Spring is here, and with its longer days come a host of woodland critters frolicking in meadows across the world, better known as convention centers. I’m talking, of course, about furries—one of our more ostracized sexual brethren.
Last weekend marked the eleventh anniversary of Furry Weekend in Atlanta, Georgia. If you weren’t able to make it, no worries. There’s another one on its way in a city near you if you know where to look. (Hint: the internet.) Luckily, I happen to be in with the furry crowd and a few are even willing to introduce me to my first convention. Now all I need is a name and a “fursona.” How about a sassy steam punk giraffe named Colonel Cecil Longapple?
Anyone who knows me knows I’m a bit of a fan-boy when it comes to the things that tickle my fancy. For example, tonight I am going to Dan Savage’s amateur porn event—Hump!—and this Fall I’ll be attending Kink College in Chicago. So why do furries get a bad rap?
People who take on anthropomorphic “fursonas,” furries are often seen as sexual deviants who frequent these dens called convention centers for hot bestial humping, or "yiffing". Much of this stigma seems to have stemmed from a 2001 Vanity Fair article in which the author wrote “this is no hobby. It’s sex; it’s religion; it’s a whole new way of life.” Since then, furry groups like Burned Fur and Improved Anthropomorphics have risen specifically to combat this public image associated with furry fandom.
Furry conventions exist much like any other convention—to commune, exchange ideas, art, literature and film. Is some of that art or film sexual in nature? Absolutely! In case anyone missed the memo, the internet is for porn. And within every fandom, someone somewhere has found a way to sexualize it. Ever see Harry Potter use his wand on Hermoine? Or The Incredible Hulk “smash” Iron Man? People want their favorite fictional characters to fuck, and furries are no different.
In fact, furries may not be as confined by sexual boundaries or gender roles as the rest of us. A study by Alex Osaki for the Furry Research Center found that more furries (36%) considered themselves bisexual than gay or straight. That same study found that 3.7% of furries chose a fursona of the opposite gender. As far as sex, however, it would seem public perception has crept in even amongst the furry fandom. Over 50% said that sex wasn’t important to them. Osaki explains:
“Compared to some settings…the fandom is downright prudish. So myth: busted. But curiously enough, furries themselves seem to buy into it, at least to a degree….only 14.9% of furries said they thought sex wasn't important to others, and over a third said they thought it played a "large" or "extremely large" part in the lives of their furry brethren. This may be therefore a myth in part of the fandom's own unintentional design. Or it may simply be the public image trickling down: virtually nobody believed the public thought sex to be unimportant to the furry fandom.”
So furries aren’t just a bunch of sex-crazed men and women in fox suits running around looking for their next yiff. But even if they were—even if these conventions were full of furry man-on-man-on-female-on-she-wolf action—fetishes exist is all different forms. As long as things are consensual, safe, and fun for everyone involved, who are we to judge who’s yiffing who? In the end, furries are people like anyone else. The only difference is that they are playing a role and having fun at reconnecting with their animalistic roots. And according to primatologist Isabel Behncke at a 2011 TED Talks:
“Play is our adaptive wildcard. In order to adapt successfully to a changing world we need to play…In times when it seems least appropriate to play it might be the times that it is most urgent.”
So the next time you see a furry, give them a great big hug or scratch behind the ears. They’ll love it, and you will have played with a lion or tiger or bear…oh my.
Until next time you wild beasts—