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The furry fandom is a subculture interested in anthropomorphic animal characters with human personalities and characteristics. Examples of anthropomorphic attributes include exhibiting human intelligence and facial expressions, speaking, walking on two legs, and wearing clothes. The term "furry fandom" is also used to refer to the community of people who gather on the Internet and at furry conventions, or otherwise participate in the subculture. Individual members of the fandom are known as "furries" (sg. "furry"). Furries are well known on the internet with one New Statesman article saying the furry fandom was one of the first weird internet fandoms to reach the mainstream.
The fandom is thought to have originated from an underground comix movement in the 1970s, and has continuously been growing since the early 1990s,and today is gaining popularity among Generation Z.
Unlike other fandoms, the furry fandom has no central media of interest[page needed] and compared to other fandoms, furries are more likely to identify with each other with inclusion and belongingness being central themes in the furry fandom. The community is known for its diversity with one article from Yahoo! News saying it makes up people of all demographics. However, males and LGBTQ+ people tend to be over-represented in the furry fandom.
Furry writing and art is widespread amongst the fandom, and typically feature fantasy cartoons with anthropomorphic animals. Other aspects of the fandom include crafts, role-playing, conventions, and online communities.
Sexual attraction to furry characters is a prevalent and polarizing issue. Primarily as a result of media portrayal, with some outlets having portrayed furries poorly. Negative public perception has been caused by some members association with zoophilia,[page needed] and various news sources have called the furry fandom one of the most misunderstood subcultures.
This section needs expansion with: Doesn’t touch on the furry fandom in the 21st century. You can help by adding to it. (November 2021)
The furry fandom has its roots in the underground comix movement of the 1970s, a genre of comic books that depicts explicit content.[page needed] In 1976, a pair of cartoonists created the amateur press association Vootie, which was dedicated to animal-focused art. Many of its featured works contained adult themes, such as "Omaha" the Cat Dancer, which contained explicit sex.[page needed][unreliable source?] Vootie grew a small following over the next several years, and its contributors began meeting at science fiction and comics conventions.
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 conventions and comics conventions.
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, when it was defined as "the organized appreciation and dissemination of art and prose regarding 'Furries', or fictional mammalian anthropomorphic characters". 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. Internet newsgroup discussion in the 1990s created some separation between fans of "funny animal" characters and furry characters, meant to avoid the baggage that was associated with the term "furry".
During the 1980s, furry fans began to publish fanzines, developing a diverse social group that eventually began to schedule social gatherings. By 1989, there was sufficient interest to stage the first furry convention. It was called Confurence 0, and was held at the Holiday Inn Bristol Plaza in Costa Mesa, California.
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.
Then in the 2010s, serious studies of the fandom started.: 12
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 with 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 as being more likely to enjoy works of science fiction than those outside of the community.
According to a survey from 2008, most furries believe that visual art, conventions, literature, and online communities are strongly important to the fandom.
Fans with craft skills create their own plush toys, sometimes referred to as plushies, and also build elaborate costumes called fursuits,[page needed] 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.
Anthropomorphic animal characters created by furry fans, known as fursonas, are used for role-playing in MUDs, on internet forums, or on electronic mailing lists. A variety of species are employed as the basis of these personas, although many furry fans (for example over 60% of those surveyed in 2007) choose to identify themselves with carnivorans. The longest-running online furry role-playing environment is FurryMUCK, which was established in 1990. 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.
Sufficient interest and membership has enabled the creation of many furry conventions in North America and Europe. A furry convention is for the fans get together to buy and sell artwork, participate in workshops, wear costumes, and socialize. Anthrocon, in 2008 the largest furry convention with more than 5,861 attendees, is estimated to have generated approximately $3 million to Pittsburgh's economy that year. Another convention, Further Confusion, held in San Jose each January, closely follows Anthrocon in scale and attendance. US$470,000 was raised in conventions for charity from 2000 to 2009. As of December 2017, Midwest FurFest is the world's largest furry convention. It had a self-reported 2019 attendance of 11,019.
