Are Furries Freaks?

from fursuits and sex stuff to literal communism, a primer for the unlikely subculture living on the frontlines of our culture war

Furries are notorious. Among purveyors of cringe, saying, "Furries, amirite?" is like Jerry Seinfeld mentioning air travel. Furries aren't the punchline, they're a whole category of joke! Nature is red in tooth and claw, never more so than when jaded internet denizens recollect that Tony the Tiger is, to some, a hottie.

(No, seriously. Legend has it that the official Tony the Tiger Twitter account had to be shut down because furries kept offering, uh, uncomfortably positive brand feedback. Apparently the NPS boost wasn't worth it.)

Okay but like, what are furries, who counts? Fear not — in these modern times, a venerable brand such as Merriam-Webster considers itself savvy enough to compete with the likes of Urban Dictionary and Know Your Meme. And, tbh, did a decent job covering the basics:

A rising usage of furry refers to people who have a keen interest in, or even dress up as, anthropomorphic animal characters, like those often seen in comics, games, and cartoons. The personalized animal identity of a furry is known as their fursona, the portmanteau of furry and persona. Fursonas can exist as costumes, online avatars, or even full lifestyles.

Essentially, furry is all about playing pretend. Newsflash, it's fun to be silly and make up stories! A wolf with amethyst eyes would be awesome, that's why they keep putting them on those sick shirts.

If you're unfamiliar with furries, you might think the hobby sounds harmless, if perhaps a bit childish, and you'd be right. But you'd also be underestimating how ridiculously — how effervescently, and sometimes tumescently — over-the-top furries can be. Furries go hard for what we enjoy. By my way of thinking, the unabashed passion in face of constant ridicule is exemplary.

Because yeah, if you're not a kid and you roleplay as a fantasy animal version of yourself, people will make fun of you. FYI.

My headline asks, are furries freaks? Contra Betteridge, the answer is yes (and I'll get into why, don't you worry). Oddballs have a way of rolling into corners together. When it comes to furries, our insistence on aberrance has made us infamous, at least if you're sufficiently immersed in certain ecosystems of digital degeneracy.

Let's back up for a second. Allow me to introduce myself — nice to meet you, I'm a cartoon rabbit. Bunsonya looks like this:

(Portrait by @PastellBits.)

Mike asked me to explain what the heck is going on with furries after he was swarmed by communists with critter avatars. I've forgotten how he evoked such revilement, but presumably it comes with the territory when you're a Very Online™ billionaire. Surely Elon Musk has attracted his share of furry ire! Among other quirks, furries lean heavily left politically.

Before we get into that, I know what you're wondering: Is it a sex thing? That's always the first question. Furry can be a sex thing — is often a sex thing, I admit — but it doesn't strictly have to be. One's fursona can be a more involved version of one's Patronus, or what people indifferent to ~le cultural appropriation~ might call a spirit animal.

Most fursonas are toonishly anthropomorphic, as demonstrated by Bunsonya above, but again that's not essential. The basic idea is that you have an animal alter-ego and socially abnormal enthusiasm for it.

As my Twitter mutual @Jebriel put it, "I think this is just a lowkey form of dysphoria with extra steps." Not coincidentally, the furry community is chock-full of transgender and autistic people — two demographics that already form a Venn diagram. Homo- and bisexuality are also notably prevalent.

No one will judge you for keeping horny off main, especially given that furries want to welcome under-18 anthro enthusiasts as well as the adults. Neither are adherents required to wear a fursuit, which is what those team-mascot-looking costumes are called.

In fact, fursuits are expensive, routinely running thousands of dollars, and either out of reach or undesirable to many in the fandom. Those outfits are just as sweaty and itchy as you'd guess from looking at them, and fursuiters tend to wear a layer of Under Armour HeatGear (or similar) to protect both suit and skin.

The appeal is an altered mode of self-expression, both aesthetic and interpersonal. @Aryeh___ pointed out that fursuiting is "a helpful way for people who struggle in social situations (ASD spectrum, etc) to be boisterous, cuddly, and animalistic in the safety of a covering/mask."

Regarding "the fandom" — this is what the furry community tends to call itself, despite not being devoted to a specific media property. As you might guess, any halfway decent depiction of anthropomorphized critters is likely to be a hit with furries (the anime Beastars is a recent fave). And the community is teeming with original artists devoted to this subject. Yes, a great deal of it is porn.

To be abundantly clear, no one can deny that furries writ large are a lascivious bunch prone to unusual fetishes (though, as I mentioned above, valiant if ultimately quixotic attempts are made to shield the minority of kids and teenagers). Why is there a notable crossover between furry and inflation, or furry and oviposition? Because furries are perverts, duh. Our reputation nearly always precedes us.

However, furries are not morally depraved except by puritan busybody standards. Having sex while pretending that you are an animal is a different ball of wax from sexually assaulting an actual animal. One is fantasy play; one is a repugnant crime.

Zoosadists (people who aspire toward the latter) infiltrate the community for obvious reasons — furry porn can be a tittilating "second best" for those into irl bestiality. But whenever a zoosadist's proclivities are discovered, they are promptly called out, shunned, and reported to the relevant authorities to whatever extent possible.

So, anyway, about the communism. There's no slam-dunk, smoking-gun reason why furries are rabidly leftist, though demographics are a likely cause. An article on prominent furry news site Dogpatch Press chalks it up to the fandom's communitarian and DIY ethos, making sure to note: "If you're conservative, libertarian, or other, contributing good content outlasts natural disagreement among sub-fandom groups. It takes special effort to earn unwelcome."

To translate, if you're the kind of conservative or libertarian who doesn't push progressives' buttons and is generally on the quiet side about politics, you'll be fine. That said, not everyone gives a fuck about this; some furries are of the old-school hacker ethos in which your terrible ideology, whatever it may be, is irrelevant.

The article chastises alt-right furries — which, yes, are a thing — that George Orwell, indubitably, would say "Nazi Furs Fuck Off." Contemporary over-application of the term "Nazi" plays into this to some degree, but incredibly there are indeed Neo-Nazi furries, or at least people who lean into that LARP. However, at a furry con you are far more likely to encounter hammer-and-sickle insignias, to the extent that you could put it on a bingo card.

A key thing to understand is that furries constitute a fringe outcast community, mocked and ostracized by default. All groups of this sort are characterized by what I call "outlierness," a polite euphemism for being seriously strange. And traits cluster — for example, the gayness, transness, and autisticness of furries make it no surprise that many furries work in the tech industry. Those clustered traits become self-reinforcing stereotypes, forming cultural positive feedback loops.

If furries are startlingly often on the commie spectrum or somewhere near it, where does all the money for fursuits and porn come from? Dude, jobs. Again a comparison to the tech industry is apt — I'm sure you can think of a programmer pulling several $100k in salary alone who nonetheless cheers on the DSA, and I bet that a few have alts stanning for Mao on the low.

Not that most furries are rich; the wealthy among us happen to "take one for the team" in terms of funding the community's creative endeavors, and thus are more visible. They're also the people who can afford fursuits, assumed by uninformed normies to represent the entire fandom.

Hopefully you now have a passable understanding of What the Deal Is with Furries. Perhaps you're intrigued — if you'd like a fursona of your own, check out This Fursona Does Not Exist and see what catches your fancy!

-Sonya Mann