The optics of the furry fandom
Whenever drama strikes the furry fandom, the reaction is either one of two things. The first reaction is rarely seen, and it’s to try to push people out of the fandom. You can see this with the fact that a clique in the fandom that’s gaining power has made a blocklist on Twitter to block “problematic” people and has attempted to extend this into other formats such as furaffinity bans or artists denying commissions. The other reaction is to only focus on the PR side in the laziest manner possible, shouting out loud and clear variations of “You weren’t supposed to see that”. They’ll bitch and moan about how they’re the most misunderstood demographic around, how everyone is hating on them, and how the furries into the sexual aspect are just a minority.
There’s just one major issue with that. I’ve been around the internet and seen enough stuff in real life to know firsthand that reputation and stereotypes aren’t just handed out by people on the TV, they’re earned. As someone who’s been in the furry fandom for years, I can confirm that is the case. And being part of a group and “knowing” how furries act makes it easier to call them out, since insider perspectives always carry more weight to them then someone outside a group attacking it. It’s the reason cults hate ex-cult members so much or why communist countries hate refugees fleeing their country to the point of setting up walls and minefields to keep people from escaping. There’s a big difference between “I went to North Korea” and “I spent all my life in North Korea”. And well, I’ve gotten disillusioned with the current state of the furry fandom but the big shocker is why wasn’t I earlier?
So what is the fandom about?
Look at any fluff piece, look at any documentary, and you’ll see the same old same old definition. You’ll see that it’s about anthromorphic animals, and that’s about it. The Wikifur page defines it as:
“The furry genre (sometimes referred to as a meta-genre) is based on the idea of fantasy animal characters, rather than any one type of fiction. Any title in any form of media can be considered relative to the furry genre simply by having a fantasy animal character in it. Such characters are most often seen in cartoons, comics, science fiction, allegorical novels, Gothic horror movies, commercials and video games.
Outside the fandom, the most common term used to describe such characters is anthropomorphic (a word derived from the Greek; Anthropos Morphe, literally meaning Human Form). Those within the fandom prefer the term furry – hence the name furry fandom. Other terms for these types of characters are funny animal, talking animal, or kemono in Japan, although each of these has subtle differences in meaning.”
So right here we’re looking at a fandom that’s about media involving anthromorphized animals and that’s it. There’s nothing to be a fan of really in the fandom besides “media with talking animals”, and it’s very loosely a genre since it just has to have them to count. At least when you say “Yeah I like Industrial music” you know what kind of music they’re talking about. It instantly clicks in someone’s mind “yeah I see this person listens to stuff like KMFDM and Nine Inch Nails.” There’s no explaining to do, they instantly know what you’re talking about.
Or “I like to watch action movies”, or “I like first person shooters”. Those are actually genres. People are going to know what you’re talking about by genre and even if they’ve never heard of said genre, they will the minute you show them something in the genre. But if you want to call furry a genre, it’s as vague as grouping multiple genres under the brand of music, and that has far more in common than grouping furry media together. Of course, some people love this. Here’s a quote from a fluff piece, featuring quotes from the original creators of the blocklist who has a prominent role in the new fandom clique:
“”We don’t have official media. There’s no canon of furries. When you’re a fan of furries you’re just a fan of some person: other furries,” explains Chip, a red fox who’s been a furry since he was a child. (The Indy has withheld last names due to requests for privacy, over concern of ridicule and harassment.) “I always had a feeling like I didn’t want to be a part of humanity. I had a strong dislike for people, so I made up an animal character and later found these people online with animal nicknames.”
Most furries start exploring the fandom by creating a fursona, which can be entirely unique. “Furry is really a user-based experience, it comes down to what each individual makes of it,” says Ash, Chip’s coyote wife and host of her own furry-centric youtube channel. “There’s a lot of different kinds of furries. Some people have this elaborate fantasy world in their heads, but for others their fursonas are just a direct projection of their personality.””
