Lately, I've had an issue on my mind. It's not exactly pressing, but it is something I'll have to confront and decide on eventually. But given I've been stuck for months on it, I figured it's time to reach out to a third party who's totally uninvolved. I remembered hearing about you on an old podcast, so I thought I'd give you a poke. I hope you don't mind giving me your opinion.
I'm in a happy, long distance relationship. The problem, is that we have a very good mutual friend, us three hang out pretty much all the time.. and well, the thought of becoming a poly relationship is always lingering. My partner is, presumably, willing, and our mutual friend has expressed interest in it.
Trouble is, I'm not sure if I could handle being in a poly relationship. I mean, with how close we all are we might as well already be in one.. but I'd have to come out as poly to my dear mother (my father's not in the picture, if that has any relevance). She's not one of those super strict and traditional parents, but I really would worry about if she'd think of me differently, as well as the rest of my family. I'm a lot more open to things, but my family, while they're relatively progressive, they were all raised on traditional values. I don't think they'd insult me or anything like that, but disappointment still hurts.
In addition to family stuff, I would worry about if we could give each other the attention we needed. Like, the last thing I would want is for one of us to feel like a third wheel or to get jealous. I don't *think* it would happen, but, I worry. Especially because, if our relationship were to fail, our mutual friend would have left their current partner for nothing.
Lastly, and this might sound odd, but I have several friends who would likely be upset that I'd be a poly relationship for this friend, but not them. They're definitely "would date if I were single" for me, but, well, I just don't think a poly relationship would work with them in the current situation. That probably wouldn't stop them from being upset, though.
The current status quo is nice, but.. I know I can't, or at least shouldn't, delay answering this question forever. As much as a definite do or don't would be nice, mostly I'd really like to know your thoughts and reasonings, maybe what you would do.
I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for reading.
* * *
As I've told others who write to me, traditional, two-person relationships are tough enough without complicating things further with a third or fourth person. So, no matter what you do, you are in for a challenging time.
There are two important things you need to do here. First, you must realize that this is your life and your relationship choice. What your parents, family, friends, and coworkers think about your personal life should not factor into your decision. If we all let others rule our lives, we would die having never lived true to ourselves.
The second thing is communication between you and your two partners. For polyamorous relationships to work, everyone everyone everyone has to agree to what the rules are. You must all be sensitive and giving to each other's needs. There must be ZERO jealousy involved. No selfishness. Once jealousy creeps into any relationship, there is trouble a-brewing, and that goes triple for poly relationships. If you are uncomfortable or unsure about being poly in any way, then my recommendation is this: Don't do it.
All that said, I'm curious about the living situation right now. You say you are in an LDR with the first BF, but is this true with the third person? Are you all living at a distance that makes it impossible to live together? If so, then I would say right now that a poly situation is not feasible. To have a true poly relationship with three or more people, you need to be living together. There are furries who read this column who will disagree with me, but I stand firm on that point.
Until the time you all three are together in the same home, the entire issue of being in a relationship is moot.
Let me know if you have further questions.
Heads up this is a bit sexual, but my research doesn't seem to be turning much up at all so I'm hoping you can help.
I have recently been exploring my sexuality on multiple levels, and have discovered that I erotically enjoy furry art, and more recently have found I enjoy imagining myself as an anthropomorphic animal - but only for sex purposes, and I often feel disgusted with myself afterwards. I still have not fully got a handle on why. I have no desire for a fursuit, or to engage with the fandom as a lifestyle in any way. But the more I engage with anthropomorphic erotica in this way, the more cemented my idea of my own sona(?) seems to get, though it's something I only associate with sex.
My understanding is that just sexual interest/association is not exactly the common experience for furries, and I'm feeling a lot of shame around having this... honestly it kind of feels like a fetish? and worrying that furry art etc. isn't being made for me, and engaging with it erotically is kind of violating the intent of the creators and the deep connection of many people with their fursonas, and possibly could help perpetuate negative stereotypes about the furry fandom. (In the interest of respect, I've mostly been sticking to explicit erotica).
On the other hand, I have a therian friend who is telling me to relax and engage with an open mind to slowly discover myself, but it always seems to come with the implication that the experiences I'm having are a gateway into other engagement with the furry fandom, which would be fine, I obviously have nothing against furries, but what if it doesn't, and I'm only interested in essentially a fetish? It feels like then I really would just be the disgusting sexual deviant both furries and the mainstream have no use for, and also still have no good framework for understanding why I'm like this when I don't even like sex with other people and get turned off by my own body at times.
It's just a lot, and if you have any advice for how to navigate this I would be incredibly grateful for it.
Thank you very much,
Mae (age 21)
* * *
It's very natural for someone your age to be exploring their sexuality (hell, I'm still doing it at 55 LOL, but I digress). Let's clear up a couple inaccuracies in your letter, first. Furporn is quite common in the fandom, and many furries enjoy it. While it should be acknowledged that being a furry isn't about sex, because many furries are young and sexually active (or, at least, interested in sex), this naturally transfers into a lot of art in the fandom. Many furries are not at all interested in this aspect of the fandom. That's fine. Many are just interested in it as part of a multifaceted culture that includes lots of other stuff, and THAT is fine, too. And many furries, frankly, are pretty much only interested in furporn. That is fine, too.
