Yiff? Murr?: Sex in the Furry Fandom

Guest post by Howl. This piece appears in Furries Among Us, a collection of essays by several furry writers, recently published in paperback by Thurston Howl Publications. You can read the [adjective][species] review of Furries Among Us here.

Thurston Wolf, as he appears in Furries Among Us. Profile pic by Sabretoothed Ermine
Thurston Howl, as he appears in Furries Among Us. Pic by Sabretoothed Ermine.

The name’s Howl. I am a folf dog (fox-wolf-dog hybrid), and I’m here to talk to you about sex! (This sounds like the most nightmarish way to start a sex ed class in high school. For that matter, furries and sex ed should just never mix.) So, many of you may know the term “furry” can hardly be spoken in public without someone assuming you’re talking about a fetish. Furries are people who just like having sex in fursuits, right? I remember “coming out”[1] as a furry to a friend of mine, and he said, “Aren’t those the suits with the holes in the crotch area?” That was a major face-palm (or face-paw) moment for me. Furries definitely have an unwarranted sexualized stigma in today’s society. From my experience, the furry fandom has been about community, belonging, and just friends having a good time. However, there are certainly other aspects, such as art, fiction, music, fursuiting, conventions, and more. So, am I saying that sex is absolutely not a part of the fandom? Well, while sexuality is probably more important than sex in the fandom, I would (and do) argue that sex is a part of the fandom but not a separate aspect.

Let me start this by reiterating that the fandom’s greatest value is its reliance on inclusion and community. No matter what your hobbies are, your favorite films, sports, books, or alcoholic beverages[2], furries will accept you. This goes the same for sexual preferences. Whether you are gay, bi, straight, trans, pan, or anything outside and in-between, furries will be glad to have you around. As they are this accepting, they also are open[3]. Sex and sexuality are simply not taboo topics for furries. No, this doesn’t mean that furries meet at coffee shops and discuss their favorite sex toys, but it means that in private or online, most won’t shy away from making sex jokes, sharing sex stories with close friends, or asking each other questions that their conservative high school sex ed never covered. They even have some unique sexual terms that further separate sex from the realm of taboo. Instead of the colloquial “fuck,” furries say “yiff,” supposedly being the sound foxes make when they have intercourse. “Murr” is another common sexual term that is a general sound of pleasure. One might use it in response to getting a back rub or the like. Also, furries tend to call their significant others “mates” as opposed to “boyfriend,” “significant other,” or the ever-abhorrent “bae.” Note that none of these are terms for new ideas; they are simply animal variants of common sexual ideas. However, sex manifests itself in the furry fandom in more than just its lingo.

As Kyell Gold mentions in his article in this collection, furry literature does something that gay porn just doesn’t: it enables for sex to be integral to a meaningful LGBT relationship, whether it is for young or mature audiences. College-aged furries can read about coming-out and sexual intimacy in the same novel now, something that can be notably harder to find in mainstream fiction. As he also notes, many furry novels have an Adult rating on them even if they have just one adult scene, while many mainstream erotica novels do not have any kind of warning. With that said, one can see how sex, at least in furry literature, functions as an integral, or at least important, aspect of real-life relationships that mainstream literature usually does not capture in the same way[4]. Some sample authors of erotic furry fiction are Kyell Gold and Rukis. I feel no need to expound on furry erotica, as you could simply read Kyell Gold’s article elsewhere in this collection.

Furry art is likewise open. On April 26, 2015, I searched FurAffinity (the main art archive for furries) for the word “fox[5].” Including NSFW (Not Suitable/Safe For Work) images, there were 667,477 results. When I shifted the toggle to Only SFW (Suitable/Safe for Work) images, there were 489,470 results. That means that roughly 73% of all fox images have a General or lightly Mature audience rating. There are several archives for furry art, including FurAffinity, e621, SoFurry, and various tumblrs. I feel absurd for quoting “The Rules of the Internet” here from 4chan (2007). Rule 34 states, “If it exists, there is porn of it.” This is very true even for furries. From The Lion King erotic art to Mickey Mouse nude pictures, if you can name an anthropomorphic character, some artist has probably drawn it having sexual relations with another. However, from my experience, most furries look at this kind of art not as porn[6], but with erotic appreciation. I have looked at furry art with friends, and it becomes a game of who can find the “hottest” art; it’s not an intimate action. Many furries really do just admire the art. It is a sexually open fandom, and that openness plays into their art as well as their literature.

