The International Anthropomorphic Research Project (IARP) have just published their report from their annual Anthrocon visit. You can see the full dataset and read Nuka's write-up here.
It's a real grab bag of information this year. The IARP have been around for nigh on ten years, and they have learned a lot about furry and furries. They have been able to build on that knowledge to explore some areas of the furry experience in detail, and this year's Anthrocon study reflects that. They have looked at PCD (is it real?), the relationship between artists and furry consumers, therians, and other topics.
They have also looked at furry relationship status, and, yep... there are a lot of single guys out there.
Anecdotally many furries suffer from post-con depression, a down period following immersion in a furry convention environment. Personally, I'd compare PCD with the depression that can follow a bout of the flu: a mild feeling of flatness, as if I'm not quite fully present in the world. The experience seems to be a common one.
But the IARP are scientists, and while anecdotes are useful, hard data is better. So they asked furries at Anthrocon to participate in a follow-up survey a few days later.
The results suggest that, yup, PCD is real, and it seems to last at least a week. Post-Anthrocon furries scored significantly lower on every test of psychological wellbeing considered by the IARP.
The IARP will be following up on this in future studies. In the meantime we could all probably use a hug.
The relationship between artists & furry consumers
We know from previous research by the IARP that there are big demographic differences between the Dealer's Den and the general population at a furry convention. This year the IARP have started to explore the differences between the two groups in more detail.
The biggest difference between the two groups is gender: furry is heavily male-dominated (75 to 80%), while the Dealer's Den is mostly female:
It's not easy to explain why there is such a big difference. Previous data has shown that female furries, on average, identify with the community less strongly than male furries, and that female furries are less likely to attend conventions (although possibly not at Anthrocon, more on this in a moment). However it's unknown whether this contributes to the disparity between artists and non-artists. The IARP have flagged this for future research.
Other differences between the Dealer's Den and the general population are easier to understand. For example the artists are older, which makes sense given the time required to learn artistic skill and gain a reputation.
Interestingly, 35% of the artists in the Anthrocon Dealer's Den do not identify as furries. This is undoubtedly a product of the size and engagement of the furry community: we are becoming a market. The sale of Fur Affinity to IMVU is another case where the furry audience is perceived to have value to a commercial enterprise.
Another sign that the value of the furry economy is becoming substantial: 32% of the artists in the Dealer's Den said that their art is their sole source of income.
The IARP are interested in how the two groups - artists and consumers—interact, and they have built on some earlier research about behaviour and entitlement. Without going into detail, the data suggests that artists in furry are treated well. Very broadly:
- Artists feel they are treated reasonably.
- Furries think that artists are treated reasonably.
- But artists think that furries think that artists aren't treated reasonably.
The last point is interesting, if a bit confusing on first glance. The IARP seem to regard it as being unimportant: on the whole, people aren't very good at predicting how other people feel about something.
(If you are in any doubt about how to treat an artist with appropriate respect, take a look at our commissioning etiquette guide.)
The IARP asked about relationship status, and you guessed it: single furry guys outnumber single furry girls by about a bazillion to one.
Therians are those who identify psychologically, spiritually, or physically with a non-human animal species*. The IARP have been looking into therianthropy over the past few years, and they have published some simple results showing differences between therian and non-therian populations within furry.
* This is the working IARP definition of a therian. A full 15% of self-described therians said that they "never" identify as a non-human species. So either some therians experience therianthropy differently... or some therians don't know what a therian is. Like any label applied to humans, it's imperfect.
The differences they found are about what you'd expect: therians are much more likely to identify with a species than non-therians, and that therians are much more likely to experience a "phantom tail". This will form the platform for further IARP study.
An aside: one of the reasons I like furry so much is that it's inclusive. You are a furry if you decide you are a furry. So therians are welcome and a therian can also be a furry. (A non-therian furry cannot be a therian.) Furry is equally welcoming to people from all sorts of disparate groups, from fans of My Little Pony, to puppy play fetishists. People from such different backgrounds and interests all define and contribute to our culture.
Our community is simultaneously broad and welcoming, yet close-knit and trusting. It's remarkable.
A follow-up on gender
In a previous study, the IARP ran a focus group to explore the experiences of women at furry conventions. That study suggested that many women find furry to be an uncomfortable environment. The IARP were able to explore this further at Anthrocon, with some surprising results.
Firstly, the proportion of women attending Anthrocon is very high compared to surveys of other conventions: 23% female; 67% male; 10% genderqueer or non-binary. This is about 10% higher than at other furry conventions, based on data collected by the IARP and [adjective][species]*.
* Three conventions used for comparison, each with more than 1000 attendees: Furry Fiesta 2013, Eurofurence 2014, and Confuzzled 2015.
Curiously, Anthrocon appears to attract a higher proportion of women than the general furry population. Data collected online (by the Furry Survey and by the IARP) consistently reports than women make up 15 to 20% of furry. Data from non-Anthrocon conventions show a smaller proportion of women attending. Is Anthrocon special, perhaps owing to it's status is the biggest convention?
Secondly, IARP data shows that men at Anthrocon feel as uncomfortable as women. This suggests that Anthrocon is, at least on a comparative level, a relatively gender-blind environment. That's not to say that there aren't issues related to gender within furry—some problems are to be expected in any group dominated by one gender, and furry is dominated by men—but we seem to be doing a pretty good job, at least at Anthrocon.
The IARP data shows one big difference in experiences between male and female furries: pornography. This is predictable, in that porn will mostly be targeted towards the male-dominated furry audience. It's reasonable to expect that women in furry porn are more likely to be depicted as mere sex objects.
The tendency for heterosexual men to see women as sex objects is sometimes referred to as the "male gaze". (Homosexual men similarly tend to sexualize other men.) While this isn't a problem in itself, the idea that women—or some women—might sometimes be treated as mere objects (in real life) is a real problem. It's understandable that women are less likely to be comfortable with pornography, furry or not, because it's easy to link the porn to real-world sexism.
This isn't to say that porn is inherently sexist, just that porn tends to objectify people in a way that wouldn't be cool in the real world. The relatively modern idea of "porn for women" is intended to provide an alternative to "regular" porn (which by extension is porn "not for women"). I'd be curious to understand the differences in (furry) porn preferred by (furry) men and women, because it should give some insight into the differences between each group. Maybe women like their sex objects just as much as the men do?
The IARP will undoubtedly be exploring this one further. I know from discussions with Nuka that he is interested in how gender informs the furry experience. I'm looking forward to seeing where he and his group go next.
Gender politics can be complex and controversial, and the preceding paragraphs will be read by people with diverging points of view. I think it's important and worth thinking about, and I've done my best to make a fair and flat analysis. If you feel I've got something wrong—as I have done in the past—please let me know in the comments.
In that spirit, I'll close this review with some words from Nuka himself:
It is worth noting, as a final point, that these data are not meant to be prescriptive or to dictate what “ought” to be the case in the fandom. In no way are the data intending to suggest that proportions of men, women, and genderqueer are “wrong”, nor are they intended to suggest that any one group of furries are maliciously attempting to trivialize, stigmatize, or prevent another group from entering the fandom.
There is a lot more in the IARP data than I have covered. You can read the whole thing here.