Ever Heard of Furries?
If you’re familiar with internet culture, memes, fandoms, and the like, then you probably already know about furries.
If you haven’t heard about them, or only have a vague idea of the concept, it might seem completely foreign, or even downright weird.
Furries catch a lot of flack both online and in the real world. But despite the ridicule, controversy, and confusion, furry communities keep growing.
Popular outlets frequently represent furries as sexual fetishists who like having sex in animal costumes.
But that’s not always the case. Most furries think having sex in animal costumes is a bad idea.
So what are furries, and who are the people who wear the costumes? Is it an attraction to animals, or just another form of self-expression?
Let’s take a look.
What Are Furries, Anyway?
Furries are people with interest in anthropomorphized animals, or animals with human-like attributes, such as talking, walking on two feet, etc.
(Think Judy Hopps from Zooptopia or Lola Bunny from Space Jam.)
It’s a broad definition, with plenty of room for varying degrees of furry.
It can include casual fans of shows and games starring anthro characters, or those who create a unique avatar, or fursona, that they relate to.
At the end of the spectrum are otherkin, or those who regard themselves as not entirely human either spiritually or mentally.
Social psychologist and International Anthropomorphic Research Project (IARP) member Dr. Courtney “Nuka” Plante compares furries to other fandoms like Trekkers or Whovians.
“It has its origins in the science fiction fandom. If you like comic books with characters who are like animals, or artwork with humans with animal traits, those would be considered forms of furry artwork.”
Being a fan of anthropomorphic animals might seem strange until you consider that many furries grew up watching shows like Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, etc.
Furries And Fursonas
Fursonas are personalized, self-created characters used to interact with other furries in within the community.
According to Plante and other experts who study this phenomenon, as many as 98% of furries have a fursona.
When someone develops their fursona, they begin by choosing an animal to represent themself to others. They can be real, imaginary, or original, although made-up creatures are uncommon.
Fursonas have names and typically inspire artwork or fictional stories. Furthermore, the level of attachment to one’s fursona varies as well.
For some, a fursona is just a cute avatar that represents themselves, but others might have a deeper meaning to theirs.
No, not all furries wear costumes, or more accurately, fur-suits. Fur-suiting or wearing said suit, is mostly the product of mainstream media purporting the stereotype.
Studies from the IARP, which studies this community, found that only a small percentage of the fandom wear fur-suits.
According to a survey from 2007, just 26.4% of furry convention attendees owned a fur-suit, while 30% wore one.
Another survey conducted at the 2014 Furry Fiesta revealed that 13% owned a complete suit, while 34.3% wore anything (clothing or accessories) associated with their fursona.
However, 48.1% of the respondents owned a tail, making tails the most popular fur-suit element.
Are Furries Fetishists?
Many people associate furries with sexual deviancy, thinking it’s a fetish or, at the very least, a kink.
That’s not always the case, but like anything else, sexual themes can arise.
For some, yiffing, or engaging in sexual activities with other furries, is a part of the subculture. (Yiffing comes from the sound that foxes make during sex.)
On the other hand, others keep a strictly non-sexual interest.
In an interview with Boing Boing’s Lisa Katayama, furry participant Josh Strom explains that reducing furries to a group of people who only has sex in fur-suits is incorrect.
This stereotype frustrates fans, especially since only a small number of furries own full suits. Those who do aren’t turned on by the thought, or even interested in it.
Plus, having sex in fur-suits risks damaging it, which can be extremely costly.
“We go to conventions to hang out with friends, maybe buy something like art or badges, go to a discussion panel or see a show. Swinger parties and fetishes are there, but that’s not what the fandom is about.”
At the 2013 Furry Fiest, 96.3% of males and 78.3% of females admitted watching furry porn. But, furry porn is a broad category and comparable to conventional porn, just with the addition of furry features.
The same survey revealed that men viewed furry porn an average of 41.5 times a month, whereas women watched it about 10.5 times.
Survey participants also reported that the majority of their engagement within the furry community wasn’t sexual.
As for online roleplaying, men spent 34% of their time on sexual content, and women only 21.4%.
Most men and women stated that when they first entered the fandom, it had very little to do with sex.
Sexual attraction to other fursonas is a polarizing subject within the furry community. One poll gauging the importance of sexual attraction in furry activities found that:
- 37% said the sexual attraction was important
- 38% were conflicted
- 24% said it had little or nothing to do with their interest
According to another survey:
- 33% had a notable sexual interest in furry activities
- 46% felt a minor sexual interest
- 21% felt no sexual interest at all
Moreover, a minority (17%) experienced sexual interest in zoophilia. However, many fandom members are incredibly critical of this.
Furry activities are usually classified into two categories: online fandom and conventions.
In both circumstances, there are strong ties between furries, science fiction, and comic books.
Like other fandoms, fan art is a considerable part of the furry community.
In 2012, the IARP studied multiple surveys held online and in numerous conventions. Their study revealed that the most popular sites focused on art, fiction, and music.
About half attend conventions yearly or semiyearly. In these real-world spaces, fans can meet and interact with one another as well as meeting famous artists.
In a way, conventions are a lot like Comic-Con and related events. People get to meet their favorite writers, artists, etc. while hanging out with other enthusiasts.
Like other fandoms, furries frequently experience rejection because of their interest. Conventions offer a way for participants to express themselves freely without fear of bullying.
Numerous surveys indicate that the majority of furries are white, men, in their mid-20s, and likely gay, bi, or trans.
In 2012, data showed that those who attended conventions and who were active online were predominately male–about 79.2%-85.7%.
In 2014, nearly 90% of furries who answered a survey at Anthrocon identified as white.
Interestingly, convention attendees were typically older, usually between 24 and 27 years old, while online furries were about 23 to 25 years.
One question that outsiders wonder is whether furries think they’re animals or not.
It’s hard to say for sure.
1 in 3 furries admits that they don’t feel 100% human. Of this portion, 8%-14% suggest it in a physical sense while most mean it in a spiritually or mentally.
However, 38%-53% of furries claim that if they could be 0% human, they would.
“Otherkin” is an umbrella term used for those who identify as non-human. It is sometimes used by those who identify as a fictional or mythical creature, like a dragon or vampire.
On the other hand, “therians,” a subset of otherkin, identify with, either partially or totally, to a real animal. The most popular species among therians are wolves.
Some researchers propose that otherkin and therians may have a species identity disorder, modeled after gender identity disorder (or gender dysmorphia).
But of course, some believe classifying otherkin with a mental disorder is counterproductive and only causes more stigma.
Like those who use sex dolls, furries are misrepresented by mainstream media.
Not everyone gets turned on by fur-suiting or yiffing, nor does everyone want to.
Many have experienced bullying because of their interest. Luckily, the internet has helped many find a place to feel acceptance and support.
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