So in other words, you’re not really a fan of some media like you’d expect from the phrase “fandom”. According to this, you’re a fan of “other furries”, be it someone elses fursona or some Digimon character. While some people tend to have elaborate fantasy worlds, be it a future author or more accurately another Chris Chan, a lot tend to have fursonas that are “direct projections of their personality” or in other words self-insert characters.
But I’m having an awful hard time finding a fandom part of this and some furries are aware of this preferring to call it a hobby. Except with hobbies, there’s something you’re interested in, or a craft you’re interested in. So let’s say that you’re interested in collecting or programming old computers. That’s a hobby. Owning and flying private aircraft? That’s a hobby. Building a racecar and taking it to the track day or meets? That’s a hobby. Drawing? That’s a hobby. Spending money on art of your fursona? Eh, not really a hobby. What are you getting out of it anyway; you’re not getting skills or something you could show people.
I guess the closest thing the furry fandom resembles is some sort of weird subculture, except you’re wearing collars, tails, and a shirt that has some fandom reference written on it like “Legalize Awoo” or something more sexually explicit. I miss when older subcultures had clothing that was distinct at worst and badass at best:
But if there’s something outside the normiesphere that resembles the furry fandom the most, it’s fetish subcultures. Those also are held together loosely by an idea with the key thread being the specific fetish involved. The furry fandom is like this in that regard because there’s not even a theme holding work together like cyberpunk fiction for example, just anthromorphic animals. And well, if you look at what furries consume it’s mostly fetish content.
The truth behind “it’s not about sex”.
Anyone who’s gotten big on social media knows to get big, you can’t just throw shit at the wall and hope it sticks like “variety channels” on YouTube tried back in the day, you have to create what people want to watch with quality that allows the content to be easily digestible. For example the KLF’s manual on how to get a #1 chart hit said to watch “Top of the Pops” (a music chart countdown show) religiously and to learn from it, and to also get copies of the latest Now records. The reason for that was so you could understand what was popular at the time and what makes a pop song a hit. In the internet age this applies more than ever, if you want to get noticed in an era of disposable culture where everyone has their 15 minutes of fame you have to make what people want to see.
And this applies to the furry fandom. Cracked is a shitty dying website but once in a while even a broken clock can be right twice a day, and they did an article interviewing furry porn artists (likely with the intent of normalizing it, like most fluff pieces) but as anyone who knows to learn to read between the lines knows, there are some interesting things learned from the article making it worth a read. I’m going to quote this article quite a bit because it offers a damn good summary of the sexual side of the fandom from the media, a media that tends to spend more time writing fluff pieces about how the fandom is so great and not a fetish. The most relevant paragraph in the article comes when a furry porn artist slips one of the big reasons so many artists do porn.
“Most of the artists we talked to didn’t wake up one morning and decide they were in the mood to draw wolves fucking but instead branched out from PG art when they realized it was good business. As Chewy explains, “People tend to be more critical of safe-for-work stuff and expect a higher level of skill. Whereas folks can be more forgiving of technical errors in erotic stuff so long as it presents the content they find arousing.””
So in other words, you can be a so-so artist who could only make it on DeviantArt drawing fanart but the minute you draw porn people will pay you to draw it since it gets their nuts quaking. Even if you’re a mediocre artist, just draw niche fetishes and you’ll get people noticing you for that because they have the same niche fetish. But saying its good business isn’t just a saying, it’s a fact in the furry fandom. See, push polls are ineffective and there are numerous polls that will always say the fandom isn’t about sex and there’s a reason for that. When you’re posting a response to a poll that you are well aware the “normies” are going to see, you want it to make your group look good. You know your parents are one day going to see this on MSN, or the parents of some kid who identifies as a furry are going to see this. But as someone who’s been on the internet long enough, lying in front of people who will criticize you is a common trick people use when the truth is too uncomfortable to air out in the open. It’s better to sweep the truth under the rug than to confront it head on, and I’ve learned the best way to find out what people really think is to go on their communities and find out what they say in their own words, and what their actions are.
