Gay male type



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.

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 slang has become more and more common over the has become a real language, no matter if you are straight or gay, you probably know what it means.

Surprisingly, most slang comes from the animal world and the use of these words today is more common than if by chance you don’t know what the word “twink” or “bear” means, we have prepared this dictionary specifically for you.

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Only one kind of sex turns me on—and i can never have it

I’m a bisexual woman. When I was 11 or 12, my family was at a theme park. While we were waiting in line for a ride, two men in front of us in line started making out. It was nothing inappropriate, and it wasn’t a big deal because no one in my family is homophobic. I watched them out of the corner of my eye for a minute. To my memory, it’s the most sexually aroused I’ve ever been. (I almost had to excuse myself to go to the public bathroom and try to rub one out.)

Since then, my biggest “turn-on” is gay men. At first, I could get by and was still turned on by me having sex with men and women and thinking about it, but now it’s impossible. I always have to think about two guys together to “get there.” And I exclusively watch guy-on-guy porn while masturbating. It’s gotten to the point where I’d rather just masturbate than actually have sex with someone. Even when I’m being penetrated vaginally, I like to think that I’m a guy being fucked by another guy. (I’m definitely not trans—besides this, I love being a woman and have never had any kind of dysphoric thought or desire to transition.)

I even seek out media featuring gay men, like books, movies, and music, although I do it secretly because I don’t want to come off as some kind of weirdo. I feel guilty for fetishizing gay men, but it also feels like I can’t help it—the more I try to resist, the more it turns me on. I’ve dated bisexual men, and we’ve had MMF threesomes, but bi men are very rare in my area, not all of them are into group sex (understandably), it’s all a pain to set up, and to be honest I’m not all that crazy about threesomes, either.

I don’t have the greatest health insurance, and therapy is expensive. I did try to see a “sex-positive” therapist who was very woke, but after I tearfully confessed my fetish she shamed me for fetishizing gay men and making their lives harder, and called me a homophobe while I sat there and sobbed. So I can’t imagine telling anyone else about this. I do have diagnosed OCD, if that matters.

Is there a way to get rid of this very distressing fetish so I can go back to enjoying sex?

The scare quotes around “sex-positive” to describe that therapist are apt. It is chilling that someone who behaved that way has ostensibly devoted her life to service. There is nothing positive about shaming a client for her desires, no matter how they deviate from the generic script of pro-social conduct pushed by supposedly well-intentioned people. Desires and fantasies are, for many of us, largely out of our control and, in their raw, immaterial form, innocuous. When they become problems is when they manifest as potential harm to others, like in the case of someone determined to act out their abusive fantasies. In the realm of thoughts and fantasies, your interest in gay male sex is benign. It has little practical possibility of becoming a reality, and you aren’t really pursuing what practical possibility it does have (i.e., in the MMF threesomes that are difficult to set up and underwhelming to you, at any rate). I think the main thing to be cautious of when you have an intense sexual interest (that many would refer to as a “type”) is that you may focus on the traits that excite you (a big dick, blond hair, dark skin) to the extent that you ignore the person they are attached to. That is how a trait-based fetish can make someone’s life harder. In your case, because you are not a gay man, you aren’t having gay male sex during which you could objectify the humanity out of a person. Your fantasies are not making anyone’s life harder, except for yours because of the distress they are causing you. And if in fact you are patronizing the porn of gay male sex workers by, for example, subscribing to their OnlyFans accounts, then, in your small, one-person way, you are actually making their lives easier. I entirely reject the feedback you received from this therapist, and I urge you to find a new one. Maybe try a gay guy! That would be so you.

Ridding yourself of an unwanted desire is not particularly easy and, outside of the realm of the anti-social, probably not worth the effort. Since you’re so into gays, I’m sure you’re aware of conversion therapy’s low success rate and legacy of trauma. For a previous column, social psychologist Justin Lehmiller told me about a method sometimes employed to rid someone of unwanted sexual desires that involves that person masturbating to right before climax and then switching images or fantasies to a desired one as they orgasm. Lehmiller described the success rate of this, however, as “modest at best.”

If your desires weren’t bothering you or interfering with your sex life, I’d tell you to stay on the dudes-doing-dudes beat. (I’m a fan of it myself!) But it does seem to be presenting an issue in interpersonal intimacy. I don’t think fantasizing during sex is bad or wrong, and it can be extremely useful for inducing orgasm, but ideally, you’d be having connected sex with your partner. Not always possible, I know, but something to strive for. You might just be someone who prefers masturbation over sex. There’s nothing wrong with that, and it’s fairly common. Embracing this part of yourself would certainly make matters less fraught, but again, I advise you to seek a different therapist with more compassion. It can be hard to find one, especially factoring in insurance limitations, but it’s not impossible. Keep trying.

gay male type 61RywIq 1

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My husband and I have been married for a few years now, and we have been poly for a little over a year. Every time we start to date around or try to find a third, he gets almost fixated. It’s all he thinks or talks about. We wake up in the morning and he’s on Tinder, or he’s constantly checking his notifications throughout the day. I try to bring it up to him, but he either denies it completely or tries to say I’m on my phone just as much. I’ve tried to communicate with him about how fixated he gets on trying to get with these other women, but he always just tells me I’m jealous. I’m tired of trying to communicate, I’m tired of always trying to get his attention. I just don’t know what to do anymore. It’s starting to seem like he just wants these new women instead of me.

I believe your husband is chasing and reveling in what people in the poly community refer to as NRE, or “new relationship energy.” (It’s also sometimes called limerence.) The newness of your husband’s fixation is one of the few things you by definition cannot provide to him as a long-term partner, and it is, I think, one of the main draws of a nonmonogamous lifestyle. When harmonious, such a lifestyle provides the stability of an established relationship and the excitement of the unknown. It’s like having the marriage and honeymoon at once and theoretically, forever. A true best-of-both worlds situation.

But like so much magic, it has a price. This way of life requires diligent upkeep, and your husband is slacking off in his emotional chores. Poly expert Elisabeth Sheff wrote a brief piece on this issue for Psychology Today. While many come to recognize a partner’s NRE and accept it for what it is—an intense passing fancy—those experiencing it have an obligation to show their partner that their avowed priorities remain fixed. Writes Sheff:

Ignoring a beloved of 20 years in favor of a new flame of two weeks has created difficulties for so many poly relationships that community wisdom dictates overcompensating with the longer-term partner to avoid even the appearance of taking that person for granted.

To retain the closeness of long-term relationships, poly folks tend to make an extra effort to do special things for their partners of many years. This generally includes scheduling date nights, bringing flowers and other small gifts, paying attention, giving compliments, initiating sex in new and exciting ways, and generally proving in every possible way that they still highly value their long-term relationships.

If your husband wants the best of both worlds, as his behavior and lifestyle imply, he’s going to have to do better. He owes it to you to take your concerns seriously and to give you the attention you desire. Find a moment when you are in a peaceful, compassionate place with him, and ask him to read the above-linked piece by Sheff. See if it provokes a discussion, if he can recognize the behavior described in himself, and if he’ll make the overcompensating efforts prescribed. Self-awareness is a rare commodity, and sometimes people need to be shown how they’re coming off in order to understand it. So get nudging.

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I have a deformed leg. It’s not noticeable unless I’m standing or walking. I also love casual sex and don’t have time for relationships. Prior to the pandemic, I’d go out every weekend with friends and watch them all go home with different guys while I went home alone. I’ve had a lot of instances of guys chatting me up and asking me to go home with them, and then, as soon as I stand up to leave with them, they remember they have to get up early for work. It’s not a big deal—I’m the first person to say my leg is unattractive—but it is annoying.

Because of this, I’ve only been able to have sex with guys whom I know or who are in my friend circle, already know me, and are “attracted to my personality” rather than my looks. That’s fine, but I’m running out of male friends and it does make things awkward because I’d prefer to bang a guy and never see him again. I just want to have random one-night stands (post-pandemic) without having to “get to know” the guy for him to be attracted to me.

