The Second Wave of Furry

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Furry is an evolving phenomenon. This article is an attempt to capture where our community is now, and how we got here.

Furry’s First Wave, its origin and consolidation as a unique phenomenon, lasted up until the turn of the century. Furry is currently in its Second Wave, a fast-growing adolescence.

The First Wave of furry is neatly captured in Retrospective: An Illustrated Chronology of Furry Fandom, hosted on Flayrah (http://www.flayrah.com/4117/retrospective-illustrated-chronology-furry-fandom-1966-1996).

The First Wave defined the furry community. Furry began as an offshoot of sci-fi fandom and almost immediately become notable for production of original anthropomorphic content. Furry had less of a focus toward pre-existing art than sci-fi fandom, and in this way furry started to transcend the usual boundaries of a fandom. Over time, furries started to explore the idea of “being” a furry, and a struggle developed between those who considered furry a part of their personal identity, and those who saw furry as a fandom. Furries roughly spilt into these two groups: so-called ‘lifestylers’ and ‘fans’.

Culture wars between the lifestylers and the fans defined the First Wave. The lifestylers openly incorporated sexuality into their identity. The fans were dismayed by the permissiveness shown towards extremes of behaviour, particularly where sex was involved. The furry fans put a premium on quality and family-friendliness, creating Yerf; the furry lifestylers put a premium on acceptance and open sexuality, creating VCL.

The fundamental conflict was simple. For the fans, furry was something you enjoy. For the lifestylers, furry was something you are.

The lifestylers won the culture wars and, in the Second Wave, have become the furry mainstream. There are still furry ‘fans’ however they have typically been around since the First Wave. Furry is a broad church and fans are not excluded: it’s simply that new furries tend to take up an animal-person identity with a species and a new name by default.

Furry is still maturing. Second Wave furries are continuing to explore the idea of furry identity, and also starting to consider the community’s culture and values.

(A note on terminology: I like ‘community’ as a description of our collective although ‘fandom’ is probably more common, and is used by other writers on this site. I’d argue that ‘fandom’ is deprecated because, while there are many fans within furry – anime, MLP, Redwall, etc – we are collectively not fans of anything in particular. This is where furry deviates from fandom: we created and propagate a furry universe, a virtual reality of animal-people that exists parallel to the real world.)

Early expressions of Second Wave furry included some conventions (notably ConFurence, which received a lot of criticism for being overtly sexual) and FurryMUCK. In these spaces, furries presented as if they were their animal-person avatar, a furry cultural norm that is now widely accepted. Most furry spaces are Second Wave although this is not always the case: arguably of the two Australian furry conventions, MiDFur (with occasional non-furry guests) is First Wave, whereas the newer Furry Down Under (with a focus on socializing and fursuiting) is Second Wave.

The maturation of furry is reflected in media coverage. During the First Wave, those willing to publicly discuss furry were often on the fringes of the group, and were largely selected to reinforce the freakshow element. Serious attempts to understand furry, such as a 2001 Vanity Fair article, were largely hijacked by furries who were unwilling or unable to act in a socially appropriate fashion. As I have said before here on [a][s], the most visible members of a minority are rarely the best ambassadors. The result was cringeworthy, and furries ran a mile from the image portrayed in the media.

This is no longer the case. Second Wave furries are collectively comfortable with the idea of furry as an identity. Media outlets, regardless of whether they have honourable intentions, are presented with a community that knows how to present itself. Coverage often tends to focus on the more unusual aspects of furry, or even the range of sexualities on display, but the overall vibe is usually one of disinterested acceptance. The visibility and city-wide acceptance of Anthrocon during its annual residency in Pittsburgh is a good example.

I saw Anthrocon’s Sam Conway speak a few years ago, and he went out of his way to talk about furries who held respectable positions in the real world. He mentioned furry aeronautical engineers, medical doctors, and the like. It was a speech from someone who was trying to convince himself – and his audience – that the First Wave furry stereotypes no longer apply. He was, like Ophelia*, protesting too much, as if he could will such a situation into being. They were the words of someone who had experienced the worst of the First Wave furry culture first-hand, where furry’s reputation was repeatedly tarnished in the media by extreme elements of the group.

Conway’s concerns are reasonable but out-of-date. Nowadays, the idea that furries might be innately unemployable is all but nonsensical.

However the perceptions of the furry group in the First Wave suffered from the actions of a visible minority. Furries distanced themselves from such behaviour, insisting that real furries are people who simply, “have an appreciation for anthropomorphic characters”.

Pre-emptively defensive sentiments like Conway’s persist on Wikipedia. There are hardworking wiki-guardians who maintain furry’s entry, the highest-profile source of information for someone unfamiliar with the community. It opens with:

“The furry fandom is a subculture interested in fictional anthropomorphic animal characters with human personalities and characteristics.”

