A Furry Talk with a BDSM Interest Group

Guest post by George Squares. George is a speculative fiction writer with a background in biological science. He enjoys discussing and researching pop culture and fandom history.

I had never been to a BDSM club. Yet, I was invited to do a paid talk at one August 9, 2015 hosted at the non-profit gay social venue Impulse in Charlottesville, Virginia. The BDSM group who rents space at the club monthly is made up of queer and straight members, and they hire speakers to cover topics they might find interesting or pertinent. Quite a few of them were interested in furry.

My opportunity to speak came from a chain reaction that started New Year’s Eve 2014 at a board game party. During a Cards Against Humanity round, a particularly unpleasant guest (who was not invited again) started railing on furries in a half-hearted attempt at humor. Two of my friends joined in on the heckling, and I finally decided to tell them that they had the wrong idea.

Confused and curious, my friends admitted that they didn’t know any furries. I politely informed them that they were wrong due to the presence of myself and my fiance. They were surprised and embarrassed, but it blew over quickly. It didn’t blow over for the unpleasant guest, whose heckling intensified, but he was not well-liked by the host, and he had a whirlwind of his own problems as the night wore on.

Furries weren’t joked about at subsequent parties. Consequently, at the beginning of July 2015, I was approached by one of the friends involved in the New Year’s Eve heckling. She asked: “This may be a long shot, but do you know any local authorities on furry in the area? We’d like one to make a presentation at our organization.”

Considering we don’t really have official authorities on the furry fandom, I told her I was familiar with furry communities. I talked about how I published furry stories and wrote essays on furries, and that’s how I got an offer to speak for fifty bucks.

I decided that if I was going to talk about furries, then I should show off how different furries can be from one another by comparing and contrasting pictures in a handout for the audience. After crowd sourcing from folks I knew on twitter, @pandezpanda, @escodingo, @hakirsh, and @tabernak allowed me show off their suits. The artists @gavunimpressive, @kihublue and @wryote gave me permission to display NSFW art. Wryote also allowed me to use her doodles for the headers in the handout I’d distribute during the talk. One of the most amazing and under-appreciated facets of furry is our ease of access to contacting primary source creators. (The products of publicly accessible businesses like Bad Dragon, Contact Caffeine and book publishers were mentioned, too, but they were not emphasized as much as the works of individual creators.)

Impulse, the venue, was decorated much like most of the home-brew gay bars I had seen before. Black-painted walls that turned several corners obfuscated the interior. Paper lamps, Christmas lights and a disco ball hung from the ceiling. The bar was decorated with lava lamps, fiber optic displays and an assortment of blinking lights that served as distractions. I was offered liquor, but I took a ginger ale because I wanted to calm my stomach. Across from the bar along the wall, a straight line of chairs held mostly older couples who quietly conversed. The wooden stage itself was lined with white Christmas lights.

Needless to say, I was nervous.

I introduced myself as a furry to a room full of strangers. I mentioned my fiction and essays, as well as my experiences with the community. From the beginning I relayed that I wanted the talk to be casual and conversational so questions could be asked throughout.

The crowd was tense at first, and so was I, but when I got the presentation rolling everybody loosened up and the questions flowed.

I had about 50 minutes to go over a wealth of information. Here are some of the topics that I covered:

  • What is furry, and why can’t a definition be agreed upon?
  • Can content be considered furry if the creator is not?
  • Can somebody be a furry if they don’t even like suits?
  • How much can these suits cost?
  • Can furry be a kink and not a kink at the same time?
  • Is furry a queer fandom?

After the presentation was finished and I got home, some friends on Twitter were curious about the types of questions asked. I had a lot of good ones, and wanted to share some of my favorites and how I responded to the best of my ability.

