Bears most likely to have low self esteem, engage in riskier sex
The group may also be more susceptible to poor health than other members of the gay community.
Gay men who identify as bears are more likely to have lower self-esteem, poor physical health and engage in riskier sex than other gay social groups – or ‘tribes’.
Stereotypically, men who identify as bears are to be bigger, hairier and more masculine than other tribes – such as twinks, jocks, geeks the paper – published in the Clinical Journal of Nursing – states.
Researchers this leads some members of the community to struggle with both their sexuality and body image.
“Despite the health risks that are associated with increased BMI, the promotion of certain physical appearance that includes a higher BMI is important for men who identify as bears,” the paper reads.
“It helps them to recognise one another, strengthen communal bonds, and promote a gay identity that is masculine, sexual, and mature.”
The paper reviewed 11 research studies which focused on specifically bear subculture in the United States.
“Before discovering the bear community, members have described harassment and discrimination from both heterosexuals and homosexuals throughout their lifespan based on weight, which led to lower self-esteem,” researchers said.
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“Perpetuating this perception of low self-esteem is the stereotypical image of a gay man who is usually young, slim, and smooth-skinned, an image which many men who identify as bears do not fit.”
The paper also claimed bears are more likely to engage in unprotected anal sex, fisting, asphyxiation, voyeurism and exhibitionism, with this possibly increasing the risk of becoming infected with STIs or HIV.
“Besides weight, other healthcare needs should be addressed,” researchers added.
“Primary healthcare providers should assess the sexual habits of all patients and offer safer-sex education depending on the needs of each client.”
Last year, a survey found disturbingly high levels of depression, low self-esteem and suicidal thoughts among gay men.