The article provides an alternative definition of furry for “furry lifestylers”, quoting a line from Usenet that is about 20 years old:

“…a person with an important emotional/spiritual connection with an animal or animals, real, fictional or symbolic.”

Wikipedia’s portrayal of furry, like Conway’s speech, is firmly First Wave. We no longer need to act so defensively: our collective image is no longer shaped by a few outliers.

Fandom, as opposed to furry, is still largely perceived as a collection of social rejects. In many cases it’s reasonably applicable: if you are obsessed with Hamtaro (say), it’s likely that you are either very young or you have a very limited relationship with the wider world. The stereotype of the narrow-minded geek, that of Comic Book Guy or the stock action-figure-collecting sitcom character, is one of fandom. Furries are still pretty geeky and fandom-oriented – 61% of us describe ourselves as ‘a fan of science fiction’ (Ref Furry Survey) – but it’s no longer the driving force of our community.

(I don’t want to suggest that fandom geeks are any better or worse than furries. I’m merely trying to describe the progression from furry’s First Wave and its fandom origins, to today’s Second Wave. I appreciate that my embrace of fandom stereotypes is reductive and possibly a little insulting. I mean to say that fans will be over-represented by Comic Book Guy, not that all fans are like that.)

Furry media is largely Second Wave. Our social sites – Fur Affinity, Inkbunny, Sofurry – are Second Wave almost by definition, as furries socialize nearly exclusively as animal-people. Meta furry sites, like Flayrah and [adjective][species], who look at furry with a critical eye, are also Second Wave. There are still echoes of the First Wave culture wars however these are largely marginalized to ‘below the line’ forums, comment threads, and the juvenalia of 4Chan and Encyclopaedia Dramatica.

One of furry’s greatest features is that it is decentralized. We do not have a universally-respected figurehead or a formal code of conduct. Our culture and our community are fluid. Our most useful tools are those which allow furries to come together as a loose collective: conventions, social media, art depositories.

As we grow – and we are growing worldwide, fast – our culture is consolidating. New furries learn to abide by the unwritten rules of the pre-existing furry culture. This maturation is the furry Second Wave. Keep your whiskers erect and your ears perked for signs of the next step forward.

* corrected typo on 20-Dec-12 spotted by the furcast.fm crew. Thanks guys.

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About JM

Your friendly local houyhnhnm

31 thoughts on “The Second Wave of Furry

  1. I’m… the first word that comes to mind is ‘relieved’ to see that someone else sees things this way, since I’ve sorta been thinking this was the case of a while, but never totally sure if it was just my odd perspective or not.

    If we use those dates from the Illustrated Chronology as gospel, I came in right at the beginning of the second wave; the first furry thing I encountered was Furcadia, in early ’97, which, at the time, was at its best a First Wave endeavor, with its emphasis on secondary-world fantasy, and for many folks, not even that; plenty of people seemed to use it as a free chat client with incidental animal-people trappings. I found out about the rest of furry through the few people who actually wanted to engage with the setting and animal nature of the characters. Personally I headed right for the lifestyle stuff, it was a matter of months before I was on alt.lifestyle.furry on usenet and fully immersed in a furry identity. Fast forward through ten years of cons and eye-rolling at Burned Furs and frustration with media, and I looked around at some point a few years ago and realized I wasn’t really part of a fringe anymore.

    The real funny thing I’ve seen more recently has been how folks sometimes still us ‘lifestyler’ as a pejorative denoting “being too extreme and making the fandom look bad” but at this point, the folks doing that still invariably have established furry names, definite reasons for their species choice, and are happy to be referred to and thought of as that species and that identity–all the stuff that’s the very definition of “lifestyler” as I first learned it!

    • Hi Indi, thanks for the kind comments.

      I think I’ve had a pretty similar experience to you. I remember going onto a furry IRC for the first time and being asked whether I was a ‘fan’ or a ‘lifestyler’. I’m pretty confident that doesn’t happen to new furries any more.

      This topic has been rolling around in my head for a while, but I only felt like I could tackle it after writing about various other aspects of the furry experience here on [adjective][species]. I was concerned that I’d be marginalizing – and possibly offending – any number of furry fans. Hopefully I’ve managed to avoid that. (Although we’d be happy to publish a counterpoint as a guest post.)

  2. This all strikes me as considerably less stringent than your segmentation suggests. Where, for instance, do you slot in the people behind ConFurence? You imply they’re Second Wave, but they’re (arguably) the folks who coined the term “furry” in the first place — chronologically, you don’t get much more First Wave than that. The first time I was asked “what species are you” was, I’m pretty sure, 1989.

