Furry fandom (also known as furrydom, fur fandom or furdom) refers to the fandom for fictional anthropomorphic animal characters with human personalities and characteristics. Examples of anthropomorphic attributes include exhibiting human intelligence and facial expressions, the ability to speak, walk on two legs, and wear clothes. Furry fandom is also used to refer to the community of people who gather on the Internet and at conventions.
Therianthropic characters that morph between human and animal form are also considered by some to be part of the genre. Even certain superheroes with animal derived powers are considered of furry interest by some fans, the general idea being a combination of human and non-human animal attributes.
According to fandom historian Fred Patten, the concept of furry originated at a science fiction convention in 1980, when a character drawing from Steve Gallacci’s Albedo Anthropomorphics started a discussion of anthropomorphic characters in science fiction novels. This led to the formation of a discussion group that met at science fiction and comics conventions. Patten defined "Furry fandom" as "the organized appreciation and dissemination of art and prose regarding 'Furries', or fictional mammalian anthropomorphic characters."
The specific term "Furry fandom" was being used in fanzines as early as 1983, and had become the standard name for the genre by the mid-1990s. However, fans consider the origins of furry fandom to be much earlier, with fictional works such as Kimba, The White Lion released in 1965, Richard Adams' novel Watership Down, published in 1972 (and its 1978 film adaptation), as well as Disney's Robin Hood as oft-cited examples. To distinguish these personae from seriously depicted animal characters, such as Lassie or Old Yeller, cartoon animals are referred to as funny animals, a term that came into use in the 1910s.
During the 1980s, furry fans began to publish fanzines, developing a diverse social group that eventually began to schedule social gatherings. By 1987, there was sufficient interest to stage the first furry convention. Throughout the next decade, the Internet became accessible to the general population and became the most popular means for furry fans to socialize. The newsgroup alt.fan.furry was created in November 1990, and virtual environments such as MUCKs also became popular places on the Internet for fans to meet and communicate.
Historically, furry fandom has been male-dominated, but over time the proportion of females in the fandom—especially artists—has increased, approaching equality with males on furry art galleries.
Allegorical novels (including works of both science fiction and fantasy) and cartoons featuring anthropomorphic animals are often cited as the earliest inspiration for the fandom. A survey conducted in 2007 suggested that, when compared to a non-furry control group, a higher proportion of those self-identifying as furries liked cartoons "a great deal" as children and recalled watching them significantly more often, as well being more likely to enjoy works of science fiction than those outside of the community.
Furry fans are eager for more material than is available from mainstream publishers, and this demand is met by other fans who produce a wide range of materials in both amateur and professional capacities. Most furries believe that visual art, conventions, literature, and online communities are strongly important to the fandom.
Art and literature
Furry artists, writers, and publishers produce a prolific amount of drawings, paintings, stories, comic books, fanzines, puppets, and small press books, as well as sculpture, textile art, fiction, music, and photography. While most of this fan-created art is distributed through nonprofessional media, such as personal websites, some is published in anthologies, by Amateur Press Associations, or in APAzines. Furry artwork is also available through websites devoted entirely to furry art produced by multiple artists, while other sites contain furry artwork under the term "anthro". A few works of furry art have also been released in mainstream culture, and furry artwork has appeared on commercial apparel.
There are several webcomics featuring animal characters created by or for furry fans; as such, they may be referred to as "furry comics". One such comic, T.H.E. Fox, was first published on CompuServe in 1986, predating the World Wide Web by several years, while another, "Kevin and Kell" by Bill Holbrook, has been awarded both a Web Cartoonists' Choice Award and an Ursa Major Award.
Fans with craft skills create their own plush toys, sometimes referred to as plushies, and also build elaborate costumes called fursuits, which are worn for fun or to participate in parades, convention masquerades, dances, or fund-raising charity events (as entertainers). Fursuits range from designs featuring simple construction and resembling sports mascots to those with more sophisticated features that include moving jaw mechanisms, animatronic parts, prosthetic makeup, and other features. Fursuits range in price from $500, for mascot-like designs, to an upwards of $10,000 for models incorporating animatronics. While about 80% of furries do not own a full fursuit, often citing their expensive cost as the decisive factor, a majority of them hold positive feelings towards fursuiters and the conventions in which they participate. Some fans may also wear "partial" suits consisting simply of ears and a tail, or a head, paws, and a tail.
