John Hollywood writes about pop culture with a psychological twist; his articles are practical in nature with a "how-to" approach.
Gay men often use descriptive terms to identify and label other men within the wider gay community. No doubt you’ve heard of some of these labels, like jock, otter, bear, cub, wolf, and so forth. But many gay men often wonder what these terms actually mean.
How many times have you approached your friends and asked them, “What am I? Which group do I fall into? And what the heck is a wolf?”
Maybe you’ve even sent them a bathroom mirror selfie wanting some answers.
How to Identify Your Body Type as a Gay Man
After conducting extensive research on gay body types, collecting survey opinions from gay blogs, and plugging the data into high-grade statistical analysis software, the typologies of gay male body types can now be revealed. Much of the analysis draws upon search phrases via Google’s algorithms. Nothing was left to chance.
To simplify the process (and for giggles), I've used popular film and television celebrity photos as a point of reference. At the end of this article, there’s a link to a gay census website where you can punch in your information to find out your potential category.
Please note that I have not included all of the groups here and the ones that are here may have a subgroup. It is entirely possible that your group is not listed. Finally, some may disagree with these labels as there continues to be ongoing friction regarding what they mean. This is simply an attempt to offer clarity.
Can you identify your gay body type? Let's jump right in!
Gay Body Types
Thin or athletic
Part of the extended bear community
Sexually aggressive; Silver or grey wolf is an older wolf
Big, often with a belly
Young or younger-looking
Sugar cubs and muscle cubs are sub-types
Distinct from bears
Energetic, cute, and naive
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson
Self-centered, usually between 18 and the mid-20’s
Muscular but slender
The muscular version of Beiber
A more muscular Twink
Fitness associated with gym, not sports
Muscular and athletic
Fitness is associated with sports
Very lean and well-built
Addicted to working out
Thin to athletic
Lots of hair
Part of bear community, but smaller than both bears and cubs
In the gay world, an otter is considered a thin gay male that is hairy and may or may not use a trimmer to shorten body hair. Some otters have beards, and some do not.
Otters usually have smaller frames when compared to the heavier cub or bear and look a lot like what you would see in a picture of an otter, hairy. This might surprise some people who typically think of otters as smooth.
Athletic but not super built, a person can be an otter regardless of age, and they are considered to be part of the larger bear community. Think of otters being somewhere between cubs and bears. They’re not as massive as bears and are certainly smaller than cubs.
Celebrity Otter: Scott Caan
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Scott Caan might be a good example of an otter. Notice in the photograph how he is slightly hairy and might even trim to reduce the hair on his chest and torso. You might remember Scott from a number of movies and TV shows, including films like Into the Blue and Hawaii Five-0. He is 5’5’’ and was born in Los Angeles.
Lean, muscular, and attractive
Semi-hairy, often have facial hair
Considered sexually aggressive and part of the larger bear community
Semi-hairy, muscular, lean, attractive, and sexually aggressive, wolves are sometimes considered as part of the larger bear community or on the bear spectrum. They can be any age and normally have facial hair.
Some might also describe wolves as slimmer bears, but there is a lot of disagreement on this. Subgroups of wolves can be found in aging wolves, which are gay men with wolf-like features that are starting to turn a bit gray.
And then there are full-on silver or gray wolves, terms that describe an older wolf with gray or white facial and body hair.
Celebrity Wolf: Joe Manganiello
Joe Manganiello would be a celebrity example of a younger wolf, since he’s lean, hairy, and attractive. Interestingly enough, Manganiello played the part of a wolf in the HBO hit series, True Blood.
Hugh Jackman might be a good example of an older or aging wolf. He’s the mid-40s hottie who you saw in the X-Men series and The Wolverine.
Big, usually heavy or muscular
Lots of hair
Fairly large, protruding belly is typical characteristic; very masculine
Characteristically, a bear is a large, possibly heavy gay man that could also be muscular. A fairly large protruding belly is a defining characteristic of a bear.
