What is a bear?
Do a quick Internet search and you’ll find a number of definitions. Which one is right? Ais there a definition? Should there even be one?
Wikipedia will tell you that a bear is a heavyset man with body hair who projects an image of rugged masculinity in his grooming. Is that it; is it as simple as a particular body type?
Richard Bulger coined the term ‘bear’ in the 80s with the advent of Bear magazine, a publication dedicated to the men who didn’t fit the previously ubiquitous bill of the gay man – thin, smooth, and young.
This must have been a great time for all those husky and furry men out there who didn’t want to subscribe to being outcast by the larger gay community.
But the bear community was – and is – about more than just a preference for beefy, hairy men. The original bear movement was a haven for men who felt different to their heterosexual counterparts only in sexual preference. Up until this point, there was no formalised way for ‘outcast’ to meet ‘outcast’. The bear of the past was tall, short, fat, stocky, muscular, hairy, thin and hairy – whatever. The unifying feature of a bear was that he felt different to other gay men – he was masculine, and grass-roots humble.
In a lot of ways, this is still true today. There is more disparity in the community – muscle bears versus chubs? – but by and large it is still a culture of acceptance and love. The love of fur and masculinity.
To me, a bear doesn’t have to be a particular shape, though I’m completely turned on by the thicker men, both muscular and otherwise. What means more to me is the masculinity – not forced and contrived, but genuine. A bear is kind and accepting, but rugged. He’s a real man, and he doesn’t need to prove how ‘manly’ he is.
What’s a bear to you?