Don't feel disgusted with yourself or feel like you are insulting the spirit of the fandom by enjoying the adult art. You are not. You can certainly find plenty of furporn online and enjoy that (not sure who made you think "that just sexual interest/association is not exactly the common experience for furries," but that's just not correct; it is quite common, though not omnipresent). And you can find lots of artists who draw it and you can commission them, and they will appreciate your business. You can also buy furry sex toys from Bad Dragon, and they, too, will appreciate your business.
Being furry is not necessarily a fetish, but you can have a fetish for furry stuff. And you don't have to be a furry to enjoy furry art. There are many people who are connected to the fandom who are not necessarily furries. I often like to give the example of my fursuit maker, Beastcub. She is not herself a furry, but she loves costuming and creating fursuits as an art (and it definitely IS an artform, in my opinion). Similarly, there are many artists, writers, and filmmakers who create stories that many of us would call furry but the creators are not themselves furries.
Your therian friend is correct that you need to chill and not overthink or worry about your sexual interests as long as--and this is important and key--you are not hurting anyone (and you are not, in your case). Whether or not you wish to become more connected with the furry community is entirely up to you. There are a number of social media groups you could join, and, of course, sites like FurAffinity and e621 contain a lot of what you are looking for.
As for your last comment, well, there could be a lot going on with you psychologically that you don't mention in your letter. A general comment I might make here is that there are many people who, for one reason or another, are more comfortable sexually if they put up a façade of some sort. Perhaps you experienced others body shaming you, or perhaps you had a bad sexual experience when you were younger. This has led to an antagonistic relationship with your own body and even the human form, but you still have sexual desires. Therefore, you cover up the human form with an anthro character, and this allows you to express your sexuality again. Of course, this is pure speculation on my part, but perhaps it has some relevance for you.
I hope this helps. Bottom line: just be yourself, as your friend said, and it is completely healthy to explore your sexuality. Anything is okay, as long as everything is above board, consensual, and not hurtful.
Hope that helps. Write again if you have further questions.
My letter is part question, part concern. I know I ask a few questions in the latter, but can you try to answer them, or try to answer the general underlining question I am trying to ask?
Given the state of the world, you constantly hear how bad things are: poverty, rape, corruption, killings, etc. It seems nowadays that the only way to thrive in society and be successful is to put yourself first, to the exclusion of anyone else, and if you do not, you will get stepped over in life and miss out. Either be corrupt in your life and put yourself first, or live your life by what other corrupt people want you to do as they are in charge of society. There seems (from my experience, I could be wrong) to be no real benefits from serving others selflessly because no one writes about it any longer.
Here is an example. My dad is very self centered. He is the type that worked his butt off his whole life, was given no natural talents, his parents divorced when he was in high school, to which his dad left the family and his mom had to raise all of her sons, an environment that required dad to take an active role in helping supporting himself and his mom at a young age. He never talked about his life at all. I only know him during the years I was alive and with him. Today, his success seems to show: he has a rewarding job, money, his health, a girlfriend, lives in CA (his favorite place in the world), and I think he is happy; he even divorced mom because he thought he deserved better than her. The only thing that seems to be wrong in his life now is he has to work 60 hours a week to keep up. (He manages the entire development and production of medicine.) In other words, he looks, acts and more or less is the example of "work hard and success is yours."
However, he is a narcissist, self-centered and very egocentric. He acts like everyone who is not above him can be treated like an inferior and he can act however he likes. Including his family (old and perhaps new). To the point I want to believe that all the wrongs he has done will come back to get him one day, but now I am starting to think that this is life, and you can and will get away with wrongdoing. He is the reason I think karma does not exist that much.
When I was living with him and was working (I was living with him as he provided free rent and help when I was taking collage classes), I live with my mom because I thought college would be better with Mom. But at the moment, I dropped out and work full time as a delivery driver for a pizza place. He would outright discourage or forbid me from tithing. He says what money I make at my job I should save, spend it on myself, help pay for groceries, and, in his words, "If you want to tithe you can tithe to the house." Even if I did all he requested, he still says to keep what I make. When I asked him why not give money, he said it is unnecessary. (I can see his viewpoint: it is not essential to give to those in need as their lives will not affect your life in any way, and what good you do for them will not give you anything, and therefore it is not worth doing.) Though it does help them, it is not a requirement, is what he thinks.
For example (one of countless, this just demonstrates his personality), one point, when he tasked me with selling the garage refrigerator that was unused, I had a potential client, but rather than picking it up herself she wanted us to send it to her via delivery. She sent enough funds to pay for the fridge and a few extra hundred to pay for shipping, which we had to set up ourselves. Dad thought she was taking advantage of me and told me to decline her order and find someone else. He also read my emails to her and noticed how nice I was to her, expressing patience and understanding about her current situation. (I forget what it was now). He did not like that in the slightest, and several days after he said, "It is not your job to be nice to others, they will take advantage of you. You should only be nice to your family" (blood family, that is).
To summarize, my dad is who inspired me to give and be as selfless as I can. Not because he showed what good helping others can bring, but because he set such a bad example on what success is. I realized I did not want to be successful. The pleasure of success is not worth the price it costs others.
