Tag Archives: Sociology

How To Be a Good Furry Ambassador

George Squares was faced with a dilemma last New Year’s Eve. He was enjoying the company of friends when someone made a disparaging comment about furries. He decided to step out of the furry closet and speak up, to correct his friend.

It caused a minor kerfuffle but ultimately things went well. He found himself, a few months later, as a guest speaker at a BDSM club, introducing furries to an interested audience. He then wrote about that experience for [adjective][species].

George is a good ambassador. He was able to correct some negative furry stereotypes, and give a good impression of furry to a wider audience. It’s better for him because he doesn’t need to hide his furry identity among his friends, and better for furry in general.

Outing one’s self as a furry, as George did, comes with some risk. You risk being associated with negative stereotypes about furry, and you risk being targeted by people who are anti-furry. Both happened to George, although happily those problems blew over fairly quickly.

These risks mean that many furs choose to keep their identity private*. Rather than stick their head above the parapet and risk outcast or ridicule, people tend to edit out furry elements of their lives. They might say to coworkers: “I’m taking a short holiday to Pittsburgh this summer.”

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Communitas: Liminality, Marginality, and Outsidership

The idea that furry is a slice of ordinary society is one well worth keeping in mind. I wrote about it as my very first article on this site, even. It’s important to consider the ways in which we, as furries, are not somehow separate from the rest of the world; furry does not take place in a vacuum, as I believe I’ve said before. We are all members of our own social structures both within and without this subculture, and it’s that mixture of individualities and social ideals that belong to its members that help to make us who we are as a fandom

The very phrase ‘social structures’, however, is telling, in that that is precisely what some of us seek to escape by means of our membership to this social group: structure. For many, furry is seen as something apart from the social structures that surround them in their day-to-day lives. That has come up several times before here, of course. I wrote about leadership in a decentralized subculture, and JM and I have both written about the intersection of furry and the wider cultures to which we belong, both in terms of conformity and non-conformity. This puts us in something of an interesting – and ever-changing – space, as furries. We exist somewhat apart from the wider cultural contexts of which we are a part, though at the same time we cannot escape the connections entirely, for they inform a large portion of the way our own social group works.

This tension between conformity and non-conformity, belonging and not belonging, being a part of society or rejecting it, is a type of liminality, exiting between states, on the threshold, and certainly worth taking a moment to explore.

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Species Selection and Character Creation

This weekend, I had the privilege of helping facilitate a panel at Rocky Mountain Fur Con 2013 surrounding the topic of species selection and character creation. The panel was a delightful discussion about the ways in which we build up the avatars we use to interact within our subculture, and why exactly it is that we choose the animal (or animals) that we become with our character (or characters).

That’s not all, though. I also had the privilege of sitting down with Klisoura, [a][s] contributor of Furry Survey fame, and having not only several delightful discussions on topics as diverse as tennis balls and coyotes, but also a little impromptu hack-a-thon in the hotel lobby on the subject of species selection. This tied in well enough with the panel that some of the results of that were shown during the Q&A after the discussion, and even led to several other conversations with various different furries over dinner and the next day. The whole weekend was a blast, but I’d like to tie up some of these conversation threads and ideas into something worth showing here on [a][s].

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The Science of Zoophilia

Scientific research on human sexuality is a relatively new field. The Kinsey Reports, published in 1948 (men) and 1953 (women) (link), were the first attempt to gather data on human sexual behaviour. These were informally updated by Playboy in the 1970s (link), back when it retained some literary relevance, in an attempt to understand the changes brought about by the sexual revolution, and—of course—to provide some salacious reading material.

It took until the early 1980s for researchers to confirm that homosexuality is largely set at birth (ref). This work, controversial at the time, contradicted the prevailing wisdom that male homosexuality came about due to feminization of a male child, caused by an overbearing mother and distant father (the reverse supposedly applied for lesbians). This conclusion was simple enough to make: researchers interviewed a large number of people, asking about their childhood and sexual preference, then looked for correlations. (They found none.) And yet such simple data gathering took more than 30 years after Kinsey to be published.