    The most genuinely unique thing about furries is that we really *are* fans of something particular: the things we create for ourselves. We’re not dependent on any corporation, any media property, for direction. That’s pretty awesome. But I think at times we need to be a little more aware of how much we have in *common* with existing science fiction and comics fandom. We’ve invented our own fannish jargon to replace theirs — “fursona” instead of “fan name,” “fursuit” instead of “costume,” “lifestyler” instead of “trufan” — but that doesn’t make us any less fannish. The dichotomy you’re really getting at is one named by sci-fi fandom a very long time ago: FIAWOL vs. FIJAGH. “Fandom is a way of life” versus “fandom is just a goddamn hobby.”

    • Hi Watts, thanks for your thoughtful comments.

      I mentioned ConFurence because they were one of the first group to explore furry as a phenomenon beyond its fandom roots. Early ConFurences were criticized (perhaps fairly) for being overtly sexual and attracting a non-fandom crowd. I make the approximate definition of Second Wave as the point at which furry as an identity became the norm. You could certainly make an argument as to the date this occurred (or even whether it has occurred at all). There is no obvious point at which furry changed.

      You’re not the first person to suggest that furries are fans, that we are fans of things we create. I think that’s a perfectly reasonable way of looking at it, and I totally agree that it’s awesome. Although, obviously, I’d argue that we’ve moved past FIAWOL vs. FIJAGH and that nowadays furry is about exploring identity through an imaginary animal-person.

    • >The most genuinely unique thing about furries is that we really *are* fans of something particular: the things we create for ourselves.

      Isn’t this stretching the definition of “fans” and “fandom” a bit too far though? People who are into making indie music or making theatre or tinkering with homemade electronics can be called “fans” of these things as well, but their communities don’t quite work like the anime fandom or the Star Wars fandom.

      Just my two cents, but I think a fandom is by definition a group of people who *don’t* produce the things they like, or that produce mostly stuff derived from them (fan fiction etc.). Once a community stops being about a specific set of commercial products and starts revolving mostly around its own production there is little point in calling it a fandom and comparing it to proper fandoms, since proper fandoms are based on different mechanics and different artistic goals. There are several signs that calling the furry community a “fandom” is a forced comparison at this point. See for example how actual fandoms are much better organized to promote the products and concepts they are about.

      Maybe it’s time to embrace the idea that the furry community has evolved into a different beast and fandom logic no longer really applies to it.

      • That’s an interesting initial question, and my first thoughts were, “I don’t think so” followed by “maybe” followed by “it’s complicated.” :) Two points, neither of which is really a direct answer. Both point toward “no,” but they don’t exactly contradict your definition of fandom, either.

        (1) Furry has always been thus, which was really my initial point to JM — our version of FIJAGH vs. FIAWOL has also been with us from the beginning. Even back in the late ’80s the seminal “furry” works were primarily from people involved, to one degree or another, with the fandom. We’ve been creating our own stuff from the start. (I’m pretty sure part of what I wrote in that comment to JM echoes something I wrote for the con book for ConFurence 3 or 4.)

        (2) When you or I say something “we’ve been creating our own stuff from the start,” it’s a minority of furries who are actually creating stuff with any significant reach — just like any (other?) fandom, the majority of us are along the long tail, not at the top. We blur the distinction between creator and fan in a pretty unique and wonderful way, but at the end of the day there’s still many, many more furries who are consuming furry media of various sorts than there are furries creating it.

        Digging into this more, I think the distinction you’re making that I’m not (or vice-versa) revolves around commercialism. Furry is unlike other fandoms — and I think I said this in about these words — because it’s not driven by corporations and commercial creators who are entirely removed from the fandom. But I don’t think that difference makes it *not* a fandom. Instead it makes it a community-owned fandom, if you will.

    • Watts is on-target! “The most genuinely unique thing about furries is that we really *are* fans of something particular: the things we create for ourselves.” That reminds me of one of the most curious comments I heard from anthrocon
      GoH1: Who are they fans of?
      GoH2: each other!

      As to jargon, EVERY fandom or niche or group has that. Just being on a ConCom (convention committee) leads to jargon, abbreviations & acronyms unique to running a sci fi/fantasy/anime convention. Being active with an APA vs a Fanzine means learning new acronyms & rules for participation, and that’s for ay fandom.

  3. Interesting as this starts out you lost me with your distinction between furry fans and lifestylers. I think there is a difference but I think your explanation is way off the mark. I don’t think that sex or sexuality has anything to do with the difference between the two of them.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “new furries take up an animal-person identity with a species and a new name by default.” That sounds a lot like therianism, which is something separate. I’m guessing that you mean having a fursona but again I don’t think that has anything to do with a distinction between fan and lifestyler. Both fans and lifestylers have fursonas and the idea of taking a new name and an avatar is something that permeates the entire internet and gaming culture, it’s not an exclusively furry thing.