Now, let me address a myth I have definitely heard more than once. Myth #1: Furries like to have sex with animals. Absolutely not. The idea of furry is not “becoming an animal.” It is about a completely new physical idea, the hybridization of human and animal. If such a creature was to exist, would it be ethical to have relations with it? I will not pretend to have the answer, and I acknowledge that many would be against it, but I also know that many would be perfectly okay with it as long as the being possesses human intelligence. Comparing furry to bestiality is akin to comparing homosexuality to bestiality: it just doesn’t make sense. When a furry admires an erotic pose of a feline anthro character, they might say he has a cute tail. Maybe his human chest is very muscular. Maybe his clothes are so tight that they reveal all his muscles, all his curves…I don’t know if I was trying to be evocative just then, but I assure you I could do much better (and have done better, in my last furry work Where Carnivores Meet, #shamelessplug). While the furry fandom is sexually open, this doesn’t mean that everyone in it is sexual. Even if a furry does “paw off”[7] to an erotic art piece, that does not signify the person wants to go into a barn and have intercourse with a horse.

Myth #2: Furries have sex in fursuits. This one is almost laughable. When I hear this, I ask them how much they think a fursuit costs. Usually, they might say two or three hundred dollars. Then, I have the pleasure of telling them it can be upward of two or three thousand dollars. Most furries aren’t willing to cut holes in the fronts of their expensive suits for sex purposes. Fursuits are for social acting (see Keefur’s article). Yes, there are furries who have sex in fursuits, but probably not more than people who have sex in space suits. Yes, fetishes exist, but the furry fandom is not a fetish.

With all of this said, there are two further aspects of furry sexuality I would like to discuss. One is stereotypes. Despite the fact that furries do not rely on sexuality, furries do apply sexual stereotypes to some people based on their furry identity, or fursona. For example, if someone is a fox, they are typically considered to be submissive, hypersexual, teasing, and on the receiving end. Wolves are usually dominant sexually. Bears (as is similar to the LGBT term) are larger in weight and usually hairier. Sometimes, the sexual stereotype is loosely based on existing folklore and/or mythology. With foxes being more cunning in fables, and with “foxy” being a word to describe a lusting female, a fox furry is definitely considered more sexual than others. Other times, as with bears, the fursona describes the body type stereotypically. Note however that exceptions abound. I have seen foxes who are “tops,” bears who are skinny, and wolves who are submissive. Some furries actually get annoyed when they are labeled by their stereotypes, though this is usually a mild annoyance. I would argue that when choosing one’s fursona, it’s important to also understand the cultural connotations for those animals inside the furry fandom

For furries who are interested in anthropomorphic sex outside of art and actually wish they could explore anthropomorphic sex, there actually are options. There are fox tail butt plugs, werewolf dildos, and dragon penetrables. However, sites that sell these items usually label these products with names, such as “Rex the German Shepherd,” “Chance the Stallion,” and “Fenrir the Wolfdragon” (BadDragon website). These kinds of names personify the characters, separating them from animals, and bringing the toys back to “furry.”

Overall, it should be easy to see how sex does exist as an element of the furry fandom, though it is far from an exclusive one. It is tied loosely to different aspects of the fandom. Art and novels don’t require it; it is simply that the furry fandom is just so open with sexuality and sex that it is acceptable to discuss it freely.

[1] Since I’ve already come out of the closet as a gay man, can we call the furry’s coming out “coming out of the kennel?” I think this idea has great potential, and I now lay copyright to it.
[2] For some reason, I still get looks when I’m drinking a mojito, and my colleagues are drinking beer. Mojitos are manly drinks, right?
[3] To those particularly witty furries trying to make a dirty joke here, stop.
[4] To clarify on this, I find that most mainstream novels either entirely skip the sex scenes while alluding to them, such as, “He led me to his bedroom, and I flicked the lights off,” or more graphically describe the sex scene but through derogatory language, making it an unclean or taboo act.
[5] I chose to search for the word “fox” because foxes are simply awesome, and we’re not narcissistic at all.
[6] I say this, but I’m sure there are those laughing, saying, “Yes, we do!”
[7] The furry term for masturbation.

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6 thoughts on “Yiff? Murr?: Sex in the Furry Fandom

    1. Glad you were able to pick up a copy. Howl tells me that Furries Among Us sold out at Eurofurence, which is a terrific result.

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