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Guts and muscles and bears, oh my! The body, embodied identity, and queer erotic space online

John Edward Campbell, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This study explores the online embodied experiences of gay men, contending that these experiences deconstruct naturalized physical world understandings of the attractive and healthy erotic body. In particular, this study examines discourses emerging from three distinct queer-identified IRC (Internet Relay Chat) channels: #gaymuscle, a community formulated around images of the muscular male body; #gaychub, a community celebrating male obesity, where—in diametric opposition to #gaymuscle—fatness holds considerable value; and #gaymusclebears, a space representing the erotic convergence of the obese and muscular male body. Constructed by gay male interactants, each of these three IRC channels represents an affirming space for the discussion, exploration, and eroticism of the male body. Utilizing the methods of critical ethnography, I analyze not only the terms and forms prevalent to these online communities, but the deeper intricacies concerning the negotiation of embodied identity and eroticism in cyberspace. In doing so, I demonstrate how interactions in the virtual can provide significant embodied experiences while subverting naturalized conceptions of physical beauty and normative sexual practices.

Subject Area

Mass media|Cultural anthropology

Recommended Citation

Campbell, John Edward, "Guts and muscles and bears, oh my! The body, embodied identity, and queer erotic space online" (2001). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI1402224.