The first known furry convention, ConFurence, is no longer held; Califur has replaced it, as both conventions were based in Southern California.University of California, Davis survey from 2007 suggested that about 40% of furries had attended at least one furry convention.
Websites and online communities
The internet contains a multitude of furry websites and online communities, such as art community websites Fur Affinity, Inkbunny, SoFurry and Weasyl; social networking sites Furry 4 Life, FurNation; and WikiFur, a collaborative furry wiki. These, with the IRC networks FurNet and Anthrochat, form a key part of furry fandom.[needs update?]
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.
A majority of furries connect to the fandom in their teen years.: 313 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 the 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 taxonomy in which to categorise different "types" of furries. The largest group—38% of those surveyed—described their interest in furry fandom predominantly 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", or who desired to become more like the furry species which they identified with.[relevant?]
According to Craig J. Forsyth, more recent media attention has paid more attention on how normal furry lifestylers are, particularly surrounding furry conventions.: 289
Sociological aspects and demographics
One BuzzFeed news article from 2014 said if going by self reported convention attendance numbers, it would seem that there are between 5,000 and 10,000 furries in the United States. The same year a paper from James Madison University said the fandom has 20,000 to 50,000 members.: 5
While CNN in 2018 and 2019 said there is about 100,000 to 1 million people in the furry fandom. According to Emily Gaudette, the fandom makes up all demographics and the Western Kentucky University stated that due to its online nature the fandom exists in many parts of the world.: 28
One of the most universal behaviors in the furry fandom is the creation of a fursona—an anthropomorphic animal representation or avatar. More than 95% of furries have a fursona—an anthropomorphic avatar or representation of themselves. Nearly half of furries report that they have only ever had one fursona to represent themselves; relatively few furries have had more than three or four fursonas; in part, this is due to the fact that, for many furries, their fursonas are a personally significant, meaningful representation of their ideal self.: 50–74 However, furries, along with sport fans, report different degrees of personality traits when thinking of themselves in their everyday identity compared with their fan identity.: 129–133 Some furries identify as partly non-human: 35% say they do not feel 100% human (compared with 7% of non-furries), and 39% say they would be 0% human if they could (compared with 10% of non-furries).: 78
Inclusion and belongingness are central themes in the furry fandom: compared with members of other fandoms such as anime or fantasy sport, furries are significantly more likely to identify with other members of their fan community. On average, half of a furry's friends are also furry themselves.: 123–133 A study from 2007 involving 600 people stated that approximately half of the respondents reported being in a relationship, of which 76% were in a relationship with another member of furry fandom.
Furries rate themselves higher (compared with a comparison community sample of non-furries) on degree of global awareness (knowledge of the world and felt connection to others in the world), global citizenship identification (psychological connection with global citizens), and environmental sustainability.: 18
Approximately 70% of adult furries have either completed, or are currently completing post-secondary education.: 12
When compared with the general population, homosexuality and bisexuality are over-represented in the furry fandom by about a factor of 10. Of the adult US population, about 3.1% of people identify as bisexual,1.4% as gay, and 0.7% as lesbian according to a 2020 Gallup update. In contrast about 70% of furries are LGBTQ+ while Paper, stated that 80% of furries identify as LGBTQIA+.(Subsections on sexual orientation and gender go more in depth on the LGBT aspects.)
In 2013, 6.1% of furries reported having a form of an anxiety disorder. This contrasts with the general population where the prevalence of anxiety disorders is estimated to be around 30%. The same year 9.2% of furries have been reported to be diagnosed with ADHD, while ADHD for the general population is estimated to be around 2% to 16%.
Autism is higher in the furry fandom than the general population with it being estimated in 2013 that approximately 4% of furries in one study were diagnosed were Asperger’s Syndrome with it being suggested that furries are at least 2.25 times more likely to have the condition. Duquesne University said that it is estimated that 10% to 15% of furries have been diagnosed or self diagnosed with autism. According to Furscience this aspect is probably not unique to the furry fandom and is a characteristic of any fan group. WESA, stated that the fandom has provided autistic people a place for comfort and acceptance.