Q.  Are suits really all in the four thousand dollar range or is that just an extreme?

A. The prices of suits vary greatly but for a full suit four thousand is not an extreme price. Some suits have custom fur patterns, eyes, claws, wings, accessories, and have cooling systems installed. One of the most expensive suits I’ve seen was in the seven thousand dollar range. Suits are an investment. You can get just ears, a tail, or just a head for much cheaper though.

Q. Are all furries mammalian? What about the ones who have scales? (Another audience member actually mentioned scalies and everybody laughed.)

A. I still call them furries as an umbrella term for the sake of simplicity. Dragons are quite popular. Quite a few people are sharks. In furry it’s okay to say “I’m a shark,” and that’s totally acceptable. (There was a slight pause.) I’m not a shark though, actually. I’m a weasel. That’s my thing. Weasels even have a skype group where we banter with one another. (Somebody said weasels are a great animal in the crowd which felt like validation.)

Q. I noticed a lot… of inter-species relationships going on. Do furries of different species typically get along?

A. Most furries of different species do get along. Sometimes there are playful rivalries and generalizations get bandied about such as “foxes are sluts” or “lions are egomaniacs,” but it’s mostly in good fun. The best comparison I’d use is in the Harry Potter fandom. People assign the houses they’d be in for themselves, and enjoy coming up with characteristics for types of people who’d be Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Slytherin, or Hufflepuff. It’s very much a team mentality kind of thing and much of it is friends provoking friends. There’s always somebody who can take it too far, though, but they are often the person who doesn’t get invited to parties.

Q. Why does the internet typically have a beef with furries but not whovians, otaku subculture, or trekkies?

A. I think there are a lot of reasons for this. I’ll go back to my quote: “Furry is not in itself a queer fandom, but it is one of the few where queer representation is common.” I used the furry poll from [adjective] [species] to give you a general idea of male demographics in the fandom and how most of them are either completely homosexual, bisexual, bisexual-leaning-straight or bisexual-leaning-gay. It makes sense that the furry fandom has a lot of graphic male sexuality in it. Furry was showing off dicks and messy homoeroticism before Glee, Modern Family, or Buffy dared to show even light queer representation in the media. The sexualization of men in modern media is in many cases considered less acceptable or artful than the sexualization of women. Video games and anime frequently display the egregious sexualization of women. Members of those respective subcultures are not as stigmatized or shunned because that media is considered appropriate for a young male audience. This is not necessarily the only or even the correct reason furry has a stigma, but I strongly believe it is a large part of it.

Another reason might be that furry provides so many scenes and content for kink.  Just like with any group, some content will never be for you, and it is easy to squick people out with the kinks that they don’t enjoy. I heard an audience member currently in the crowd talk about babyfurs before this presentation, and this is a group that often gets stigmatized by other furries because some kinksters might find this kink far weirder than their own. Adult babies exist independent of furry, too, and there are documentaries on them like The 15-Stone Babies.

In fact, there was a group called the Burned Furs which lead to a lot of anti-kink uprisals in the fandom where furries would seek out members they deemed perverts, expose them, and shame them out of the fandom. (Some shocked noises came from the crowd.) Considering how prevalent kink still is in furry, it’s reasonable to believe they weren’t successful. But shaming groups still exist.

Q. Perhaps another reason is the presence of animal genitalia? (This was started by one member of an older couple and his partner nodded and agreed vocally.)

A. That’s definitely a thing. In fact, there have been threads where about a thousand or so people get into giant arguments on whether it’s acceptable for a sentient gay anthro dog to have a human penis, a dog penis, or if this is even a thing that should matter. Similar arguments can be made about the anatomical correctness of a dragon penis, which is impossible considering that a dragon doesn’t exist.

Q. So furries can get into huge arguments over the internet over dumb shit, just like in kink. We do have something in common. (The whole room laughed. Another question was asked immediately after.)

QAre furries always coming up with characters, or multiple characters? Why?

A. The evolution and growth of the furry fandom coincided with the internet age. Consider that many queer, teenage furries living in conservative areas might feel isolated and seek friends or lovers through an alias without the fear of being kicked out of their home.