Music and film
Less prominent but still of note is the growing presence of musicians, composers, vocalists and filmmakers within the furry community. Although music especially is hard to define as 'furry' apart from regular music, the general perception that furry music is techno, trance or dance in nature, since these are the genres generally played during furry convention dances. However, a growing number of classical and alternative musicians submit their works online to sites such as Fur Affinity, Last.fm and Bandcamp.
A small number of furry centered filmmaking companies exist to serve video needs within the community, usually focussing around convention media. A large proportion of these filmmakers work or study in media production as a profession. The majority of furry videos found on sites such as YouTube are amateur videos of furry 'meets' (regionalised one or two day social gatherings) or conventions. Many animators, whether amateur or professional, create short films or flash animations no more than several seconds long to showcase their skills.
Anthropomorphic animal characters created by furry fans, known as fursonas, are used for roleplaying in MUDs, on internet forums, or on electronic mailing lists. A variety of species are employed as the basis of these personas, although many furries, (for example over 60% of those surveyed in 2007), choose to identify themselves with carnivorans. The longest-running online furry roleplaying environment is FurryMUCK, although it has been eclipsed in the area of text-mode roleplaying by Tapestries MUCK. Another popular online furry social game is called Furcadia, created by Dragon's Eye Productions. There are also several furry-themed areas and communities in the virtual world Second Life.
An online gaming community called Skotos offers a furry roleplaying game called Ironclaw Online, while Right Brain Games is currently developing a furry massively multiplayer online role-playing game called Antilia. Meanwhile, Sparkplay Media publishes an MMORPG called Earth Eternal, in which most of the playable characters are anthropomorphic animals. Other MMORPGs which feature playable anthropomorphic animal characters include EverQuest II, Perfect World, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, and World of Warcraft, while Final Fantasy XI features the playable Mithra catgirls as well as nonplayable "beastmen."
Role playing also takes place offline, with petting, hugging and "scritching" (light scratching and grooming) common between friends at social gatherings. Fursuits or furry accessories can enhance the experience.
Sufficient interest and membership has enabled the creation of many furry conventions in North America and Europe. The world's largest furry convention is Anthrocon, held annually in Pittsburgh in July, is estimated to contribute approximately $3 million to the city's economy each year. Another convention, Further Confusion, held in San Jose each January, closely follows Anthrocon in scale and attendance. In 2008, 39 furry conventions took place around the world exceeding 16,600 attendees and raising over US$90,000 in charity; US$470,000 was raised from 2000–9. The first known furry convention, ConFurence, is no longer held; Califur has replaced it, as both conventions were based in Southern California. The University of California, Davis survey suggested that about 40% of furries attended at least one furry convention.
Websites and online communities
The Internet contains a multitude of furry websites and online communities such as Fur Affinity, an art community website; FurNation, a hosting and community website; and WikiFur, a collaborative furry wiki. These, with the IRC networks FurNet and Anthrochat, form a key part of furry fandom. Newsgroups, while popular from the mid-1990s to 2005, have largely been replaced by topic-specific forums, mailing lists and LiveJournal communities.
The phrases furry lifestyle and furry lifestyler first appeared in July 1996 on the newsgroup alt.fan.furry during an ongoing dispute within that online community. The Usenet newsgroup alt.lifestyle.furry was created to accommodate discussion beyond furry art and literature, and to resolve disputes concerning what should or should not be associated with the fandom; its members quickly adopted the term furry lifestylers, and still consider the fandom and the lifestyle to be separate social entities. They have defined and adopted an alternative meaning of word "furry" specific to this group: "a person with an important emotional/spiritual connection with an animal or animals, real, fictional or symbolic."
