The Guardian examines the Furry Fandom
February 4, 2016 6:03 PM   Subscribe

The Guardian: It's not about sex, it's about identity: why furries are unique among fan cultures: Furries tend to get a bad rap as perverse fetishists when in reality, the subculture is about playful escapism and a fascination with what links humans to animals

“Furry fandom is not now – nor has it ever been – born of a sexual fetish,” Conway insists. “There are no more or fewer persons of alternative sexuality in our fandom than anywhere else.”

If anything, that cliche may be rooted in the community’s inherent tolerance and proud reputation as a safe space: furry fans may simply not feel the need to hide who they are when they’re among friends who won’t judge. He cites comic book historian Mark Evanier: “Furries are fans of each other.”
posted by hippybear (56 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
As the furries on MeFi have explained it: it's not primarily a sex thing, just a costume enthusiasm/form of roleplaying; but like a lot of people who really enjoy costumes/role playing, some of them find getting it on in costume extra hot, because duh.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:10 PM on February 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


some of them find getting it on in costume extra hot, because duh.

How many Trekkies want to fondle Vulcan ears?
posted by hippybear at 6:12 PM on February 4, 2016


Well, there are 402,000 results for "spock porn" including holy shit is this some NSFW-ness http://spockisabottom.tumblr.com/ which is more or less exactly what you think it is, probably.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:16 PM on February 4, 2016 [10 favorites]


I mean, most fandoms are a heady stew of sexual chemistry and interpersonal drama under an eggshell veneer of shared enthusiasm. Furries get singled out because people like to make fun of them.


How many Trekkies want to fondle Vulcan ears?


You're kidding, right?
posted by selfnoise at 6:16 PM on February 4, 2016 [17 favorites]


Yeah but what about this???
posted by ACair at 6:23 PM on February 4, 2016


As the furries on MeFi have explained it: it's not primarily a sex thing, just a costume enthusiasm/form of roleplaying; but like a lot of people who really enjoy costumes/role playing, some of them find getting it on in costume extra hot, because duh.

I dunno how unique that is, in those terms anyway, as it easily describes any of the dozen or so anime cons I've ever been to. ;)
posted by trackofalljades at 6:24 PM on February 4, 2016


One thing that I find interesting about furries -- is that they're not fans of a particular character, or genre. I mean, they may be fans of certain titles, but they're not like Star Trek fans, who are bound together by Star Trek. Original characters/work is really valued.

That's not to knock other types of fandom involving commercial properties as less valid, but it's nice that there are people making fanworks that are not necessarily based on commercial properties.

I don't really want to make fun of furries anymore, like I did in my teens.

ACair, does the existence of people who want to fondle Vulcan ears make all Star Trek fandom sexual in nature?
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:26 PM on February 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


Additional info on that convention

"For the last few years, the Hilton sustained more damage during RainFurrest than it did from every other event at the Hilton the entire rest of the year. This doesn’t even include damage to guest rooms or other incidental wear and tear like the elevators.
This year’s incidents include two plumber calls, a flooded bathroom that soaked the offices underneath, towels stuffed into a hot tub pump, and multiple petty vandalisms and thefts. A final damage report is still being compiled.
We had to send three people to the hospital and call the police twice.
By Sunday morning of con this year, the hotel was so exasperated that they were threatening to evict attendees for single noise complaints."
posted by ACair at 6:26 PM on February 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


I dunno how unique that is, in those terms anyway, as it easily describes any of the dozen or so anime cons I've ever been to. ;)

That was exactly my point, really. "Did you know that some members of this fandom enjoy having sex in costume?" is maybe the most mundane observation possible, as it's pretty well true for every single fandom there is.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:27 PM on February 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Not my thing but don't see any harm. Party on, furries.
posted by raider at 6:27 PM on February 4, 2016 [11 favorites]


ACair: babyfurs (who tend to go around in diapers) are ridiculed even within the furry fandom. Most feel it is something best kept in private, but some insist on doing it in public. As is stated in the TFA (you did read it, right?), there is a lot of tolerance in the furry fandom.

