The Zaush Issue – leaked private messages make a public discussion.
by Patch O'Furr
(CONTENT WARNING – discussion of sex and abuse.)
Zaush is one of the bigger stars of furry fandom. He’s one of the top most followed artists, who cranks out copious amounts of porn. It’s drawn to a pro level and earns him a full time income on Patreon, with high demand from an audience of furverts who couldn’t find it at a friendly neighborhood porn shop. It’s a perfect niche if that’s what you’re into. Or maybe it’s a dark corner Zaush has painted himself into – judging by concerning practices that have come to light.
I’m not that familiar with his stuff. Personally, I’ve avoided it because that kind of porn turns me off. That’s not because of being judgemental to fetish. In my critical opinion, it’s more like cute cartoon animals doing sticky gang bangs could use all the cute and not so much sticky. And I wish established Disney characters weren’t getting bent out-of-character. But my main dislike is for the stories and power dynamic in them. I love furry art for showing more warmth and feeling than live human actors; but this art gives me bad feelings. The stories seem to reward bullies taking sex from prey like taking candy from a baby.
This brings up common jokes about his characters getting younger and younger over time.
At one point in mid 2017, I even had a disagreement with someone about that – and now let’s cut to the chase. That gut feeling got vindicated. Private messages with a commissioner on Zaush’s personal account have leaked, and warning: 1) they can be described as catering to pedophilic interest. 2) It’s not just art – there’s real pics of little kids in bathing suits used for art reference. 3) There’s also actual porn of the “barely legal” genre.
WARNING AGAIN: THIS CONTENT IS VERY BORDERLINE. IT APPEARS TO BE LEGAL ACCORDING TO KNOWN INFO, BUT YOU SHOULDN’T CLICK IT IF BORDERLINE IS RISKY TO YOU.
- Image 1 – explicit images of adult actress Sammie Daniels
- Image 2 – another explicit image, claimed to be mainstream
- Image 3 – chat
- Image 4 – images of kids in bathing suits
- Image 5 – images of kids in bathing suits
- Image 6 – images of kids in bathing suits
What followed deserves credit; there wasn’t effort to lie, and that helps a lot for an honest discussion. And, even if borderline-legal, there’s a LOT to discuss. This is part of the point of the article: if this stuff is going to get made, consumers of it should be fully aware of what they’re supporting.
To break this down, the borderline content is the extreme of cub art. Here’s what I last posted about that – it’s arguable that people who role-play as being kids are doing something harmless and even therapeutic or positive. Boozy Badger, a fandom lawyer, said similar stuff about AB/DL acceptance being harmless or good (for example, supporting people with medical incontinence.)
But there’s a difference between that and using pics of real kids to produce porn of imaginary ones.
Where do you start with what that difference means?
Arguably you could say a fictional depiction of an underage person, like a cartoon, is violative of the law. However, while this could theoretically happen, prosecutions to conviction on such a provision (Federal here, PROTECT Act) are rare. /1— The Badger of Venice (@BoozyBadger) March 5, 2018
Legally, it’s murky; you could start with calling cops, but they probably won’t do anything about it.
But you don’t have to stop with calling cops. Communities don’t run by having people arrested, if there is even a technical violation – and that’s a last resort. Relying on technicality is unlikely to solve a problem; it’s what “borderline” stuff is made to evade. Of course, on the positive side, there’s parents, families, organizers, and institutions to encourage good stuff. This community largely lacks those – but it doesn’t lack people who make effort to create their community.
That’s why we get to talk about it.
Zaush appears to be catering to an audience with a lot of money flow. When I see the talent he’s using, I feel a bit disappointed. If this is the top art furries support, why not aim higher? Good writing should be able to succeed whether or not it involves sex. OK, but I framed this as a problem – if it does good business and people want it, what problem?
Well, that demand comes from a community that gave Zaush a platform – without cons, and publishers, and websites, and users for them, he wouldn’t have his niche. That reminds me of hearing (unverified) that Zaush isn’t accepted as a client by the main fandom publishers – but more to the point, Furaffinity appears to bend rules for his art that others don’t get to bend. Those rules are against explicit art that depicts underaged characters – which Zaush does all but semantically (since they’re just “labeled” as not underage.)
Judging by what was in those PM’s, the semantic exemption is hard to claim any more. Supporting such rule bending (because people want their porn) suggests a community double standard for popularity.
That’s why we get to talk about it.
There’s precedent for regulating this content. Softpaw Magazine was banned from several cons and the Ursa Major Awards, and FurAffinity was unable to make payment processor relationships due to porn on the site. It arguably restricted fandom growth into a niche. Wanting freedom for that is a double edged sword that cuts into other freedoms. And it’s not just about whether Zaush’s stuff is harmless or not – what about relaxing standards so much that actual illegal stuff gets mixed in? There’s precedent for that too, such as when a Softpaw contributor was arrested for illegal images of children.