The science of zoophilia is much less mature. Kinsey asked questions and gathered data (as did Playboy) however the first serious attempt to understand zoophilia was published more than 50 years later, by Dr Hani Milestki in 1999. Miletski’s book suggested that zoophilia may be a legitimate sexual preference: one defined by love, not sex.

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Why Zoophilia is a Furry Issue

Zoophilia is fairly visible within furry.

Most obviously, so-called ‘feral’ art is ubiquitous, and some animal characters—the cast of The Lion King comes to mind—seem to be minor sex symbols in some circles. More personally, furries sometimes actively denote themselves as zoophiles in social media, perhaps on their Fur Affinity page.

Klisoura’s Furry Survey, which at its peak received over 9000 annual voluntary responses from furries worldwide, shows that 13-18% of furries self-identify as zoophiles. This does not mean that all these furries have had sexual contact with a non-human animal; these furries are probably just reporting sexual attraction. However this is significantly higher than the general population.

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How Being Furry Saved Me Forty Grand

Tonight I test-drove a $40,000 pickup truck. Don’t get me wrong—I never had the slightest intention of buying the thing. As I made sure the salesman knew before I ever climbed in and turned the key, I was actually maybe, possibly interested in a baseline truck that costs about half that. My current plain-jane 4×4 is seventeen years old and has nearly 100,000 miles on it, you see, and the auto manufacturer I work for is currently offering large rebates to the general public and even larger ones to their employees to move the things more quickly, which sparked my interest. But the dealership had nothing but top-end super-fancy (read that “high margin, high profit”) stuff on their lot, so if I wanted to take a test drive it was a $40,000 truck or nothing.

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Doxa

I’m sure I’ve gone on before about the benefits of working within a community, but I’ll say it again: you guys are ace.

While running the [a][s] Twitter account, I do my best to follow back everyone who follows the account.  This isn’t simply a nice-guy type thing to do; some of the best inspiration comes from all you fuzzies out there.  After all, the articles here would get pretty boring if they were solely about what it was like to be a furry without being a member of the furry subculture.  This week’s article comes from a recommendation and brief conversation with Drenthe, a raccoon of quality, about a book he had seen a review of which I subsequently purchased.  The book was Hanne Blank’s Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality.  I think it’s fairly obvious by now how much gender and sexuality interest me.

One of the early chapters of the book brings up an interesting concept that I only recently thought to apply to the fandom, and that’s the concept of doxa.

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The Dramagogues – Episode 3 – Making Waves

How many of you remember Sibe and Furry XDCC?

What about the PayPal kerfuffle with FurAffinity?  That was more recent.

Ooh, or “Kristal can’t enjoy her sandwich”?  Remember that one?  That was a good one.  It was pretty closely related to Yiffyleaks (insert eye-roll here), banning cub porn, and not banning Sonic art.  They all sort of circle around FA.

Those were all pretty big deals!  Remember them?

Now, when was the last time you thought about them?

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Interconnectivity

Some things are better enjoyed alone.

Driving, for example!  That we even use the phrase “back-seat driver” points to it being an endeavor best carried out by oneself.  Typing, as well, and writing.  And programming for sure; I know that I certainly have a difficult time with paired programming (because I’m right, of course).  Exploring one’s own emotional state, plumbing the depths of one’s psyche, and working through one’s own problems are certainly meant to be solo adventures.  Sometimes we just have to be solipsistic, separating ourselves from those around us to figure out what’s going on within us.

Furry, however, has become something that goes beyond solo.  It has become a subculture, past even a simple fandom.  It’s something to be shared, to be experienced with others, and I imagine it would be difficult to find an individual who would identify as a furry solely in a solipsistic sense.  

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