What is an otter? The gay tribe for lean guys with a bit of scruff

A gay otter flexing his arms with a Pride flag draped over his head

What it means to be an otter, an emerging tribe for gay men, is rather open to debate.

Our guide to twinks –  the most hyper-sexualised gay tribe, and our guide to bears – the  gay tribe for big, hairy, hunky men brings us to ‘otters,’ who are kind of in the middle of bears and twinks. But, of course, it’s not as simple as that with otterly different opinions to consider.

As there’s a lot of disagreement on what it actually means to be an otter, we’ve tried to clear things up…

Physical definition of a gay otter

An otter is lean and hairy. Almost never as hairy as a bear, and perhaps not as lean or boyish as a twink, but if you had a body size and hairiness scale of ‘twink to bear,’ you’d find otters comfortably taking up a good chunk of the middle ground. Hold on (you may be thinking)… isn’t that a lot of guys?

A lot of guys may be otters without realising it

Yes, this is kind of true. It seems that a lot of guys could be seen as otters, whether they identify as one or not.

A cisgender male, with a traditionally masculine aesthetic, someone who has an ‘average’ level of body hair, a bit of scruff, fluff, fur, whatever you’d like to call it. Otters look similar to what you might call the “guy next door” type.

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Hold on, isn’t this more toxic masculinity?

Not exactly.

The ‘masculine aesthetic’ part isn’t key to otterness in gay culture. Otters don’t focus on masculinity as a behaviour type or “masc for masc.” There are loads of femme otters, and some non-binary otters too.

Some have claimed that being an otter is part of a transitory phase between twink and bear.

When a lot of otters get older, they may well become bears ‘physically,’ even if they don’t prescribe to the bear community or go to bear events.

How does an otter behave?

We spoke to Josh Olsen, a self-proclaimed otter who started the Otterj.com community for otters and their admirers. He says:

“Some people see it as a slimmer variation of the bear community, but in practice it seems to be as much about style and aesthetic as the body itself. An otter is like “the guy next door,” but with an edge. 

“Otters are the guy next door that has grown up a bit.

“They’ve become more sexually adventurous and experienced. Furthermore, the fact that they’re no longer pruning their body hair to such an extent may imply that they’re just more comfortable in their own skin, in their own body and with their personal level of hairiness.”

But isn’t that a bear? No. Olsen says: “There certainly are similarities between an otter and bear community in that both tend towards a more natural appearance. The differences are maybe more associated with size and age.”

What a gay otter says about being an otter

Gareth, a self-proclaimed otter living in Berlin says: “I would class myself as an otter since I’m hairy in all the right places, apparently masculine and skinnier than a cub or a bear. I prefer to think of my build as slender anyways though. I’m a slender gender-bender.”

“Being an otter is, somehow, entirely a phase. Lots of men grow old and maybe get a bit broader around the waist, but where is the threshold between being an otter and a bear? Is it in the size of your waist or is it your age after all? I’ve never really understood that personally. Anyways, I’m classed as an otter and I can’t even swim properly, so that’s really funny.”

“I do personally find guys with a bit of scruff to be more attractive – it’s just personal taste. However, I’ve also had partners who would be classed as twinks as well as proper fully-fledged daddies.

“I haven’t got a massively hairy chest, but I do have a really hairy ass and a nice full beard and I like that a lot. On my body it’s all very ‘au naturel.’ I don’t spend so much time grooming and that’s absolutely perfect for me.”