    The difference I see is that fans see furry as an interest or hobby, regardless of how involved they are. I’d count myself as a fan. A furry lifestylers are ones that see furry as a way of life, something akin to being gay. That’s where you get the “coming out as furry” discussions from and people that wear fursuits to work or in everyday life. They are the ones that can’t see a separate identity outside of the furry fandom.

    • Well, the very phrase “coming out” has sexual connotations in popular culture; I think much of the pushback against “lifestylers” came from the perception that they were treating furry not as some deep spiritual thing, but primarily as a sexual fetish.

      (Really, sex has been at the heart of most of the ongoing debates I’ve seen in furry fandom…)

  4. What would be really nice is if we had an inclusion of furry into Big Bang Theory. Big Bang’s helped to normalize a lot of fandom aspects, but as far as I know, there are no furs involved. Hopefully it or a similar show will do that and furry can become one more mainstream thing.
    I do think that all the ear hats being sold all over the place help. They at least provide a perhaps unnecessary smokescreen.

  5. Hi, Watts, long time no see.

    Anyway, a lot of the early problems furries in general and ConFurence in particular had was EXACTLY the confusion of furries with gays by those who couldn’t stand gays. Partly because the founders of CF were and are a gay couple, partly because of general assumptions about who did and did not dress up funny. Do also recall that CF was the first of the cons, generally was held as a hotel’s first furry (or ANY sort of convention that didn’t involve business meetings or Shriners et al) giving the hotels no real preparation for the sort of gigantic party fen, furry and otherwise tend to throw. Net result – rather a lot of
    “when faced with confusion, jump to conclusions…” And it’s a long swim back.

    Time to exit before I start reminiscing. I have, after all, been at this awhile… You can find a certain (in)famous essay over on my website should you be interested in same.

    • Hi there Yealurowluro, thanks for stopping by and commenting. The likes of ConFurence pre-date my experiences within furry, but it always struck me that the demonization of the early versions of the con didn’t ring true. When people would comment that the con attracted gay non-furries (who were just looking for sex) I guessed that perhaps this was simply ‘lifestylers’, essentially today’s furry group. Which, as we know, is about 2/3 gay or bisexual.

      By the way, given that I wasn’t around at the time, I hope that my characterization of the changes within furry (as First and Second Waves) ring true. I suspect that I’m walking a fine line towards being unintentionally reductive towards the fandom types.

      • Actually, I find myself wondering where you get your data as to what proportion of furries are gay/bisexual or presumably otherwise genderqueer. Certainly it’s a much SAFER place to be openly gay than many another venue, and I do know a fair number of folks who are, but that’s anecdotal at best. So, where do you get your percentages?

        Grin – I was around when Nicolai and Fred ran into each other in front of Steve Gallacci’s artwork, so I’ve been in on this pretty much from the start. And I would be careful of characterizing “fandom” in general – one of the things that attracted me to SF fandom in the first place was the fact that there was NOT a great divide between professional and fan – in fact you get plenty of combinations (ever meet J. Michael Straczynski?) and fan-run conventions are very hands on. What I discovered in my early 20s was a venue in which I could do All Sorts of Fun Things, and proceeded to do so. Singing, furrydom, fiction writing and reading, etc. etc. Hey, I’m a kittycat, so naturally enough everything is a cat toy! :)

        • My data is from the Furry Survey, as curated by [adjective][species] co-founder Klisoura. The sexuality statistics are here – http://vis.adjectivespecies.com/furrysurvey/orientation.shtml – pretty steady results from each year of the survey, and from a good sample size (just over 9000 responses in 2009).

          The visualization (and the others hosted here) are done by Klisoura’s co-founder, Makyo. We’ve got access to the whole dataset, so feel free to ask away if you’ve any other burning questions.

          • Thanks for the link! Don’t think I’ve seen that one (unless it’s the one I once encountered which asked about so many specific sexual practices that I became suspicious of it and quit, which I kind of doubt – though it certainly sounded like SOMEONE was having a lot of fun. :)) I’m reminded of the old Kinsey report. I’ll have to take the next one and see what the questions look like. And of course it’s self-selected responders, but there’s no way AROUND that under the circumstances. Indicative at the very least.

