Bearing Bodies: Physical Activity, Obesity Stigma, and Sexuality in the Bear Community

in Sociology of Sport Journal
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  • 1 University of Maryland
  • | 2 San Francisco State University
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In recent years, individuals who do not conform to healthist body shape and weight norms are the target of an increasingly fervent moral panic about “obesity” (Gard & Wright, 2005). As a subculture within the gay male community (Wright, 1997a), the “Bear” community offers a site for examining biopolitical resistance to the pervasive body ideals (and associated fat stigma) embedded within, and perpetuated by, mainstream gay values. Utilizing in-depth interviews and participant observation, this study explores the ways in which Bears negotiate physical activity and body image within the ostensibly fat-positive Bear community. In analyzing the stories and spaces of the Bear community, I find diverse experiences that reveal a complex relationship between sexuality, body image, and engagement in physical activity.

Edmonds is with the Department of Kinesiology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD. Zieff is with the Department of Kinesiology, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA.

Address author correspondence to Shaun Edmonds at
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