I know that as an unattractive woman I could try to go for less attractive men, but I’ve tried that, and I can never enjoy sex with men I’m not attracted to. The ones I am attracted to are not interested in my leg. I have a decent face and a great body that I work very hard to maintain. I’ll eventually have surgery to fix my leg, but it won’t be for a few more years and I don’t know if I can wait that long! How do I get some? I wanna hit it and quit it!!

If you’ve only had sex with guys whom you know, then the hit-it-and-quit-it lifestyle you aspire to is merely theoretical. You cannot say it would be right for you without actually having experienced it. There’s a chance that, if you were able to bang with the frequency you claim to desire, you’d find yourself quickly acquainted with the shortcomings of that way of life: clingy partners who don’t (or won’t) get the message that yours was supposed to be a one-time thing, the emotional awkwardness as you transition from spending a burst of time extremely up close with someone to never wanting to see them again, the at-least-occasionally unsatisfying sex with a partner with whom you have no chemistry but don’t realize it until after the clothes are crumpled on the floor. This is not an attack on casual sex, which I think is a fun hobby and potentially soul-nourishing—I’m just trying to give you some grass-is-only-greener perspective.

(If I’m interpreting this wrong and you have had casual sex with randoms, then it is indeed possible, just perhaps more difficult given your disability. Not everyone is going to have the amount of sex that they wish for, and managing disappointment is a crucial part of life.)

You might, however, increase your prospects and/or the efficiency of nailing them down, so to speak, by using apps in which you announce your disability upfront in your profile. It may yield fewer takers than a profile that doesn’t mention it because people are dicks and afraid of difference, but at least it would eliminate the excuses that you hear from guys who were interested until you revealed your leg. You might look for a partner who also is differently abled—he’d probably be more understanding about your leg, for one thing. There are plenty of hot guys with disabilities out there.

The rejection you’ve experienced is unfortunate, but I’m glad that you are taking it in stride, as you claim. I’m bummed to read you refer to yourself as an “unattractive woman,” which sounds like a distortion—although, given the way you have been treated, your rationale for arriving there is understandable. You have a “decent” face and a “great body,” and you find yourself in the company of guys who are interested in sex with you until your reveal. I don’t think your leg defines your beauty—you’re just meeting people who don’t have the maturity or empathy to handle it. Don’t let them define your beauty either. They don’t deserve to have that power.

I’m in the best relationship of my life. I’ve always lived quite a sexually open life before now; I’ve had one-night stands and relationships of various levels of emotional attachment, nothing life-changing. My current partner is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I’d list a load of cheesy stuff, but really I’m just confident that this relationship is what I want and he makes me happy. I’ve never had that before; I always wondered if it was right.

He tells me that his past is similar to mine. Several relationships, some casual, some less. He has given me no reason not to trust that. But I can’t believe him. I feel certain that there’s someone he loved more than me, someone he’d rather be with (someone more literally anything). The little information I do have about his past I store up, and when I feel down it plays around and around in my head like some slideshow that just drives me insane. I get upset and I take it out on him. I try to challenge my thoughts and ask why he’d still be with me if this were the case—surely he’d leave and find something that lives up to what he’d experienced? I know what I’m doing is irrational and hypocritical. I have a past, and everyone has a past, and I have to accept this. I’ve been in counseling for over a year now. I’ve tried talking to friends and family and my partner. I just want to let this go.

The otter

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.

gay male type 78jKzr 1

The wolf

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.

The bear

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.

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The cub

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.

The chub

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.

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The pup

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!"


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.

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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.

The jock

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.

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Some final thoughts

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.


I assume I’m a bear? I’m 5’9 with a belly, lots of hair, but I also exercise so have some muscle. I’m too old to be a cub and too young to be a polar bear.

I am gay male cub i want to be with a otter are bear guys it been my dream hairy beared a re scuffle

Yeah, I’m an otter working my way towards wolfhood as I enter my 30ies.

Anyone got info on what all of this means? Also, where could I find the terminology for our behavior and what we like

Typical, especially in the USA, everyone is defined by how they look, or how much money they make instead of being judged by the kind of person they are.

Is there a way to switch from different ones? Like from otter to wolf etc. I am happy with mine (Wolf) but I am still wondering.

i have a little belly, but not very large overall. im rather hairy and im young. what am i?

I am slim to average, no muscles, hair on armpits and stomache. What am i?

I am 20 y. o. I have a belly and I am kinda hairy (legs, arms, chest + I have beard) but I dont have masculine side I cub or otter?

I’m in my early 20s, I have a bit of hair on my arms and legs but I shave the rest off, and I have a bit of a belly. which tribe do I fit into?

Ok so I’ve always called myself a twink, but I’m not skinny, I’m regularly described as "thicc" and have minimal body hair (arms, legs and a little on my tummy) I’d like to know if there’s a better lable I could use?

Hello I’m turning 19 next month I’m 5’1”, slim, hairy but mostly on my legs little on my arms and very little on my chest, I can grow a beard if I want to. I like running but I’m not particularly fond of lifting weights. Does anybody know what I am

Im gonna turn 23, i do a lot of sports. Im kinda chunky. I dont have haire on my torso neither am i able to grow a beard (which im dying for bur here goes nothing)

And im having some troubles to fit any trib… im mostly into bears and also into otter sometimes, more into muscle bear gotta say. But the people i have a real connection with are not part of the lgbt community…

Anyway hope someone can tell me what some kind of hairless cub lr anytjing i am

If i am young, slim, with some athletic build, charismatic, and masculine, what am I?

I have some of hair in my legs and stomach, i am slim and 19 yd, my face have no hair

Most of hair is on chest and a little on lower body.

Examples would be: Matt Frasier (the CrossFit champion), young Vin Diesel with hair.

I have some chest hair, but mostly hairless (except for a decent beard)

I’m 26, 5’6 in feet and inches and 182 pounds with a chubby frame, some hairs on chest and belly, yet develop easily a soft beard and a lot of legs hairs.

I am 38, 5’10" tall, Asian, with facial hair, belly and hairy body. I guess I am supposed to be a cub?

Where would you place a guy in his late 20’s maybe early 30’s who is tall (188cm ~6′ 2) VERY well built (somewhere between lean and ripped, without being bulky) and no body or facial hair (very long head hair though).

I’m Chub very smooth body hairy where it counts. Love all kind of Men.

I am 21 and I have hair at legs but not at body and I’m slim, which category do I fall?

I’m kind of masculine, the only hair I have is on my head, and I have a small belly.

I’m teenager have a lot of hair in my legs but don’t have on my chest and have long

Jack Black is bad enough but John Travolta and John Goodman? So gross, guys without muscular or super slim bodies will see this and and destroy their confidence comparing themselves to these terrible examples.

i’m 5’6”. Not very hairy. 150 pounds. Slightly muscular. Am I a twunk? I hope to be an otter some day.

im 5’2, slender with a small bit of chub in the tummy/thigh, and no hair. im also a bottom switch, what am i?

I am 6’6" and 290lbs. I am moderately hairy and 55. Do bears have to have a beard or other facial hair? I can’t take that due to sensitive skin. Also, I have a large stomach. Am I a chub or a bear?

Idk what i am. I dont care much about labels but i am curious to know. I am 22 yo 6ft tall. I have a small goatee with some hair on my chest like very little. I have a small belly so i am not an otter but i am way smaller compared to a cub. Am i just a mix?

I guess I’d consider myself an otter. Usually I’m not too picky with types unless you’re too skinny or obese and completely hairless.

I’m young, like under 18, and am very scrawny with legit no muscle and barely any body hair and no facial hair. Like legit no muscle you can count my ribs. No fat or muscle. What am I???