  6. I may be the only one here, but it’s not about the sex or being a fan for me, it’s about myself being something I’m not. I’ve been this way since as far back as I can remember, but didn’t know about furry until I was almost 18 years old. I literally identify and feel like I am inside the fursona that everyone else sees, and would happily go through any extreme, including full body modification, to appear as I feel. So, personally, I don’t believe that terms such as fursona, lifestyler, and fursuit mean the same thing to me as they do to Watts, or anyone else, most likely, because to me fursona is who I am, not my fan name, my fursuit is my personal portrayal of myself, not a costume of a character, and being a lifestyler means that I’d be happier as my fursona and would do anything within my power to realize it, even though it’s an impossible dream, not just being a trufan. I’m not very active around furry sites or media, and few people know this about me, whereas the definition of a trufan is “someone who is very active in, and devoted to, their fandom”. I may be strong in my beliefs, but I don’t feel driven or devoted to the furry fandom in general, and I feel that I’m not in a fandom stage at all in those terms. But, again, like I said, I may be the only one that sees things this way.

    • Hi Mattholomew, thanks for the interesting comment.

      I think that you sit, in terms of my taxonomy, as a second wave furry. The issue is not sex, it’s identity. (Sex is, of course, an important part of identity for many people.) Your identification with your furry self is not miles away from myself, or many furries out there. The drive toward body modification is an interesting one too, and perhaps something we at [a][s] might explore in detail at some point.

  7. This is like the fourth wave, though.
    First wave: The few unix hackers that set up groups to discuss funny/cartoon/fictional animal media in the late 70s.
    Second wave: Funny animals fandom merge, first yifftards, scalies and therian
    Third wave: Sparkledogs, sarcastic humor sucked in from modern cartoons and furry drama that is also demonstrated in what’s described as “furry music” which consists mostly of cheap breakcore and chiptune/game-OST that has barely any real relation to furry, and then there’s the otherkin (like the therian they merged but a more in relation to fictional species than ones considered real (Earth) animals)
    Fourth wave: More talent-showing furry art appears after younger (i.e. with the sparkledog prominence) dissolves into furry, making furry render itself almost as if it were its own genre of art with its own subset of styles, audience becomes very much younger, yifftards die off a little but are still full of drama in their niches.
    Fifth wave: Let’s just see.

  8. The folly of this piece is the suggestion that everyone who has an avatar and a favored animal type is some kind of lifestyler. That is not the case. Nor is it the case that Furries tend to focus exclusively on community based creativity. Whether we do or not doesn’t stop us from being fans of any outside Furry movies or other media that is created.

    What was learned from the earlier conflicts between fans and lifestylers is that there never was any real separation between the two groups. Furries are not one or the other, they are just Furries, and there is no such thing as uniformity when it comes to being a Furry.

    What seems to be consistently true to this day is that there will always be a select few of us who will take pen in hand to insist that they know who we all are and start trying to paint the whole community with a wide brush, alienating everyone who doesn’t fit into their view.

    I started out as a Furry in the 70′s (long before writers like yourself even give credit for the existence of Furries) both as a fan and a creator. I was always a fan, and being a fan of Furry concepts always carried with it a kind of lifestyle.

    The whole idea of a conflict between fans and lifestylers was idiotic from the get-go. It basically suggests that Furries are all involved in some internal war between our fan interests and the resulting lifestyle they inspire. And the idea that one has won out over the other is doubly idiotic.

    What has really happened is that the majority of the community has simply distanced itself from this idiotic question of distinction, and thus we have become more comfortable as a community.

    If you enjoy that comfort, then dredging up this old idiocy is ill advised. Even after all these years of feeling comfortable in the community, this article managed to dredge up feelings of being told I don’t belong here because I’m a fan, and I can’t stand being disrespected for that.

    Yes, I’m sure I have the lifestyle thing going on as much as anyone, but I can not stand hearing fans dismissed as if they were not important to what we are. If you sent all the fans of Furry media packing this would be a very small community indeed, not the ever snowballing phenomenon it is.

    This is still Furry Fandom, the community of people who are fans of anthropomorphic animals and their related concepts, which include Furry avatars and personal characters. If only our community writers would spend more time dwelling on the positive attributes of those concepts, rather than putting Furries at odds with each other, and with themselves.

    • Hi Perri

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, and I’m sorry that you found my words to be alienating. That was certainly never my intent, and I wonder whether you’ve read a bit more into my article than is actually there.

      My main point is that furry, today, is largely defined by the use of personal anthropomorphic avatars. Furries are creating a new animal-person identity for themselves, and they are socializing through this framework.

      The furry identity is standard nowadays, and it’s used by (effectively) every new furry. But this wasn’t always the case: it was one of the key differences between the fans and the lifestylers back when people made the distinction. If you reject this criteria for differentiation, I’d be curious to hear your point of view.

      I don’t really understand why you feel it’s idiotic to explore furry’s past, or to think about how the furry community has developed over time.