Masculinity is also a key feature of bears, and some bears are so caught up in projecting a masculine image that they shun other would-be bears who appear to be too effeminate. That said, many bears consider themselves to be harmless and even playful.
There are several subtypes of bear, which include:
- Muscle Bears: Bears whose size comes from muscle and not from fat
- Polar Bears: Older bears with gray or white facial and body hair
- Sugar Bears: Effeminate bears that are shunned by more masculine bears
Celebrity Bear: John Travolta
John Travolta (born in 1954) is a good example of a bear. At one time, Travolta was considered to be a gym bunny or even a wolf, but as he’s grown older, he’s developed key bear body traits (especially a belly).
Other celebrity bear body types include the now-deceased James Gandolfini (best known for his role as Tony Soprano) and actor and comedian Robin Williams (also deceased).
Hairy but may or may not have beard
A younger male that is not quite bear size
For gay men, the term cub is used to describe a younger (or younger-looking) male that is usually husky or heavier in body type and is almost always hairy. While many cubs have a beard, it is not a requirement to fit this category since body hair and huskiness are the dominant features for this gay descriptor.
Cubs are sometimes partnered with bears in passive relationships or with other cubs, and they can sometimes be considered an apprentice to a bear.
Here are a few subtypes of cubs:
- Muscle Cubs: Body size is attributable to muscular composition as opposed to body fat
- Sugar Cubs: Effeminate cubs
Celebrity Cub: Jack Black
Jack Black might be a good example of a cub. Born in Santa Monica, California you might recognize Jack Black from movies like School of Rock and High Fidelity.
We don't have a lot of male celebrity examples of cubs. Almost all cubs aspire to become bears within the larger bear community.
Overweight or obese
Distinct from bears; chub-chasers are men who prefer chubs
In the gay world, chubs are a distinct subgroup within the gay male population and are often confused with bears. Many bears reject extremely large or obese chubs and do not consider them as part of their subgroup. Chubs even have their own events, such as Mr. Chub International. According to my research, an extremely large chub is referred to as a superchub.
Along with chubs, I should note a group of people called chasers. These individuals are attracted romantically and physically to chubs and are typically much smaller than chubs.
Chub Celebrity: John Goodman
John Goodman is a good example of a chub or superchub. You have seen him in a number of films and TV shows, most notably Roseanne. John Candy (deceased), actor from films like Planes, Train & Automobiles, is another example of a chub.
Body-type similar to twink, but are new to gay world
A pup is a gay male who is fairly young—we’re talking late teens to early 20s more or less. Pups are known for their lack of experience in the gay world, as well as for being naïve, energetic, and cute. They may have similar body types to twinks (see the end of the article) however, pups usually are super new to the gay world whereas twinks are not.
Though they share some similarities to cubs, pups are not involved in the bear community and likely do not even know this community exists.
You often hear seasoned gay men tell very young gay men who are just coming out things like, "You are just a young pup—you have a lot to learn." or "You are just a pup—you’re just a baby!"
Celebrity Pup: Joe Jonas
Early 20-something Joe Jonas is a good example of a pup body type. Joe and his brother Nick starred in their own Disney Channel Original Series, Jonas.
Taylor Lautner (Twilight series) and Sterling Beaumon (Astro Boy) are other pup body type examples.
Super massive body-builders
Often found in herds
In the gay community, bulls are body builders that weigh between 215 and 300 pounds. They are not necessarily part of the bear community and usually herd together as a bull might in its natural environment.
Celebrity Bull: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the 40-something California-born movie star and wrestler, is a good example of a bull body type. He used to be a professional wrestler with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF).
30-something, Australian-born actor Chris Hemsworth, based on his appearance in the movie Thor, is another good example of a potential bull body type. Hemsworth stands at a whopping 6'4, and his weight has varied between 195 and 215 pounds according to recent interviews.
