The term "otter" is used within the gay community to describe a subset of men who embody a blend of both bear and twink characteristics, challenging traditional notions of masculinity. Otters may be identified by their physical appearance, preferences, expression of gendered traits, and personal affiliations.
Typically, an otter is envisioned as an average-built man with a moderate amount of body hair, often dressing in a manner that combines traditional masculinity with a hint of subversion. Otter presentation is characterized by a casual and laid-back vibe. Unlike bears, otters have smaller frames and a presentation that deviates further from the ruggedly masculine aesthetic. Gay men embracing otter attributes often view themselves as unaligned due to their balanced expression of both masculine and feminine aspects of manhood.
Although the origin of the otter label is uncertain, it is commonly believed to have emerged as a sub-category within bear culture, providing a community for men emphasizing gender expression across both their physical bodies and appearance.
Otter culture has its roots in the broader bear culture, and otters are generally welcomed in bear-centric spaces despite their differences. The naming of otters, along with many other labels originating from bears, draws inspiration from the animal kingdom, reflecting the lithe, hair-covered, and whiskery characteristics of gay men fitting this description.
In terms of culture, otters are often perceived as calm, laid-back, and casual, akin to the 'guy next door' stereotype. Unlike some subcultural terms, otters do not rigidly reject the stereotype of the feminine gay man. There is significant variability in the presentation of otters compared to the more binary expressions of bears and twinks. While otter culture tends towards masculinity, it is not as dominated by masculinity as bear culture. Otters are distinct from cubs, who are younger bears. It is not uncommon for an otter to transition into a bear identity as they age, aligning with the expected body type associated with bears.