      And finally: I don’t reject the existence of furries in the 1970s. I used one date in my article, and that was Fred Patten’s 1966. I also didn’t say or intend to imply that old-school furry fans are some sort of lower-ranked furry. I’m sorry that my article reminded you of such feelings.

      • Furry is not defined by the use of avatars. As someone already stated, the use of avatars is an internet wide phenomenon. And it’s perfectly natural for Furries to use Furry avatars, just as Anime fans use Anime avatars, Dark Shadows fans use Dark Shadows avatars, and Star Trek fans use Star Trek avatars. What defines us as a group is not the fact that we use avatars, but what subject dominates our avatars.

        It also seems a limited view of things to think that internet avatars define a group that is in no way restricted to the internet. Furries don’t use avatars when they meet in the real world. If we were somehow dependent on these avatars, we’d never want to meet each other face to face.

        Actually, I happen to be one of those rare individuals who is bound to an avatar. I won’t meet other Furries in public because I can’t stand to be seen as anything other than my avatar. But I’m extremely rare in that respect. Indeed, I don’t know any other Furry who takes living behind an avatar to the extremes I do. And I’d have to say it would be extremely inaccurate to judge the whole fandom by my peculiar habits.

        Furry Fandom is the fandom for Furry characters. Furry characters have traditionally been allegorical of nature. It’s only natural that Furry fans should use their Furry avatars to explore their inner selves. That is nothing new. I doubt there’s been a Furry creator since the days of Aesop who hasn’t used their characters to explore or express their inner selves.

        That you would say we do this now as apposed to something we used to do suggests a very limited study of Furry history. If you would like to study further I have compiled the longest document on Furry history ever attempted. It will be found here. http://spectralshadows.livejournal.com/46979.html

        Why do I reject a criteria for a difference between fans and lifestylers? Well, you must first understand that the historical dispute between fans and lifestylers was largely based on a lot of unrealities. As I understand it, when they created separate groups for fans and lifestylers on Usenet, the membership of each was to a great extent identical.

        So, there were not a lot of natural points of conflict in the fandom. But certain people who had political motivations in regard to controlling the development of the community instigated a conflict. They turned the community against itself and prevented it from resolving any real issues naturally. And we still pay the price for that treachery to this day.

        But eventually the community as a whole caught on to the fact that these conflicts were not real, and certainly not necessary. We just took to ignoring them and not bothering about distinctions. We did not come here to fight. We came here to have fun. And we realized that the fact that we are so diverse and generally unique as individuals is one of the things that makes this fandom so much fun. And there just is no room in that fun for a conflict between watching Disney movies and expressing one’s inner rabbit, especially since most of us do both anyway.

        Indeed, Disney is pretty much to blame for the existence of this community. Disney not only entertains, but also awakens the awareness of the inner animal. The whole lifestyle thing wouldn’t be happening if not for the influence of Furry media.

        And, if that’s not enough to show why distinctions between fans and lifestylers are pointless, anyone over the age of 17 devoting a significant percentage of his time and income to Furry media can be said to be living an alternative lifestyle far removed from the norm. So, in effect, fans are lifestylers too. And the only place to go from there is “My lifestyle is better than your lifestyle.” I don’t think many Furries want to go there.

        You didn’t mean to make me feel like a lower rank Furry. It is not looking at Furry history that makes me feel that way. Actually, Furry history is a hobby of mine. What makes me feel uncomfortable is first of all the suggestion that there was some passing of a torch between fans and lifestylers, which is basically saying I passed a torch from myself to myself. But I know you don’t mean it that way. You mean it to suggest one group of furs ousted another group of furs. And I was in the group you’re saying was ousted.

        How is anyone supposed to not feel uncomfortable when you’re standing in the middle of a fandom community saying the fandom (or native Furries if you like) were driven out by the conquering lifestylers? I know that’s fiction, of course, but what about the new folks just coming in? What are they supposed to think believing they’re standing on the site where once there stood a noble fandom that was overrun and destroyed by a bunch of invaders?

        It’s not enough for me to tell them that what you’re talking about was something that amounted to little more than a War Of The Worlds broadcast. They’re still going to believe you, not me. And that’s what I meant when I said we continue to pay the price.

        What else makes me uncomfortable? Surveys. Surveys that prove nothing, but create controversy simply because of the questions they ask, none of which have the first thing to do with a fandom for Furry characters.

        All you prove with these surveys is that the community is made up of a slice of the human population, and we’ve got a little something here to attract all kinds.