The furry fandom is one of the few fandoms that is not predominantly heterosexual.: 7
According to four different surveys from 2007, 2008, and 2011 14–25% of the fandom members report homosexuality, 37–52% bisexuality, 28–51% heterosexuality, and 3–8% other forms of alternative sexual relationships.
A survey from 2020 involving 559 participants found that 28.8% of participants were homosexual, 10.1% heterosexual, 23.4% bisexual, 16.5% pansexual, 10.5% asexual, 5.8% stated they didn’t know, and 4.9% were other.
The furry fandom is overall male-dominated, with surveys from 2007 and 2008 reporting that around 80% of furries are male. Some scholars have argued that fandoms are predominantly male due to misogynistic practices. However, this not the case for the furry fandom.: 7
A 2020 study involving 559 participants found that 73.2% were male, 10.1% female, 12.5% transgender, 12.5% non-binary, 4.2% genderqueer, 5.6% genderfluid, 2.9% agender, and the remainder were other.
Furscience said that furries tend to teens or young adults. Although there are many furries in their late 20s or 30s in some cases there are even those in their 70s or 80s, and according to American River College furries can even be as young as 10. A furtopia poll back in 2013 found the average age for the furry fandom is about 20.: 275 According to a Buzzfeed article from 2014, furries are usually in the ages between 15 and 19.
Furries that are over 30 years in age are called greymuzzles.: 275 There are fandoms that worry younger fans push out older fans, but this is rare in the furry fandom with older furries being highly respected and viewed as pioneers.: 6 Older furries typically view being a furry as more of a hobby while younger furries tend to view it as a way of life and a identifying feature to their identities.: 275–276
At Anthrocon 2019, 16% of attendees were under the age of 19. A Vice article from 2017 said that the fandom has provided a place for children who do not fit in with one poll saying that about 33% of furries are in ages between 15 and 19.
A survey from 2008 with 276 participants found that 25% of furries were in ages 13 to 17, 51% where ages 18 to 22, and 13% ages 23 to 28, 3% ages 29 to 35, 2% ages 36 to 40, 3% ages 41 to 45, 1% ages 46 to 50, and 1.5% ages 51 to 60.
A 2016 publication collects several peer-reviewed and self-published studies into a single volume.[page needed] Among their findings were that the average adult furry is between 23 and 27 years of age, with more than 75% of adult furries reporting being 25 years of age or younger, and 88% of adult furries being under the age of 30. Minors were not included in the study for professional ethic reasons.: 4–7
Region and nationality
A 2020 study involving 559 adult participants from 41 countries found that 34.9% of participants were from the USA, 16.5% from Canada, 11.1% from China, 9.1% from UK, 8.2% from Germany, 4.5% from Finland, 1.3% from Australia, 1.3% from France, 1.3% from the Netherlands, and 1.1% were from Portugal.
A 2001 survey found that 20% of furries were neo-pagan, 18% christian, 5% jewish, 5% non-denomination theist, 33% agnostic/undecided, and 10% atheist.
A study from 2016 found that in terms of religious preference, 23.5% of furries self-identified as Christian, 16.8% as atheist, 16.8% as agnostic, 11.0% as Pagan/Wiccan, 2.4% as Buddhist, 1.2% as Jewish, 1.1% as Deist, 0.9% as Satanist, and 26.2% as "other" (including "participants who had their own belief systems, were undecided, refused to answer, or had uncommon belief systems").: 16
Race and ethnicity
15% to 20% were members of an ethnic minority group. A 2016 survey found that 83–90% of furries self-identify as White, with small minorities of furries self-identifying as Asian (2–4%), Black (2–3%), and Hispanic (3%).: 7–10
A 2020 study with 559 found that 78.6% of participants were white, 1.6% Black, 1.6% Indigenous/Native, 15.3% East Asian, 3.2% Hispanic, 0.7% middle eastern, and 0.7% were Central Asian/Indian.
