My youngest nephew (16) recently opened up to me about being a furry. He hasn't settled on a fursona as of yet but identifies as either a puppy or a kitten.
He has also been opening up about a lot of trauma, bullying and troubles at home under my sister who has been quite abusive, bullying and totally just awful as a parent (see: narcissistic parent, treating child like property/emotional outlet).
I've had a number of conversations with him about boundaries, the importance of recognising appropriate and inappropriate relationships and friendships, and discussed in some small detail why he wishes to be a furry.
It's all very complex and I'm fairly confident, given my nephew has OCD, ADHD and is on the autism spectrum, that the idea of being a furry might be a way to escape awful realities and just feel loved, understood, cared for and so on.
I'm trying to figure out the best ways of helping my nephew deal with his past and current traumas... to be able to process emotions and so on... he has become very attached to me in the last two months and has placed a lot of trust in me opening up about things. I have some concerns about his online friends - especially older ones - and of course worried a little about sexualised language and content he has admitted accessing. I am also a little worried that given he has only ever really been shown love/affection/hugs from his brother and the family pets (a cat and a dog) that everything might blur into one for him i.e. that he is craving a normal family relationship with hugs and support etc but that this might then become confused in his head with sexualised relationships etc.
So I basically just want some advice on how best to approach things, to support him and ensure he doesn't internalise anxieties and embarassment so he doesn't feel like an outsider or a 'freak' or a 'weirdo'.
I also need to know a bit about boundaries myself i.e. how far to I myslef indulge his being a furry... he already asked if occasionally I replace giving him a hug with a back scratch or the like... and I'm comfortable with that so long as in his mind it isn't being sexualised as that isn't appropriate (and I have discussed that directly with him). I just don't want him to become alienated or have a massive freak out about the reality of him opening himself open as he has done if that makes sense? I basically have all of the questions and need comprehensive advice.
Anonymous in the UK
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Dear Kind Uncle,
I applaud you for being such a caring and loving uncle to your nephew and for reaching out to try to find some help for him. As you know, I am not a psychologist or social worker, so it is my duty to first recommend you do a little research on professional services out there for autistic children (you may have done so already, but just to be sure...). A good place to start for UK residents such as yourself and your nephew is the National Autistic Society, which offers advice and resources. OCD Action provides guidance for those with OCD, and the ADHD Foundation is a good place to start for that concern. Fortunately, there is a lot of help available to you in your country.
But you came to Papabear because of my knowledge of furries, and I am honored to try and help you there. Many--not all--people who come to the fandom do so because they feel rejected in one way or another by society or they feel uncomfortable navigating human relationships and the complexities of said society. This is why many who have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) find their way into the fandom (about 10% to 15% of furries in surveys indicate they have autism spectrum). The fandom can offer them two things: an accepting community/environment and a way to express themselves through a fursona (or fursonas) that provides them a means to get outside themselves and communicate their emotions and feelings. I recently came across a fantastic article about this very thing. The author, Joey Thurmond, explains how the play and imagination of furry assists people in becoming their true selves and helps them break out of their shells (ironic that wearing a costume can help us reveal our true selves!)
There are scientific studies that help back this up, too. A group of social scientists and psychologists have even created the FurScience website that delves into the social phenomenon of the furry fandom, who is in it, and why they participate. One of the members of FurScience, Dr. Elizabeth Fein of Duquesne University, has investigated furries who report being on the autism spectrum. In this article on the DU website, she notes how the fandom helps with lessening anxiety, building self-esteem, and fostering feelings of being part of a community. A Pittsburgh NPR station elaborated on her findings here.
Although Dr. Fein is talking about ASD, her findings have relevance to ADHD and OCD. While these three conditions are not the same, they share some commonalities, and a Scientific American article noted that they share the same genetic roots or "brain markers." Anxiety is a key trait in all three, and I am confident in saying that the furry fandom can help many people with easing anxiety and stress.
As to what you, personally, can do for your nephew, the biggest thing is to just be there for him and be supportive as you are doing now. Furries with various anxiety disorders are actually treating themselves by discovering and participating in the furry fandom. They are seeking an outlet, and here they may have one.