For this, I tried to find statistics on what’s uploaded to furry sites and I hit the jackpot. I found a FurAffinity post with statistics about the fandom and what is uploaded to and commented on furry art sites, and boy is it a whopper of information.
So let’s analyze the big takeaways from this. SoFurry, Inkbunny, and e621 are all sexually oriented websites and have a reputation for this. E621 is famous for being a porn dump with reuploads of content from other sites, Inkbunny is known for where the cub (underage furry character) art and Sonic porn is posted as Furaffinity banned both, and SoFurry was originally a furry smut fiction archive. Weasyl is dead (lol) but FurAffinity is more or less a furry activity hub so a lot of stuff posted as general is going to be everything from random drawings to pictures of events and fursuits at a con. The big metric we have to look at is the views and faves, and on Furaffinity it’s multiple times that amount for “mature” or “adult” tagged posts compared to general. Both are rated 18+ with mature being content like nude characters and adult being sex.
Another good metric is the now dead popufur.com website that had a listing of who the biggest FurAffinity artists were. The site is also dead and the last archives are from 2015, but it also leads to a similar conclusion.
You have to go to #15 to find a furry artist who does exclusively clean art, not just mostly clean or mostly porn. Everyone else in this picture has done porn. Falvie’s art was pretty popular over on DeviantArt as well (a more mainstream art site with no porn allowed despite the high amounts of fetish art) where they have tons of followers as well but they’ve gone inactive. Still their clean art was good and of a high technical skill relative to furry artists. The rest of the artists here though? They did porn. You might not be able to see it without a FurAffinity account, but type their names in on e621.net and you’ll see their porn.
There’s a reason there’s so much porn in the fandom too. Furries want to commission porn of their fursonas, and the cracked article not only goes in depth about how commissioners will try to get nitty gritty details of their fursonas explained to the artists with three whole sections dedicated to this, but it also explains in the end why furries do this.
“That’s why some commissioners can be so picky — their characters are stand-ins for themselves. “It allows them to experience their kinks and fetishes vicariously,” says Uba. “And it’s probably safe to say the client feels an even stronger connection when they see their persona enjoying the same fetishes they enjoy. I do wish-fulfillment for the client.” “
They want pictures of them as a talking animal having the best sex ever, down to their unique fetishes. It all comes down to escapism, they want to be something they can never be in an image. This is especially common in safe for work furry commissions, where furries commission themselves doing normal person things. Even without the self-insert fursonas, the furry fandom operates in the same way DeviantArt does but with porn as well. On DeviantArt if you draw fanart you get views instantly, on FurAffinity if you draw pornographic fanart you get views instantly.
Since we’re on the topic of that, let’s talk about cons. Furry conventions are generally dull, boring affairs. By themselves they’re pretty shitty compared to a comic or anime con, or even a niche interest con. You could go to an anime con and buy anime DVDs/Blu-Rays, anime T-shorts, video games, and geek culture bro T shirts, while also getting to meet people in the biz or see panels about new anime dubs if the con is big enough. You could go to a vintage computing event and buy or sell old computers, see people show off their old computers, and see talks related to vintage computing with people showing off their old hardware, programming projects, or telling stories about the old days. You could go to a hacker convention and see people talk about how they hacked a game console or operating system.
So what do furry cons offer? Well, you could hang out with other people you met online, there’s some mediocre as shit panels (they all suck), there’s a dealers den where you can buy some furry porn books, maybe some SFW furry comics/books, and some “HEY GUYS I’M A FURRY” gear next to pronoun badges and sexuality flag badges (it’s 2018, when I went to a con in 2013 this stuff was nowhere to be found), there’s an artist alley where you can get commissions from someone in person or buy someone’s art books, prints, and pronoun badges, and that’s about it. The guests of honor are all furry fandom popufurs including some people in cliques (see 2 and Uncle Kage in the old days, or Deo, Dogpatch, and Boozy nowadays). I spent half the time at the last con I went to in the game room and hanging out with some internet friend I met online and knew for years. But one of the big things about cons is the partying aspect and you’ll see some crazy room parties being thrown with loud music, alcohol, and sex of course. It’s not uncommon for ambulances to be called to con hotels when the partying gets out of hand and someone drinks too much and gets sick.
