Furry: a word that can spark so many different emotions when it is uttered; responses that range from positive acceptance and curiosity to disgust. The Furry community itself is just as diverse as the reactions directed towards it. This controversial subculture is one example of people’s desire to establish their sexual identity, in whatever form (human or other).
How The Furry Identity Formed
A loose definition of a “Furry” would be one who enjoys anthropomorphic (resembling or made to resemble a human form) and zoomorphic art (highly stylized representation of an animal or animal form). A Furry is a person who relates to an animal (usually non-human) or animal hybrid character and identifies himself or herself as being part of the Furry collective community. Each person within the Furry community has their own definitions of what it means to be “Furry,” so it can be hard to draw broad generalizations over the population. The “Furry Fandom” officially formed in the late 1980s in “hotel-room parties at science-fiction and comic-book fan conventions.” A convention is a gathering of people with similar interests in a certain subject. Around 1989, the Furry parties led to a “prototype ConFurence Zero” the first Furry exclusive convention. Ever since that first meeting, the conventions have multiplied in number with Anthrocon in Pennsylvania as the most attended convention in the world (over 5,000 in attendance annually).
Furries And The Internet
One major website that has allowed Furries to meet other Furries and live out their lives as their character counterpart is the MMOPG (Massive multiplayer online roleplaying game), SecondLife. SecondLife was created in 2003 with the intent for people to have virtual lives with characters they created and could manipulate. SecondLife is “specifically devoted to exploring the myriad interests within Furry Fandom”. Furries started to form a stronger collective body and a greater presence in society, especially on the World Wide Web. Following SecondLife was the website by the name of “FurAffinity,” formed in 2005. It is now the largest Furry website, boasting well over 45,000 members. Furaffinity’s main purpose is to promote Furry art in the form of drawing, digital art, music, short stories etc. These numbers were provided by the web site Wikifur, which itself formed in 2009. Wikifur, based off of the web encyclopedia Wikipedia, exists solely to provide knowledge about Furry-related topics. There are not very many websites on the internet that can help correctly inform people about Furry topics without having a negative slant. Therefore, the birth of Wikifur was very beneficial in informing Furs (a nickname for those within the Furry culture) and Non-Furs alike about various aspects of the subculture. Another website that helped progress interaction between Furs and the artistic aspect of the Furry Fandom was LiveStream. LiveStream allows artists to stream their work as they create it and permits other Furs to watch and chat with one another and the artist. Many people make new friends at a “convention and then stay in touch online, and they make friends online whom they then meet in person at the convention”.1 All of these websites create an atmosphere where Furries can come together and further promote this subculture.
Core Values and Tastes of Furries
Furries have a wide range of tastes and values, many of which are contradictory to one another. Some universal traits have been observed of Furries and the first scientific study ever conducted on Furries tested some of these stereotypes. One thing that is almost universal among Furs is the sexual and nonsexual enjoyment of anthropomorphism, portraying human emotions and characteristics onto animal or non-living objects. Usually the word anthropomorphism is shortened to anthro, and has come to mean a humanoid representation of an animal or hybrid of animals. The general open-mindedness and accepting nature of Furries is well known. Furries tend not to be judgmental people because they themselves are often judged by society at large. They get this general feeling of protecting one’s own kin, and therefore are more willing to accept other Furs that have various fetishes and desires. The Furry Fandom has provided many people with “community, friendship, and material support,” who would otherwise feel shunned by society.
Also, Furries will ban together to report a plagiarist and try to bring the perpetrator to justice by having them banned from art websites. It is very taboo in the Furry community to steal another person’s personal character, especially one that is representational of another individual.
Furries are very sexually open. All points on the sexual orientation spectrum are represented within this community; even more terms have been created for those who do not feel they fit in with preexisting definitions. A couple things that are interesting to note is that “female Furries are more likely to be bisexual” than male Furries. Also, females are much more likely to “be heterosexual and much less likely to be homosexual than males”. In addition to being open-minded, Furries also tend to have a more vivid imagination compared to Non-Furs. With this more developed imagination, Furries are often classified to be “kind of eccentric”. This ability to be very open sexually and have a vivid imagination has probably helped contribute to Furries in general being attracted to Furry-related porn. Many Furries enjoy and partake in the viewing of cartoon pornography; porn that is drawn by artists on commission. Many Furries request porn of their own character to be drawn, while others enjoy whatever porn they can find. Because porn is such a big part of the Furry community, it is decriminalized by the members of the Fandom. For many, porn has just become another art form, a way to express feelings that the people are experiencing. Porn is not always viewed or looked at for sexual gratification.
Distinguishing Features of Furries
The Furry subculture has very distinct features that distinguish it from surrounding subcultures and allows members to recognize other members. Furries use simple things to distinguish themselves, such as wearing animal shirts and slight animal mannerisms. Many Furries already feel a connection to animals and therefore enjoy displaying them on the clothing they wear. It allows the Furry to express his or her appreciation for animals and the Fandom without being eccentric or drawing too much attention to themselves. Many Furries like to act a bit like the animal they portray or like animals in general. It is common to hear a Furry making animal noises such as growling, purring, and fake roaring or hissing. They also will act like the animal by pouncing on people, rubbing against people, and pretending to be that animal.
