These were scales that assessed masculinity, hypermasculinity, and self-esteem. Hypermasculinity was not correlated with self-esteem or masculinity. Partner Rejection Criteria The third hypothesis was tested through a series of chi-square tests, the results 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. Sexual Behaviors 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. Also, and as suggested by previous 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 significant results were found. 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 previous qualitative research, Bears actually had lower self-esteem and were no less or more hypermasculine than non-Bears. Our results describe a subculture of men who were different than mainstream gay men in their personal looks, partner preferences, behaviors, and psychologies.
The results regarding body traits and partner selection confirm, for the first time in a systematic manner, findings documented in previous 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.
To be urinated on or to submit to another man i. Regardless of the potential explanation, Bears appear to be more sexually diverse and explorative than mainstream gay and bisexual men. It may be that even if the culture has developed as an affront or reaction to normative idealized male beauty as suggested by the social creativity strategies within social identity theory , cultural indoctrination does not rectify or improve internalized negative self-perceptions.
Bear identity adoption may be more of a maintenance therapy for coping with those indelible physical trait deficiencies rather than a panacea. This conclusion even may be true for hardcore Bears, as neither community importance nor event attendance moderated self-esteem.
The fact remains that Bears still exist in a mainstream gay male world. Though they may escape this by engaging in diverse sexual acts with partners that reflect their own body traits and by adopting a masculine identity, self-disliking is still present. The higher ostensible self-esteem described by the interview and ethnographic research may have been a front used to remain cognitively consonant with adhering to a minority subcultural identity.
Simply, to the Bear culture and in reaction to mainstream gay men, Bears may self-present as feeling good; however, internally, they may wish that they had those normative idealized beauty traits.
Such tendencies and psychologies have been found in other cultures and among heterosexuals of diverse backgrounds Johnson, Finally, our results also documented null differences in hypermasculinity, which contrasted the research that prompted our last hypothesis see Hennen, ; Wright, Contrary to that Bear research, they were no more or less likely to be callous towards partners, engage in dangerous behaviors, or place themselves in precarious situations.
Sexual partners were not valued or devalued any more consistently than by mainstream gay men. In this respect, Bears may overestimate and overstate care towards partners to self-present as being distinct from men adhering to the mainstream gay culture which are often stereotyped as treating partners as disposable Isay, A portrait emerges from these Bear results that supports a theory for why the gay community ultimately is so heterogeneous and thus produces the high degree of spinoff subcultures: Cultures facilitate successful same-sex encounters.
Bears have sexual desires that need fulfilling. Yet, from a body traits perspective, they may be below average on what is traditionally attractive to other gay and bisexual men. The partners they can attract may be limited; and in response to this limitation, they may want partners who will not reject them.
Limitations Our studies were not without their limitations. We missed measuring some other key variables that would have further elucidated the culture and should have expanded the time metric for these variables i. For example, non-sexual Bear behaviors would have been interesting to assess and apply to the finding. Interest in the Bear culture by non-Bear identifying gay men might have shown the degree of crossover and integration of communities.
After all, its reliability and validity initially were assessed only for heterosexual men. Whether the items are applicable to gay men, bisexuals, or men questioning their sexuality remains unknown. With respect to methods, the comparability of samples may be somewhat uncertain, as one was collected through internet surveying and the other, through paper survey. They did share demographic similarities and the prevalence of the Bear identity was nearly identical between the two; however, there may be other unmeasured factors that limit the generalizability e.
Also, the surveys were conducted relatively close in time to one another within a few months. Though the likelihood of participants being surveyed by both studies remains extremely low, repeat data may be a limitation that should be considered. Statistical limitations existed as well. We achieved only small effect sizes for some of the results. This was allowed due to the large sample sizes and One minor issue involved the logistic multiple regressions producing less than optimal confidence intervals; and, regarding the chi-square tests, statistical differences in distributions were found but the actual number of people engaging in a few of these behaviors or rejecting partners on specific criteria was small e.
We are confident that these limitations did not overshadow our solid overall findings. Future Directions The current dearth of Bear community research leaves myriad directions for future researchers to explore.
Where ours were studies that explored the physical, sexual behavioral, and psychological traits of men adhering to this community identity, future studies should research both the cardiovascular and sexual health of such men. These men statistically weigh more than mainstream gay men while being no more or less muscular.
Being clinically overweight or obese is associated with diabetes, arteriosclerosis, heart disease, and stroke Peeters et al.
It is unclear how the acceptance and even reverence of weighing more may impact the prevalence of such medical conditions in this cultural cohort. Bears tended to engage in more diverse sexual behaviors. These behaviors are associated with sexual compulsivity and sensation seeking Grov et al. Future researchers might assess the degree to which these associations hold true for Bears. Does this particular community have a disproportionately higher HIV prevalence than the mainstream gay community or other subcultures within the community?
A study that answers these research questions would provide further evidence to support the heterogeneity hypothesis: Not only is the mainstream gay community culturally heterogeneous, but so are the sexual health behaviors and problems within it.
One last suggestion for future research would be to test some of the theories generated by these current data. Ours was not a longitudinal study or even an ethnographic one where the entrance and exit of new and old members was documented. The speculations made from the data were highly reversible. Is it the bear identity that contributes to the body trait maintenance or is it the trait that influences the adoption of identity?
Do Bears use their identity to cope with the larger gay culture; do they construct it as a form of rebellion; or is their identity merely a tool used to accrue sex partners? While we speculated on all of these questions, no clear answers emerged.
Future studies are needed to contribute more concrete support. To conclude, research such as ours consistently finds increased evidence that the gay community should not be treated as one indivisible block. These myriad subcultures of which the Bear community constitutes but one operate according to their own psychologies, enact unique behaviors, and may even have distinct physical traits. Sex researchers endeavor to understand the biology of sexual orientation; however, it may be equally useful to understand how individuals with minority sexual orientations develop and change around social and political obstacles.
Bears may very well prove to be reactionary figures to the normative idealized male beauty that is pervasive in both the straight and gay mainstream cultures.
Future researchers should wonder in what other ways conforming or not conforming to gay norms, stereotypes, and the larger heterosexual culture impacts individuals and their self-identities. Sexual risk-taking in gay men: The relevance of sexual arousability, mood, and sensation seeking.
Archives of Sexual Behavior. The influence of sexual orientation on body dissatisfaction in adult men and women. International Journal of Eating Disorders.
Listening to the voices of young gay men. Out of the closet and into the gym: Gay men and body image in Melbourne, Australia. The body image survey results.
Sexual compulsivity and sexual risk in gay and bisexual men. Bear bodies, bear masculinity: Recuperation, resistance, or retreat? Gay men and their development. Self-esteem comes in all sizes: How to be happy and healthy at your natural weight. Sensation seeking and alcohol use as markers of sexual transmission risk behavior in HIV-positive men.
Annals of Behavioral Medicine. Body image, eating behaviors, and attitudes toward exercise among gay and straight men.