It’s become an accepted part of furry con culture to have sex in hotel rooms and one of the friends I was with at the con I went to talked about how he did it. But it gets better. There are lots of stories about HIV to the point where in the UK there was a tree on who in the fandom was passing HIV and who got HIV from having sex with them.
And to seal the deal, MFF 2017 besides having ambulances called also had to offer HIV testing rooms.
And just in case you thought this was a clever photoshop it was on the official website for the con as well and said testing even had a page for it. Oh and the people who fuck in fursuits? Yeah some do that even if it’s not a lot, just look up murrsuit on Google.
The Furry idea of PR
When it comes to handling all this in the face of normies staring at their fandom, it just has to be hidden. While on camera or in a comment box on an article critiquing furries they’ll say it’s a minority and point to a push poll that says it’s not about sex despite porn being visible in their furaffinity page. When something that happens at a con blows up in their face, their game plan is to hope the normies do not know because they don’t want their own actions to hurt the fandom. FWA 2018 was a good example of this. Two congoers in “pup play” gear were caught acting out sex in the hotel lobby, and this was filmed and immortalized for the rest of the world to see.
Video footage was captured of this and be warned, it’s pretty shocking to anyone who isn’t a furry.
Some replies to this post initially condemned it, as should be done…
While others screeched that the normies know that furry cons aren’t exactly a place to take a 4 year old now.
But it took a turn when the normie media found out about it.
This led to a sudden change in reaction among some furries. The original posters mind went from “haha these guys are crazy lmao” to “oh no the normies know shut it down”.
The problem is, once it’s filmed and uploaded to the internet the internet will “never forget” even if it means what happened was a memory in somebody’s mind. When something blows up to be so huge, there’s only so much sweeping under the rug one can do, and this is especially evident with Rainfurrest. Now Rainfurrest is a con that’s no longer being held and for a good reason: It slowly over time developed a reputation for attracting the worst of the fandom and conveniently took place in the Pacific Northwest area of the USA, a place with a reputation in the fandom of being the home of the fandom’s finest.
Rainfurrest 2015 was the last year for it, and it was a crazy crazy year. The imgur album of it and the con itself became a symbol of everything wrong with the furry fandom and it was insane. Rainfurrest featured diapers being tossed places, property damage, pup gear and diapers being worn in the open, and more. It was perhaps the biggest blow to the furry fandom’s reputation as it was slowly being normalized on the internet during a great push by the media to normalize everything seen as taboo, and it also led to no hotel wanting to host this convention anymore. For furries, that’s something that bites even harder than a con collapsing due to mismanagement or vague threats online. The con that replaced it in the area marketed itself as a family friendly convention, and it was nothing like Rainfurrest was. Its attendance was lower than that of Rainfurrest as well, but then again next year it’ll probably be higher since furry cons have been growing year after year.
But it’s likely one of the reasons the new clique is trying to redirect attention to RMFC and the “Nazis”, because why address the elephant in the room when the fandom is built upon crazy sex and fetish artwork.
Fixing the fandom’s rep: An uphill battle
Let’s go back to the cracked article now. Despite attempts from people on TV to normalize it, despite fandom YouTubers talking about how there’s nothing wrong with being a furry or having a furry kid, it’s clear the real world doesn’t think the same way. Take for example a furry who works at an animation studio.
“And if happily making furry porn with your boyfriend is one end of the spectrum, Uba is on the other end. “I am a senior animator at a respectable animation studio. I’ll take on a few commissions on the side to get that furry art fix. To be honest, it’s exhausting. It’s not easy maintaining two identities. None of my friends or co-workers know. They know what ‘furry’ is and openly mock it, and I’m OK with that. It’s just a little disappointing not being able to show my closest art friends a piece I’m proud of and spent a good chunk of time working on.”
