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A furry fantasy

Animal alter egos, conventions and fursuit pornography, welcome to the world of furry enthusiasts. Liana Neri learns about the quirky subculture that’s slowly growing in Australia.

Logan Husky is a short plump man with glasses and curly light brown hair who works in audio visual editing. Husky also categorises himself as a ‘furry’.

‘We’re basically the new Trekkies,’ Husky explains, ‘just replace Captain Kirk with Bugs Bunny. There’s no singular definition.’

Logan Husky is a ‘fursona’—the ‘furries’ word for their characters or alter egos. His fursona is a cartoon grey and white husky.

Devotees of the furry fandom associate themselves with anthropomorphic animals; animals with human traits such as walking on two legs or wearing clothing. Think of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Avatar, and George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Furries express their spiritual, social, cultural and even sexual connection to anthropomorphic creatures, strongly identifying with a number of animal species.

‘There have been anthropomorphic characters in history for thousands of years,’ Husky says. ‘Look at the ancient Greeks with the minator, a half human, half beast. It’s nothing new.’

From sporting mascots, classic literature, and modern day advertising, humanised or ‘anthro’ animals have always been a part of our culture. But furry fanatics take their appreciation of humanised animals to a whole new level.

The furry fandom evolved from the sci-fi convention scene of the ‘80s. America’s largest furry convention, Anthrocon, has been running annually since 1997, attracting almost 4000 attendees in 2009. Compared to the US and Europe, Australian furries are relatively young. Australian furry convention MiDFur accommodated just 247 attendees in 2009.

The fandom is very much internet based. Husky says that furries have forums for every aspect of their subculture. Furry sites include Furcadia, a role-play realm; Fur Affinity, a place where furries post art, music, poems and stories; their own social networking sites such as FURiends and FurSpace; and even their own WikiFur page and the FurteanTimes online news site.

The fandom’s malleable nature makes it possible for furries to express themselves with different degrees of intensity. Furries can enjoy anthro art and popular media, or at the extreme end, wear fursuits and even engage in anthropomorphic pornography and sexual activity.

Husky has a fond love for the 1973 animated Walt Disney Classic Robin Hood, which casts a red fox as Robin Hood and a grizzly bear as Little John. Responses to his love for animal animation vary.

‘I kept it to myself for a long time from my “normal” friends,’ he laughs. ‘It seems so childish, you know, “oh…you’re in your 20s and you still like Disney films? That’s just weird!” I was a little embarrassed by it.’

Surfing the internet, he realised that his love for Disney films and ‘that sort of art’ was a common trait of furry fanatics and that he wasn’t the only one.

‘Oh that’s what it’s called!’ Husky recalls. ‘My people!’

‘When I came out as a furry to some friends they were like, “what, so you pay a membership? How does the fandom work? Is there a governing body?”’ he laughs.

Husky has been part of the furry culture for 10 years. He has always loved animals, lending ‘an extra set of paws’ at the RSPCA.

Since 2007, the MiDFur convention has raised over $14,000 for the RSPCA and Lort Smith Animal Hospital.

Nevertheless, the furry fandom has a mixed reception to those outside the subculture.

‘Unfortunately there’s a lot of negative stigma around the fandom, people are very worried about how they’re seen. We’re hardly in the news for the good reasons. Dog bites man isn’t news. Man bites dog is,’ Husky says. ‘Have you heard of the dreaded CSI episode?’ he asks.

Husky is referring to an episode of the American television show Crime Scene Investigation that sensationalises furries as crazed sexual deviants.

‘It’s unfortunate,’ he begins. ‘It’s basically all the negative aspects of the fandom. That’s not to say those aspects don’t exist. There’s a lot more to the fandom than fursuits and orgies…but who doesn’t love a good orgy?’

Chris ‘Kraden’ McKenna, one of the hosts of Australian anthro podcast ACTFur explains on air: ‘if you think about the number of people that would attend the convention in the CSI episode—which is based on Anthrocon and its 3000 plus attendees— having one basement room of sexual deviants is about right.

‘Pornography and adult behaviour exists in the fandom because it exists in all society,’ McKenna adds. ‘It’s [just] a little more in-your-face and striking than normal adult pornography and art because they’re simply not human.

‘[Our ACTFur] cast is very socially adjusted and normal. I like to think the fandom is like that too, with just a few quirky individuals that stand out. You’ll find the occasional individual who has created an entire world, personality, family and history to their characters. But they’re no more common than similar people in mainstream society.’

‘[Sex] is part of any culture, any fandom,’ Husky agrees. ‘You look at the Goth culture. Even look at the Trekkie culture – it wasn’t long after Star Trek first came out there was gay porn been written and drawn with Spot and Kirk.’

‘That’s what kind of shits me a bit; it’s all about sex. Yeah there’s sex, but there’s sex in every culture. You can’t avoid it. Look at the nightly news, there’s no one with ears and tails there and it’s about sex.’

The sexual side of furry fandom cannot be avoided. ‘Yiffing’ or ‘to yiff’ is a term used to describe sexual activity associated with anthropomorphic animals including cybersex, adult online role plays, fursuit sex, and anthropomorphic pornography.

A very small percentage of furries are known as plushophiles; those who are sexually aroused by stuffed animals, and an even smaller minority as zoophiles; those who engage in sexual acts with animals.

‘Some people collect [plushies] for fun,’ McKenna explains. ‘A few collect them as a fetish. Sadly [they’re the] odd ones you’ll notice a lot more as they tend to grab attention.’

Resident on ACTFur, Fenris Redwolf says that he’s ‘on the side [of the fandom] that thinks that the CSI episode was pretty accurate, on the basis that no one likes to admit that their group (any group) has a dark side. Everyone fits [in the fandom] somewhere, and can feel comfortable.’

What’s clear is that the ‘furdom’ is a complex, diverse identity culture, slowly growing in Australia. Anyone from vets, graphic designers, animators and professional sporting mascots, identify as a furry. ‘We’re everywhere,’ Husky laughs. At base, he says, fandom gives ‘a sense of belonging, a sense of camaraderie, a sense of ownership.

‘To be a part of something, [that’s what the] fandom’s about. You can be fanatical, but be fanatical in a group – it’s more fun!’

Liana Neri is a Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University.

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