I’m young, as in below 20, with nearly zero facial and body hair, but my head hair is very long and reaches past my shoudlers. However, I am also very big being 6 foot and 250-300 lbs with not much muscle.

ok. here we go, so im like really thin, super tall tho like 5’11. i have a light brown skin color but what does that matter, I have those skinny guy abs but have never been to a gym in my life nor do i watch what i eat. like im so thin. I HATE IT. legit lol

Joe Manganiello is not hairy at all, never has been. A poor example of a wolf.

i am filipino slim 5’7 bear help me to find partner a tall pretty boy daddy gay man sexy sporty look nature lover business minded serious and kind below 40 years old

Awesome profile picture, Ritt. I am so glad that you are proud to be a gay wolf.

I am a#gaywolf and proud of it. So much variety of men, how lucky can a guy be.

I’m slim with a little bit of belly most of my hair is on my legs. I have some chest and belly hair but not a lot. And a large body massage mostly being untoned muscle. What am I?

Bill S. Have you considered examining your ability to properly use the english language?

Our obsession with categories and labels has taken a disgusting turn. This is why gay men have so many issues, aspects like this is what makes me hate the gay community.

Lol at the people freaking out over the ‘labels.’. These are just ways of describing physical attributes and many or most people have their preferences in terms physical attraction. These aren’t judgements of character. Sure, it’s what’s on the inside that matters most but if it’s a hook-up, I find twinks unnattractive and older beefy bearded guys very attractive. I can’t help what my body is and isn’t aroused by.

Confusing says otters are thin cubs are chunky but otters are nit smaller than cubs

This kind of article is very annoying! People are people stop labeling! Hot is when someone is confident in what they have and is based on another person’s perspective. If they don’t want you move on, oh well, their loss! Be your own gay make a new style for yourself! Set a new trend

I’m not sure what I’m classified as.57 hairy , 188 pounds , my body hair I’d Brown turning white, bald on top of head the rest is silver/white

To many fat guys try to be called Bears. They are Chubs and Super Chubs and get pissed when guys that spend time in the gym won’t have sex with them. They cry discrimination rather than they lack the will power to make themselves attractive to the group they desire. Put down the fudge pop and hit the gym!

A perfect celebrity example of a Gym Rat would be Terry Crews

Yes. Otters!!! Didn’t have a scoobie so Googledand read your brilliant article.

I had no clue to what a Otter referred to. Reading your article in lightened me about several categories of men. Thanks

Neither my two best friends nor I fit neatly into any type

We’re not going lose any sleep over this or write a diatribe

great info. After reading it, I could easily describe myself as an otter 🙂 but I’ll try to be a cub hehe

im not sure where I fit in. I have a cub build but im not the least bit hairy. I really trying to find where I belong.

I am on the rare poll: wolf. I am lean and muscular.

hmm hard for me to put myself in. I am thin/ lean, and have medium body hair, not enough to be otter, but I am not masculine enough to be a wolf. where would you put

I know this is an old article but I will actually get to use this for a scientific article im writing. So thanks for this and the super helpful charts!

I’m not gay or male, but wanted to add the point that your description of Jack Black as young or youngish in your list of descriptors is (unfortunately for him) a laugh!

Um I am none of those and find the entire idea of being pigeonholed by looks or any other way just so shallow and superficial. It’s part of the reason I completely reject the gay community these days even though I am of homosexual orientation. To be judged scrutinised and categorised in this way is repugnant. It’s all about other gay men figuring out how fuckable you are.

Why all the cathergories above revolve around a body type and why 90% of them include a worked out body? Then, if you don’t have a ripped body and you have a belly then you’re most likely a bear or if you’re lanky and slim then you’re a twink. But why isn’t there anything in between? I find all this very reductive.

Im 34 yrs old , 6 feet tall , 190 pounds ,naturally smooth except for my legs .

You need to add the lion… a little less fit but not heavy, a little hairy, compared to Lucian Paine, they prefer to be top

Don’t forget about the panda are my favorite 🙂 these are the Asian bears, while usually less hairy, they typically have facial hair and are a little heavier.

Brian from Northern Michigan Reed City on May 02, 2016:

Thank you for posting this. I had no idea there We’re so many types. And it helped me figure out that I seem to fit into the otter spectrum so according to the definitions I’d most Likely day I’m a Potter. Add I’m also quite new to the gay scene. Thanks again.

None of these describe me. I can’t be pigeon holed.

Great article! I enjoyed reading through all you had to say. I guess I would technically be a "Sugar Cub" but i’m alright with that. Great job.

I don’t see any problem in assuming i’m wicked and bitter. That’s typical of underestimated minorities.

John Hollywood (author) from Hollywood, CA on September 26, 2015:

Sounds like you have anger management issues to work on.

Lol, as if people can enter into case. But if you speak of people or community in term of animal totems, wath you write can be really frustrating. The world offer so much more diversity.

I’m a very tall, skinny dandy with facial hair and cynical attitude, so what I am? A fucked-up twunk?

Okey, I gonna make my own subcategory, I’m a greyhound. I’m just so proud beeing the leader of a group which I’m the only member, I c’an’t stop enjoying it darling 😉

John Hollywood (author) from Hollywood, CA on August 30, 2015:

So like I’m a pup I suppose. But my partner is a grease monkey kinda guy. You know. He is always fixing (well breaking) the cars. And and loves to over gel his hair. So I dont know wjat category he falls under.

You people need to grow up and stop trying to define who you are based on your sexuality, weight, age, body type, hair, and gender. They’re traits. .. not definitions of self. So over the gays that abandon their real selves to be one of these labels. Then scream its just me! This is who I am!

John Hollywood (author) from Hollywood, CA on June 15, 2015:

This was totally worth the read just to look at True Blood Boy’s picture. Haaawt!! I effing love gay men- they make the best girlfriends- they shoot it straight which I love.

John Hollywood (author) from Hollywood, CA on June 01, 2015:

these guys with the nicknames suited them very well

My body type = gummy bear. cute, small, soft, squishy and hairless.

I had a great time laughing at this one! I go for the jock type of course, especially David Beckham 🙂

John Hollywood (author) from Hollywood, CA on May 17, 2015:

You did not offend at all and I am glad you posted. Thanks for taking the time to share!

I agree with commentors about Pups. They are not usually new and naïve. They are related more to the leather community, and are easily in their 20’s – 30’s, sometimes even more. And are MORE away if the community than twins, not less.

And I see an age contradiction when you called an "older / aging wolf" as someone in his mid-40’s, and then later gave Jack Black as an example of a young cub. Jack is 45. Same as that ‘aging wolf’.

Lastly – you gave ‘masculinity’ as an important and key feature of being a bear. That’s almost laughable. And this is not to put down bears, but a large percentage of bears are so NOT masculine. You could claim it’s a key feature of wolves, and some other categories. But not a "key" feature of bears.

Now, I know you iterated that these are generalities, and that there will always be disagreements, but I felt compelled to comment that even as generalities, I disagree with those 3 aspects – as I have been around all of the above during my 40 years of being ‘out’.

BTW – I would have described ‘twunk’ as a twink who already has qualities of a hunk. I think that’s what you were getting at anyway but missed using the actually word ‘hunk’ – thus the name TWUNK.

Sorry, Didn’t mean to be so critical. A lot of good info there. Thanks.

Fun article and more accurate than lots on this subject I think. It’s maybe a sign of the ageism in our culture that there’s no category for average guys. I’ve always wondered what does a Twink become when they grow up? For example, what would Joseph Gordon-Levitt be?

Well, there you go! As a gay woman, I was aware of some of these, but not all. I guess we do like to label ourselves occasionally, and these make sense of some of the terms I hear in the community, but didn’t get. I do now

John Godwin from Athens, Georgia USA on April 23, 2015:

Colin Garrow from Inverbervie, Scotland on April 23, 2015:

Have to say I’m not a great fan of labels, but I suppose it’s natural for some folk to want to hang a ‘type’ badge onto particular people. Whatever churns your cheese.

John Hollywood (author) from Hollywood, CA on April 21, 2015:

John Hollywood (author) from Hollywood, CA on April 21, 2015:

I don’t run that survey – and "bear in mind" it’s humor:)

John Hollywood (author) from Hollywood, CA on April 21, 2015:

This was a fun read through and majority of it is fact safe to say..