It relates to a “group ethic” that was in my article: R.C. Fox arrested for child pornography, furries question fandom connections. That can make slippery slope arguments that I disfavor (I don’t think tame cub art leads to child abuse), but a group can still have consistent standards.
As far as Zaush being harmless… that’s also a point of contention; in 2010, he was accused of rape and predatory behavior. He gave a long answer that leaves many people unsatisfied, with no explanation for what a putative victim had to gain by lying – especially since the story came to light from private messages and it wasn’t shared for public attention.
The contents of Zaush’s PM’s came out that way too. How a reader treats those (and if he gets favored) vs. how they treat the private messages of a woman talking about rape (and if she doesn’t) may say something about their standards.
When I had a gut feeling about the content of Zaush’s art hiding a deeper problem, and got vindicated for that… there’s a similar feeling many others have about his behavior. Cops don’t arrest for feelings, thankfully. But on the flip side, an average abuser has many victims and gets away with it for years before getting caught.
That’s why we get to talk about it.
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I think I should have let this one go without comment, but I just couldn’t do it. Since I have sold my creative soul to produce porn for the fandom, this has become an issue in my material. It is a fine line that you can find yourself skirting, to ‘entertain’. I have found varying aging rates and social diversity in my Fur creations adding more complications and stretching that line even thinner. Look no further than our own society as a whole to see that this can happen rather easily if one is not careful.
I’m not like such a furry elitist that I put my head in the sand this stuff isn’t gonna happen, I mean furry does deal in ‘fantasy’ so it’s kind of inevitable. A nice flipside is like there is art that seems ‘disgusting in real life’ by many people’s standards but probably an adult, just like a body type or whatever that’s not like ‘hunky’ enough you won’t see a RL celebrity like that
like thank god I don’t think much furry stuff looks like ‘celebs’
one of the artists I had in mind is called “Dramamine”? I dunno maybe in fantasy it’s nice. And he seems to like girls, nice to know it happens lol
Id like to mention, that the particular loophole of
“not labeling or tagging your artwork, not making a description, not alluding to any form of edit done to said artwork, even if said artwork is actually cropped and censored. The main artwork can have a link to the uncensored content provided the link isnt directly a link to the uncensored work, and you have to click more than once to view said content”
is being used by other cub porn artists like Shin0r0z, SSSonic, Daiidalus, BigDad and others with equal rule bending effects.
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The core problem with Adam Wan isn’t that he draws cub, it’s that he raped someone, all but confessed to it, got away with it, and turned that notoriety into a Brand, of which the cub is merely an accessory product line.
The original accusations were never meant to see the light of day; they were a feeler put out by the victim to try and gather evidence and unify what by their account was already a small group of female furry artists who had been harassed or worse by Wan. It looked for all the world that something akin to today’s #MeToo was being organized by people within the furry community.
This effort was cut short when FA was hacked on December 16, 2010. Everyone who was mentioned in the messages as being other victims of Wan either clammed up or outright denied anything happened. In the immediate aftermath, it was mentioned that still other victims were out there, and that they wouldn’t be coming forward either. Since many of these victims were artists who were financially dependent on commissions from the same clientele as Wan, you can probably guess why they didn’t want to rock the boat.
The cumulative effect of this is that the main victim, the one in the message that we all know about, was practically hung out to dry. It doesn’t matter that people were coming forward on their own before and after 12/16; It has long since turned into a “he said she said” situation for people who wanted business to continue as usual for the subculture. And continue as usual it has, ever since.
The story makes more bad context to add up for sure, I wouldn’t dismiss it.
The “he said she said” situation can be understandable when onlookers aren’t psychic, and details are interpreted, hearsay, murky, borderline, or sourced questionably. (An FA admin who helped leak this info runs a blackmail fetish group and is themselves accused of being a manipulative abuser and liar). “Everyone else clammed up” makes a limit. I can’t accept a dependence excuse, if people are taking money from customers, they’re catering to those customers. Wanting to not rock the boat doesn’t mean helplessness or people can get excused for anything. Look at jasonafex and kabs, whether there was grooming or not before, she’s actively being nasty and not just a victim. Besides, speaking up may piss off customers (the kind you probably don’t want if this story is a problem) but raises interest too, my whole site works like that, LOL.
I’d ask whether there is some explanation for why someone wouldn’t be telling the truth. I haven’t heard any good rebuttal in this case. It makes Zaush seem super shady at best and it’s definitely worth listening to the accusations.
Do u think maybe him raping a woman could be a gateway of sorts to raping children? Cuz like if he got away with it for a woman, he might push his luck.