Furries: The [insert longer title]
What started as an obsession with a seemingly obscene, wild crevice of the Internet, quickly adapted into an irrefutably important experience for Lucy and Mary Cait. Interacting with furries on a social, as well as a semi-professional level, gave us a further understanding of their mindsets inside and outside of their suits.
Lucy and Mary Cait have always been scavengers of the Internet. It did not take too long scrolling through the /r/cringe thread on reddit to discover furries for the first time, nor did it take to long to become invested in their lifestyle. After hours of watching vines of furries hanging out in awkward platonic situations, or them dancing solo in their kitchens with otherwise inappropriate hip motions, we quickly became enthralled by this uncovered subculture.
Anthropomorphism: ascribing human form or attributes to a being or thing not human; resembling or made to resemble human form
Anthropomorphism dates back as far as history goes, with artwork from 40,000 years ago showing part-human, part-animal figures.
Often interpreted as deities, these sculptures mostly represent the strongest parts of humans and animals combined into one being. These deities came with stories and life experiences that allowed people to live vicariously through them, and allowed them to feel similar powers. Although initially jarring to some, the distinguished characteristics of these deities intrigued many and introduced them to the furry lifestyle.
The first group of furries met at science fiction conventions in the 1980s, discussing animalistic characters depicted in sci-fi films and literature. This group eventually became so popular that they had to host their own conventions starting in 1989. By the mid-1990s, the term “furry fandom” had been coined and the group was growing at an even larger scale than before.
Before these groups first met, however, furries had been mentioned in multiple sources:
- Felix the Cat — 1930s
- Murder, Morphine and Me — 1950s
- Vootie — 1976
- Cerebus the Aardvark — 1977
The life of a fursuiter
Fursuit- Full, head to toe fur outfit, all body parts covered
Fursuit friendly- Used to describe events that welcome Fursuits
Fursona- The personality of the furry once they are suited
FurCons- A furry convention where furries can meet
Anthropomorphism- resembling human characteristics
Connecting with other furries via the Internet has been instrumental in progressing the fandom. Before having a consistent place to communicate and socialize, the furry movement was only able to grow at seasonal or yearly conventions. Mnfurs.org is a way for furries to connect through instant messaging, and a hub for finding events to go to, such as a bowling night or a picnic.
We noted when interacting with the furries that hand motions are used to communicate more than anything else. There is about a 50% chance of a furry being willing to communicate verbally with you if you are not suited, yet regardless of that, a furry will almost undoubtedly use their hands when trying to convey a message. To the untrained eye, this may just appear practical, as their voices may be distorted through the suit. However, seeing this as such a common theme throughout all furries, it can be inferred that the dramatic pointing, clapping and grabbing is used to amplify the overall “cuteness” of their fursonas.
At moments of awkward silence or breaks in a conversation, it is incredibly common for furries to break out in dance, yell randomly, or do anything that contributes to their fursona. Let’s say you’re speaking to Knocker, a silver dragon with a faux-septum piercing in his suit. He wants to be viewed as masculine and tough via his fursona, and conveys that through his body language. If you are engaging in conversation, and there is a slight pause, he very well may begin to flex his muscles dramatically.
We were shocked by the furries’ willingness to discuss the sexual aspect of the fur fandom. We did not encounter anyone who uses the social elements of being a furry for sexual satisfaction, and when it was mentioned, almost everyone had a negative reaction.
“That’s not what 90% of us are here for.”
“They’re the ones giving us a bad name, making us look like gross people when really all we want is to enjoy ourselves.”
The negative connotations associated with sexuality in furries was jarring in itself, since so much of the culture revolves around appearances, and acting in a “cute” manner. Beyond that, it was incredibly odd to hear furries talk negatively about each other, since they hardly do otherwise.
So, like, what do they do?
At FurCons, one could…
- Eat good food
- Compete in a dance off
- Participate in panels discussing sub-elements of the subculture
- Meet friends from online
- Buy paraphernalia
Our initial impressions of furries were almost spot on, just maybe toned down by the realities we encountered. The practices of furries speak to the realities of our society in a large way. The need to disguise one’s true persona as a fursona out of fear of judgment and hatred mirrors the way many people act in everyday life in order to achieve acceptance. The fandom is attractive to those willing to participate because of its sense of community that it so clearly outpours, with elements of mystery and secrecy that may be lacking in their everyday lives.
Perhaps the most dangerous element of the subculture is that furries can go on in their daily routines unaffected by their actions when suited. Since they take on an entirely different self, they are almost refusing adaptation and growth as a standard human being. In the long run, this can be incredibly harmful to their sense of self, as they will only be able to access their genuine feelings when masked by a seemingly fun character.