The Bear Says… “WOOF?”

September 1, 2010

I came of age in the 90’s, out and proud and fifty pounds overweight, and spent the entirety of high school knowing exactly what I was missing and why. I wasn’t what a Gay boy was supposed to be, and the idea that even on the fringes of society there was a dress code, a role I had to play, just supremely pissed me off. A few years later, I found myself drawing the attention of older guys, and one day this guy was flirting up a storm with me, and then at some point, to illustrate his attraction, he “woofed” at me. Woof. At the time, I didn’t know it was a thing. Seemed pretty harmless. I didn’t get why Bears would go “woof.” It was a fairly simply mistake, certainly nothing a few hours of Animal Planet couldn’t fix, but no big deal. Still, something didn’t sit well with me.

I didn’t get it. I still don’t. What does a “woof” accomplish that a “rowr” or even a “grrrrr” doesn’t. Most guys say “woof” just seems more masculine. Putting aside all the “walk like Tarzan, talk like Jane” Bears that make this claim inherently ironic, I find the idea kind of, well, stupid. First I was rejected for being gay, then for not being some cookie cutter twink, and now I find myself being culturally bullied by this forced masculinity, this gay machismo, and all I can think is… “Seriously?!”

I know there are plenty of gay men out there who legitimately care about pro football and motorcycles, but if when we see straight men with a kind of affected manliness we question what they’re overcompensating for, why don’t we ask the same of gay men? What’s up with that? What exactly are you trying to prove and who are you trying to prove it to? You have the Bear community, which advances the rejection of an enforced gay paradigm, yet ends up being just as rigid, deeming those who don’t fit perfectly within its definitions as lesser men or traitors to the cause or some other stupid bullshit like that. And the chubby, fuzzy dudes with low-maintenance wardrobes, who enjoy a little Kylie Minogue here and there… where does that leave us? With another bullshit role to play? Thanks, no.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not hating on the Bear community. I LOVE me a good Bear. Come to Michael, you fuzzy wonder! But am I really supposed to take seriously some pretentious douche who, with a straight face, calls his apartment his “cave?” Because I can’t, and even if I could, I probably wouldn’t, because when a guy gets so caught up in his persona that he forgets to just be a person, I have no interest. None. I’d try speaking his language to voice my displeasure and get him to back off, but I’m afraid a good “woof” would only serve to further attract him.

More’s the pity.

Michael Mammano is a freelance writer specializing in homocentric and homo-inclusive content. In addition to his work for, he is also writing his first novel, a suicide mystery set at a prestigious all-boys' boarding school where corruption and decadence are taken as a given. To contact him about writing jobs, he can be reached at
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About this author: Michael Mammano is a freelance writer specializing in homocentric and homo-inclusive content.
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This is a great article and had me laughing. I totally agree.

Take any compliment graciously without overthinking it or allowing your own issues and neuroses from how you were treated by others color it. Some day when you are old, NOBODY will say "Woof" to you. Enjoy it while it lasts and take it for what it is. Yes, we can be a silly community......but damn.....a simple "woof" triggered all that thought? Hmmmm......issues......

1) It wasn't a single woof.

2) This isn't about the word nor its application; it's about a kind of sensibility that's developed around a certain type of guy who uses it excessively and toward a certain end. I'm allowed not to like things without being labeled a neurotic mess.

3) Wow. One five-hundred word essay got you that defensive. Hmm... issues...

I fully agree with you, Bennetrix. I began to write a similar response, but felt the writer of the blog has some paranoid tendencies, and I labelled his writing as a : Rant and Rave over a simple word. I thought my real thoughts about the article would be interpreted as being too disparaging, so I decided not to send it, since I had very little of a constructive nature to say. I think your response is perfectly appropriate.
The only constructive thing I can say to the author, (who is supposed to be a writer) is that he has to improve his writing skills and his grammar.

What makes you think I'm paranoid? And who told you to say that? ;)

I agree with you 100%. We all need to leave the role play in the bedroom. We also all need to embrace each others uniqueness even if it is the exact opposite of our own. I am a masculine alpha male. But people seem surprised... even a little turned off that I like flowers, decorating my home and have friends who are feminine as well as masculine and those that are somewhere in the middle.

We have no control over who we are attracted to. But we do have control when it comes to selecting friends. The only criteria for friendship should be loyalty and integrity.