The Twink and the Twunk
Lean but muscular
Same as above
In gay terms, twinks are younger, slim men with minimal body hair and no hair on the face. They’re usually between 18 and the mid-20’s, give or take a few years. A wrap on the twink is that many think the world revolves around them.
Twunks are a more muscular version of twinks, and some have assigned feminine and masculine characteristics to twunks. For example, sugar twunk describes an affectionate twunk.
Some make the mistake of confusing twinks and twunks with tweakers when they’re actually not related. Tweakers are younger gay men that use party drugs, like E and crystal meth and are very thin as a result of not eating enough. However, one does not need to be a tweaker to tweak.
Celebrity Twink or Twunk: Justin Bieber
Justin Bieber has at times exhibited both a twink and a twunk body type, depending on what photograph you’re looking at of him and when the photo was taken.
The Gym Bunny
Usually under 50, related to gym rats; often considered pretty
Gym bunnies are native to both straight and gay worlds. They can be any age but are usually younger than 50. Gym bunnies spend an obsessive amount of time working on their physique and are muscular and sculpted as a result.
Bunnies are similar to jocks except that their fitness is not usually connected to sports. They work out to create a physique others will notice and look at. You will often find gym bunnies at the beach, and they are typically considered pretty.
Celebrity Gym Bunny: Shemar Moore
Shemar Moore might be a good example of a gym bunny body. You might recall him from the soap opera Young and the Restless and he now appears on CBS's Criminal Minds.
Physique associated with sports
For gay men, jocks are almost always considered attractive, muscular males with low body fat. A jock can be of any age, but they are generally considered to be younger because of their athletic abilities, and they are usually linked to playing sports and being active.
Years ago, the term "jock" used to have a negative connotation in the straight world. However, for gays, being called a jock is a compliment.
Celebrity Jock: David Beckham
David Beckham, the English-born footballer (soccer player) is a good example of a jock body type.
The Gym Rat
Men addicted to working out
Gym rats are somewhat similar to gym bunnies but are distinguished by their addiction to working out. While they may enjoy attention from others in public, that is not their motivation for being fit. Their primary motive for long, daily lifting sessions relates more to an obsessive need to get bigger. They are typically lean and very well-built. Like a rat lives in the basement, gym rats live at the gym and are always there. The straight equivalent would be a muscle head.
Gym bunnies and gym rats are closely related. Again, the primary difference is that gym bunnies care most about sculpting their bodies, whereas gym rats are typically concerned with adding muscle size in hopes of becoming a bull.
Not Everyone Fits Into a Neat Category
There has always been disagreement within the gay community around descriptive terms for body types and their associated characteristics. It is possible that some readers could feel they don’t fall into any of the above categories.
If this is the case, there is always the "average" category, which is an area that many gay men fall into and simply means that the person is average in most areas, including body weight, height, and hairiness.
Note that the term "daddy" not used here. This is because a "daddy" is not connected to a specific body type. Wolves, bears, chubs, and otters can all technically be daddies.
A great video to stream or download is The Adonis Factor, a documentary that goes into fairly deep detail on gay body types.
Questions & Answers
Question: I am young. Most of my body hair is on my legs, my upper body barely has any hair, and I have a bit of a belly. What am I?
Answer: You are an otter mixed with a wolf.
Question: I'm slim, no muscle build, and I have a few hairs on my stomach and mustache. What am I?
Answer: A wolf
Question: I am slim and flexible, not too much hair and 62. In which category do I fit best?
Answer: Sounds like you are a silver fox.
Question: I am slim with a small tummy bulge and hairy chest. Am 56 years. What am I called?
Answer: A bear
Question: What does it mean when someone says they have a buzzed body?
Answer: It means they take a clipper to their body hair and trim it.
Question: I am slim, not too much hair, and 45. In which category do I fit best?
Answer: Still in the bear family.
© 2014 John Hollywood