The leather pup mask is something else entirely, and while associated with the furry fandom, it is its own particular thing, and is not exclusive to furry.
posted by hippybear at 6:28 PM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Is there a sub-sub-culture of furries where it IS primarily a sex thing?
posted by Bwithh at 6:28 PM on February 4, 2016


Bwithh: are you asking because you are interested?
posted by hippybear at 6:30 PM on February 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


No. But puppy/horse play is a separate fetish scene that isnt mutually exclusive. But the leather pup stuff is its own thing (see pony girls as well)
posted by kittensofthenight at 6:36 PM on February 4, 2016


I think o ts pretty easy to tell by the costumea, the leather stuff with bondage elements and binding have more... bondage elements.
posted by kittensofthenight at 6:45 PM on February 4, 2016


*It is* *costumes*
posted by kittensofthenight at 6:51 PM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


I knew plenty of people into puppy and pony play and they were definitely not furries.
posted by desjardins at 6:52 PM on February 4, 2016 [6 favorites]



How many Trekkies want to fondle Vulcan ears


As someone who happens to have pointed ears I can vouch that the number of people I have encountered who have expressed a desire to fondle my ears is zero. This includes my wife and all previous girlfriends.
posted by srboisvert at 6:55 PM on February 4, 2016


I mean, are we seriously doing that thing where we find the worst examples of a group to make fun of the group with?
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:55 PM on February 4, 2016 [9 favorites]


*looks up thread* At least one of us is making that a point, yes.

TFA is making the opposite point, but who actually reads all that text?
posted by hippybear at 6:58 PM on February 4, 2016 [10 favorites]


OK, so Rainfurrest is in the same hotel in which the library association to which I belong meets every 4 years or so. It is real messed up to see pics of people in bondage gear and diapers in the exact same rooms in which I watched colleagues present on effective ways of librarian-ing. I am also incredibly excited to go back in 2017 and try to figure out which hot tub was vandalized, which offices got flooded.
posted by holyrood at 7:05 PM on February 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


One of the signs of Growing The Fuck Up is not giving a crap about how other people make their happy. Some people make their awesome in a fursuit? Fine. I feel better when I'm wearing a favorite t-shirt or my lone tailored suit. How does other people's happy bother me?

I do have an idle wonder about the privilege aspect of the article where only a few people can get these elaborate, expensive outfits made , but I don't know enough about the furry community to know how that works practically. How is someone who shows up in their first-attempt-homemade outfit treated at a meetup? My only context is LARPing back in the day, and there was a lot of nose up at the new players who had not sunk the time/cash in to the high end garb.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:08 PM on February 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


Furry fandom is far from being the craziest thing out there. For one thing, they are consciously attempting to engage in "Freaking the Mundanes".

If you want real weirdness then check out "Otherkin".
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:23 PM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Not my thing but don't see any harm. Party on, furries.

I'd agree, though I'd like to see the costumes in person some day. All I know comes from the photos and videos in previous FPPs here, but some of the costumes look amazing. This article matches with those other FPPs, and I'm seeing fewer cheap jokes in this thread than in some others, which is nice.

I'd never thought to wonder this before, but are the costumes ever made out of real fur, or are they always basically vegan?
posted by Dip Flash at 7:24 PM on February 4, 2016


This thread is making me think of one of my favourite cartoons (which I can't find, sorry): There is a man in a dog suit taking someone in a chicken suit from behind. In the next panel, the dog person takes his head off. The chicken person doesn't. The last panel is a closeup of the chicken's head.
It looks a lot like Cowboy Henk, if that rings any bells.
posted by sneebler at 7:25 PM on February 4, 2016


Oh god. Just wait until they find out about pups.
posted by schmod at 7:26 PM on February 4, 2016


Many years ago (boring story as to why) I was invited to the Midwest FurFest by a vendor as a guest. I am not a furry but it was great fun, and they all seemed like really nice people. I did start to wonder if I worked with any of the furries I was greeting. They knew who I was, but I didn't know who they were.
posted by lagomorphius at 7:27 PM on February 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


This is primarily interesting to me in how it reveals a cultural negotiation around the meaning of fandom, which is itself a fairly new and changing cultural form:

“Furry fandom is unique among fan cultures in that we are not consumers, but rather creators,” Kage explains. “Star Trek fans are chasing someone else’s dream. Furries create our own fandom.“

The word "fan" (and I could be wrong about this) seems applied in an innovative way here. Almost invariably, whenever I've seen it used, fandom refers to associative groups of mostly-strangers oriented toward discrete cultural products: movies, tv, comics, games, etc. If furries constitute a fandom, what are they "fans" of? One might, using that reasoning, question their use of the term. On the other hand, perhaps the term can be decoupled from that root, and used instead to talk about the social forms that develop when fans create fandoms.
posted by clockzero at 7:30 PM on February 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


"Fanatic" was a noun before Trekkies, so it isn't entirely a back-formation.
posted by clew at 7:33 PM on February 4, 2016