Interesting…However, on your gay cliques survey, if I put in my stats but only change my age, I get everything from bull to muscle bear to daddy as age increases. You state that, in terms of density, bulls are mostly muscle, muscle bears are muscly and daddies are soft body. This assumes increasing percentage of body fat in terms of body composition with age. This is not true for everyone. I agree with the daddy part as I am 58 except that I am anything but soft body. Most people looking at me would say I am extremely muscular, being a very solid 230 lbs. at 6 feet tall. I know a number of older guys that are very similar. So your conclusion of soft body for all daddies is just plainly wrong or you need another category of daddy such as muscle daddy or? Truthfully I have never considered myself a muscle bear as I consider muscle bears carry a significant amount of body fat more than I do even when I’m "off season" your description in the article, I feel that I would be more in the bull category as I have a bodybuilder build, definitely not soft body. So how do you reconcile this problem in the gay cliques survey?

You got it so wrong… Ugh John Travolta is no iconic bear… maybe Rustle Crowe, especially these days. Maybe Nick Frost, he’s widely considered a bear, but it could be argued he’s a chub.

Wolves haven’t been a thing for 10 years… I’ve never even heard of "bulls" pups are not "younger" just smaller and submissive and playful fuzzy types. Like otters, but subs.

Also, you didn’t have to use the worst picture ever as john goodman as a chub geezuz, though the category is at least accurate for him.

John Hollywood (author) from Hollywood, CA on April 20, 2015:

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Gay men in relationships are often overlooked in HIV prevention efforts, yet many engage in sexual behaviors that increase their HIV risk and some seroconvert as a result. While different aspects of gay male relationships have been studied, such as sexual agreements, relationship characteristics, and couple serostatus, little research combines these elements to examine HIV risk for this population. The present study recruited 566 gay male couples from the San Francisco Bay Area to study their sexual agreements, motivations behind making agreements, and other relationship characteristics, such as agreement investment, relationship satisfaction, intimacy, and communication. Participants rated their level of concurrence with a set of reasons for making their agreements. They were also measured on relationship characteristics using standard instruments. Analyses were conducted by agreement type (monogamous, open, and discrepant) and couple serostatus (concordant negative, concordant positive, and discordant). A majority reported explicitly discussing their agreements and nearly equal numbers reported being in monogamous and open relationships. A small number (8%) reported discrepant agreements. Across all agreement type and serostatus groups, HIV prevention as a motivator for agreements fell behind every motivator oriented toward relationship-based factors. Only concordant negative couples endorsed HIV and STD prevention among their top motivators for making an agreement. Mean scores on several relationship characteristics varied significantly. Couples with monogamous agreements had higher scores on most relationship characteristics, although there was no difference in relationship satisfaction between couples with monogamous and open agreements. Scores for concordant positive couples were distinctly lower compared to concordant negative and discordant couples. Agreements, the motivations behind them, and the relationship characteristics associated with them are an important part of gay male relationships. When examined by agreement type and couple serostatus, important differences emerge that must be taken into account to improve the effectiveness of future HIV prevention efforts with gay couples.

How to use gay in a sentence

“I do not support gay marriages being recognized in Florida,” he wrote Andrew Walther of Sanford.

That man was Xavier Cortada, a gay man who wrote of his frustration that he and his partner of eight years were unable to marry.

Some gay apps, like the newer Mister, have not subscribed to the community/tribe model.

Meanwhile, in Florida, Bush was flooded with questions about whether gay marriage could possibly come to the Sunshine State.

In the 70s, this myth kept openly gay people out of teaching positions.

Am I not in France—gay, delightful France—partaking of the kindness and civility of the country?

After a moment’s silence, the cavaliers both burst into a gay laugh.

Never had Tom seen his gay and careless cousin in such guise: he was restless, silent, intense and inarticulate.

If it had not been for the presence of Mademoiselle Stéphanie, it would not have been gay for Aristide.

The box of the diplomatic corps was just opposite us, and our gay little Mrs. F. sat in it dressed in white satin.

Why Do “Left” And “Right” Mean Liberal And Conservative?

From “5G” to “Zaddy”: Adds Over 300 New Words And Definitions

“Misinformation” vs. “Disinformation”: Get Informed On The Difference

What’s The Difference Between Atheism And Agnosticism?

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Researchers have documented the psychological and physical health benefits of being in a relationship among heterosexuals, although there has been limited research to examine such benefits among gay and bisexual men. Gay and bisexual men demonstrate considerable variety in the nature of their relationships, particularly in terms of the degree to which they are monogamous. In order to better understand the psychological and behavioral impact of same-sex relationships on the health of gay and bisexual men, demographic characteristics, psychological factors, sexual behavior, and substance use data were examined in a sample of 819 gay and bisexual men who self-identified as single (n=503) or were classified as being in monogamous (n=182), open (n=71) or monogamish (n=63) relationships. Monogamish relationships were those in which both men have agreed that any sexual activity with casual partners must happen when both members of the couple are present and involved (e.g., “threeways” or group sex). Findings indicated that being in a same-sex relationship had health benefits compared to being single among gay and bisexual men. Men in monogamous relationships reported the least amount of substance use compared to all other groups, and less substance use during sex than single men or men in open relationships. Men in monogamish relationships demonstrated psychological and sexual health benefits relative to single men and men in open relationships. Gay and bisexual men in monogamish relationships more closely resembled those in monogamous relationships, in terms of psychological and sexual health benefits, rather than men in open relationships, suggesting that varying forms of non-monogamy should be explored for their relevance to health behaviors.


Research indicates that being in a relationship improves both psychological and physical health (Robles & Keicolt-Glaser, 2003Wilson & Oswald, 2002). However, most of this research has examined only monogamous heterosexual relationships. Limited research has explored the benefits of partnered relationships among gay men, and even less research has explored these associations within different gay male relationship arrangements (e.g., sexually monogamous versus sexually open relationships). Research on these topics is needed insofar as gay men commonly report engaging in both conventional (monogamous) and non-conventional (non-monogamous) relationship arrangements (LaSala, 2005). Here, we examined whether the benefits of partnership extend to gay male couples and, further, if they were exclusive to sexually monogamous arrangements.

Much evidence supports the physical and psychological benefits of being in a partnered, heterosexual relationship (Shoenborn, 2004), particularly for men (Ross, Mirowsky, & Goldsteen, 1990). Partnered or married heterosexuals report better physical health (Manzoli, Lamberto, Villari, Pirone, & Boccia, 2007Ross et al., 1990Williams & Umberson, 2004), less psychological distress (Horwitz, White, & Howell-White, 1996), less depression (Hyoun & McKenry, 2002Lamb, Lee, & DeMaris, 2003), and overall greater life satisfaction and happiness (Mastekaasa, 1992) compared to single heterosexuals. On average, partnered individuals also report engaging in fewer unhealthy behaviors (e.g., substance use, alcohol consumption) than singles (Duncan, Duncan, & Strycker, 2006Fendrich & Vaughn, 1994). Those with partners also have significantly lower mortality rates than their single counterparts (Johnson, Backlund, Sorlie, & Loveless, 2000). Likely, these positive effects are moderated by relationship characteristics and quality. Converging evidence indicates the health benefits of partnership may not extend to those in unhappy partnerships. In fact, individuals reporting negative relationship dynamics or relationships dissatisfaction are more likely to have lower clinical and self-reported health measures, lower satisfaction with life, and higher mortality rates than those in healthier relationships (Coyne et al., 2001Friedman et al., 1995Holt-Lunstad, Birmingham, & Jones, 2008). At present we know the positive effects of partnership on well-being are not culture-specific. Diener, Gohm, Suh, and Oishi (2000) found only small effect sizes of culture on individuals’ overall positive experience of marriage. As the benefits of partnership generalize across cultures, it is possible they also generalize across sexual orientation.

