SEX! Researchers, journalists, and furries debate The Topic They Love To Hate.
by Patch O'Furr
Just published in the media: SF IS A HOTBED OF ONE KINKY-CREEPY-CUTE SUBCULTURE. And: SAN FRANCISCO – A FURRY FETISH EPICENTER. More on that shortly. (I apologize if this post is jumbled to read all at once- a lot of related topics just happened.)
1) Researcher Debra Soh recently wrote about Furries in Harper’s Magazine. I invited her to submit a piece here. She sent:
“A Lesson Everyone Can Learn from Furries”
“I wanted to write something witty and humourous for your readers, then realized a message that is more important to share.
As a sex researcher, I use brain imaging to understand how and why people develop their specific sexual interests. Our culture is not as sex-positive as it could be, and when someone asks me about my work, I am usually prepared for one of two types of reactions when I respond. Either the person will say, “That’s so interesting! Tell me more!” or they will get extremely uncomfortable, possibly angry, and sometimes imply that there is something wrong with me for wilfully pursuing this line of research.
I used to avoid speaking about my work outside of professional contexts, for fear of offending or alienating people in the room. After seeing what the fandom is about firsthand, I admire furries for pursuing what interests you, in spite of mainstream society’s opinions. You do as you wish—and why shouldn’t you? Non-furries could learn a thing or two.
I’ve since resolved to stand tall in the work that I do, and to be unapologetic if someone doesn’t share my enthusiasm for the things I find interesting.”
Debra W. Soh is a PhD Candidate in Psychology specializing in Sexual Neuroscience at York University in Toronto. She recently published a letter to the editor in the Archives of Sexual Behavior about her experience attending Furnal Equinox, which can be found here: “A Peek Inside a Furry Convention.”
2) Recently there was high traffic and controversy here about: THE NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY RESEARCH STUDY ON FURRIES.
Read about it’s non-judging intentions regarding sex – and what (or if) that has to do with Furries. Another researcher (who had nothing to do with the study) made a great comment:
… a unidimensional or binaristic approach to sex… doesn’t seem to take into account how power, fear, desire, love, longing, shame, attachment, and the need to conquer one’s personal demons can all become seamlessly interwoven with feelings of arousal or attraction. Arousal or attraction isn’t just about madly jerking off in response to a stimulus… So, someone might be “aroused” by the idea of becoming a particular animal because they relish the thought of becoming greater, stronger, more powerful, more respected, or more beautiful than they currently are, and not so much because they find tails or scales “so hawt” per se.
That explains how a creative hobby could intersect with a kink/fetish… (if it does)… but feeling sexy and “sexiness” doesn’t need anything to do with getting physical. Role playing is symbolic and mental too.
3) Having a “sexy” car doesn’t make you a perv, either…
Sometimes I compare fursuiting to driving a flashy car. (Yeah, it’s expensive and unnecessary, but it sure is fun.) Mainstream music and pop culture loves equating cars and sex. Mainstream fun might involve going to a car show… nobody thinks a car show is an orgy. A lot of Furries have fun seeing fursuits at a con… but there’s a media-distorted assumption that all furries have fursuits (only a fraction do), AND they do dirty things with them.
4) San Francisco Furries just got a lot of press. It made some mad about unfair “fetish” labels. Those articles again: SF IS A HOTBED OF ONE KINKY-CREEPY-CUTE SUBCULTURE and SAN FRANCISCO – A FURRY FETISH EPICENTER.
Thanks for the links from Kai, who anticipates a spike in furry tourism: “it could be an interesting weekend at the Stud…” The articles feature the popular furry party at The Stud, Frolic. (I wonder if the writers consulted my LONG interview with Frolic founder Neonbunny?)
Comments on his post give a True Story of a professional mascot who was unfairly fired for being seen at a furry con. That resulted from a distorted/false MTV report about furries. (It’s today known as a faked travesty.) It makes a very valid point. On the other hand, I felt:
I don’t think it’s good to pretend that certain interests don’t exist and aren’t popular. It gives all the power to rumor and innuendo from giggling people with boring lives who are secretly titillated about it. Nobody is accurately informed about how much or little it does exist. People think you have something to hide and they exploit it. Sex is more than robotic “push button to dispense pleasure” anyhow. That’s why dancing, art, driving silly cars is about sex too… Costuming is sexy as hell, drunk normal people hit on fursuiters in ways they’d never admit to themselves sober.
What the articles get right and wrong:
- Wrong: The furry map started from a German site full of Germans, so the 7,500 furries on it don’t accurately represent a much larger world population.
- Right: “the Bay Area could very well have the world’s largest population of furries per square mile”.
- Wrong: “I recommend this 2001 Vanity Fair story by George Gurley.” This explains how it’s a “flat-out false publication”; “the absolute worst” on a long list.
- Wrong: “plenty of invite-only parties devoted to fursuit sex.” There aren’t “plenty.” Trust me, it HAS been covered here… but that was one of the few (or only one) of it’s kind ever attempted as an official event. It’s like plane crashes – rare but sensationalized.
- Wrong: “furry fetishists/lifestyle-enthusiasts”. Say FANS or MEMBERS. Starting with labels, the story is distorted away from a creative community.
- Right-ish: There is SOME furry fetish community. It is small – a fraction of a niche. It gets a lot bigger when you look at self-generated drawn erotica that’s overflowing all over the internet. Of course that isn’t all that members like – far from it! (Top interests probably start with mainstream cartoons.) At the same time, people who really have a fetish or kink (or merely browse adult art) aren’t outsiders. They like sci fi, art, and creativity as much as everyone else. They represent a subculture as much as anyone who has nothing to do with them. There isn’t really an identifiable group… Just a collection of individuals who represent themselves. If outsiders make a broad brush label, you can only inform or ignore them.
TL;DR: The fetish stuff isn’t huge or done by everyone. It’s not exactly separate from other Furry interests, but not a definer. It’s poorly understood but harmless – even natural. (Almost) everyone has sex, and as Psychology Today explains: “Fetishes Do Not Exist.”