Even his wife doesn’t know. “I took a chance and started working on a weekend. I was really in the groove, working on a massive orgy. I don’t usually close my door to avoid suspicion, and I thought my wife was downstairs. She walked in right when I was in the middle of inking a character’s sizable tool. I quickly triggered my Alt + Tab muscle memory like I’ve done countless times. But I tend to have a reference handy as I work. So that took me right to this giant dick. My brain went into panic mode. I punch the mouse straight towards the monitor, clumsily grab at it, slam it back down, and quickly jerk the cursor to my second monitor where absolutely no pictures of dick were present. It seemed like it took me forever, but it must have only been a few seconds because she appeared none the wiser. My head was probably obscuring most of the offending monitor, or she was on her phone.””
Here’s the thing with furries. They’ve built up a sex addict reputation over years and years. You don’t just gain bad reputations overnight, you earn them, and that’s what happened to the fandom even back in the 90s. There were already furry porn artists passing around porn on Usenet and FTP servers, and even some total crazies. A good example of this is the saga of Dennis Falk, the superfan of Tiny Toon Adventures who annoyed the staff working on the show to the point where a voice actor had to cancel public fan visits near his area. Besides running a Tiny Toon porn FTP server and posting his sex fantasies to usenet, he harassed one of the voice actors with graphic sexual fantasies involving characters she voiced. The writers ended up satirizing him and fans like him multiple times, both during the last episode of Tiny Toon Adventures and multiple times in Animaniacs. The creators of the shows were aware of people like him, and weren’t too thrilled at their antics. Chances are the stories of creepy fans like him also spread to other animation studios as well, giving them the reputation there. He’s the archetypal furry, a loser likely living with parents who’s claim to fame is wanting to pretend to be a talking animal online and wanting to fuck characters from cartoons.
Even if you go back and read old archived CrushYiffDestroy articles, old vivisector posts, and current posts on sites like Kiwi Farms, you’ll get the impression that the fandom has been sexualized since the early days and it’s correct. There were schisms between the furries that wanted less sexualized content and those who wanted to go over the top with it, and if you look at the modern day furry scene it’s clear which side ended up winning.
But in the end what draws people into the fandom nowadays and well the idea of anthromorphic animals goes back to the sexual aspect. It’s obvious that furries prefer porn over clean art, and anyone looking from the outside in can see this is as clear as the sky. It’s obvious that the fandom attracts the craziest people in society. It’s obvious that furries try to escape reality by seeing themselves as a talking animal. Its part an escapism community, and part a fetish community. There are a lot of furries with no fursona who will happily admit they’re only in it for the porn.
Sure, there are some furries working on their own projects that have the possibility of crossing over into the mainstream but you don’t see that often. Unless they have a professional job and are moonlighting as a smut artist, they’re not even coming up with interesting ideas for fiction and whatnot. It’s just porn, porn, and porn. They’re not making webcomics that end up being published or video games that sell big on Steam, they’re just in their own little world where their involvement with the fandom is jerking off to porn and going to cons/meets once in a while. I’m gonna sound like some Debbie Downer for this but I was at a furry meetup the other day and I saw furries yelling “Musky Husky” and making diaper jokes loudly when kids were in listening distance. It’s not a fandom about independent comic artists drawing talking animals; it’s a fandom about a fetish and trying to escape reality.
If the furry fandom wants to improve its reputation, there needs to be more quality SFW content that the “masses” can consume, but they clearly aren’t being made by furries. They’re made by big companies with artists that just so happen to like anthromorphized animals. Trying to yell at the normies for noticing their flaws isn’t going to make the problems go away, only taking a long hard look in the mirror for once will, and that’s just how the fandom is. You can’t make people with problems fix them by merely pointing them out, they need to accept the problems first, and that’s something the fandom will need to do some time in order to shed its reputation and be what it claims to be to the media.
The fandom has hilariously laughable optics, and it will take a lot of big scandals for them to eventually change but of course I’m just being optimistic here. It’ll probably just crash and burn and anyone with interests in anthromorphic animals will disassociate themselves.