A recent study has found that bears are more likely to engage in riskier sex and suffer from low self-esteem
A research paper published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing has found that men who identify as members of the Bear gay subculture are more likely to have a higher Body Mass Index (BMI), engage in riskier sexual behaviours, and have lower self-esteem.
Focussing on Bear subculture in America, the research examined the results of eleven other studies to draw these conclusions. The paper explains that “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.”
Perhaps playing into the hyper-masculinity which gay culture concerns itself with, the research suggests that the higher BMI “helps them to recognise one another, strengthen communal bonds, and promote a gay identity that is masculine, sexual, and mature.”
According to the researchers, “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.”
Besides having a higher BMI the paper highlights the diverse sexual behaviour of Bears, with the subculture engaging in higher-risk sexual practices like unprotected ‘bareback’ sex, fisting, voyeurism and exhibitionism as well as asphyxiation.
While the downsides revealed by the research including low self-esteem and higher BMI might seem like negatives, the report did indicate that the bear community can offer “a sanctuary for these men as a buffer against discrimination and a sense of belonging that was perceived as lacking in the mainstream gay community.”
The research only examined Bear subculture in the US, but since Ireland is English speaking and our culture influenced by those across the pond, it can be extrapolated that Bears in Ireland may face similar risks and benefits to being members of the Bear subculture. PhD student Narciso Quidley-Rodriguez who researched the paper has said that health care providers simply encourage Bears to lose weight without adequately addressing their needs.
(image via Flickr)
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