The closing of Pounced.org is a wake up call for fandom attitudes about sex.
by Patch O'Furr
Such a shame. I met my boyfriend of 5 years through Pounced, as well as some other awesome furs. This is yet another instance of Congress using a flamethrower to address an issue rather than a scalpel.— Zaphod Birblebrox (@PandemoniumHawk) March 24, 2018
Yesterday’s article covered the closing of Pounced, a long-lived furry dating and personals site, out of fear of legal liability under a controversial new law, FOSTA. A statement on Pounced discussed ill-defined wording that made the law overkill; and how the smallest organizations may face the worst liability. It particularly could require administration that sounds easy on paper, but makes an untenable burden in practice.
FOSTA is meant to protect assumed victims of sex trafficking, but falsely makes “victims” and “sex work” the same thing. My article suggested that nobody wants trafficking abuse, but sex work isn’t illegal everywhere, it exists everywhere and can be called a healthy consenting adult issue. Beyond that is anti-free-speech, anti-business, and intrusive paternalism of a law that has collateral damage on stuff like harmless dating. Here’s some editorial elaboration.
Personal ads, dating, and sex in fandom
Furrtrax is still open as this posts – a free personals site offering nonprofit service for furries/by furries. Furfling, Furrymate and Bronymate are pay sites sharing ownership that were covered in one of my first furry news exposes about deceptive commercial practices targeting fandom for profit. Closing Pounced will shift activity, but will it go to a better place?
Furry dating is part of a unique community. If I told you that 2/3 of Star Trek fans were LGBT, and 80% of those in relationships found them with other Star Trek fans, you might say I’m from outer space. But that was a survey finding by the IARP about furries meeting furries. A huge amount of positive activity is being swept under the influence of FOSTA.
Many furries are into art and genre stuff that has nothing to do with sex. But sexual tolerance thrives in furry. It might be part of DIY creative expression that aligns with LGBT and other identity, on a spectrum beyond plain and average. Adult furry stuff is self generated, and often direct and indie unlike exploitative business. It’s hugely popular. The communities r/furry and r/yiff are close in age, and the adult one is bigger than the clean one. The biggest furry business is Bad Dragon. There are furry kink events in formal venues. Adult stuff is a gateway for newcomers who become some of the most dedicated and creative fans. An alternative to suppressing sex with bad laws would be tolerating free expression with healthy, safe access and education.
Peanut butter doesn’t have to go with jelly, but arguing that furries and sex don’t go together is impossible to do honestly these days. Trying to redefine it out of existence would be like shooting oneself in the foot about fixing a problem for furries and the larger culture too. A bad law doesn’t deserve to go unopposed just because it’s tricky to talk about. To the extent that trafficking is real, shouldn’t solutions happen with mutual participation of those close to it?
The wake up call is to own this issue as a community, or lose important parts of it. If “commercialization” is unwelcome to grassroots fandom, the effect of FOSTA is what it looks like. The threat isn’t companies hiring furry skills or supporting their platforms; it looks like being crowded out and having benefit shift to predatory or bigger companies, up to tech giants (Facebook, Google etc) that can afford to buy in.
It’s more complicated than “Free Speech Good, Moderation Bad,” and it shouldn’t be partisan.
When free expression comes up, there might be attempts to conflate this issue with another one, hate group recruiting and hate speech. But telling haters to go somewhere else isn’t like putting people in jail. Wearing earplugs and saying “stop yelling in my ear” isn’t punishment. Moderation for quality control on private platforms isn’t the same as censorship. There’s a difference between community policies and broad government acts. Refusing service to unwanted customers is a freedom too. Hate groups have a death toll and hate is hard to call useful for anything. Consenting adult sex work can be called a service.
Arguments to keep sex work illegal often come down to “because it’s illegal” or “it’s immoral.” Those aren’t arguments or evidence, but statistics can be. Here’s where it isn’t a liberal or conservative issue, it’s a pro or anti-sex issue that needs independent thinking and caution about trafficking statistics. Debunking bad ones is itself accused of murky politics, but there’s a lot of common sense criticism about an industry of inflating numbers and causing panic. It’s like marijuana use being accused of heinous affects that don’t exist.
- Washington Post: Lies, damned lies and sex work statistics
- Village Voice: Women’s Funding Network Sex Trafficking Study Is Junk Science
Where furry meets counterculture
To see how fandom overlaps with things beyond the ordinary, it’s worthwhile to look towards the San Francisco Bay Area. Silicon Valley’s relationship with furry should need no introduction, and here’s some data about it.
- The Bold Italic: Map Shows SF is a Hotbed of One Kinky-Creepy-Cute Subculture
There’s great support here for furry kink events. They can cross over with subcultural circus theater, avant-cabaret, burlesque, comedy and music, and other radical subculture like Burning Man, like in this article.
The most freaky and creative stuff is under pressure to exist. To the extent that furry represents DIYness and outsiderness as a self made community, members whose interests align with kink deserve tolerance. They’re just as much fans into books and art as anyone else in it. Kinksters may be a reason fandom has independence and isn’t a corporate run Mickey Mouse club, and might deserve a special thanks for that.
Even if you never used Pounced, this is an opportunity to look at what makes the community run and what it’s about.
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