Bear Culture is the Subject of a New University Study in the UK

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Gay Bear Culture

Bear culture is here to stay as a part of the gay community. How can you tell? There’s a university funding a study looking into the relatively recent phenomenon.

“Bears,” as defined in our glossary of LGBTQ+ terminology, is commonly understood as the more burly, brawny and hairier strain of gay men — a concept unheard of as a social subculture until the 1990s. Anecdotally, the subset is said to have sprung up qs a reaction to the dolphin-smooth images popularized (and adopted by the gay mainstream) by brands like Obsession and Abercrombie & Fitch in the 1980s.

Now the University of Brighton in England has agreed to fund research so that Dr. Nick McGlynn can take an in-depth look at the bear community and places they frequent in the UK.

All to the good, because McGlynn regards himself as a “proud self-identified bear.” His mandate is to “explore the experiences of big and fat men in Bear bars, pubs, clubs and events,” then “to understand how these spaces might help tackle fat stigma for men.”

Furthermore, “the Bearspace project” will eventually include a “complete database of every Bear bar, pub, club, event and social group in the UK” to be assembled as a basis for “one of the world’s largest empirical studies of Bear communities.”

Here’s why, according to McGlynn: “Bear bars and events are some of the only spaces I feel comfortable as a fat gay man, and writing by other Bears suggests that many others feel the same.

“Fat stigma is increasingly felt by men and we all know how heightened this is in gay bars and clubs! So I’m eager to find out if there’s something positive and empowering we can learn from Bear spaces.”

Funding was granted the University of Brighton’s Rising Stars Awards, which seeks to support academics on the rise.

A description of the study on University of Brighton website states that “This research attends to an unexplored intersection of geographies of sexualities and fatness/obesity. In a nation grappling with an ‘obesity epidemic,’ fat people in the UK are highly stigmatized as unhealthy and sexually repulsive, with resultant serious mental/physical health impacts.

“Fat stigma is intensified in gay/bisexual men’s spaces, yet the impacts of fat stigma on men’s health or sexuality have received little attention.”

Last modified: July 19, 2018

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