Before beginning research on furries and the furry community which exists in both an online and real-world context through meet-ups and conventions, I decided to take stock of what my attitudes towards furries where and what I was expecting to find after delving into this world.
Firstly, I believed that I was a lot more accepting of furries than the general public. I used to think that people hated furries because of the association with zoophilia, which makes sense, people who have sex with animals aren’t the kind of people you want to be around. Then once I began to learn more about furries through the internet I found that people didn’t hate them because of this association, but because they were weird, different and partake in sexual activities which deviate from the social norm. That’s what pissed me off about the hatred for the furry community – the fact that these people were ostracised and ragged on in every online forum always irked me because I, enlightened individual of the century, maintained that what consenting adults do in their own time behind closed doors is not anyones business. I too, was playing into one of the main misperceptions of the furry community.
Here’s probably the most fundamental lesson about furries I’ve learnt: “Being a furry is not a sex thing”
Yes, whilst modern perceptions of furries mostly revolve around fetishism, it is a small percentage which actually engage in sexual behaviour as part of their anthropomorphic activities- the sexual aspects of furries can be referred to as ‘yiffing’.
This perception of furries is often attributed to CSI: Crime Scene Investigation episode ‘Fur and Loathing’ which aired in 2003. This episode went about as well as you’d expect a CSI depiction of atypical cultural practices to go. Furries are portrayed as sexual deviants who only roll around in luxurious sexual lounges, similar to those found in Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ (1999) and they also murder people or something (idk, watching a whole episode of 2003 CSI is impossible to do sober). Nowadays we can see how harmful this image has been for not only how we perceive the furry community but also how comfortable they feel in sharing their culture with others in fear of ridicule.
However, even though it would be really convenient, I don’t think we can entirely blame one episode of bad television for the stigma associated with being a furry. I decided to take a critical look at where I’m really gathering my ideas from furries on a day-to-day basis. In my daily internet surf I’m not looking at informative and empowering articles about furries, nor am I surveying the many message boards and online communities that furries are on, and I’m definitely not reading a well-researched project based on creating a database on a range of information pertaining to the furry community. In my daily internet surfing, any information I’m getting about furries is mostly from Facebook with a side pointer from Youtube or reddit. These social networks contain barely surface level information about any fandom, yet it’s information that get’s a lot of attention because of their population size and reach, which often leads to a general conservativeness on these websites. It therefore becomes a trend of sorts that whatever alternative subculture is presented, from anime to puppetry, it is often unnecessarily sexualised in the eyes of mainstream social media.
That’s not to say that fetishism isn’t a part of the furry community nor that it shouldn’t be, they’re people as well so they’re just as likely as anyone else is to be experimenting with sex. Yet it’s important to recognise when looking at this community that it’s so much more than just a fetish – it’s a fandom.
Like most fandoms, the idea for furries is said to have started at a convention in the 80’s where groups of people began meeting and discussing the usage of anthropomorphic characters in art.
From there, the furry community began expanding through conventions and with the popularisation of the internet started becoming a widespread fandom for members all around the world with websites like Furry4Life and Wikifur still carrying the torch of the community. Nowadays, furries have their own massive conventions like Anthrocon and Further Confusion to celebrate their lifestyle. This community was formed and is maintained mainly through meet-ups and conventions, and it isn’t the underground sex-crazed community that was formed through 4chan and Tumblr that we’re made to believe it is. Furries are likely to get more excited about meeting up and expressing their fursona with other people than they are to be scrolling through furry porn.
That’s also another aspect of the fandom that’s been unnecessarily frowned upon: the creation of a fursona. The idea of wanting to have an identity that includes the aspects of animals is viewed as absurd. Yet it’s an idea that’s consistently perpetuated throughout our culture and media, from Animorphs to Bojack Horseman to Looney Tunes and Zootopia. We’ve flirted with these ideas for decades, furries just decided to experiment with it further as a way to interrogate ideas of identity.
A fursona can be viewed in very similar ways that dressing up as a character at any convention can be viewed – it’s a way for the person to become someone else and represent their ideal self, or the characteristics they wish to embody. So whilst there is an element of fun to it all, it’s also a very personal and psychologically interesting phenomena. What makes the fursona distinct from other forms of cosplay is of course the connection to an animal or animals, which are a possible reason for the many furry-ran events at animal shelters.
Overwhelmingly, the furry community appears to be one run on wholesome ideas of community, inclusion and self-discovery. Whilst there is a severe lack of diversity reported in the fandom, with most members being male and white, it does host a large number of genderqueer people, and a diverse range of sexualities. Additionally, at it’s base level furries are just people who dress up and have fun being whatever they dress up as, like people at anime conventions, sports games and halloween parties.
So lay-off the furry hate and check out this previously mentioned awesome research project on the community and this wholesome video of furries hanging out with Syrian refugees. The furry community is about love and support, and it’s a damn shame to see people deterred from it because of the general irksome reaction from it created by stereotypes.