There is very little research comparing the psychological health of partnered versus single gay and bisexual men. In the Urban Men’s Health Study, researchers found that partnered MSM reported less distress and depression than single MSM (Mills et al., 2004). To date, no studies have been published testing the specific hypothesis that partnered and single gay and bisexual men will report differential psychological health. Similarly, most behavioral health indices (e.g. substance use rates) have not been compared among single and partnered gay and bisexual men. Given the findings that partnership is associated with psychological and behavioral health benefits among heterosexuals, it is reasonable to believe partnered gay and bisexual men will report similar health benefits when compared to single gay and bisexual men.

Available evidence suggests that gay male relationships have the potential for some behavioral health risks, particularly related to HIV. This research has shown consistently that gay men in relationships report more unprotected anal intercourse (UAI) with their primary partner than single men report with their casual male partners (Crepaz et al., 2000Koblin et al., 2003). One might traditionally think that UAI in the context of a relationship (versus with casual partners) might lower one’s risk for HIV; however, a study by Sullivan, Salazar, Buchbinder, and Sanchez (2009) found that 52–75%of new HIV infections among gay and bisexual men could be traced back to main partners. Taken together, available evidence suggests that relationship status may result in a unique set of psychological and behavioral benefits and risks for gay couples, underscoring the need for research which examines psychological and behavioral correlates of relationships in this population.

One qualitative study demonstrated that some male same-sex couples enacted relationship arrangements typically not implemented by heterosexual couples (LaSala, 2004). This research has considered two distinct relationship arrangements within gay male partnerships—monogamous, in which neither man in the couple engages in sexual activity with other partners, and open, in which both partners can engage in sex outside the relationship. Open relationships are often explicit, in which both partners have clearly communicated the rules, or lack of rules, regarding sex with others. However, a third relationship arrangement has been observed but not well described in the literature. We call this relationship arrangement monogamish (Parsons & Grov, in press), which includes partners that agree to have sex outside the relationship only while together (via threesomes or group sex activities in which both members of the couple are present). The term monogamish is used to represent a relationship status which is closer to monogamy than open, and is, in part, based on the work of Stacy (2011), who has argued that gay men can be “faithful” to their partners while still sexual with others. Gay men in monogamish relationships are able to have sexual relations with men other than their primary partner, but because they engage in these relations with their partner present, it does not constitute infidelity. Preliminary research indicates that men in gay relationships characterized by open arrangements report similarly high levels of relationship quality and satisfaction as men in monogamous partnerships with other men (LaSala,2005). However, research is needed to replicate and extend these findings, as well as to examine the nature of monogamish relationships.

Research suggests that an understanding of the psychological and behavioral health correlates of relationship arrangements among gay and bisexual men should take into account both age and HIV status. Increasing age has been associated with improvements in depression, anxiety, anger, emotional responsiveness, and self-esteem among gay and bisexual men (Bybee, 2009), as well as increased social (Kertzner, 2009) and psychological (Halpin, 2004) well-being. Increasing age has also been associated with decreased use of substances (Lim et al., 2010) and reduced risk of contracting HIV (CDC, 20082009Lim et al., 2010Sullivan et al., 2009). HIV status has also been associated with increased psychiatric morbidity (Cochran, 2009), including increased depression and anxiety (Ciesla & Roberts, 2001) as well as increased substance use (Greenwood et al., 2001) and sexual risk taking (Van de Ven, Prestage, Crawford, Grulich, & Kippax, 2000).

Therefore, converging evidence suggests that partnered gay and bisexual men may experience a unique set of psychological and behavioral health benefits and risks; however, few studies have thoroughly investigated partnership benefits among partnered gay and bisexual men by comparing them to single men. Further, few studies have considered that gay and bisexual men enact various sexual relationship arrangements that differ from the conventional, relationship arrangement of monogamy, and that these arrangements may be associated with unique risks and benefits with regard to well-being and sexual risk taking behavior.

The purpose of this study was to compare single and partnered gay and bisexual men in three different sexual relationship arrangements on measures of psychological well-being and health behavior. Consistent with past findings that report overall positive effects of partnership, we predicted a main effect for partnership, such that men in relationships would report significantly better scores on measures of psychological well-being, regardless of sexual relationship arrangement. We also anticipated that sexual behavior with casual partners would vary across relationship arrangement groups in ways that validated our classification scheme (i.e., distinguishing between open vs. monogamish forms of non-monogamy). Specifically, we anticipated that open men would have an increased odds of sex with a casual partner compared with monogamish men (because open men are able to engage in sex with casual partners both with and without their main partners) while monogamish men would have an increased odds of having sex with a casual partner while their main partner is present relative to open men (since this is the only avenue by which monogamish men may have sex with casual partners). Due to the need for partner presence and consent, we anticipated that the odds of UAI for monogamish men would be lower than that of open men or single men. Because the demand characteristics of monogamous and open relationships are clear (monogamous men cannot have casual partner sex without violating their perceived arrangement while open men can), we predicted that open and monogamous men would experience lower levels of psychological conflict around sex with casual partners compared with monogamish men (who must negotiate casual partner sex with their main partner in order to avoid violations of their arrangement). Finally, with regard to substance use, we predicted that, consistent with the more restrictive nature of monogamous and monogamish relationships, men in these relationships would be less likely to use substances and less likely to use substances during sex than open or single men.

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Overall, this preliminary study suggests that there were differences across types of same-sex male relationships and that a simple dichotomy of monogamous versus non-monogamous may be insufficient to fully explain relationship differences. Several differences across relationship agreement groups were identified with regard to psychological and sexual health and substance use, after controlling for HIV status and age of participants. Further, the study supports the notion that being in a relationship—regardless of the nature of the agreements for sex outside the relationship—provides protective health benefits to gay and bisexual men.

Being in a monogamous relationship was associated with benefits in terms of reduced substance use and reduced sexual health risks. Monogamous men reported the least amount of illicit drug use compared to all other men, and less drug use during sex than single men and men in open relationships. In addition, because men in monogamous relationships did not report sex with casual partners, by default they reported no sexual health risks outside of their relationship.

Men in monogamish relationships demonstrated significant benefits relative to both single men and men in open relationships and, in fact, resembled men in monogamous relationships much more so than men in open relationships, adding justification for our use of the term “monogamish.” Monogamish men, in analyses controlling for HIV status and age, showed lower rates of depression and higher life satisfaction compared to single men, suggesting that relationships in which gay couples mutually agree to engage in sexual activity with casual partners together can be quite psychologically healthy. After adjusting for age and HIV status, monogamish and monogamous men differed only in terms of their conflict around casual sex, which is likely due to the clear demand characteristics expected among gay and bisexual men in relationships who have agreed to remain monogamous and not pursue sex with casual partners.

Monogamish men were significantly less likely than both open and single men to report unprotected anal sex with a casual partner. It is possible that engaging in sexual activity with casual partners as a couple, as is the case in monogamish arrangements, serves a protective function in terms of minimizing the likelihood of unprotected anal sex with casual partners. Although monogamous men were the least likely to report using recreational drugs in the past 3 months and before/during sex, neither monogamish nor open men reported higher rates of drug use in the past 3 months or drug use with sex than single men, suggesting that, while these relationships were not protective, they also did not appear to facilitate substance use relative to single status. This was further evidenced by the absence of relationship arrangement group differences in the odds of alcohol use during sex in the past 3 months.

Results suggest that the distinction between open and monogamish relationships is useful. Monogamish relationships were associated with a larger number of indicators of psychological and sexual health relative to open relationships. Although previous research has shown that heterosexuals in partnered relationships have less psychological distress and more life satisfaction than single heterosexuals (Horwitz et al., 1996Mastekaasa, 1992), the present study showed that these benefits differed among partnered gay men depending on the nature of their relationship. Previous studies, which found no difference in level of life satisfaction between monogamous and non-monogamous men (Kurdek, 1988LaSala, 2005Peplau, 1981), did not separate out those who were in open versus monogamish relationships, and thus were unable to identify potential differences.

