cw: non-explicit mentions of kink, including some uncommon ones.
In 2012, I started chatting online to the person who would later become my long-term partner. Damien had a great sense of humor, we had many interests in common, and our IM conversations kept me up so that I was running on 5 hours of sleep at my 12-hour-a-day retail job. I asked her at some point what she did for a living, and she explained that she was an artist on commission. Specifically, she drew furries.
Back in 2012, these were the things I knew about furries:
1. One time a self-proclaimed Republican furry spammed my LiveJournal because he was offended by something innocuous I’d said, and it was legitimately hilarious.
2. Nobody on the Internet liked furries except other furries. They were weird, wore animal suits, were really pushy, and probably had messed up fetishes.
But…Damien was nice. She had social skills (I mean, not that I’m one to talk, having severe social anxiety) and she was funny and I was starting to notice those non-straight feelings I’d cheerfully ignored for years. And when she offered, I let her show me her art, because I really was trying to be non-judgmental, and you know what? It was beautiful.
The first drawing she showed me depicted an anthropomorphized Chinese crested dog in a space suit, floating in the void. The character design was creative and well-drawn, the scenario was interesting, and honestly? There was nothing objectionable whatsoever.
Later she showed me more of her art, and I always told her, quite honestly, that it was awesome. And when we started dating, she told me to just pick an animal I liked, and she gifted me art of her then-character (a unicorn) embracing an adorable anthro fruit bat. It was affectionate, and it was meaningful. The little animal faces were just reflections of our real ones, but they showed our souls in a way that a real face can’t, aspects of our personality through the symbolism of animals. Animal species have certain features—horses are skittish but strong and graceful, cats are clever and opinionated—that we can easily translate as personality traits, and our society has symbolic connotations with animals as well (a fox is clever and sly, a lion is strong and majestic). By using animal archetypes, we can present ourselves as we want to be seen with a single glance. It’s all very Jungian.
Later, as our relationship grew, as we learned more about each other (and, as so often happens, about ourselves), we both changed the animals representing ourselves—fursonas, as they’re known in the community. And while I still didn’t consider myself a furry, even when she was drawing me art, once I settled on something, it wound up being important to my self-identity as well.
It was Damien who figured it out, really. We discussed that I was doglike in my eagerness to please, poofy-haired, anxious and clingy in the way small dogs were. She’s the one who declared that I was a Pomeranian, and something clicked. It’s like the first time I read a description of my zodiac sign when I was nine: maybe it meant nothing in reality, but it felt right. It meant something to me. Over time, it’s become so ingrained that she’s just as, if not more, likely to call me “Pom” or “Pommy” than “Tessa,” and to outsiders I just laugh and explain that it’s a joke based on me being fluffy and nervous.
(In retrospect, this should not have come as a surprise. Apparently between the ages of two and four, I constantly pretended to be a puppy. When I explained the “Pommy” nickname to my sister, she just shrugged, unfazed, and said, “Well, you did always want to be a dog when you grew up. I’m glad you managed it.”)
And when we started exploring D/s, I realized that petplay resonated with me a lot, but in a uniquely anthropomorphic way. But I didn’t see myself in the traditional petplay hood and leather gear, acting like a real dog, crawling on all fours for treats, though some aspects did appeal to me. I saw myself bouncing along on two legs, wagging a curly tail, eager to do as I was told and being told what a good girl I was before getting a pat on the head.
While the furry community and my fursona aren’t integral to my sexuality the way, say, spanking is, or queerness, or being submissive, it is a cherished reflection my personality—just like my Hogwarts house, or my favorite Star Trek captain. It’s something that is, at the surface, meaningless and mutable, but resonates with me and helps me express myself. I’m not very active in the furry fandom, and I still hesitate a little when I use the word “furry” to describe myself, but here I am, being addressed as “Pom” and, if I’m at home, probably wearing a cheap headband with sparkly ears. (Sure, they’re sold as cat ears, but have you ever seen a Pomeranian?)
And that’s just my experience! My partner has changed fursonas many times, and often, it’s part of figuring out aspects of herself that she isn’t sure about. She’s a non-binary panromantic asexual. These are heavy labels! By playing with art of characters, designing something to resemble the self that she feels rather than just the self that looks like her, furry art has been a great way to try on different hats and sort out what she was and what she wasn’t. And you know what? She may find that her current identity doesn’t fit either, and that’s fine, too.
Doing her commission work, she’s also helped other people who were searching for identity. She’s helped more than one trans client find an image of themselves that they feel comfortable with, even when they struggle with dysphoria in their physical shapes. She once had a commissioner ask her to help design a cyborg leg for their fursona, because the commissioner was an amputee and still trying to become comfortable with it. Fantasy is a powerful tool!
Since that first 2012 conversation with Damien, I’ve learned to let go of some prejudices, but they still linger everywhere, and even I still have some discomfort. Furries are part of what the kids call “cringe culture” these days—something that you should be embarrassed to like, something that’s okay to mock because, after all, there’s something weird about it, but because it’s by choice it’s not offensive, right? (Incidentally, while furries participate in their fandom by choice and aren’t targeted and persecuted the way LGBTQ folks and POC are, they have actually been subject to violent attacks, which is…just…pretty shitty.) But I don’t much hold with cringe culture. Pointing out that our media is flawed and should be viewed critically? Sure. Mocking people because their interests aren’t your interests? Rude.