        If we were a dating site, what percentage of us are gay, bi or confused might be relevant. We’re not. In fact, you miss the one relevant thing those statistics show, and that is that we don’t care if our fellow Furries have the same sexual orientation, because that is not what we get together for. We get together to share Furry stuff with other Furries. and we care about that to such an extent that the sexuality of others becomes irrelevant. The prejudices of the outside world are a hindrance to our fun. We reject them. We say diversity is beautiful. But somehow these surveys only end up being used to show that Furries are a group of people who all have some kind of sexuality. And this is sensationally shocking, only because no other fandom on this planet evaluates itself in such a manner.

        “Furry began as an offshoot of sci-fi fandom and almost immediately become notable for production of original anthropomorphic content.”

        The Furry Community (not Furry itself which is much, much older) spun off from an Anime group. And it was always about cartoons, not Sci-Fi. Furry has always existed with branches reaching into every genre, including Sci-Fi, but the core of the main force has always been cartoons, comics and animation.

        And when the community spun off from Anime, it did not “immediately become notable for production of original anthropomorphic content.” It spawned fan art like every other fandom. Those original titles you’re thinking of were commercial titles that were products of the comic market.

        “Furry had less of a focus toward pre-existing art than sci-fi fandom”

        Sci-Fi fandom has a focus on art? Sure, it has art, but it’s hardly a central thing. That’s what you’re missing. Where is art central? Cartoons and comics, of course. You’re misinterpreting the fact that early meets took place at Sci-Fi cons as meaning we came from Sci-Fi fandom. There were just as many meets at Anime and comic book conventions. Indeed, Furry rode on the coattails of Manga all the way up to the late 90′s when the comic industry imploded and everything shifted to the internet.

        “I like ‘community’ as a description of our collective although ‘fandom’ is probably more common, and is used by other writers on this site. I’d argue that ‘fandom’ is deprecated because, while there are many fans within furry – anime, MLP, Redwall, etc – we are collectively not fans of anything in particular.”

        That right there is the statement that really got me. Yes, “The Furry Community” does accurately describe us as a group, but what group? Who lives in The Furry Community? The fans of Furry characters, of course.

        The term fandom does not suggest we are all fans of specific titles. In fact, the things we are fans of are quite variable. But, they all have one thing in common. Whether a Furry is a fan of MLP or just his own avatar, Furries are all fans of anthropomorphic animals, regardless of what use of them they may favor, even to the exclusion of all others.

        It boggles my mind how anyone can seriously write that we are not a fandom and there is no central concept at the core of this community.

        I could write volumes about the central concept of this fandom. It is centuries old, historically honored, culturally endeared to the entire world. And yes, all of that is directly connected to the young Furry who does nothing but sit behind an avatar expressing his inner self on the internet.

        The fact that you don’t know this illustrates a great failure in our community to properly honor the concept that brought us together. And that failure is a direct result of the false history that says some over-hyped flame war between fans and lifestylers is the only thing that makes us what we are.

        • Perri, that is an epic comment, particularly amazing given the tiny comment boxes that our host provides us with. Thanks for your thoughts.

          I suspect that there’s a fair bit we’re going to disagree upon, which is definitely okay. Criticism is always the best kind of feedback, and it’s something that I—and hopefully the other authors here on [a][s]—encourage and enjoy. Thanks for being forthright but also respectful, I appreciate it.

          I want to comment on a couple of your points. Firstly, I don’t think that any group was ‘ousted’ from furry; I simply mean that furry culture has changed. The furries joining the community today are (mostly) very different from the furries that were joining the community in the early days. And the differences between the two groups are, in my opinion, pretty well defined by the deprecated fans-vs-lifestylers distinction.

          Furry is a club where you’re a member if you decide you’re a member. There is no other criteria: you and I and everyone else is free to make whatever we want to make from it. You are as welcome here as anyone else, and I never intended to imply otherwise.

          On surveys, I think that your aversion is simply a personal preference. A few commenters here on [a][s] have expressed similar opinions. You may not think that sexual orientation within furry is relevant, but a lot of furries (including me) think that it is very relevant. One fascinating outcome of the survey data: that around 50% of heterosexual furries entering the community will change their sexual preference within five years. The proclivity for furries to “turn gay” was suggested many years ago, in an old a.l.f questionnaire as it turns out, and we can now demonstrate that there is evidence that the stereotype is true.

          It’s not just us here at [a][s] either: furry is the subject of professional research in the form of the IARP. Their work that is largely based on surveys as a means of collecting data. In any event, [a][s] is dedicated to exploring the furry phenomenon, and survey data is one of the tools at our disposal.

          I will have a read through your furry history, and I’ll be sure to refer back to it if/when I make reference to it on future articles here on [a][s]. Like you, I care a great deal about furry – it is something very personal and important to me.