But as of now, I am starting to doubt being selfless is better. I feel like what I do is not enough. Currently, I am working full time at a job to raise money for the sake of helping someone with debt and living expenses, I ask for additional hours at work to increase what I can give as well as be of service more at work. (I try to go with the attitude of "what can I do for others, and what I make goes to my friend" (I keep almost none of what I make; I only take money for gas and occasionally $50 to treat myself, but everything else goes to my friend as I do not have any expenses for myself atm).
Is this a sign that I need to expand my efforts to other things and other people?
So on to my questions.
What good things have you experienced in life that was a direct result of serving others? Not just small things like feeling good for donating money or helping, but real treasures from sacrificing lots and giving lots? Is living selflessly instead of selfishly worth it?
What can you tell people who try to take active effort into serving others, when they feel like their work means nothing in the end, like what they do to serve others is fruitless in the sense of what they do does not help enough to make any real difference, and those who try to do good for others (selflessly without expecting anything in return, not out of wanting something back) that fear that they will wind up with nothing in the end. In other words, do you think that living self-centeredly (if not immoral and greedy) would be best?
What do I do?
PS: I am aware that the law of generosity also says "give one season, receive another season" as in what works you do will not have any immediate rewards, it takes time. I am not writing out of distress.
* * *
These are profound questions you are asking. Let's take it a step at a time, starting with definitions. What does it mean to be "selfish"? What does it mean to be "selfless" or "altruistic"? Selfishness means to only do things that benefit you in some way (financially, materialistically). Your dad seems to follow the path of selfishness, although even he will say that it is okay to help one's own blood family, so he's not 100% selfish. On the other hand, it is not selfish to make sure you are not being used by someone, and it is not selfish to make sure that others do not harm you in some way, or that by helping them, you hurt yourself. This is to say that you need to be sure you are financially secure and physically and mentally healthy first, because when you are not, you are of no use to anyone, including yourself. So, if you, say, don't give a few dollars to a beggar on the street because without that money you would go hungry, that is not necessarily selfish. But if you are well-to-do and have more than you need, then hoarding your money and refusing to help others is selfish. Your dad, apparently, went through a rough childhood, a very scary one in which he struggled to make sure he and his family could survive. This likely planted the seeds for his current attitude.
So, what is being selfless or charitable mean? It means to realize that you are not the center of the world, that the human race and, indeed, the world benefits when people work together as a community, helping each other to build a better world. It doesn't mean that you have to do this to the exclusion of your own health and well-being, but it recognizes that no person is an island. Selfless people give to their fellow humans and to their communities not in the hopes that there will be a payback someday but, rather, because when we create a better, kinder, more loving world, we all get to live in it and enjoy the benefits of that world.
A perfect example of the above is the United States of America. The current capitalist system and influence of conservative politicians has created a world in which the 1% have 90% of the country's wealth. They don't share this wealth; they hoard it for themselves. The idea of the "trickle-down economy" in which giving tax breaks to the wealthy and letting them build huge hoards of gold like dragons in caves does not work, as proven by numerous economists. What IS the result of such hoarding? Well, we now live in a country where people are literally dying from lack of money and health care, where the infrastructure that everyone uses is crumbling, and where there are high crime rates and drug use because people are desperate, depressed, and without hope. This lowers the quality of life for everyone. And it also creates political unrest and destabilization. Furthermore, on a worldwide scale, it has led to global warming, which is going to destroy coastal cities and lead to mass migrations, war, and water shortages that affect the wealthy as well as the poor.
When your dad tells you that being kind and generous to others offers no payback, that is because he is thinking in financial, materialistic terms. Will volunteering to plant trees earn you money? No. Will donating clothes to a charity buy you a new wardrobe? No. Will helping a roommate get through a difficult time in their life by helping to pay their bills or giving them a shoulder to lean on get you a job promotion or a university grant? Of course not.
The rewards of being a good, kind, generous, and selfless person are largely intangible. Imagine the kind of world we would live in if everyone followed kindly principles? We could literally eliminate hunger if billionaires decided to use their excess money to feed people. We could get rid of pollution and make the fear of climate change a memory if corporations were not so profit-driven to pollute so they could please their stockholders. There would be no war if no one tried to take over other countries or deny others their religious beliefs or ethnic background. Students wouldn't be buried in school loan debt if we made college education free, and this would lead to an economic boom, too. Yet, none of these acts would benefit the donors financially, materialistically.
The key to being selfless is not expecting a payback. It's not charity if you expect money or favors in return (and it's not being a good Christian if you are only nice to people because you expect to be rewarded in Heaven). How would you feel if someone gave you a birthday present worth $50 and then said, "Okay, that cost me $50, so now you owe me." Would you think that was a good friend or family member? Now imagine yourself giving someone a present that they truly didn't expect and that they totally love. Doesn't that put a big grin on your face?
Oh, and guess what? When you feel joyful for making someone else happy, that improves your mood and this, in turn, improves your health. Studies show, too, that happy people live longer! Isn't that payback? And that one is actually quite tangible! (Note: this benefit requires that the giver have empathy; some people lack empathy, sadly).