So, let’s just go over a few stereotypes and misapprehensions about the furry community:
1. They’re all about fucking (“yiffing”) in fursuits.
Most furries love the nonsexual fantasies as much as the sexual—some even moreso, as there are asexual furries and plenty of furries who don’t include it in their sex lives. In my experience, most people who develop a fursona do it, at least in part, as a non-sexual fantasy, for fun and creativity, not to get their rocks off, or at least not just to get their rocks off.
Also, fursuits are expensive as hell. They’re usually custom, and a full-bodied suit can cost thousands of dollars. Even a partial (just head and paws) can set you back hundreds. Most people in the fandom don’t own one. Most of those aren’t going to risk the expensive faux fur by getting bodily fluids all over it. Additionally, the suits are, I’m told, sweaty, uncomfortable, and extremely clumsy. Most folks attending a convention in costume have a non-costumed friend to help lead them around and keep them from bumping into things. Yes, there are some who enjoy fucking in fursuits, or partials, or a cheap ear-and-tail set. There are also plenty of people who enjoy fucking dressed as police officers, doctors, or schoolgirls. At the end of the day, it’s just a fantasy costume.
I’ve also only ever heard “yiff” used in a self-aware comedic manner, but I’m sure there are those who use it sincerely. Honestly? Who gives a shit.
2. They’re pedophiles and/or zoophiles.
In almost every mainstream furry community, anyone who admits to any attraction to minors or real animals gets booted immediately, and anyone who’s admitted to trying it will also probably get reported to the cops if at all possible. (Incidentally, furry communities like FurAffinity do pretty damn well at kicking out pedophiles, Nazis, and other people who really should be banned from Tumblr and Twitter, and yet, sadly, remain untouched.) The furry fandom doesn’t bother letting horribly abusive people try to “redeem” themselves because a few bad apples spoil the bunch. They don’t want to give the impression that it’s acceptable but, for some reason, the myth persists that they’re all on board with it.
(There are a few forums and galleries that do allow art of underage furry sexual activity, which is genuinely gross, but know that it’s far from the mainstream within the furry community. Most furries condemn these sites. And let’s be honest: there are pedo-friendly subreddits, and yet “I’ve gone on Reddit before” is not going to get you the same scorn as “I have a fursona.”)
To clarify the animal thing: just because you draw your bunny fursona fucking an anthro chicken doesn’t mean you are actually attracted to chickens. The key word there is “anthro.” It is anthropomorphized, or, in other words, drawn to look like a human, with human intelligence and ability to consent. The animal features are part of the “pretend” aspect, and is in many ways in the same vein as Disney’s Robin Hood: the Disney animators drew Maid Marian and Robin kissing, and they weren’t all secretly trapping foxes and smooching them at their vacation homes. (I mean, as far as I know.) It was an interesting, fun way to tell the story they wanted to tell. In the end, I don’t think it’s that different with furries, even if some of the stories they want to share are more adult in nature.
3. They’re all socially impaired.
I mean, it’s true, there are absolutely some super awkward furries. There are also some super awkward Trekkies and comic book fans. There are some super awkward sports fans, and sports are, last I checked, a mainstream
fandom hobby. Just ‘cause you once knew a girl who always wore a tail to class and tried to show everyone art of her raccoon character Sniffy doesn’t mean all furries are like that. That said, I bet she was really nice, and now she’s probably making bank with her graphic design business, Sniffy Studios. Maybe we can stop judging people just for being a little harmlessly weird? It’s ableist, classist, and reeks of bullying.
(There are, of course, some furries who take it too far, to the point where they cross boundaries or make people uncomfortable. Again: there are people like that in every community on Earth.)
4. They’re into all the Weird Fetishes.
I mean…to an extent, what are the Weird Fetishes? To some folks, anal is weird, and BDSM is hella weird. It’s absolutely fine to have your limits and to know certain kinks and fetishes bother you, but as long as things are consensual, why not appreciate that human sexuality is a strange and diverse thing?
Now, I will grant you: I have seen some things on furry sites that I…most definitely have not seen elsewhere, and there are some uncommon fetishes that seem to be illustrated more with furries, like vore and inflation. But on reflection, that makes perfect sense. First, furries are already considered super weird, so they’re a little more willing to let other super weird things pass, as long as no one’s getting hurt. Second, the furry fandom is, above all, about fantasy and imagination, and a lot of those fetishes are ones that can only be realized through fantasy. It’s natural that there’s some crossover.
That said, for every vore illustration I’ve seen in furry galleries, I’ve seen a hundred vanilla-to-lightly-kinky porn drawings, and about a thousand innocuous furry characters just hanging out, fully dressed, having a nice, non-sexual time.
5. I don’t know any furries.
Yeah, you do. I can guarantee you, someone you know in some capacity has drawn themselves as a squirrel or a dingo at least once and put it online, and might have joined a roleplay thread, or written a story, or had a long fantasy about it while they did the dishes. They didn’t tell you, because, you know, they don’t tell people about it, and with good reason.
But I bet they had a great time.
This post is not sponsored, but I would like to give a plug to my partner Damien, who is an extremely talented artist! She did the illustrations for this post, as well as my Queer Earthling spaceship logo. (Some of the pictures are older, and the watermarks represent older FurAffinity usernames.) If you’re interested in having Damien draw your fursona, or even work with you on developing one (it’s a lot of fun, even if you don’t intend to play in the community!), here is her commission info, and here is her gallery. (She also draws humans, if you’re into that sort of thing.)
I was also unable to find an online listing for the exact ear headbands I’ve photographed for this post, but I’ve found some similar ones on Amazon.
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This unsponsored post contains multiple Amazon affiliate links.