But also consider that many furries are into creative endeavors like acting, dancing, art, and writing and the idea of creating characters is fun to them. An artist might come up with a character design, sell it to a customer, and the customer uses the character sheet to use as a design for a costume. In this way, furry promotes a creative art engine enabling the joy of character creation while also protecting some of society’s most vulnerable members.

Q. Furries are so cool, but I never know how to approach them in character! It’s like trying to talk to a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism in full plate armor. I feel like I’m from a different world!

A. That’s because most fursuiters are in the middle of a performance. It’s easier to get to know them when they’re out of suit, or at online places like Twitter or Tumblr. Some fursuiters are very casual about their suiting, but that’s typically difficult to gauge without knowing them, first.

Q. If I want to go to a convention to get my brains fucked out– serious question– would the convention hold something like that for kink groups?

There are things like rope sessions and kink panels at conventions, and some are designed for that purpose, but most of the sex that happens will be between adults who already know each other beforehand in hotel rooms, some of which are room parties. If you want to go to a con to have sex and don’t know anybody, you very likely won’t have a good time if that’s what you are looking forward to most.


There were more questions, which I took to be a good sign, but those were the highlights. After I finished, my friend thanked me for the presentation and I got a decent amount of applause. People hung around me after the talk, wanting to ask more questions, wanting more furry resources and contact information. They had warmed up to me considerably. The younger people seemed more enthused, but several older folks were too, and the bubbliest forty-year-old woman I had ever met was bouncing with delight.

A particularly insightful member noticed that there’s a lot of intersection in what kink groups go through and what furry goes through, too. I felt like I made a meaningful connection with this group, and it’s a funny, fuzzy feeling when words and images alone can foster so much mutual understanding between people. It was a great experience, and I hope I can do it again some time.

The full handout that I used for the talk can be found here. The handout has several NSFW images.

About George Squares

George writes reviews, fiction, nonfiction, and tends to yell about food a lot. He has worked on novels, short stories, comic book scripting and essays and has a bachelors of science degree in biology. He has a blog and he has several years of formal graphic design training.

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7 thoughts on “A Furry Talk with a BDSM Interest Group

  1. First of all, bravo for taking the plunge into giving a talk! Public speaking can be a huge challenge, and talking about a subject of great personal interest in front of a crowd of potentially-disaffected or hostile people isn’t easy. It sounds like you did a fine job of representing yourself and your views, and that’s worthy of acknowledgement and appreciation!

    The only thing you’ve said with which I would take any issue is on the subject of furry as queer fandom. I think, in some ways, furry is inherently queer. (( Disclaimer: I’m an armchair sociologist, not a licensed ethnographer or anthropologist. Your mileage may vary, results not guaranteed, professional driver on closed course, see store for details. ))

    As I understand “queer” as a concept, it means “in opposition to or outside of norms, assumptions, and normativity.” So, before we can ask whether furry is queer, we have to ask what “normal” is. In context, I think “the norm” for culture is human identity. That is, the idea that we identify with and appreciate and value human as an aesthetic and as a basis for forming a sense of self. In that sense, “furry” is absolutely queer, because its existence is centered around an identity which isn’t human, and it does so in ways ranging from the cute to the powerful to the erotic. It’s a challenge to the idea that the human identity must recognize itself as the centerpoint of identity.

    Now, I suspect that you’re more dealing with queer in terms of sexuality, but again I think we can say safely that furry is inherently queer, at least for now. Take a look at https://sites.google.com/site/anthropomorphicresearch/past-results/anthrocon-2012-iarp-2-year-summary and jump to question twenty. Eight hundred participants questioned — a statistically significant number sample size — and we’re all over the map in terms of orientation when compared to the mainstream. We have fifteen percent of our population — or at least the population who answered the questions — using “other” in terms of sexual orientation, six times that of a comparable sample of mainstream Americans.