All this is not to say you should allow yourself to be used. No. This seems to be your father's fear, and perhaps comes from personal experience. He sees everyone out there as a potential user, and so he has built walls around himself to prevent outsiders from using him. The problem with this is that now he lets no one in and he has, frankly, become a big douchebag. He might look happy and materialistically successful on the outside, but it is rare for such people to have loving, caring relationships. They tend to have trophy spouses, have family that resent them, and are in constant fear of losing what they have (which is why he works 60-hour weeks). This is what engenders conservative politicians. It is the same mentality that creates dictators. Sure, the dictator is all-powerful, but he is in constant fear that he will be assassinated or overthrown and put in prison. That is not a happy life.
As to your concern that helping others won't make a difference, you are incorrect. I can understand why it might seem so. When we are overwhelmed by the media reporting wars, poverty, pandemics, global warming, political corruption, and on and on, it can be discouraging. What can one person do?
A lot, actually.
When you exert acts of kindness in the world, it has a cascading effect, the results of which you might not see or realize (at least, not right away), but they are there. Being nice to others can make the people you are kind to say, "Hey! There are good people in the world! This makes me happy, and now I want to pay it forward!" Like a pandemic where one person can infect three or four people, and those people infect three or four people, and on and on until millions are sick (maybe not the best analogy), so, too, do acts of kindness spread around the community and the world. And those acts of kindness can be seemingly tiny. For example, compliment a coworker or a restaurant server. Take the trouble to tell the boss at a fast food place that you thought Sarah at the cash register was very kind to you. It doesn't have to cost money to be nice and to put a lot of good vibes out into the universe.
You ask me, directly, in your letter, "What good things have you experienced in life that was a direct result of serving others?" The letter you are reading is an example of what I do selflessly. I don't get paid for writing this column. I don't get awards or even, really, any recognition. Yet, I feel like it has done a lot of good for many people (cf. https://www.askpapabear.com/testimonials.html). You added, "Not just small things like feeling good for donating money or helping, but real treasures from sacrificing lots and giving lots? Is living selflessly instead of selfishly worth it?" Again, in this question, you are looking for evidence that selfless people get back "real treasures" for their acts, although you don't really specify what qualifies as such a treasure, though you assert that "feeling good" is insufficient reason.
Other than what I have noted above, writing this column gives my life a sense of purpose, and that is a profound reward. You see, I started writing this column right about when I was in my midlife crisis years, wondering what the hell my life was all about. It wasn't enough just to be doing okay, making money enough to live. I wanted a purpose, and writing this column gives me that. It is the most rewarding thing that I do in my life other than helping my disabled spouse and other family members. What is, after all, the purpose of life? Is it just to exist? Is it just to hedonistically pursue pleasure? I, for one, don't believe so. I have concluded that the only thing that truly brings me happiness is not material goods or money or even sex. It's making the world a better place as much as I possibly can.
I hope that answers your questions.
I am having some complex issues with my long term relationship, and I was hoping you might give me your opinion or perhaps your advice. Sorry in advance for the length.
First, I want to say I love my partner James. I’ve never loved anyone more in my life. He was the first person I came out to, and he told me on the spot that he “wasn’t sure if what [he felt] was love just yet, but there is definitely strong attraction [towards me].” We promised that if we were ever single at the same time that we would date. I went through several traumatic relationships that left me with more baggage than I could imagine. But he was always there for me, he helped me feel like me again. After a particularly nasty break up he put my shattered pieces back together, and in that moment I felt like I finally wanted to try with him.
It’s necessary to mention that when James and I started dating it was as a closed polycule of three; James, myself, and my existing partner Rile. Things went well for a while, the three of us even started living together when Rile’s home was undergoing renovations. Everything was great until Five months into dating, when James woke me up to break up with me. Much, much later he told me that he was frustrated by being in a closed relationship. Two depressing months later we got back together under two stipulations, being an open relationship, and having his privacy. We agreed, being poly it was easier to understand certain needs. For me I just wanted my two boyfriends and nothing else.
Rile started spending a lot of time away from home after we all moved back in together. He thought I started falling more in love with James than him. Much complication aside Rile and I parted ways, and I felt myself shifting more towards closed monogamy. All I wanted was James, and for him not to slip away from me. I started to think that him finding someone else would drive a wedge between us, and I would end up feeling just like Rile had towards me. I spoke with James about it, he promised me time to figure things out, but being closed was only temporary as it was one of the conditions of us getting back together. It was appreciated but not the reaction I hoped for or needed in that moment.
He seemed genuine about giving me time to figure out my sexuality, that is until I heard a notification and wanted to bring him his phone. That’s when I saw all of the dating app notifications. You name it, he had it. I just fell to the ground and stifled a pained moan. He had been cheating on me. He promised me that he never did anything in person, but that he did cheat by talking to others and leading them on sexually. He told me that leading people on gave him a sick kick, but it wasn’t entirely sexually motivated. He even admitted that doing so behind my back gave him a thrill. (This was 10 months after getting back together Nov 4th.)
He told me that if I wanted to break up it was entirely understandable. He also offered me a proposition; though it would be hard for him, he would try to be monogamous for me. That I would be able to look through his phone anytime I wanted to, that I was encouraged to for us. He showed me proof that he had deleted every dating app and his entire camera roll. This was after promising to show me every message he sent another person. Somewhere along the way he decided to change that and delete everything before showing me the phone. Probably to save me from my own anger, and increase the likelihood of me staying with him.