In their 2007 survey, Gerbasi et al. examined what it meant to be a furry, and proposed a topology in which to categorise different "types" of furries. The largest group — 38% of those surveyed — described their interest in furry fandom predominately as a "route to socializing with others who share common interests such as anthropomorphic art and costumes." However they also identified furries who saw themselves as "other than human", and/or who desired to become more like the furry species which they identified with. This distinction can be viewed in light of the findings of the larger Furry Survey, according to which a majority of furries consider themselves to be predominantly human, while about 6% do not consider themselves human at all.
Differing approaches to sexuality have been a source of controversy and conflict in furry fandom. Examples of sexual aspects within furry fandom include erotic art and furry-themed cybersex. The term "yiff" is most commonly used to indicate sexual activity or sexual material within the fandom—this applies to sexual activity and interaction within the subculture whether online (in the form of cybersex) or offline.
According to a study, 19-25% of the fandom members report homosexuality, 37-48% bisexuality, 30-51% heterosexual, and 3-8% other forms of alternative sexual relationships. In 2002 about 2% stated an interest in zoophilia, and less than 1% an interest in plushophilia. Initial figures were collected by David J. Rust in 1997, but further research has been conducted to update these findings. About half of furry fans are estimated to be in a relationship, with 76% of those having a relationship with another furry.. A 2008 survey updated the figures, showing a large difference, with just under a fifth of the participants describing themselves as being zoophile, and 9% being plushophile. A follow-up survey in 2009 claimed that less than 14% of participants describing themselves as being zoophile, and less than 8% being plushophile.
Furry characters are sometimes associated with paraphilias, with online communities dedicated to art and stories featuring macrophilia, vorarephilia, infantilism (babyfurs) and maiesiophilia, among others. Some fans argue that various paraphilias normally considered illegal in certain jurisdictions, such as pedophilia or extreme pornography, are legal when no humans are depicted. This is, however, the subject of debate. Softpaw Magazine, an erotic "cub" fan magazine, has been banned by furry conventions Eurofurence and Further Confusion due to fear of legal action.
Public perception and media coverage
Early portrayal of the furries in articles such as Loaded, Vanity Fair, and the syndicated sex column "Savage Love" focused mainly on the sexual aspect of furry fandom. Fictional portrayals of furry fandom have appeared on television shows such as ER, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, The Drew Carey Show, Sex2K on MTV, Entourage., 1000 Ways to Die, and 30 Rock. Most furry fans claim that these media portrayals are misconceptions, while the recent coverage focuses on debunking myths and stereotypes that have come to be associated with the furry fandom. A reporter attending Anthrocon 2006 noted that "despite their wild image from Vanity Fair, MTV and CSI, furry conventions aren't about kinky sex between weirdos gussied up in foxy costumes", that conference attendees were "not having sex more than the rest of us", and that the furry convention was about "people talking and drawing animals and comic-book characters in sketchbooks." In October 2007, a Hartford Advocate reporter attended FurFright 2007 undercover because of media restrictions. She learned that the restrictions were intended to prevent misinformation, and reported that the scandalous behavior she had expected was not evident. Recently coverage of the furry fandom has been more balanced. A 2009 article from the BBC entitled "Who are the furries?" was the first piece of journalism to be nominated for an Ursa Major Award, the main awards given in the field of anthropomorphism.
Milwaukee Brewers broadcaster Jim Powell was sharing a hotel with Anthrocon 2007 attendees a day before the convention and reported a negative opinion of the furries. Several downtown Pittsburgh businesses welcome furries during the event, with local business owners creating special T-shirts and drawing paw prints in chalk outside their shops to attract attendees. Dr. Samuel Conway, CEO of Anthrocon, said that "For the most part, people give us curious stares, but they're good-natured curious stares. We're here to have fun, people have fun having us here, everybody wins".
According to Furry survey, about half of furries perceive public reaction to the fandom as negative; less than a fifth stated that the public responded to them more negatively than they did most furries. Furry fans' belief that they will be portrayed as "mainly obsessed with sex" has led to mistrust of the media and social researchers.
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