    With that, the therians, the transspecies, and the posthumans wanting to be animals or at least look like them, I’m wondering how much queerer we can get. :) As a thought exercise, I wonder what “queer” would look like if furry were the norm!

    1. Thank you Kristina! I’ve seen your comments on other articles here before and have often enjoyed reading them. I was using queer mostly (but not only) in the terms of sexuality, and I think what you present are interesting and valid talking points.

      One thing that is probably harder to pick up on in the article was: it’s very difficult for folks to decide upon a strict definition of what furry is. If somebody wanted to make the argument that the presence of Ewoks and Chewbacca made Star Wars a part of furry, I’d be open to that interpretation if they brought something interesting to the table about it.

      We could argue that furry is a queer fandom because it’s one of the few where a lot of queer folks exists, are present and are depicted in furry media if we are using that as a gauge, but I could also see it becoming a very confusing gradient if we want make arguments about “is it queer enough” or “is it comparable to the Stonewall Movement?”

      But one point I was also trying to make was: if you are interested in sexual content and want to find heterosexual adult art, it’s there for you too. Also, there are plenty of heterosexuals in the fandom too who add to the creativity and the fun.

      But I guess the lesson here is “queer” means multiple things, just as “furry” can mean multiple things, too. I think one could suggest the BDSM is a queer fandom too if we focus more on identity and more on “what do we consider normal vs. atypical.” It would certainly be fun to see the audience reaction if you explained how “queer” heterosexual sex can get in BDSM. : )

      Thank you so much for the comment!

    2. Hi Kristina

      Fascinating comment. It struck a chord with my particularly because I’d written an article in the past here on [a][s] about whether furry might be considered to be a queer identity. I followed a similar line of reasoning to yourself, and reached a similar conclusion.

      It generated a lot of discussion, a fair proportion of which was outrage:
      http://www.adjectivespecies.com/2013/10/14/furry-as-a-queer-identity/

      The main complaint—paraphrasing wildly—was that I was stepping on the toes of the LGBTQ community, by trying to include furry as “queer”. LGBT people all diverge form the mainstream w/r/t gender and sexual orientation, and while some 70% of furries are LGBT, that doesn’t mean that the other 30% get to come along for the ride. I found that argument pretty compelling.

      What I was getting at, and what I think you are getting at, might better be described as “otherness”, or some alternative term that doesn’t have the political charge of “queer”.

      Having said that, I think that furry people, and LGBTQ people, and doing a great job of subverting all those dumb, false binaries. Cyborg feminism specifically names male/female, straight/gay, animal/human as false dualities (as well as animal/machine). I can get on board with that. In a totally non-political sense, it’s time to queer the idea that “male” & “female”, or “human” & “animal” are fixed states, where one is supposedly the opposite of the other.

  2. Good Job George! I’m so glad you had to the courage to engage in a discussion that is very personal and very necessary to furries. Super bonus points to you because your audience was a sexual minority! It is important for us to reach out to other marginalized groups and I think furry is a very good candidate in that it can lead the way to creating a new cluster of social groups. This fandom has so many interests that intersect other fandom/subculture it will be interesting to see where all this will lead.
    As furry materializes on the social map I see us having the growing pain other cultures go through trying to establish an identity. Some suggest here that furry should take it’s place on the all ready crowed LGBTQA title spectrum. I agree to a certain extant but I look at that queerness and how it is applied a little askew. To me Furry throughout our artwork and fiction does more to embodied the themes, desires, and ideas of the queer mindset with the best of other genres. In spirit, the fandom( at least to me) doesn’t have to ask if it is queer IT JUST IS . Not for everyone mind you but for a portion of people it can be it’s OWN THING, an extension of queerness or an awkward animal cousin? . Or maybe with it’s transgessive non human elements be considered a new expression(if that’s possible) of post queerness?
    Either way I like this article and comments and enjoy that it made me think of the endless interaction with other similar sub cultures.

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