All of this sounds terrible and makes him seem like an awful manipulative person, but I do have genuine romantic feelings for him. Through our years together in and out of relationship, we have shared so very much, and I would be honored to call him my husband one day. For a while after that we were fine, and monogamy was followed through on as promised. I still wanted to check his phone, but I never found the courage to overpower the social awkwardness to ask.
When I did finally check up on him using his Facebook and Twitter accounts. I saw countless RP’ing convos, and more "lead on" conversations as he claimed them later. In particular there was where he told an old friend “I’m stuck in a relationship I can’t get out of.” When I confronted him he said that was mad that he made that promise to me initially [Nov 4], but had grown to support the decision since then [Dec 1], and that this whole thing was a slip up. Again he promised to let me see each convo, and instead blocked and deleted them, before I could see everything. We agreed that he could still RP as long as he told me or asked me.
I checked his open phone another night and found many more RP sessions he didn’t tell me about. In particular I found a conversation where he texted/rp’d? about cuckolding me by having sex with someone else in front of me. This seemed to be (out of character speak) too, he and Vlad constantly specified about talking when I wasn’t around which made it all worse. He claimed that it was just RP, not real, and not sexual, even though he sent messages about riding his dildo to the convos with Vlad. He promised me that he RP’ing with Vlad in particular was off limits, which I know now didn’t stand. I keep seeing messages from Vlad on his phone.
There was even a time where I made an RP account to test him, he took the bait and started RP’ing me while laying in bed next to me pretending to sleep. When I confronted him and told him it was me, he immediately refused to RP with me, and still refuses today.
Lastly, there is the issue of his sex drive. The first and only time we have had sex, aside from two botched attempts, was our very first date years ago. James has been going through a dry spell as he calls it, where he wants desperately to bleed me dry every day, but now is embarrassed and unmotivated due to his lack of a sex drive not aligning with his desires. I have always tried to be understanding of this issue when poaching the idea of sex. But the way he has shot me down countless times now makes me feel disgusting and unwanted. My will to try having sex with him is completely broken, to the degree that I openly fear discussing any of my own sexual desires with him. On top of that is that I am a switch, he is a firm bottom. The few times I slip into a submissive mindscape I want or need him to take on the role of a Master. Recently, I slipped and called him Master, to which he promptly refused to ever accept the title. Hearing him say that broke something very deep inside me, and I haven’t been able to think of him the same since. I love him with every part of me, beyond anything or anyone I have ever known.. and yet, I don’t trust him.
I can’t stop invading his privacy, I am constantly checking his phone, Facebook and twitter. It constantly seems like he’s covering up his mistakes as soon as I find them. I feel sexually unwanted, due to his “dry spell”, and constant RP sessions with everyone other than me.
I feel disregarded and hurt for my occasional need for him to take on a “Master’s” role. Some nights I go to bed distracted by how much I love him, or from us just having a good day. But there have been just as many times I have stayed up unable to sleep next to him.
I don’t want to leave, I don’t want a break, I don’t want to be broken up with.
I want him all to myself.
I want to stop feeling like the bad guy.
I want to stop feeling ashamed of what I want out of this relationship.
I want to be able to trust him again.
I want to be able to call him Master when I need to.
I don’t know how to tell him any of this. I don’t know where to start at this point. I constantly fear that I’ll reach his limit of how willing he is to work anything out, and that he’ll break up with me again. I fear that he will see the real depth of how much he has hurt me, and how much he continues to hurt me, and that he will panic. I’m so scared that one day he’ll wake up and think how much better I would be without him. I’m utterly terrified.
Please let me know what you think, and how you think I could move forward.
Thanks for listening,
* * *
Your relationship with James is severely broken, as you know. This is a case in point in which, when two people are not sexually compatible, it can easily spell doom for that relationship. This just happened to someone very dear to me who is now getting a divorce after a long, monogamous marriage because the other person wanted to suddenly go poly and began ignoring her spouse in favor of the new third party. Poly relationships can work. Open relationships can work. But ONLY if everyone is on the same page and there is no jealousy and mistrust. Reading your letter, there is mistrust all over the place; there is lying; there is cheating; there is bad communication; and there is sexual frustration because you are, frankly, incompatible in the bedroom.
The biggest mistake that people in an incompatible relationship try to do is make the other person change or (incorrectly used) "grow as a person," which just means, "change so that they do what I want." Look, Lindell, you have four choices here:
Of these choices, the only one that has a chance of helping you and James to find a satisfactory sex life is the fourth one. Now, is sex everything in a loving partnership? No, it is just one facet, though a big one. Sometimes sex is not a factor at all, but that is usually not the case with young, healthy couples such as yourself. The reason you are fighting this inevitable conclusion is that you want to keep James in your life because other than this one issue, you love him. I can certainly understand that you don't want your partnership to change. For the most part, it's comfortable and familiar and cozy.
I wish to stress that you are not the "bad guy" and you shouldn't feel "ashamed" for what you want. There is nothing wrong with the things you want; it's just that the things you want do not coincide with what your partner wants.
Your letter likely helped you work out some of the thought processes and emotions running through your head. Hopefully, my reply will help you wrap that process up and finally come to a conclusion as to what you should do.
Hope that I've helped you figure it out.