A substantial number of same-sex male couples have arrangements that are outside of traditional conventions of monogamy. Of the partnered men in the sample, 42.2% were either in open or monogamish relationships. White men, compared to men of color, were more likely to report being in an open or monogamish relationship. It is possible that gay men of color are more focused on having monogamous relationships due to cultural differences, such as greater traditional perceptions of relationships and more conservative gender roles and notions of masculinity which are more prevalent among African-American (Levant, Majors,& Kelley, 1998Pleck, Sonenstein, & Ku, 1994) and Latino (Neff, Prihoda, & Hoppe, 1991) men. More research, however, is needed to better understand the cultural differences in the various types of same-sex male relationships.

There were a number of limitations to the study. The sample may not be generalizable as all data were gathered from gay and bisexual men living in New York City and all participants were recruited from large-scale community-based gay/bisexual events. As participants were recruited individually, we do not have couple-level data in which to verify relationship type or compare behaviors. Due to the nature of the community events at which data were gathered, it is possible that two members of the same couple completed the survey separately; however, we were unable to link (and adjust for) data in such cases. In an effort to rapidly engage participants, many questions were closed-ended or had simple response options. As such, sexual risk behaviors were examined dichotomously; it is possible that there may be more differences in sexual risk across different types of gay relationship arrangements in terms of frequency of acts. In addition, we did not collect data with regard to female casual partners or main partners. There may be important differences in factors associated with behavior with female partners and recent findings have indicated the importance of sexual behavior with main partners (Sullivan et al., 2009). However, these data were collected before the recent findings regarding HIV risk via main partners were published. Furthermore, as these analyses drew from cross-sectional data, causality between variables should not be inferred. Future efforts to better understand the varied types of gay male non-monogamous relationships should be both longitudinal, to explore the evolution of relationship arrangements (e.g., do couples begin monogamous, then progress to being monogamish, and then to being open), and should include both members of the couple in order to better understand the connection between relationship type and outcomes of interest.

This study represents an exploration of how an individual’s perception of couple arrangement was associated with psychological and behavioral outcomes. Data support the conclusion that, among gay and bisexual men in New York City, open and monogamish relationships categories have some meaningful distinctions, and that researchers should attend to variations in relationship arrangement when studying non-monogamous couples so as to not miss these differences. These findings underscore the assertions of LaSala (2005), who encouraged clinicians to be flexible in their ideas about traditional monogamy. They were also consistent with Ritter and Terndrup (2002), who cautioned clinicians to be sensitive to the fact that monogamy may be valued more among heterosexual compared to gay male couples. Clinicians working with gay and bisexual men should be aware of the fact that not all relationship arrangements are associated with the same degree of psychological and behavioral health and risk. Given that arrangements were associated with a variety of factors, interventions to reduce substance use and sexual risk among partnered gay men should be tailored to address the unique strengths and vulnerabilities of these interpersonal contexts. Monogamy and non-monogamy among gay male couples is complicated and cannot be reduced to a simple question of whether or not one has sex only with their primary partner or not. With the recent finding that the majority of new HIV infections among gay and bisexual men occurred in the context of a primary partner relationship (Sullivan et al., 2009), it is even more imperative for sexual health efforts, to understand more fully gay male relationship dynamics, arrangements, and agreements to identify the individual- and couple-level factors that are driving these seroconversions, and partnered gay and bisexual men who also engage in sexual activity with casual partners are a critical group for the development of innovative and novel HIV prevention efforts.


The Sex and Love Study v7.0 was supported by the Hunter College Center for HIV/AIDS Educational Studies and Training (CHEST), under the direction of Dr. Parsons. The authors acknowledge the contributions of other members of the CHEST Sex and Love v7.0 Project Team (Michael Adams, Anthony Bamonte, David S. Bimbi, Chris Hietikko, Catherine Holder, Kevin Robin, Anthony Surace, Julia Tomassilli, and Brooke Wells) and the Drag Initiative to Vanquish AIDS (DIVAs).

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Fetishes you should know.

Two years ago this month, I was sitting on the sofa in my Sir’s living room. It was my birthday. We were getting ready to go to the gym. But first, he said, I should open my presents. Two packages were in front of me on the coffee table.

[RELATED: "30 Kinky Terms Every Gay Man Needs to Know"]

Our relationship had started more than a year earlier with intense monthly BDSM play sessions. After we stopped playing sexually, we continued to go to the gym together and push each other to live healthier. We still go to the gym together, and today I consider him one of my closest friends. He knows what I like — sexually and otherwise — more than most people in my life, so his presents are always top-notch.

Inside the first package was a bottle of twelve-year Glenlivet, one of my favorite single malt whiskies. The second: a Nasty Pig jockstrap. But it was not just any Nasty Pig jock. I sniffed. That distinctly musky, delicious aroma, which can only be found in the playrooms of gay circuit parties and in gyms across the country, lingered in the stitching. “I wore it for a few days,” he said. “You’re welcome.”

You may be asking: What is a fetish, and how is it different from a kink? I clarified these two terms in my list of 30 kinky terms every gay man should know. But I’ll reiterate their distinction here. Kinks are “unconventional” sexual interests, like bondage or paddling. That’s it. Fetishes — also called paraphilias — are objects, materials, features, or articles of clothing, like used jockstraps, that people respond to sexually, and that enhance or facilitate sexual arousal. To clarify: fetish objects are not sexual on their own, like whips or dildos. Fetish objects become sexualized when someone responds to them sexually.

You’ve probably heard of a few obscure fetishes, like high-heeled shoes and rubber duckies. Fetishes are rapidly moving out of their kinky niche and into pop culture. Stay on top of (or under) the trend with this list of 36 fetishes — some well known, others less so — that you need to know about. 

1. leather

Leather is one of the most commonly fetishized materials, and certainly one of the oldest. Tom of Finland’s 1970s drawings of biker boys, clad in impossibly form-fitting leather, solidified leather as a staple of gay culture. Today, the leather community is global, united by national and international leather competitions that celebrate this fetish at gatherings like the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco, International Mr. Leather in Chicago, and Folsom Berlin.

What does a leather event look like? It looks like throngs of men in leather harnesses, jock straps, jackets, boots, gloves, aprons, fully-body uniforms, and other garb. Since many leather fetishists are into many other fetishes and kinks, the leather community is generally considered synonymous with the kink community as a whole. 

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4. used underwear

Used underwear is such common fetish item that big-name escorts, porn stars, and prominent sex figures can usually make a good buck selling their unwashed undies. (Adam Killian, if you’re reading this, I would like to speak with you about a possible business venture.) 

7. uniforms

People who live in the United States are taught from a young age that uniforms should be viewed with respect, especially police uniforms, military uniforms, and firefighter uniforms. These socio-politics of respect naturally morphed into male strippers dressed as firefighters and cops — evidence that uniforms are heavily fetishized by straight and LGBT people alike. 

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9. razors

Shaving the body is typically seen as a nonsexual activity and part of a mundane, un-erotic self-maintenance regimen. But for some, shaving (themselves and others) is extremely arousing. As a sexual activity, shaving would probably be considered a kink rather than a fetish. But trimmers, razors, and other modes of shaving and cutting body hair are fetishized objects, so they deserve a mention. Guys I’ve met that are into this fetish get aroused from the sensation of electric buzzers running against their skin — and have had more than a few uncomfortable erections in barber chairs. 

11. duct tape

Remember how rope is a commonly fetishized bondage material? Duct tape is a close second.

For guys who enjoy getting gagged, duct tape is a staple. Duct tape calls to mind kidnap fantasies and dark hallways, and nothing beats that hot, muffled gagging sound. Note: as sexy as duct tape is, at some point you will have to pull it off, which will hurt. This writer suggests using vet wrap as a nice alternative. 

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14. food

Don’t confuse this fetish with the consumption of aphrodisiacs like oysters and chocolate. Food fetishes can exist for any food, from cheesecake to steak tartare. Satisfying food fetishes does not always mean eating it. If you don’t think food can be sexualized, try adding chocolate sauce, honey, whipped cream, and M&Ms to your next wild sex session. 