          Finally, I’ll add that my understanding of furry doesn’t start at 1966, although I’m happy to name that as the approximate genesis of today’s furry phenomenon. Here at [a][s], Phil Geusz has talked about Winston Churchill’s relationship with his inner animal (http://adjectivespecies.com/2012/12/28/blood-toil-tears-and-fur/); Quentin Julien has looked at anthropomorphic art that’s 30,000 years old (http://adjectivespecies.com/2013/02/28/performance-in-animal-costume-an-ancient-art-english/), and I’ve discussed how furry can be seen as a modern analogue for totemic religions (http://adjectivespecies.com/2012/11/12/furry-as-an-alternative-to-religion/).

          Anyway, I look forward to reading through your own works. Thanks again for taking the time to participate in the conversation.

          • Since you think the turning gay thing is of particular importance, I thought I’d add some comments specifically on that, since that’s something else I have personal experience with.

            Well, I haven’t exactly turned gay since joining The Furry Community, but I have lived as characters of both genders on Second Life, as well as becoming a supporting member of gay and trans groups – none of which I did before joining the community.

            But, my doing these things as part of the community was enough to raise allegations of my being gay or trans from certain individuals in my life, as well as to create significant confusion in my own mind about what I should put down on a survey in regard to my orientation.

            I think of myself as a fairly intelligent person with a penchant for self analysis. I’m always exploring my inner self. Yet, at this point I can not say with any confidence that I have any sexual orientation at all in the real world. I just know that I’m repulsed when dating site ads on the net throw pictures of one gender at me, and interested enough to look when they throw pictures of the other gender at me.

            So, in the real world nothing has changed. I’m still straight as a pin. But on Second Life I can be drawn to any gender, and will freely accept love from anyone who offers it.

            This portends a number of potential sexualities, bi, trans, pan . . . But does it count in terms of a survey?

            I have known others who swore up and down that they were trans, due to the influence of the kinds of characters they liked to role play, but when they tried applying those fantasies to real life, they found they had two orientations – one for fantasy and another for reality.

            Personally, my fantasy orientation is the only one I get to experience. So I might well write down trans on a survey. But the survey is created for the purpose of judging people in real life. Thus, if there are innumerable people like myself who encounter confusion due to the forms of self exploration offered by Second Life, The Furry Community and various other internet institutions, the survey data could be misleading.

            I believe what it shows is not that the fandom leads people to alter their orientation, as much as it opens minds to exploring other possibilities without the potential real world consequences.

            It is entirely possible to make the orientation of a character you play seem so attractive and pleasant in your fantasies that you convince yourself you must share that orientation. But that in no way prepares you for trying out that orientation in real life, which I’m sure many of us rarely get a chance to do.

            So you have to ask yourself when reading these surveys, how accurate is this information if many of these people are young, inexperienced, and still in a state of self exploration? Are you getting facts, or are you getting fantasies?

            Or, deeper still, does the nature of avatar based role play demonstrate that sexual orientation has nothing of the solidity it’s thought to have. Do all people have the capacity to enjoy any orientation in an environment where all the things they’d dislike about it can be minimized and dispensed with, while all the things they would like would be blown up to exaggerated proportions?

            I think that many people who are GBLT activists would strongly disagree with the notion that true real world sexual orientation could be so flimsy a thing that it could be altered by anything as insignificant as a fandom. While advocates of sexual rehabilitation would rejoice in the notion that Furry Fandom offers some path to a means where sexual orientation can be manipulated.

            This seems dangerous territory to me – territory which is far beyond the province of a simple fandom or internet social group.

            I don’t need any survey to tell me The Furry Community is made up predominantly of very young, impressionable, easily influenced and confused people who are still in the process of discovering themselves, while having very little to nourish their development other than social media.

            I also know that fandom, by the very nature of the word, implies a certain amount of irrationality on the part of all participants. It implies that the takers of these surveys may know their fan based fantasies far better than they know themselves.

            Normally fandom is a harmless irrationality, because it’s just for fun and everyone knows not to take it too seriously. But it will no longer be harmless if it gets to a point where the treatments for real world sexuality are based on the fantasies of a gathering of fans.

            I believe it is better to leave self exploration as a personal thing, unique to each individual. It isn’t something that should collectively define us. We aren’t the fandom that turns people gay, any more than Anime is the fandom that turns people into pedophiles.

            Whatever we were when we came in, we always were. We just didn’t know it. If you want to say Furry is a mind expanding thing that opens a door to discovering things we never realized about ourselves, I’ll go along with that. But we don’t change anyone’s orientation. We just happen to be especially attractive to the age group that is just beginning to know themselves sexually. And there is no evidence to show that any changes they made wouldn’t have been made just the same if they’d never encountered us.

  9. Pingback: The Structure of Furry | [adjective][species]

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