I am honestly contemplating the possibility that the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of sexual liberalism. The professional communities that study the natural sciences, along with social disciplines like psychology, may not be supporting this theory yet, but I attest from anecdotal experience: furry porn has gradually conditioned me to "define deviancy down". I never remember contemplating kinks such as rough sex, incest, cub or violent BDSM before encountering material about them online. I almost indulged myself three days ago, but I chose not to open E621 right before I was about to go there, and barely avoided crying because then, I started to pay attention to the feeling of my humanity slipping away. I was habituating myself to fantasies of scenarios I'd never rationally support. Not to mention all the gross advertisements, or ones for dubious businesses, because porn repels mainstream companies in more conservative countries. Even if they're not real, are they worth alienating family and friends with less open minds in this respect? Also, while we mostly may not literally imitate the stupid things characters do in fictional media, I believe the possibility that we might get desensitized to particular subject matter, depending on the content you consume. There's a reason the advertising industry is worth so much money, also that government agencies collaborate very often with the entertainment industry, and in addition, Buffy the Vampire Slayer plus Dawson's Creek plus Will & Grace- believe it or not- have been credited with humanizing LGBT communities, helping mainstream acceptance of them. If there is a real correlation, would you want to dive in incredible depth into the mind of a Caligula? If you know where to look, you can find stories similar to mine.
[Papabear note: The letter write supplied lots of citations in addition to the above, which are deleted here because this is not an academic site and, frankly, I don't think my readers would want to read all of these academic articles. However, if you do, let me know and I can send them to you.]
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Dear Bald Hyena,
Human sexuality within the context of "civilized" society is a complicated story, to say the least about the most. As you know, sexuality in the fandom has long been a subject of debate and even ridicule. In case you are not aware of our history, the Burned vs. Freezing Furs war (1998-2001 or so) is an excellent example of furries fighting about X-rated material in the fandom. The Burned Furs were a group of people who objected to porn in the art of the fandom, feeling, like you, that it had gone too far and that it distracted people from the true values of furries. The problem was that they got extremely radical about it, descending into intolerance for everyone from gay furs and plushophiles to Christian furs and lifestylers, writing long, hateful tirades on social media, and even physically threatening furries in the community. The Freezing Furs were a reaction to the Burned Furs, and once we had two oppositional groups forming, well, you can imagine the fireworks and discord in the fandom. After a couple of years, the Freezing Furs disbanded and the Burned Furs burnt out, although they briefly evolved into a group calling itself Improved Anthropomorphics, a rather less aggressive group that works to promote a positive image of the fandom sans porn and paraphilias (Improved Anthropomorphics is also no longer active, it seems).
This short history is meant to show you that the debate about adult art in the fandom has been ongoing with the result being, mostly, much drama but barely any effect on the content of art and literature in the fandom (i.e., there's still a lot of adult art out there). Why is this? Well, that is a looooonger story I can't get into in this column too deeply, but I am addressing it in my book. There are many social-history and psychological reasons for furporn. The bottom line, though, is that as long as there is pornography in general society there will be pornography in the furry fandom because, well, we're sexual beings.
As you suspected, censorship is not the answer. In fact, suppression of sexual imagery is one reason I theorize that furporn is so prevalent. The more people tell you NOT to do something, the more you want to do it. As to your hypothesis that furries are becoming more tolerant of various paraphilias, I've been seeing everything from vore to cub sex on sites like FA for decades, so no, I don't think it is any more or less prevalent today than it was in the past. You are just maybe more aware of it.
I would like to comment quickly about Bad Dragon (and no, they are not sponsoring my column). I have spoken to representatives of Bad Dragon, and they are actually doing a good job about promoting responsible sex, wearing condoms, and such-like things. Also, when you look at it, using a sex toy is the safest sex you can have, no? Well, as long as you don't borrow it from someone LOL.
All that being said, one definitely should point out the dangers of harmful sexual practices. You mention choking as one, and I would add that any brutal form of sadomasochism is also a no-no, as well as anything involving nonconsensual sex (pedophilia and rape). There is a BIG difference between criminal sexual acts and sexuality that is experimental, consensual, and/or playful. I am in no way saying hurtful sexual activity is okay. There is also the problem in the fandom — especially among younger furries, but across the board — involving ignorance about sex and how to be safe about it (one furry told me that one could put a candy wrapper on one's penis for safe sex — oy vay). Finally, there is the issue of porn addiction. When people get addicted to porn, it results in desensitization to strong images and can even negatively impact the possibility of having a healthy, real-life sexual relationship.
So, bottom line, here is my conclusion on the topic of sex in the fandom: better sex education is needed. I believe that a lot of furries (again, skewing to the younger furries) come from families that have not provided them with solid information about having safe sex. A lot of conservative families, for example, will just tell their kids not to have sex at all (I'm talking about legal age young people), tell them that sex is evil, and then forbid them from understanding their bodies. Then, these kids stumble upon the furry fandom and its pornographic images and get turned on because it is forbidden fruit. This makes them vulnerable to porn addiction, and, worse, to sexual predators on the Web. Also, if they are not familiar with how to practice safe sex, that leaves them vulnerable, too.
Having an open forum on this issue is a stupendous idea. In fact, it would be an excellent idea of a forum at furcons. I might actually propose that to future furcons I will be attending.
Does this answer your question?
Hey Papa Bear, I hope you’re well.