If I were ever so moved to costume myself and hide my identity I think I would opt for something more like this...
posted by jim in austin at 7:34 PM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


ClockZero, Furry Fandom is generally considered to be an offshoot of SF/Fantasy/Comic fandom.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:34 PM on February 4, 2016


Many years ago (boring story as to why) I was invited to the Midwest FurFest by a vendor as a guest...
posted by lagomorphius at 21:27 on February 4 [+] [!]

posted by Jpfed at 7:42 PM on February 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


From the part that ACair didn't quote: "We understand that the problems are coming from less than two-tenths of a percent of the attendees". Which works out to maybe five people who did the damage. The day that someone could expect to go to, say, a comics convention where less than half a dozen people are being cobags will be a great day indeed.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:46 PM on February 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


The fabrication in the video was pretty interesting. I have only ever seen one fur suit in real life (aside from the odd tail in clubs from time to time) - the headpiece, with an articulated jaw, was a work of art and a feat of engineering at the same time. Thanks for posting, hippybear.
posted by janell at 7:55 PM on February 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


ClockZero, Furry Fandom is generally considered to be an offshoot of SF/Fantasy/Comic fandom.

Is that not sort of an apples and oranges comparison in a way, though? Comic fandom is very large, general, and broad; furry fandom seems more like the fandom of a particular, like, franchise, e.g. Star Wars. The quote I excerpted above makes it sound like the furry fandom is not oriented toward a central 'text' like SF/Fantasy/Comic fandoms are.
posted by clockzero at 8:03 PM on February 4, 2016


ClockZero, Furry Fandom is generally considered to be an offshoot of SF/Fantasy/Comic fandom.

By whom?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:17 PM on February 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Here's an interesting Something Awful forum thread by a furry who was heavily involved in the London fur scene. He has a lot of insights into the strengths and weaknesses of the community/fandom. He also has a fair bit of conflicting beliefs but it's a decent read.

Here's a link to the same thread, but only the OP's posts (and posts he quoted). He generally only responds to good faith questions, and he does so mostly politely.
posted by Sternmeyer at 8:18 PM on February 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


I knew people were sometimes mean to furries, but I had no idea it had escalated to chlorine gas and death threats! That's really scary! I wonder how responsive the FBI was when called, they are often bad about fandoms.

Also I had no idea the really high end costumes cost so much, though it makes sense - I once got to see one up close and it was really, really well articulated.
posted by corb at 8:41 PM on February 4, 2016


I had the pleasure of attending as a non-costumed spectator at the Furries vs. Klingons bowling match in Atlanta, and it was a great time for all! Lots of talking and laughing and people admiring each other's costumes, and cheers all around whenever someone bowled a strike. I still think the Klingons had an unfair advantage through bowling while not wearing giant furry paws.

I have friends who attend Leatherfest every year—an actual Sexy Kink Con that's all about the Kinky Sexytimes—and much of the stuff they do sounds pretty much like stuff at every other con: wander the halls to admire people's costumes, meet up with friends, rummage through merch at the dealer booths, attend speaker panels and workshops, complain that your feet hurt and the concession drinks are overpriced, etc. More public nudity and pony play in the halls, but still fans being fannish. I can't imagine furries are much different or worse.
posted by nicebookrack at 9:28 PM on February 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


The leather pup mask is something else entirely

And it is fucking hot. Not my thing, but I've seen them at Folsom and they've got some intense sexual energy.

But yeah, I don't see any relation of this to Furries.
posted by kanewai at 9:59 PM on February 4, 2016


That's a great video. And thanks, most all of you, for being very kind to us.

There is some overlap in membership between furry fandom and pups/ponies/etc, but they are definitely not the same thing. As a fandom that prizes acceptance, there's some tension between the "whatever floats your boat" welcoming of that, and reluctance to encourage associating something that is very explicitly a fetish with a fandom that really isn't all about sex (but people tend to think is).

What exactly the furry fandom is depends a lot on who you are, but there's some surprisingly data-wonky and statistically significant information available about who, exactly, makes up the furry fandom.

Dip Flash: Pretty much always vegan, minus sometimes leather for pawpads, etc. I've seen a fair bit of non-costume art that incorporates actual animal parts, but not really much in the way of costuming. Even the real-fur animal tails that seem to be somewhat fashionable now in wider culture are much, much less popular than the fake-fur or yarn variety. One thing there - these things get dirty when you wear them and perform in them, so ease of washing is a really important feature.

robocop is bleeding: The fandom skews young and broke. The expensive costumes are admired, but so are the homegrown efforts that maybe don't look so good but are, say, original or well-performed or what have you. Assholes will always snark, and gods know the furry fandom has as many judgy cliquish jerks as any large group of people, but in general furry seems to be relatively gentle on anybody who tries and puts themselves out there.