I love soccer, up till 30 years of age, I played it regularly, now an effeminate boyfriend at the time loved that I did because he could boast to his friends of his "Butch" boyfriend, but, gave me a hard time saying I only did it to be masculine and over compensate. To this day I never understood why he when referring to other men used the words "she" and "her"

But what I am saying is Thank You, to yourself, I now know someone else to a degree understands why I could not take him seriously and to this day I still don't understand why some choose to be defined by a fantasy persona and believe they are that person. Needless to say I still get a verbal tongue lashing for not playing along with the delusions guys invent for themselves.

Luckily it is a free country where people can be individuals even as extreme peer pressure through verbal spankings of many cultural flavors (left, right, etc) makes that tough for folks especially when growing up. I was the quietest one in school and stronger guys liked to push me around and then laugh and beat their chests so to speak. I was neither extreme and not belonging to any group of any kind. Fems would see me as too conservative and true conservatives would see me as too wimpy so I have no category that I adopt whatsoever. Who we sleep with and what personality they have matters not at all in the overall scope of what is important in daily life where if we help someone on the road who is injured then they could care less what label we think we have when we are helping them get out of a tight spot on a busy highway.

You are the kinda guy I would like to sit and chat with. Well said.


Care to elaborate? Context is nice.

"But am I really supposed to take seriously some pretentious douche who, with a straight face, calls his apartment his “cave?” Because I can’t, and even if I could, I probably wouldn’t, because when a guy gets so caught up in his persona that he forgets to just be a person..."

Hear, hear!!! Is as if so many have little individuality or identity that they've happily surrendered their personhood completely to this faddish niche-parroting. When a person like this addresses me as "woof" and moves to grope, I side-step and don't consider it a compliment at all.

People think "woof" was chosen because it's more masculine than other funny animal noises? The origin of "woof" as used in the article was in Young Frankenstein, in which Madeline Kahn's character is confronted with a well-endowed monster and says "Oh my god! Woof!" Hard to imagine how it could have been a less masculine expression.

Anyone who thinks the bear community is dominated by the excessively butch must be in some other bear community than the one I know (which is one of the two bear communities covered in the film "Bear Run"). I know big, butch-looking guys who are as nelly as they get and other big, butch-looking guys whose behavior is really pretty masculine. Most of us are somewhere in between. (Anyone looking for a fight about what "masculine" means, rest assured that I'm dealing in the same stereotypes that everyone else is.)

People will always find arbitrary standards by which to judge other people. Some of the original "bear hugs", at least here on the east coast, were populated mostly by computer nerds, which was how I got involved in my early 20s. Not to be exclusionary, just because that's how they were organized. On the other hand, I've been aware of other bear groups who actually refused membership to men who worked white-collar jobs under the theory that they weren't masculine enough. I don't know of any current ones. At the time my reaction was "huh, they're trying too hard." Also, "Wonder how many of them still end up singing Liza when they get a few drinks in 'em". Maybe I'd have had a different reaction if I hadn't been in a white collar field my whole life, or actually cared about show tunes.

For a community to survive, it takes all kinds. Which I'm thinking is also the reason that more gay men are exploring kinky stuff than ever, yet leather as a social scene is all but dead (and how I miss it).

I remember Madeline's reading of the line; she was a lot butcher than most guys... and definitely a top. ;)

I can relate to a lot of this. When I started coming out, way back in the 70s, I would have been classified as a twink who looked masculine but had a strong nelly streak. Around 1980 I did drag (quite well, if I say so myself) for a few years and thoroughly enjoyed the theatricality of it. Then in the mid 80s I got into an 11+ year relationship and kind of withdrew from the gay scene, became involved in self-help groups and ultimately ended up widowed just before my 40th birthday.

So at 40 I went through what I think of as my second coming out, and found out I was something called a "bear." I had no idea. I still remember the first time a guy woofed at me. I didn't know for sure if it was good or bad. During my 40s I became more involved in the bear scene sort of by default, based on my physicality more than anything. As time went on I realized I didn't fit the typicial bear mold, that I certainly didn't buy into some "I'm just a regular guy" brand of masculinity and that I still was interested in design and fashion and theatricality. I was a gay man with a beard and a belly.

I've become quite comfortable with who I am, I don't react badly when I get classified as a bear (EVERYONE classifies, it's how we can make some sense of a big, complex, diverse world and doesn't necessarily convey judgment) or someone "woofs" at me. I get to be as theatrical as I like within the men's chorus I love belonging to - even getting to portray Edna Turnbladand and The Shady Dame From Seville - and have a wonderful boyfriend who is comfortable with all of it. So I hope the blogger at some point realizes that people tend to communicate in ways that feel comfortable to them and frequently that means using words and expressions that the people around them use and while it might not be a way you'd choose to communicate, take a compliment graciously as a compliment and let the rest go.