This section needs expansion with: There are a lot more sources that go more in depth on this. You can help by adding to it. (November 2021)
Furries, as a group, are more politically liberal and less religious than the average American or other comparable fan groups such as anime fans,: 18 while still containing contentious groups such as neo-Nazis and alt-right activists whose affiliation is partly in jest and partly in earnest.
This section needs to be updated.(November 2021)
Sexual aspects within furry fandom include erotic art and furry-themed cybersex. The term "yiff" is sometimes used to indicate sexual activity or sexual material within the fandom—this applies to sexual activity and interaction within the subculture whether in the form of cybersex or offline. However, the term yiff is considered more of a tongue-in-cheek term in the fandom.
Sexual attraction to furry characters is a polarizing issue. In one survey from 2011 with 4,300 furry respondents, 37% answered that sexual attraction is important in their furry activities, 38% were uncertain, and 24% answered that it has little or nothing to do with their furry activities. In a different online survey from 2008, 33% of furry respondents answered that they have a "significant sexual interest in furry", another 46% stated they have a "minor sexual interest in furry", and the remaining 21% stated they have a "non-sexual interest in furry". The survey specifically avoided adult-oriented websites to prevent bias.
A survey with 455 participants from 2013 found that 96.3% of male furry respondents reported viewing furry pornography, compared with 78.3% of female; males estimated 50.9% of all furry art they view is pornographic, compared with 30.7% female. Furries have a slight preference for pornographic furry artwork over non-pornographic artwork. 17.1% of males reported that when they viewed pornography it is exclusively or near-exclusively furry pornography, and only about 5% reported that pornography was the top factor which got them into the fandom.
According to a Rolling Stone article published in 2020, one poll found that 60% of furries did not find the fandom sexual at all and the remaining 40% enjoy NSFW furry art but do not have sex in fursuits. Emily Gaudette says that most furries are actually less interested in sex than how the media believes. According to Women's Health, only a few furries find the fandom kinky and that there is nothing inherently sexual about the fandom. According to from Craig J. Forsyth, most furries do not engage in animalistic sexual activities.: 288
Less than 1% of furries had an interest in plushophilia (sexually aroused by stuffed animal toys). The older, lower results, which are even lower than estimated in the general population, were due to the methodology of questioning respondents face-to-face, which led to social desirability bias.
A small proportion of the fandom is sexually interested in zoophilia (sex with animals), although a majority take a negative stance towards it. An anonymous survey in 2008 found 17% of respondents reported zoophilia. An earlier survey, conducted from 1997 to 1998, reported about 2% of furry respondents stating an interest in zoophilia. The older, lower results, which are even lower than estimated in the general population, were due to the methodology of questioning respondents face-to-face, which led to social desirability bias. In contrast, one comparative study from 1974 and 1980 showed 7.5% of sampled students at University of Northern Iowa reporting zoophilia, while other studies find only 2.2% to 5.3% expressing fantasies of sex with animals.
Public perception and media coverage
This section needs to be updated.(November 2021)
Early portrayal of the furries in magazines such as Wired, 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 The Simpsons, ER, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, The Drew Carey Show, Sex2K on MTV, Entourage, 1000 Ways to Die, Tosh.0, Check It Out! with Dr. Steve Brule, 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. The furry fandom has been called by some scholars “the lowest rung in the geek hierarchy”.: 32
Recent coverage of the furry fandom has been more balanced. According to Ian Wolf, 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.
One study found that 61.7% of furries from ages 11 to 18 experience bullying higher than the average bullying rate in the United States.
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". Positive coverage was generated following a furry convention that was held in a Vancouver hotel where a number of Syrian refugees were being temporarily housed. Despite some concerns and warnings by staff that there could be a seriously negative culture clash if the two groups interacted, the refugee children were on the whole delighted to meet the convention goers, especially the ones in fursuits, who seemed like cartoon characters come to life.
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.
In addition, the fandom has grown to be such a significant demographic that by 2016, the film company, Walt Disney Studios marketed their animated feature film, Zootopia in pre-release to the fandom to encourage interest in the film, which proved a major critical and commercial success.
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