Bwithh: short answer, yes, because people can make anything primarily about sex. You could say the same thing about, say, architecture.

Chocolate Pickle: I wouldn't say it's generally considered that at all, except insamuch as there is overlap at the individual level with all of those separate fandoms. SF fandom and comic fandom and anime fandom are quite distinct from each other I think; there is some shared history, but someone considering them together at this point would seem to be to be using a bucket that encompasses the entirety of "nerdy fandoms with a media component", and that is one ginormously large bucket that smells a lot like it's been used all weekend to mop up spilled overgeneralizations.

holyrood: Where Rainfurrest *was*. The hotel kicked the con out, and they're now in Spokane. The issue there was not so much the furry fandom in particular as a specific, very badly broken con organization that couldn't, wouldn't, or didn't know how to deal with problems of many kinds before they reached critical mass and detonated.
posted by hackwolf at 10:42 PM on February 4, 2016 [13 favorites]


It's so strange to me that the internet hasn't completely outgrown making fun of furries or treating them like some weird, incomprehensible phenomenon. I guess because I had a couple friends in middle school who got into lucrative art careers in part by putting furry-themed art on DeviantArt and drumming up commission business from there, I see it as totally "just another fandom" that is not exceptional in any way. It's not even really unique in its lack of connection to a media property - unusual in this day and age, sure, but it's basically the same as SCA geeks who spend a ton of money on garb and handmade chain mail and spend every weekend going to wars.

And of course sex is tangled up with it. Sex is tangled up in pretty much everything adults do for fun. I guess people get squicked because they associate fursuits with Disneyland, or because they don't understand the line between cartoon animals and bestiality? But there are a lotttt of fandoms that mix super explicit sex into media properties made for kids. And coming up with stories about sex with anthropomorphized animals is not a new thing that people just made up recently. Pretty much the entire Greek pantheon was super into that. For them it often wasn't even consensual! And people literally worshiped 'em as gods.

Maybe I just roll with an extremely geeky crew and everything seems normal to me, but from where I sit making fun of furries in 2016 is like using "gay" as an insult or something. It just seems ignorant and juvenile. Like, wow, you're a grownup who really needs to express that your interests are superior to someone else's. Way to seem cool, bro. It's not like it's hard to do 20 minutes of research and find out what furry fandom is all about and that it's not just some kinky sex thing.
posted by town of cats at 10:48 PM on February 4, 2016 [26 favorites]


If you wanted to re-centre your furriness as a fandom of specific works, I reckon you would want to look pretty hard at Grandeville.

Might be a huge thing already for all I know.
posted by Segundus at 11:05 PM on February 4, 2016


This article is sort of a classic of the "furries are actually all right" genre. The author goes incognito to FurFright '07 expecting to see all the weird costumed sex that CSI promised her, and instead finds a lot of fun, friendly people just enjoying themselves.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 1:03 AM on February 5, 2016


But there are a lotttt of fandoms that mix super explicit sex into media properties made for kids.

Bronies seem to catch some heat for this. Google "clopper" if you dare.

Is there much overlap between bronies / MLP fandom and furries?
posted by theorique at 3:11 AM on February 5, 2016


I laughed when I heard about 'yiffing'. I don't begrudge anyone their fun, though!
posted by h00py at 3:27 AM on February 5, 2016


If furries constitute a fandom, what are they "fans" of?

Classically speaking, anthropomorphic and zoomorphic art, animation and fiction. Although there's a fair bit of tension between the art lovers and the fursona folks so I don't know if that's still the case.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 4:23 AM on February 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Previously on the blue.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:01 AM on February 5, 2016


Here's an interesting Something Awful forum thread by a furry who was heavily involved in the London fur scene. He has a lot of insights into the strengths and weaknesses of the community/fandom. He also has a fair bit of conflicting beliefs but it's a decent read.