I don't know why I use this site, no one is interested in a fat old man with medical problems. Just can't win.

You use this site because you still have hope of meeting someone. Hang in there.

You cannot be serious. I'm a fat old UGLY man with medical problems and I've met and converse with SEVERAL beautiful wonderful men on this site who know they won't even be able to meet me in person for almost a year! One of them lives in freakin' ENGLAND and is glad that I'll actually be in England next spring for a vacation so we can meet.
The others are in or near where I'll be relocating to next summer.
Maybe, just maybe, it's not being old with medical problems.....?

Don't give up. Great friends are possible on here where superficial things are not the most important thing for sure. Have met and traveled to see some very good friends who are friends for life no matter what happens.

I never quite understood the "woof" thing either but in response to it I just "bark" in a cute, playful manner. Perhaps I'm mocking the custom... or perhaps I'm just being adorable. You decide.

Wearing a dog collar doesn't make it any better, I suppose.

yes,the many and varied gay stereotypes give me the irrites as well.the trick is,not to take them ,or the poor deluded souls,caught up in them,seriously.i know from my much too slim to be a "bear",not hairy enough to be an "otter",too distinct,and unusual looking to be the "guy next door",not femenine enough to be a "queen",too fem to be "str8 acting",muscular,but not muscular enough to be a "muscle mary",never pretty enough to be a "twink",even when i was young,and im no "daddy".so yeah,just try to catagorise me! its impossible.and i wouldnt have it any other way!


You've described me! Let's form a club and dish on the others! (I kid!) Right on - the animal thing is just a fun quirk, but like any role, it can become a cage (and not in a good way).

One is always free to not take subcultures or sub-subcultures like twink or bear, seriously. These are mostly thought up by weasels who are trying to part bears or twinks from their money by making them feel not up to the flavor-of-the-month. Which brings up, do weasels squeal at each other?

Stereotypes are mostly for Hollywood and media sensationalism. Nightlife in clubs is scripted no matter what birds of a feather are gathering together. People assume things till I call the number and speak in a baritone tone of voice that they didn't expect based on conclusions like when the president had someone fired before hearing the whole story apart from a selected soundbite from a video posted on a social video clip site.

Hey, what's the big deal about "woof." I first heard it, directed at me, around 1981, by a non-bear older guy--it means "I think you're hot and would like to play with you." It's an enduring bit of slang used by many types of gay men (except for twinks I think)--why get your undies in a bundle about it? And the guy calling his apartment a cave--that's funny. Chill out and laugh!

Oh, I'm laughing. Just not for the reason I think is intended. And I'm plenty chill. It's quite the pet peeve of mine when people insist someone doesn't have a sense of humor just because they don't have theirs. I have a great sense of humor. It doesn't obligate me to find everything amusing.

Because it's an utterance of sheer stupidity, rather like the "gropes" on this site.

Have you ever been to the apartment that the guy refers to as his "cave"? I've seen some that damn near qualify!

There is a major problem with your diatribe.
You simultaneously express your dislike of being pigeon-holed, but don't seem to have a problem pigeon-holing other guys.
The ONLY behavior of another man you have a choice about or an interest in is the guy who is attempting to be part of your life, for however briefly. You get to choose whether you accept him and his behavior or not.
This does not give you some prescient knowledge about the behavior of other men, whether they are role-playing or being natural. How can you possibly know that? The same way that others attempt to force their interpretations of your behavior on you?
If a guy wants to call his apartment his cave, so what? What's that to you, unless you're considering some kind of further interaction with him? How do you KNOW he's role-playing?
The same way others KNOW you can't be a twink because of your size?
I think you do not realize the completely conflicting perceptions you have shown in your article.
It's WRONG when others pigeon-hole you while you are busy pigeon-holing them?
The greatest thing about being a gay man is the ability to BE anything...anytime. I can knock down an old closet with a sledge-hammer then make a fantastic finger food platter for the house-warming party afterward.
I can ride a carousel as well as a motorcycle. I can wear leather as well as I wear silk.
And NO ONE has the right or the power to determine FOR ME what that makes me one way or the other.
If another man seems phony to you--fine, don't date him. Somebody else will. If someone finds you phony--fine, don't date him.
But don't blame the entirety of society on how you are perceived. And certainly don't attempt to impose your perceptions as a perfect representation of the individuals in your society.
You can't have it both ways. If you want others to see you for who you are, the ONLY control you have over that is to be yourself and not concern yourself so overmuch with whether other men are role-playing or not. We all choose the society, the circle of friends and acquaintances in which we live, not the other way around. For if you let society determine whether you are real or not, than you certainly won't be.

