Tag Archives: Psychology

Self-Care and Conventions

Originally posted on Jakebe’s blog here.

Further Confusion 2016 will begin tomorrow, and for most of us furries we’re just counting down the hours until we can head to San Jose to immerse ourselves in fandom for four glorious days. I know I’m itching to get there myself. But one of the things that rarely gets talked about at these conventions is how big a disruption they are to our daily lives, and what that disruption can do for those of us coping with mental illness. While the potential is there for a brilliant weekend, the craziness of the convention alone can throw us off-kilter.

For many of us, FC 2016 is one of our only chances to be with people we feel truly understand us; for four days we can put aside the problems of our regular lives and enjoy company and kinship in a way we rarely get to experience. We become so attached to the promise of a non-stop great time that any disappointment or gap in pleasure can send us spiraling into dark places. Unfortunately, downtime and disappointment are both facts of life; we can do ourselves a huge favor by learning to roll with them.

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Wearing ears may be associated with depression

[adjective][species] regularly informally collaborates with the International Anthropomorphic Research Project (IARP), a collection of psychologists and sociologists looking at the furry community. We are amateurs, they are professionals. We have the freedom to present anything we find interesting; they are constrained by the usual rules of academic engagement.

Nuka, a furry with a PhD in social psychology, is a long-time member of the IARP as well as an occasional contributor to [a][s]. In conversation about data (the best kind of conversation), he noted a surprising finding from his research:

“The IARP has found evidence that wearing ears (but not other accessories or fursuits) is particularly associated with depression and reduced self-esteem in furries.”

I used this interesting statistical tidbit during an [adjective][species] panel (Confuzzled 2015), as an example of a surprise hidden in the data: something you’d never expect, or think to look for. It provoked a few questions from the audience, which Nuka and I do our best to answer here.

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Witnessing and Mirroring

I don’t often read Reddit – the site and I get along fine, I just can’t seem to maintain interest in any subreddit for more than a few weeks – but I do occasionally find a good link or two when I wind up there. Most recently, I was trawling several different subreddits about gender and came across a set of delightful concepts that I think fit in well with the furry fandom.

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Transhumanism

The furry identity can be seen as a kind of voluntary psychological experiment. We are disconnecting the idea of ‘self’ from the reality of our physical forms.

All people do this to some extent. Furries, at least those who socialise through the guise of an animal-person avatar, are a special case. The disconnection is more clear, and more extreme.

Collectively, we may be experimenting with identity on a scale that has no comparison in human history.

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Transformation as Wish Fulfilment

The idea of sudden change is a powerful one.

We all wish for things to be different, in a big way or a small way. We look inwardly and wish we were different. And we look outwardly and wish the world were different too.

The idea that we might transform into our furry self is compelling, if not actually possible. But it’s an idea we can explore in art: in visual art, and with fiction.

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Mortality

Death is important to us. When a furry dies, we—as a group—react strongly.

Following the death of a furry, there is often an outpouring of grief. Much of that grief is from furries who have never met the deceased.

Here’s the first comment on Flayrah’s news post about the death of Lemonade Coyote (link), a well-regarded but not especially well-known American furry:

I don’t know the guy, but I’m sorry this happened and I’m sorry for his family.

This comment is typical of the sentiment expressed by many furries in this sort of situation. It’s heartfelt, it’s sweet, and it’s clear that the commenter has been personally affected by the death of a stranger. The only thing that our commenter and Lemonade Coyote have in common is that they are both furries.

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Furry Research: A Response from the IARP

Guest post by Courtney “Nuka” Plante, PhD social psychology student at the University of Waterloo, furry, and co-founder of the International Anthropomorphic Research Project. This article is a response to JM’s recent article, “Furry Research: A Look Back at Dr Gerbasi’s Landmark 2007 Study“.

Hi there! I read through (and quite enjoyed the insight in) your recent article and felt compelled to provide my take on things, (keeping in mind that Dr. Gerabsi’s article pre-dates my involvement with the furry research). Given that I’m in the lucky position of being at the forefront of our team’s research, I may be able to provide another perspective on this issue.

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Furry Research: A Look Back at Dr Gerbasi’s Landmark 2007 Study

The first notable academic study on furries is six years old. Completed in 2007 (published 2008), Gerbasi et al’s Furries from A to Z (Anthropomorphism to Zoomorphism) provides a review of furries based on 246 responses (including 217 furries) to surveys distributed at Anthrocon, plus an ad hoc ‘control group’ of 65 psychology students.

The study had two main goals: to test the validity of the usual furry stereotypes, and to investigate whether furries exhibit signs of personality disorder.

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Shy Bladder: Why Furries Get It, and How To Cure It

Here’s a scene familiar to most furries (or at least the 80% of us that are male): visit the toilets at a public gathering and you’ll see furries queueing to use a stall. Furries prefer to avoid the urinal.

[This is a pause in my article to allow the reader to creatively speculate why furries might want a stall. Come back once you’re done giggling.]

This doesn’t normally happen. Out in the non-furry world, there might be one or two people who prefer to use a stall, but most people are happy enough to use a urinal.

Why the difference? Because loads of furries suffer from shy bladder, otherwise known as paruresis, a condition where they will be unable to pee when someone is nearby. And as it turns out, it’s an easy problem to solve.

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Love for an Inanimate Object

Some words of unwarning: this article is not about plushophilia, at least not in the sexual sense.

I like to mention sex in the first few sentences of my [adjective][species] articles when I can. I think it provides an engaging hook, something to help keep the reader enthusiastic while they wade through a convoluted premise, or parse paragraphs of statistics. (I sometimes even imply that an article has salacious content when it doesn’t.)

Plushophilia, in the sexual sense, does exist within furry but it’s marginal, at around 8% of furries according to the Furry Survey (ref). My guess is that stuffed animals are a true paraphilia (i.e. sexual fetish) for a small subset of this small fraction. In furry’s first wave, media coverage would often look to equate furry with plushophilia, in a clumsy attempt to explain our community as an entirely sexual phenomenon. It’s safe to say that any conflation of furry with plushophilia is wrong, and that the collective furry groan whenever someone refers to us as ‘plushies’ is thoroughly justified.

A lot of furries, of course, own stuffed animals. It’s one of the ways that the furry identity manifests itself in the physical world. And it’s normal for furries to have an emotional attachment to their stuffed animals, without the sexual objectification associated with paraphilia.

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