Hah, I'm actually a contemporary of this guy and knew most of the same people over the same time period. While I've also pretty much left the scene, and while certainly some of the things he points out and the general trends ring true in some cases, I look back on that time fondly, had a lot of amazing experiences and made great friends, and wouldn't say there was particularly more drama than I've heard of in any other relatively intense fandom full of mostly young people. So I'd take his perspective with a pinch of salt, at least!
posted by Drexen at 5:04 AM on February 5, 2016


At this point, I find it impossible to tell if the fandom has shifted to being primarily about fursonas and yiffing, or whether that's a media bias because people grooving on the character designs for Zootopia don't sell clicks.

But my definition of "fandom" is likely a fair bit broader than most, encompassing "hey that's cool," and "I'd like to watch it again this week."
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:16 AM on February 5, 2016


At this point, I find it impossible to tell if the fandom has shifted to being primarily about fursonas and yiffing, or whether that's a media bias because people grooving on the character designs for Zootopia don't sell clicks.

My experiences at furry conventions are primarily having random conversations with interesting people, seeing fursuits in action, seeing amazing art both already created and being made before my eyes, outstanding musical performances, amazing dance parties, and hanging out with friends. Nearly everyone has a fursona (not all, but most), and the whole yiff thing I am sure is going on but is not a major component of my interactions.

Zootopia is going to be an interesting thing in the fandom as it unfolds. It will be both a blessing and a curse, I am sure.
posted by hippybear at 6:27 AM on February 5, 2016


Bronies seem to catch some heat for this. Google "clopper" if you dare.

It was fascinating watching MLP fandom evolve and the dichotomy between "cloppers" and the rest sort itself out. "Cute" vs. "Sexy" is a really hard distinction to make.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:04 AM on February 5, 2016


My line for describing furry to non-furries: "When you were a kid, did you ever pretend to be an animal? Furries never stopped doing it when they grew up."

I like to leave the "is it a sex thing" unmentioned, unlike Kage, who will remind you it's not about sex at the drop of a hat. Because we are adult humans, we are going to make it about sex sometimes, I mean duh. And I have no idea what Kage is on about when he says it's largely not full of "alternative sexuality" because I sure do see a hell of a lot of queer people passing by when I sit in a dealer's den all con.

And since people are wondering in this thread: Yes there is crossover with people into pup/pony stuff. Mostly I see a certain type of butch gay dude at the furry cons running around in leather dog masks, I don't really see anyone running around in pony dressage. This may be because "a leather dog mask and a couple of leather bondage paws back in the hotel room" costs a lot less than "elaborate pony bondage and a pair of hoof boots". Mostly when I see people with hooves at a furry con they're in a fursuit of their hooved character.

As to Rainfurrest getting kicked out of the hotel, yeah that's a big clusterfuck. There were ongoing problems with it being seen as A Wild Party Con that marijuana legalization didn't help, and the grapevine also tells me there was a problem where the member of the con staff whose job was to talk to the hotel was told the con was running out of chances but didn't communicate that to the rest of the concom, so it kinda hit them out of nowhere that the hotel was Done with them. There is a lot of open debate in the Seattle-area furries as to whether or not it's going to be viable in Spokane. I'll probably be going to at least the first one as a friend I haven't seen in person in way too long is the artist GOH, and has been doing some amazing work for it.

IMHO these days furry is largely about creating this fabulous cartoon animal version of yourself. Enjoy commercial media about animal people, sure, especially stuff with your favorite animal types (dragons are the best of course), but also make up your own characters, inhabit some of them, tell some stories about them, have fun.

And also a good dance at a furry con is an amazing sight. A room filled with pounding dance music, and with people in everything from street clothes to next to nothing to elaborate fursuits covered in pulsing LEDs. It's kinda got that Burning Man vibe sometimes except with less extreme camping. Unless you're hitting one of the cons held out in the woods at a campground...
posted by egypturnash at 1:18 PM on February 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


almost 80% are male

Is this true? (I realize I'm a couple days late to get a comment, but, still...)

I work in an urban public Arts school. Probably the only school in the city where a student can actually wear a hat. Or a cap. Or...furry ears.

So I know a few furry kids, into it to different extents, and every one is a girl. Hence my confusion.
posted by kozad at 11:01 AM on February 6, 2016


kozad: I have noticed that the younger furs tend to be more gender balanced, while those in their 20s and older seem to be overwhelmingly male. I think this means that over time the gender balance will shift more toward the center.
posted by hippybear at 11:12 AM on February 6, 2016


Kozad, yeah, lots of boys (or people who were designated male at birth and may not be that any more) in the fandom. And lots of girls doing the art; the people sitting behind tables at a con selling images are by no means entirely female but there's a lot of them.
posted by egypturnash at 9:59 PM on February 9, 2016


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