BRAVO...!! An INTELLIGENT MAN is the HOTTEST Turn On in my book...!
Just Live and Let Live....!!!

1) My love life is going just swimmingly. I neither desire nor require your dating advice. Thanks, though.

2) Do we live in caves? Unless you're Wild Man Joe living in a State Park, no. Hence, calling your home a cave can be nothing but role play. And you're free to do it. I'm not getting down on guys who do this, merely expressing my personal distaste, an opinion I'm entitled to. There's a world of difference between "I wouldn't be interested in dating you" and "You're a horrible shell of a human being with no identity or value." I'm stating the former. I don't know where the hell you're coming from.

3) I'm not pidgeon-holing anyone. I flirt with all kinds of guys that look all kinds of ways. I'm making my judgments of personal taste on someone's behavior. That's what being fair is.

4) People can be whomever they want. All I've stated here is a matter of personal preference and frustration, perfectly valid feelings I'm entitled to based on my experience. The worthier question is why are you taking my opinion so personally?

BTW, "woof" is just a shorthand way of saying one is interested.
Back in the '20's, it was "hotcha".
Personally, I like "woof". Short, to the point, and hardly queer-exclusive.

WOOF! is a COMPLIMENT!!! It's somebody going out of their way to tell you they find you HOT in a fun, quick, playful, flirtatious, and non-pretentious way.

Concerning the SPECTRUM of displayed machismo or masculinity, that just reflects the spectrum of men that are out there, the ones that may appear to be trying too hard may just be trying to get the attention of a certain type of man, without realizing they should just be themselves and it will attract them even more.

As for the CAVE, I don't refer to mine as one, but both my straight and gay friends have exclaimed with delight when they see the 120" HD projection screen and black leather theatre couches in my living room... "Right on! What a MAN CAVE!"

This is one of those glass half-empty half-full arguments, you just have to adjust your perception and realize how great and open our society has become.


I think you have a very healthy, balanced outlook. Regarding "man cave", that's an obvious joke, whereas I find guys who use cave -- and are totally serious about it -- are coming from a different place. But you make a very good point. Bravo.

I like the word "WOOF!" and consider it a sexy compliment. But I have always equated it with Wolves , and since I am a dog-lover, I am aware of how dogs socialize, communicate and show affection. A 'woof' is generally considered a good thing.
I do not feel it has anything to do with 'bears', who are generally large, hairy men. Bears growl.



Thanks for venting and I hope things improve for you.
I agree with Sarrellec: there seems to be a bit more than a little irony in your frustration
report. (Remember the adage: "When you point out someone 'disappointing', consider the four fingers still pointing back at you.")

Although your observations/reactions can be an understandable, isn't there something pre-fab about your expectations for how others speak/behave?

It reminds me of when people said that there are no rules in dancing "partner-free", but the same-looking choreography is repeated by almost all free-dancers - and those who stray are mocked or shunned (e.g. "Elaine Bennis'" dance moves on Seinfeld).

My favorite perspective is to actually APPRECIATE odd-looking poses in profile photos or offbeat remarks they put in their profile text, etc. ( ... instead of secretly scolding them).
Instead I try to pause and think: "Thanks but no thanks."

I feel relieved to discover IN ADVANCE how different someone can be, compared to what I like.
This leaves me (both?) free to keep looking for a better combination.
Otherwise, we can expect a much bigger disappointment, much later in time (when the other finally relaxes enough to behave honestly, "at ease").

Then I can pause and think: "Next!"

Best of luck to you.

PS Maybe it would be appropriate to critique/complain WHEN YOU ARE ASKED directly. Then they might be truly ready to hear/learn something from your feedback.
[Otherwise, "Who asked YOU?".]

Why does everyone assume I'm having trouble dating? I'm really doing just fine. Thanks for your concern.

I find it interesting that most of the people who disagree with me assume I'm coming from a different place than I actually am. I'm not making a moral judgment on these people. It's a judgment of personal taste. I'm not questioning their worth as human beings or any wonderful qualities they might have. It's a simple matter of what floats my boat, and I find it fascinating that people can take an opinion so personally or to be some kind of revealing psychological wound.