If I’m being honest, I’m not entirely sure what kind of answer I’m expecting from this question or whether this is really a question at all or where the root of this problem lays. I’ve milled over what kind of thing I’m facing actually is, and how any one way might end up making me look ignorant, spiteful or at worst discriminatory. Something that disgusts me to think about.
It’s probably best if I set things up. I started partaking in furry activities, attending meetups and familiarising myself with the scene from around 2014 or 2015, and my earliest months went about as you’d expect a newcomer’s early months to go: A few good friends, a fair bit of time watching from the sidelines and occasionally chipping in where I felt comfortable. It wasn’t until a few months later into the first group of friends, comprised of a number of individuals (including some well-known faces in the community) who would frequently talk to me and otherwise make me feel welcome. These are friends I have often met with, and even gladly invited to my wedding some years ago.
This group felt wonderful to be with, and taught me a great many things about gender identity, the issues surrounding LGTBQ individuals and helping me to understand and appreciate the issues that such a community faces daily when I’d previously not been exposed to such issues or even properly talked to or met those involved. I’m proud to say that these are now issues I long to help any of my LGTBQ friends with wherever in the world they may be, and I’m proud to say I’ve made numerous friends across the globe in this community.
My problem now, however, revolves around this friend group’s behaviour that has always been present but appears to have intensified in recent years, and some of the things that are now said on a frequent basis. A common thing is the discussion of drama pertaining to individuals the group may see as enemies which are already draining enough, but the more worrying and discomforting to me is their apparent readiness to brand cisgender and heterosexual individuals as inherently problematic people who are deserving of ridicule and contempt (including posting derogatory memes intended to mock those people to public social media).
My time talking to these friends helped make me aware of the inherent privilege I have over others: I’m a white, adult male who is married to my wife in a fairly traditional marriage. Despite this however, it didn’t make the apparent news that I am inherently harming some of my closest friends by being who I am any easier to come to terms with. It was and still is hurtful to hear that being a cisgender person is somehow making the lives of others and the lives of those I care about worse.
I have reached out to a few of these in the group privately to discuss my concerns and how such comments make me feel, and the feedback I’d receive didn’t inspire much in the way of confidence; being told that how I had no right to be upset given my privilege. Being told that if I wanted to be a true ally to LGBTQ people that it was my duty to take what they were saying and just agree. Being told to simply accept that being who I am inherently causes problems in these people’s lives.
This leaves me with my current dilemma. This has gone on for long enough that I feel like I need to walk away from these people and their mindsets. It feels like what could be described as a toxic environment to be in, especially when I look at my friendships with others elsewhere that are all genuinely wonderful.
Despite my heart telling me that it’s the right thing to do, my head leaves me conflicted. Will walking away from this group mean I’m betraying them and their struggles, given my position of privilege? Am I betraying the struggles all my friends from further afield have faced?
Many thanks for your time, and apologies for the lengthy write-up.
Anonymous (England, age 30)
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Thank you for writing me on such an important topic. Oh, my, it opens a can of worms, doesn't it? If I do say so myself, you are asking the right bear. As a man who thought he was straight for 40 years of his life (long story) and who was married to a woman for 22 years and is now openly gay and married to a man, I can view the LGBTQ community from both sides. This has to do with reverse prejudice and applies not only to LGBTQ v. hetero debates but also to any debate involving bigotry (race, religion, nationalism, etc. etc.)
But let's just focus on LGBTQ rights in England (and in the USA, since I'm more familiar with that) for this letter, since that was your question. Both countries have treated gay and trans and bi people horrifically for hundreds of years. In England, homosexuality was a crime until 1967, when the Sexual Offences Bill was passed, but even then you had to be over 21 and discreet about sex, AND the law only applied to England, so being gay was still illegal in Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. A great example of the pain and injustice caused in England by this policy can be summed up in two words: Alan Turing. (You might know this story, but it is also for the benefit of my other readers, so be patient). Turing was the brilliant mathematician and computer scientist who, along with his staff, invented the machine that solved the Germans' code during World War II, saving millions of lives. After the war, the British government determined he was gay and found him guilty of "indecency." He was forcibly chemically castrated. Turing was so tormented by this that he committed suicide. So, the man who saved untold numbers of people from the Nazis was tortured to death because he was gay. Oh, the queen pardoned him in 2013, long after he was dead. So helpful.
Back to the law. So, anyway, Scotland then decriminalized being gay in 1980 and Northern Ireland did so in 1982. The Isle of Man finally made it legal in 1994. Homosexuals in England could serve in the military beginning in 2000, and the Civil Partnerships Act of 2004 gave gay couples the same rights as married hetero couples. But it wasn't until 2014 that gay couples could marry in England and Wales.
The point of the above is that these events are still fairly recent, and the pain of injustices perpetrated against homosexuals in England runs deep. It has been an uphill battle all the way. For example, Pope Benedict XVI berated the English government for its gay equality laws in 2010 (fortunately, Pope Francis is much more tolerant). In America, homosexual couples did not have the right to marry until 2015, and in many U.S. states, businesses can still legally discriminate against us. The House of Representatives just passed a new equality bill, but it has to get approved by the Senate, still.
So, you can easily understand--and it sounds like you do--why LGBTQ people are still miffed, to say the least (I didn't even go into all the stats on gay and trans people being beaten and murdered over the years), at the hetero community, many of whose members still behave horribly to us today.
