Sexualized Saturdays: A Non-Furry’s Defense of Furries

Within the geek community, there are few subcultures that catch more shade than furries. If you’ve been to an anime or comic convention you’ve probably encountered a few of them; some are immediately identifiable by elaborate anthropomorphic animal suits, and in some cases they simply sport some animal features like ears and tails. There are also many members of this community who are fans of the aesthetic but don’t actively participate in the costuming aspect. I’m not a furry myself, and don’t have any authority to really analyze the community, but in the past I have engaged in some active furry-derision, and I’ve been challenging myself about why. What led me—and apparently so many others—to choose furries as a subculture scapegoat (no pun intended)? What inclines a community made up largely of outsiders to exclude another subgroup? Well, I don’t know for sure, but I have some theories.

fox robin hood

His voice was so sultry though, what’s with that?

First, there is the widespread association between furries and sexuality, which is why this topic ended up in the Sexualized Saturday column. The assumption that being a furry is exclusively a fetish is widespread, and many people assume that furries all strap into fursuits mostly to hump each other. I have learned that this is not actually true of most furries. While there are definitely sexual elements to the subculture, a large portion of the community simply enjoys the roleplay and artistic elements. Some enjoy taking on animal-like mannerisms in a social setting, whether they incorporate costumes or not, as a way of portraying their specific character. Members of the community enjoy creating anthropomorphic alter egos and original characters through art, writing, and online roleplay, and in that sense “furry” is more like a genre than a fetish. There are some specifically G-rated communities, as well as websites for sharing art and stories.

anime body pillow

Yeah no, this is totally not sexual at all you guys.

There is indeed a sexual aspect for a portion of the community, and that portion tends to be the most visible, but that’s hardly unusual amongst geek subcultures. The volume of incredibly sexual fanfiction, fanart, and those anime body pillows is testament to the fact that plenty of geeks get more than just nerdboners over their fandom of choice. A friend involved in the furry community online remarked, “The majority of the fandom doesn’t even do the whole sex in the suit deal. But once you hear that some do, it doesn’t matter that most don’t.”

In the case of furries, unlike with most other fandoms, there is a certain association with animals, which leads to an association with bestiality. Aversion to bestiality is itself very much a normal reaction, but the idea that sexualizing fictional, humanoid characters who have certain animal features is on par with bestiality is wildly unfair. Sexy art, obviously, is entirely fantasy, and the decidedly small portion of people who actually have sex in fursuits are still people portraying characters, and as such are perfectly capable of consent. Regardless of personal kinks, consenting adults are free to express their sexuality in whatever way they so choose.

There is also some overlap between furries and “otherkin”: people who believe that their fundamental identity is something other than human. The validity of otherkin identities and their place in the world is a whole other topic for another time, but otherkin are a bit of a sore spot for me, because some try to equate themselves to trans people. Innocent though their intentions may be, when otherkin compare their situation with that of trans people, it tends to derail and detract from trans discourse, which remains essential to the trans community specifically. Many trans people, myself included, feel that otherkin are trying to ride to social legitimacy on the coattails of a decades-long and hard-fought LGBTQ+ civil rights movement.

Critically, however, furries and otherkin are not the same community, in spite of a few apparent points of overlap. Furries may feel they have some spiritual connection to certain animals that they want to express, not unlike certain pagan beliefs, or they may simply enjoy the community and the artistry as a hobby. There certainly are some otherkin within the furry community, but nether association necessitates the other.

new thundercats 2011

Acceptable.

At the end of the day, furries are just another geek subculture, and as a group they certainly aren’t bothering anyone. There is plenty of anthropomorphism in other geek media that people evidently find perfectly acceptable: the Thundercats, Sonic the Hedgehog, and that weirdly attractive fox Robin Hood from the 1973 Disney movie, for example. You had some feelings for that fox as a child, and if you claim otherwise, you are lying to yourself. As my consulting friend put it, “Furries spend thousands of dollars to show off a character they created that they think represents themselves in some form or another. They spend thousands on art as well trying to bring the character to life. Everyone has their own image of themselves. And when we were little we wanted to be puppies. Now we’re older and we want to be dragons, puppies, foxes, wolves. It’s silly that people are so down on Furries.”


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5 thoughts on “Sexualized Saturdays: A Non-Furry’s Defense of Furries

  1. Whenever someone starts to equate something else to bestiality (as a gender-variant person, people equating trans* folks to bestiality ranks up there in my own experience), I always like to point out that there is no kind of sexuality that isn’t bestiality, technically–humans are animals, and thus if you have sex with humans, you have sex with animals, ergo bestiality. But, people don’t like to remember that they’re animals, even if they are human, alas…

    (Also: no, bestiality as commonly understood does not get a pass via this logic, it just shows how artificial some of our categories are, and how often we are anthropocentric in our thinking in ways that might be detrimental and dishonest.)

    • The problem with bestiality really isn’t to do with physical differences between humans and animals, it’s a matter of consent. Only humans are capable of consenting to sex with other humans, animals unequivocally can’t, under any circumstances, so in that regard the distinction is definitely not arbitrary or artificial. Bestiality is abusive by nature.
      If in theory there were some non-human species that had the same level of intelligence and the same verbal communication skills as humans, that would be a different matter. That’s why people generally don’t take issue with fictional human/non-human relationships that involve physical differences, like banging The Iron Bull in Dragon Age. He’s a giant gray thing with horns, but even though he’s not human he’s clearly fully intelligent and self-aware and consent is clearly established. Situations like that don’t exist in real life, obviously, so the line between sex and bestiality is very easy to draw.

      • Certainly, I realize that consent is the main issue, and is what I had in mind when I said “bestiality as commonly understood does not get a pass.”

        (Though, I half-suspect that some of the research into, e.g., dolphin communication and socialization on behalf of humans, is essentially certain people’s ways of trying to get to the point where inter-species communication with those other intelligent species can result in sexual consent, and can justify what a lot of people seem to be doing with dolphins–both in captivity and in the wild–when no one is looking. It’s sad, but I suppose expectable, that the frontiers of human knowledge might be getting pushed further in the efforts to find interesting new species. or dimensions of known species, in order to have sex with them…It’s like the James T. Kirk motivation for exploring things. Eeesh.)

  2. For better or worse, there IS a vein of bodily dissatisfaction that runs through furry fandom. Whether because you’re trans, chronically ill, unhappy with your weight, unhappy with your scars, etc., claiming an imaginary body and persona for yourself can be a powerful tool to deal with feelings of depression and self-alienation. Imagining that body in sexual contact with other bodies is a common part of that, and I don’t think it has to be something people are ashamed of. We all have our coping methods, right?

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