I like all kinds of guys, a very wide spectrum of behaviors. Some guys fall into stereotype, some don't, and I tend not to really care. But in my experience, no one is a perfect stereotype, so appearing as one is almost certainly an affectation.

This isn't about my distaste for bears or any specific culture. It's about my distaste for affectation, which is paramount over any specific details that happen to apply to the man in question. And I may not have been dating for forty years, but I've been around the block plenty, as we all have, and I know affectation when I see it.

Oh, and by the way, I appreciate odd looking poses in pictures too. Those are the best ones!

"WOOF" is not an intellectual term anymore than its "ARF ARF" equivalent is but that's where human instinct takes over where the confusion at the doctors office might make a guy think that its a backwards thing to do as nature intended - LOL.

Its surprising how many issues there can be about who is getting humped in the privacy of ones home where its not a major news story to begin with for sure.

This article has loads of tongue-in-cheek humor that seems to have ruffled so many feathers. I am very surprised that so many took offense or thought he needed advice.

Or is it that a young Hunter has stepped up to the plate with ::gasp:: an opinion.


Interesting, funny piece, Michael and some of the replies our great. I find myself laughing at the whole woof/grr thing too because it sounds so ridiculous to my ears, but then I am glad that at least one new format of being gay (however limiting it might be) has come to the surface. Sure, it bothers me that after forty years of liberation the bar scene and gay media has added only one or two more types to its menu of gay male flesh, but then I realize that is all commercial bullshit and TRY to ignore it. What discourages me sometimes is seeing lots of urban guys adopting these poses themselves for their online real lives; it seems so childish and one-dimensional to me. Whatever happened to gay status letting you shed all the societal norms? Still, I just try to chalk it up to communal growing pains, assume that these guys have more underneath the surface, or move on to other guys who don't identify as such. MEOW.

An intelligent, concise, comment. Couldn't agree with you more. "Poses" -I think Rufus W. wrote a song about exactly what ur talking about.

Is it that our online experience has replaced our one-on-one-bar/club experience that has warped our perceptions about ourselves? It is anti-thesis to what the gay rights movement was intended.

You bring up some interesting questions.


You brought up some good points Dogwood, and oh man, I love it when a man purrrs or meows! LOL...wooofs are OK, but overused at times. I feel a lot of people missed the point of this opinion is not so much about utilizing a mere woof, as it is about being so exclusive.

In other words, if a man does not dress, act or participate in certain activities, then he is rejected or ignored by the larger group. For example, in order for me to be in a country/western scene, I may have to be able to two-step to belong to the group. Folks, I have two left week when it comes to that. The fact I love nature, horses, country life, farming, cleaning horse stalls may not mean a thing.

Similarly, I cannot be a part of the leather group, cause I do not like to wear leather in warm weather and sweat my balls off (I guess sweat is a big turn on for many, specially once the bacteria is in full force fermenting). Also, along with the leather scene, the norm seems uninhibited, raunchy, all out sex with anybody and everybody, and that is not my thing. I am also not into role playing, unless I land a good gig in Hollywood!

Finally, although I relate mainly to the bear scene, I find a lot of bears to be way too clickish for my taste. Wrestling is a major turn on too, but then again, some guys in these wrestling groups get into the fashion aspect of it way too much, wearing solely tights and singlets only and fantazising about the garments. I find it hotter when two guys are dressed just like regular guys hitting the mats or the backyard!

Based on the statements above, there are many in-betweens, variables and exceptions, so please do not think I am judging, pigeon-holing, or anything related...I am merely stating my personal observations. All in all, I ACCEPT anyone who has a good heart and soul, and who can be a genuine friend/lover. Cheers ta ya'll! stinks to bravely come out only to find the gay community has all these expectations and "rules" for you. It's all typical human behavior with folks needing to find an identity and community, but really life is best lived without all the constraints.

I believe that if you confidently go forth knowing who you are and being happy with that, then most people will accept you.

What turns everyone on doesn't even have to be the focus of public display. If you love someone then that's all that matters in private and no need to march around about it like an ancient tribe beating the drums around a campfire a million years ago.

Embellishing and glorifying the personality - in other words your identity - simply prevents people from seeing who you truly are. And ultimately I think what we all want is to be seen for who we truly are... and loved in spite of it!

So before you take on a persona that has to "woof", ask yourself... do you want to attract someone who wants a bear... or wants you?