When a group of people is discriminated against, hated, and abused simply for being who they are, those people tend to group together to find strength in one another. So, the black community in America has formed a strong, unionizing culture; Native Americans have; LGBTQ people have, and so on. But these groups all have something in common: Their tormentors are, by and large, white straight people. So, the hate has been focused on white straight people from all kinds of different minority groups. By and large, it's deserved. When one adds the increasing demand that everyone be Politically Correct, you have a recipe for reverse prejudice and reverse discrimination.
Am I saying that all white, straight people are bad? No, no I am not. Focusing again on just heterosexuals, I would venture to say that the majority are good people who don't refuse to serve LGBTQ people at their businesses and don't beat them up or shout insults at them. At the same time, however, they do live in a world of privilege that makes them a bit blind and dull-witted about what gay people go through. I'll use myself as an example. Growing up, I was a very protected child, not knowing anything about the dangers in the world. When it came to homosexuality, I was clueless. About the only "exposure" I had to what it was like being gay was British comedies such as Monty Python's Flying Circus and The Two Ronnies, in which gay men were always wearing women's clothing and talking with a lisp. So, I thought that was being gay. It wasn't until much later that I learned there were many masculine gay men (bears, leathermen, or just plain joe's like me), and that was quite a revelation. My point here is that, being brought up middle-class, white, and sheltered, I probably made many incorrect assumptions about gay people (and bi, trans, etc. about whom I only found out later in life), which likely resulted in my saying stupid things when I was an adult. Not sure, but I probably unwittingly insulted a lot of gay people in my youth and early adulthood. Now, if you take someone like me and put them in a restrictive, conservative, religious environment, they probably end up coming off even worse to the LGBTQ community without meaning to.
I do believe that, because of this and the long history of discrimination, LGBTQ people will conclude that all straight people are intolerant bigots, and if you don't agree with that assessment, then you're an intolerant bigot as well in their minds.
This, of course, is incorrect.
So, we have three factors that combine to result in the attitude you are seeing in your LGBTQ group: 1) a long history of discrimination and hurt against LGBTQ people; 2) the ignorance of those in the straight community that causes them to be dense or unsympathetic about their plight; and 3) the current atmosphere of hyper-PCness that causes people to bristle at the slightest hint of a potential slight against their community.
This triple whammy results in the offended community (in this case, the LGBTQ community) taking an overly defensive, hypersensitive posture that then results in their becoming blind to other points of view, and this is what causes prejudice on their part. They are being prejudiced against you because you come from a "privileged" background. And once people start seeing you as something "other" than them, you are going to have a very difficult time fostering empathy from them.
As you might know, a lot of gay people have fled into the furry fandom, hoping to land into the comforting arms of a welcoming community, and most of them did. There are a lot more furries identifying themselves as LGBTQ in the fandom than in the general population. Establishing a safe haven within the community has the side effect of also becoming defensive of said territory, as you have personally experienced. Part of that defensiveness includes intolerance for outsiders and differing opinions, which then results in what I call the George W. Bush position of "you're either for us or against us." No in-between; no compromise.
Intolerance of outsiders within a community of people who feel oppressed can lead to the blindness of their own shortcomings. For example, black people have sometimes discovered that furries--who are by and far largely white--treat blacks rather myopically and, yes, with prejudice. A big problem is that white (notably, often gay) furries seem to be under the impression that black people have to pick fursonas that stereotype the black community (I'm talking about America now; obviously, black people have a different history in England but I'm sure they suffer from discrimination, too). One black acquaintance of mine said that furries felt her fursona had to be an urban thug kind of furry, a gangsta, a rapper, things like that, and that they couldn't be, for example, a Celtic warrior; they even went so far as to say her fur should be black and couldn't be, say, purple or pink. I've seen videos of black furries complaining they do not feel very welcome in our furry community, and that's just sad. The fandom shouldn't be just for gay white furries but for ALL people who want to have imaginative fun without restrictions, rules, or barriers.
In summation, LGBTQ people have been oppressed for generations and, understandably, have become wary of straight people. In the furry community, they have hunkered down into their own, relatively safe communities where they can feel accepted, but a side effect is they have become overprotective and fearful of outsiders, leading them to form prejudices of their own and forgetting why they came to the fandom in the first place: to have fun and be free of society's constraints.
Back to your personal concerns: If your furry group is saying you have "no right" to question them because of your "privileged" birth, they are flat-out wrong. If they are making you feel uncomfortable, then you have every right to call them out on it. Prejudice begins with ignorance and intolerance for people who are different. Point that out to them. Point out that you are on their side but that condemning an entire group for who they are (in this case, straight people) is no better than what straight people have done to them. It works both ways.
Our society can only progress if we listen to each other and empathize with each other. No group is perfect. No group is superior to another. The furry fandom should not be a haven only for gay white people but for ALL people. It could be a great equalizer by helping us discover common ground as, ironically, human beings who all desire love, friendship, hugs, and personal freedom.
Show your group this letter. Hopefully, this will open their eyes a bit.
A note on comments: Comments on letters to Papabear are welcome, especially those that offer extra helpful advice and add something to the conversation that is of use to the letter writer and those reading this column. Also welcome are constructive criticisms and opposing views. What is NOT welcome are hateful, hurtful comments, flaming, and trolling. Such comments will be deleted from this site. Thank you.