groups can come up with, and so, respectively, become legitimate descriptions of “bear” for their social communities.
The “elitist” attitudes however, are a different can of worms entirely. That is generally from a misrepresented and inaccurate comprehension of ‘community pride’. Pride, is a tricky emotion/concept, and is very much one of “a little is Good, too much is Bad.” There is the Pride of a Patriot, the Pride of a Parent, and the Pride of self accomplishment. In acceptable levels, this sense of Pride in or towards/from others motivates us to do our best, but conversely can cause us to become too self-inflated, rude and even obnoxious to those around us when there is tooo much Pride.
One can stand up for something, while respecting others choice to the opposite. And what all too often doesn’t happen, (and certainly rarely doesn’t get reported on the nightly news,) is people showing tolerance and respectful acceptance of another choice, circumstance, position, opinion, etc.
We see Westboro Bapss protesting simply because they can, not because they should. We see the KKK, how often these days in the news? the KKK still exist, and still writhe for dominance, but they grudgingly at least now show indifference to those they once sought to persecute through their Pride of supremacy.
The ‘plastics’ in highschool had Pride in their ability to get anything new, instantly. The Jocks had pride in their athletic abilities. The nerds.. their books and knowledge. Geeks, their toys. (and now, vice versa for the last two. lol) The Goths (don’t) take pride in their ability to be emo and dark, and sometimes even scary. The 60s hippy children took pride in their ‘peace”love’maryjane’. Post War survivors took pride they won, or survived. It happens. Be aware of it, avoid them if their too much for you, and remember: Just because the hottie you like now is unattainable doesn’t mean he will be next week. But if he isn’t, do you still want him?
The kids we went to school with, become the adults we have to live with.