16. hands

I was cuddling with a guy recently when I made a comment that he thought was very strange. I said, “Your hands are really sexy.”

He had firm, small, smooth, meaty hands — in other words, great hands for fisting. But hand fetishes don’t have to be linked to fisting, which is the kink practice of slowly inserting the whole hand (and more) into the anus or vagina, with the assistance of buckets of lube. Many people get aroused from hands: the way they look, the way they feel, their shape, their texture, and the sensation of touching them. 

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17. amputees

No list of fetishes would be complete without amputees. My ex-boyfriend, in fact, thought guys with amputations, prosthetic legs, and other missing limbs were extremely sexy, and every morning I made sure all my limbs were still intact.

Alex Minksy has more or less made a career from this fetish. The ex-military amputee is a common muse for L.A. photographer Michael Stokes. For the sake of clarity, I should stress that the fetishization of amputees is not the same thing as the kink practice of actually removing limbs for the sake of sexual gratification, which is considered an extreme body-modification kink that is by and large not endorsed by the international kink community. Simply put: you can think amputees are sexy, but don’t go cutting off someone’s leg, or your own. That’s not OK. 

Photo source: Broadway Bares, photo by Kevin Thomas Garcia

19. guns

As phallic-shaped instruments of power, it is no surprise that guns are heavily fetishized, although, for obvious reasons, exploring this fetish has an accompanying degree of risk attached. There is endless kidnapping and rape-fantasy porn on the Internet that features guys and girls being “forced” into sex at gunpoint (as an aside to their directors, these scenarios teeter into the absurd when they start orally servicing the barrel).

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20. enemas

Also called klismaphilia, enema fetishes are commonly explored in amateur gay and straight porn. As useful tools for cleaning out the anal cavity, enemas and douches are used by bottom guys and anyone looking to enjoy mess-free anal sex, so naturally they have become part of sex itself. Aside from their usefulness, enemas are generally considered a healthy occasional practice, and have become a sexualized object all on their own. 

24. scars

Scars are very sexy. They tie in to our culture’s icon of the rugged warrior, the roughed-up cowboy, the soldier wounded from battle. For some people, they are an extremely strong turn-ons. These people have scar fetishes, and may sometimes choose to intentionally scar themselves in order to give themselves a feature they consider attractive. Not to belabor a distinction, but doing so would probably be considered a body-mod kink. Scars as erotic stimuli are fetishes. 

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28. beard/facial hair fetish

You know by now that shaving tools and buzzed haircuts have fetishes attached to them. Beards and body hair should be less surprising, especially these days. Beards are so sexually charged and erotically idealized among today’s scruffier populations of gay men that one might forget the fact that beards are still, technically, fetish objects. 

30. blood

With all the vampire romance and gore porn that composes today’s literary and cinematic milieu, it is no surprise that blood is an increasingly popular fetish. A small number of kinky sex practices allow you to explore this fetish with little risk of long-term injury — piercing, whipping, etc. — but they are not without risk of transmitting HIV, Hep C and other STIs. As a rule of sex and of life, if you see blood, it usually means something is wrong. Therefore blood play is a difficult fetish to explore safely. The kink community does not endorse injurious and unsafe sex practices. 

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33. feces

I promised my scat fetishist friend in Dallas that he would be represented on this list. Coprophilia is sexual stimulation from feces, and while the general population’s response to it is bound to be pretty strong, this fetish is more common than you might suspect, particularly among gay pig players, fisting enthusiasts, and kinky leather men. Despite its popularity within a more niche section of the gay male population, it is generally considered an unhygienic fetish to explore, since handling and consuming human fecal matter carries with it certain health risks. In my limited experience, it is also one of the more heavily stigmatized fetishes, even within the kink community. 

34. sports gear

Remember those adolescent longings for the high school quarterback? Perhaps you enjoyed varsity baseball for more reasons than you let on. The fetishes surrounding sports gear and sport environments are so common that locker room porn has become its own popular genre. Prominent gay clothing brands like Nasty Pig and Cellblock 13 draw their design inspiration from tried-and-true sports wear, and standard gay circuit attire will always feature a pair of football pants with the front lacing beckoningly open. 

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35. mannequins

Also called agalmatophilia, this fetish applies to dolls, mannequins, statues, and anything that resembles a human without actually being one. Note: while sex dolls and inflatables with porn star faces may appeal to people who enjoy this fetish, I would not immediately consider these objects fetish objects, since they are specifically designed for sexual arousal. 

36. age

Also called chronophilia (and sometimes ageism), the fetishization of age is a hotly debated topic in gay culture. The term swings both ways: this fetish applies when someone older fetishizes the specific age of someone younger, and when someone younger fetishizes the specific age of someone older. The fetish doesn’t require a significant age difference — just the fact that someone’s age itself is a turn-on.

Conceptually, this fetish opens up debate surrounding the fetishization of other characteristics like skin color and body type. Some argue that fetishizing certain physical characteristics like age and weight is no different than feet and hand fetishes, which we generally do not frown upon. Others say that age fetishes, like skin color and body type fetishes, are not fetishes at all, and that the reduction of a person’s features into points of desire (and, by extension, rejection) is dehumanizing and smacks of racism and body-shaming.

Debate rages. Age fetish deserves inclusion on this list for the sheer purpose that it shows how fetishes can cross from the playfully erotic into more culturally profound and impactful subjects. The whole concept of fetish reveals that anything in the world, from pool floats to ice cream, can become sexual objects if someone responds to them that way, and as such they unleash our sexual desires from the narrow confines that our culture tends to place them in.

This being said, fetish exploration is not a free-for-all. There is a trepidatious line between fetishizing balloons and fetishizing blood. That vague line exists throughout the world of kink, which is why the motto “safe, sane, and consensual” should be strictly adhered to as you explore the things that turn you on — which, I must stress, are worth exploring. Your birthdays just got a lot more interesting. 

Photo by Charles Thomas Rogers from the portfolio, Men Over Fifty.

[RELATED: "30 Kinky Terms Every Gay Man Needs to Know"]


In 2008, a cross-sectional, street-intercept method (Miller, Wilder, Stillman, & Becker, 1997) was adapted to survey 927 gay and bisexual men at a series of gay, lesbian, and bisexual (GLB) community events in New York City through the Sex and Love Study version 7.0 (Grov, Parsons, & Bimbi, 2010Pantalone, Bimbi, Holder, Golub, & Parsons, 2010Parsons & Bimbi, 2007). This approach to collecting data has been used in numerous studies (Carey, Braaten, Jaworski, Durant, & Forsyth, 1999Chen, Kodagoda, Lawrence, & Kerndt, 2002Kalichman & Simbayi, 2004), including those focused on GLB persons (Benotsch, Kalichman, & Cage, 2002Benotsch et al., 2011Kalichman et al., 2001), and has been shown to provide data that are comparable to those obtained from other more methodologically rigorous approaches, such as time–space sampling and random digit dialing (Halkitis & Parsons, 2002).

Participant characteristics

Table 1 shows the demographic characteristics by various relationship arrangements. Participants included 819 gay and bisexual identified men who were categorized as single (61.4%), monogamous (22.2%), open (8.7%) or monogamish (7.7%). Among those men in a relationship (n=316), 57.6% were monogamous, 22.4% were open, and 20% were monogamish. Relationship arrangement groups did not differ significantly in terms of age, self-reported HIV-status, sexual identity or education. There was no significant difference in length of relationship for men in the three different types of partnerships. Men in open and monogamish relationships were significantly more likely to have earned more than $40,000 per year compared with single men and those in monogamous relationships. No significant differences were found in the racial composition of relationship arrangement groups when race and ethnicity were examined using four categories (Black, White, Latino and Other); however, men in open and monogamish relationships were significantly more likely to be White when all non-White categories were combined, χ2(3)=10.82, p=.01.