Another simple way to demonstrate knowledge of the Fandom and distinguish yourself as a Fur is by using specific jargon of the Furry subculture. Some examples of sexual code words are the following:
- “Yiff” means sex
- “Yiffy” means horny or sexual
- “Yiffing” means mating
- “Fur pile” denotes a bunch of Furries lying on top of one another, affectionately, and skritching (light scratching/petting)
- “Spooge” is semen—a possible outcome of a fur pile
- A “furvert” is anyone who is sexually attracted to mascots3
- “Murr Purr” connotes the noises people make when they see something appealing, whether it be sexual or not (often times it is)
Other words that do not have a sexual connotation include the following:
- “Popufur” refers to a Furry artist or individual (though usually it is an artist) that is extremely popular in the Furry community
- “Fursona” is a person’s character representations (usually some sort of animal or animal hybrid) of themself, based off the word “persona”
The usage of these words better demonstrate that a person is part of the Fandom then the first two examples.
The biggest distinction that a person is a Furry is whether or not they are wearing a tail, ears, mask, badge, or a partial or full fursuit. At a convention, the most common way a person demonstrates their participation in the fandom is by wearing a badge with a picture of their character on it and the name of the character beneath it. That way others can recognize them by their character badge. It is also pretty common to see many “fursuiters” (people dressed up in costumes designed like their fursona) at Furry conventions, although the most common form of dress up is just wearing ears and/or a tail. Fursuiters pay quite a large amount of money to have their suits made; it is the final step to having the character represent the individual. Many people enjoy wearing the suits to hide from reality. Some suit-wearers are not comfortable with their human identity and would rather only portray the character. Others just wear the suits for the fun and camaraderie that goes along with wearing a suit with your friends. The reasons as to why people are Furries or why they do what they do in the fandom are very diverse and are unique to each individual.
As mentioned earlier, there is a very large amount of Furry porn created and displayed on the internet. And with this large amount of porn there has been a creation of many fetishes, (some that are a bit more extreme than others), such as:
- Vore (the swallowing whole of another character)
- Plushiphiles (those that masturbate using stuffed animals)
- Baby Furs (A bit like an adult baby, but in anthro/furry form)
- Nazi Furs or Furzis (Furries that portray themselves as Nazis) etc
Knowledge of these by the general public creates this image that all Furries are sexual deviants that have bizarre tastes, and as one interviewed person once so plainly said, are just “animal fuckers.” Furries love and appreciate animals. But contradictory to popular beliefs they are not zoophiles that have sex with animals. Many people believe that all Furries are zoophiles and their main goal is to have sex with animals. This cannot be further from the truth, there is a small minority of people out there that claim to be Furry and are into bestiality, but most Furries have no desire to have sex with animals and only want to mix animal traits with the human body.
Furries In The Media
Another thing that has contributed negatively to the Furry name and reputation are some mass media in TV, books, and magazines that are supposedly written about the whole Furry Fandom. These include, but are not limited, to a CSI episode titled “Fur and Loathing In Las Vegas,” a Tyra Banks episode on strange and unusual sexual practices, and a Vanity Fair article titled Pleasures of the Fur, which contained some accurate info but was ultimately slanted in a negative way. The one thing all these articles had in common was that they only focused on the fursuiting aspect of the Furry Fandom and only those few people that enjoy having sex within their costumes. It is true that some Furries do enjoy having sex while in suit by using strategically placed holes and zippers. But, the greater majority of Furries and fursuiters do not partake in this activity. These shows and articles were created for entertainment purposes, but they were still very detrimental to the overall image of a Furry and do not help society to understand the true nature of the Furry Fandom. None of these examples mention the artistic side to the Furry community, which is the biggest aspect of the subculture.
Furry. Hopefully by now the word has come to mean something else, something more positive. Furs are a group of people, that enjoy the imaginative process of creating and representing a character, as well as a love for animals. Furries should not be loathed, but rather looked at with an open mind to understand the intricacies that form this diverse subculture.
1. Carlson, Marla. "Furry Cartography: Performing Species." Project MUSE: Today's Research. Tomorrow's Inspiration. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011. Web. Apr.-May 2012. <http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/theatre_journal/v063/63.2.carlson.html>.
2. Gerbasi, Kathleen C., Et Al. "Furries From A to Z (Anthropomorphism to Zoomorphism)." 2011. Web. Apr.-May 2012. <http://www2.asanet.org/sectionanimals/articles/GerbasilFurries.pdf>.
3. Gurley, George. "Pleasures of the Fur." Vanity Fair. Mar. 2001. Web. Apr.-May 2012. <http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2001/03/furries200103>.
4. Parsons, Zack. Your Next-Door Neighbor Is A Dragon: A Guided Tour Of The Internet’s Strange Subcultures And Weird Realities. New York: Kensington, 2009. Print.
5. Probyn-Rapsey, Fiona. "Furries and the Limits of Species Identity Disorder: A Response to Gerbasi Et Al." IngentaConnect. BRILL, 3 Nov. 2011. Web. Apr.-May 2012. <http://docserver.ingentaconnect.com/deliver/connect/brill/10631119/v19n3....
6. Serpell, James A. "People In Disguise: Anthropomorphism and Human-Pet Relationship." Thinking with Animals: New Perspectives on Anthropomorphism. Ed. Lorraine Daston and Gregg Mitman. New York: Columbia UP, 2005. 121-32. Print.
7. "WikiFur Furry Central." WikiFur. Laurence "GreenReaper" Parry, 2005. Web. 21 May 2012. <http://en.wikifur.com/wiki/WikiFur_Furry_Central>.