Table 2

Psychological and sexual decision making outcomes across relationship arrangement

Note. Test statistic shows the significance of differences among the adjusted marginal means (after regression on covariates). Within variables, values having different superscripts differ significantly at p<.05 by LSD post hoc

Sexual decision making

Conflict around sex with casual partners and conflict around condom use during sex were continuous and normally distributed. Group differences were evaluated using ANCOVA as described previously. For dichotomous variables, relationship arrangement group differences were evaluated by specifying a logistic regression model, which controlled for age and HIV status. Post hoc comparisons between relationship arrangement groups were examined to evaluate differences in adjusted odds ratios.

ANCOVA results revealed that age and HIV status were not significantly associated with conflict related to sex with casual partners. After accounting for age and HIV status, relationship arrangement was significantly associated with conflict, F(3, 784)=5.27, p<.01. Men in monogamous and open relationships reported significantly less conflict with regard to decisions about sex with casual partners compared with monogamish and single men. In contrast, age and HIV status were associated with conflict regarding risky sex. Older individuals reported higher levels of conflict about condom use and HIV negative serostatus was associated with decreased conflict about condom use. After adjusting for age and HIV status, no significant relationship arrangement differences were observed, F(3, 783)=1.14 (see Table 2).

Sexual health outcomes

To assess differences among partnership types on dichotomous behavioral data, we conducted logistic regression, followed by post hoc pairwise comparisons adjusting for covariates. These analyses resulted in exponentiated betas associated with each covariate, and adjusted odds for each partnership type. The adjusted odds represent the odds of engaging in the given behavior for an individual of that partnership type, after adjusting for age and HIV-status. This procedure is analogous to the ANCOVA approach taken with continuous data above, but it used a link-function to estimate latent odds, as appropriate for a dichotomous distribution. Monogamous men were excluded from these analyses because no men in the monogamous category- by definition-indicated any sexual activity with casual partners. Those who did were excluded from the category. Sexual activity that violates one’s perceptions of relationship arrangement may differ from that which does not. We acknowledge the importance of exploring factors that violate arrangements, but lacked the statistical power to do so here.

Logistic regression results revealed that HIV negative status was significantly associated with increased odds of having sex with both a main and casual partner together; age was not. After adjusting for age and HIV status, relationship arrangement was significantly associated with the odds of having sex with both a main and casual partner together, Wald χ2(1)=8.05, p<.01. Monogamish men had significantly higher odds of sex with both a main and casual partner together compared to open men. Older age was significantly associated with a decreased odds of having any sex with a casual partner; HIV status was not. After adjusting for age and HIV status, relationship arrangement was significantly associated with the odds of sex with a casual partner, Wald χ2(3)=22.27, p<.01. Monogamish men were less likely than open men to have had sex with a casual partner. HIV negative status was significantly associated with lower odds of UAI with a casual partner; age was not. Monogamish men were less likely than either open or single men to have engaged in UAI with a casual partner, Wald χ2(2)=11.54, p<.01 (see Table 3).

Table 3

Sexual behavior and substance use outcomes across relationship arrangement

Note. Test statistic shows the significance of differences among the adjusted odds ratios (after regression on covariates). Within variables, values having different superscripts differ significantly at p<.05 by LSD post hoc

Substance use in the context of sexual behavior

Logistic regression results revealed that age and HIV status were significantly associated with decreased odds of substance use in the past 3 months. After controlling for age and HIV status, relationship arrangement was significantly associated with drug use in the past 3 months, Waldχ2(3)=16.39, p<.01, in that monogamous men were less likely than all other groups to have used any substances. Similarly, age and HIV negative serostatus were associated with decreased odds of drug use during sex in the past 3 months. After adjusting for age and HIV status, relationship arrangement was significantly associated with drug use during sex in the past 3 months, Wald χ2(3)=8.80, p=.03, such that monogamous men were less likely than single men and men in open relationships to have used drugs during sex. Monogamish men did not differ from any of the groups with regard to sex under the influence of illicit drugs. Age was significantly associated with the odds of alcohol use during sex; HIV status was not. After adjusting for age and HIV status, relationship arrangement was not significantly associated with alcohol use during sex, Wald χ2(3)=5.65.

We examined the issue with cell size differences between groups (e.g., 61.4%of the men were single) and examined the influence of power on analyses performed in two ways. First, weighted post hoc contrasts were conducted, and the same pattern of results were obtained. Second, analyses were conducted with random subsets of single men (with a sample size more in line with those of the other groups), and the results obtained were comparable.

More how to do it

I’m a gay white man in his mid-20s, fairly liberal, and have been both disgusted and inspired by the ongoing reckoning with America’s racism (I attended protests when they were going on in my area, I gave some money to anti-racist organizations, have been educating myself, and so on). I know that it is a process, and there is no “one moment” when you suddenly become a good white person. My issue is this: I am really into race-play BDSM, specifically as a dominant party. A Black FWB introduced me to it a few years ago. I feel as though this is a bad look in the current climate, or that my turn-ons reflect a deeper problem with my thinking. Is race play as a white man a no?

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Demographics, sexual behavior, and substance use

Participants indicated their age, sexual identity, race and ethnicity, HIV serostatus (positive, negative, unknown), education level (high diploma or less, 2 or 4 year college degree, or graduate degree), income level, and work status. Participants also provided information related to relationship status (single, partnered), duration of relationship (in months), and any agreements about sex outside of a primary relationship (i.e., neither of us has sex with others, only I have sex with others, he has sex with others, I do not, etc.). Finally, participants were asked to provide information about their sexual behaviors with casual partners and substance use (separately and in conjunction with sex) in the past 3 months. High risk sexual behavior was operationalized as either receptive or insertive UAI with a casual partner. Low risk sexual behavior was operationalized as either receptive or insertive anal intercourse with a casual partner that included a condom.

Relationship arrangement

Relationship arrangement was determined based upon responses to questions related to relationship status, sex outside of the relationship, and sexual behavior with casual sex partners. Men categorized as single (n=503) indicated they did not have a main partner. Men categorized as monogamous (n=182) indicated they and their partner agreed to have sex only with each other and these individuals reported no sex with casual partners. Men categorized as monogamish (n=63) indicated they and their partners agreed to have sex with casual partners, but only when the other member of the relationship was present. This category also included men who self-identified as monogamous but also reported having sex with a casual partner with their main partner present. Men categorized as open (n=71) indicated that they and their partner have sex with casual partners without the other partner present. A number of participants (n=92) could not be categorized on this index because they provided incomplete responses, reported they did not know whether their partner engaged in sex with casual partners, or because their response combinations did not permit classification. As a result of this classification scheme, those men who indicated that their relationship was monogamous, but reported sex with casual partners in the past 30 days were excluded (n=10) as were 6 participants who reported transgendered partners. All participants reported that the gender of their partner was male. Table 1 provides demographic information for the total sample and each relationship arrangement separately.

Sexual conflict

Sexual conflict refers to the degree of uncertainty a participant experienced around a sexual decision (i.e., the decision to use condoms during sex or the decision to engage in sex with a casual partner). High levels of conflict indicate how much difficulty a participant had incoming to a decision about whether to engage in a behavior. They do not indicate what behavior the participant chose to engage in, only the degree of difficulty in deciding about the behavior. Previous literature examining the association between alcohol, inhibition conflict, and sexual behavior has often used the Sexual Conflict Scale (Dermen & Cooper, 2000). We modified this 3-item sexual conflict metric to assess levels of conflict around sex with casual partners generally (i.e., casual sex conflict) and using a condom during sex (i.e., risky sex conflict) (Wells, Golub, & Parsons, 2011). Participants therefore responded to 6 items in total, three worded to assess casual sex conflict and three worded to assess risky sex conflict. For each type of conflict, this 3-itemmeasure assessed the extent to which participants “had a hard time deciding…”, “felt very unsure…” and “felt very undecided…” about a given behavior. Participants indicated their level of agreement on a Likert-type scale from 1 (“strongly disagree”) to 6 (“strongly agree”). The scale demonstrated adequate reliability (casual sex conflict α=.95, and risky sex conflict α=.92).