BUT!!! You are also right to exercise caution. As noted, there are a lot of adult things in the fandom, and there are also some dangerous people, just as there are anywhere on the internet. Trolls and other abusers are not stupid; they discover this entire community filled with very vulnerable youngsters who make easy targets for them to attack. The best thing for you to do here is to monitor internet and phone behavior, educate your nephew about the potential dangers of ALL social media, but do not impose drastic restrictions (e.g., "I forbid you to chat online with furries." Such strategies cause rebellion and resentment.) And the best way you can manage this is by telling your nephew that you support their furriness and you want there to be no secrets between the two of you. Tell him there is no need to be embarrassed about being a furry and that you hope he will talk to you all about it and about his adventures. So, go ahead and "indulge" him in his furriness, but also be on top of things and monitor what he is doing to the best of your ability. The things you can teach him about boundaries and the hazards of the internet will apply to both his online furry behavior and his online behavior in general, so it's all good.
If you feel up for it, take him to a furcon. Unfortunately, because of Covid, this is a bit problematic lately, but some cons have moved online for now, including ConFuzzled and Wild North, which is having an online con in October. Hopefully, next year the cons will be live.
As for your concerns about your nephew becoming alienated or a social outcast--don't worry about it just yet. Allow him to perform therapy on himself through the furry fandom and partner this with traditional help and advice from the resources I provided above. This is a lifelong journey for him (and you), and I think you are just the best uncle ever for striving so hard to help this young man.
Please write again if I have missed addressing any of your concerns or if you have further questions.
How do I make friends in the fandom?
Hey there Papa Bear! My name is Papaya, I don't consider myself a furry, but an anthro enthusiast (that's a story for a different day). I'm more of a right leaning person and I've found it difficult lately to find similar people like me. I don't mind if my friends are furries or if they're anthro enthusiast like me, however I'm wondering what is the best way to go about making some furry friends. It's been hard lately with such a divide, I'm scared of sharing my views with someone who will blast me on Twitter just for having an opposing view.
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I'm not too sure what the difference is between an "anthro enthusiast" and a furry. My first thought was that you meant you didn't participate in furry activities like going to cons and meets, but then you want to make furry friends, so ... I dunno. Anyway, my thoughts about politics and religion are that it is best to keep such topics out of the conversation unless you know somebody very well and feel confident you can discuss such things without causing hurt. As you are aware, these days, especially in America, the right and left have become super-polarized without much room for compromise or moderation. In my Greymuzzles group, I set up rules that religion and politics be kept out of the posts, and that has been pretty successful at keeping the peace in the group. That's rule 1. To make new friends in the fandom, simply join any furry social media group and look for people who share your interests. Then, strike up a conversation with them. It's really not complicated. Then, once you get to know them well, you might open up the conversation to a wider range of topics. Not all furries are left-leaning. There are many conservative and even hard-right furries out there. For example, if you are a gun enthusiast, you can find furries who enjoy hunting and target shooting. Furries are a diverse group of people and you can find people who share your views and hobbies if you look hard enough.
Good Luck, Anthro Enthusiast ;)
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.
Dear Papa Bear,
Normally, I would not write in to a column about a issue I'm having. However, since this is something I've had a lot of people talk to me about and I don't know the answer, I figured taking it to a higher source makes more sense. So, I am a late 30-something furry, and I've been in the fandom nearly a decade. As I've aged, I've noticed furry has become, for lack of a better term, "tainted" by social politics, gender wars, and identity politics. Unfortunately, much of the issue is coming from a result of the young taking over leadership roles in our community. My question is, what can we "the elder generation" of furries do to maybe help curb the tide of this problem and what do you think of furry becoming so hyperpolitical?
Lotus Wolf (37)
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Dear Lotus Wolf,
Good question, and one I certainly relate to, being a greymuzzle myself. Yes, the fandom is changing, and it is radically different from when it started in the late 1970s/early 1980s. This is the result of a couple of things: 1) the internet, and 2) how it has grown to include hundreds of thousands of people. As the fandom becomes more visible to the general public, it has attracted a lot of people who don't really "get" furry. They are in it more to get attention than to be a part of the fun. Part of getting attention has been to do political things such as becoming a Nazi or Antifa furry. In this bear's humble opinion, furry is not a place for politics (this includes any sexual or gender or identity politics). It's supposed to be a place to avoid mundane things like politics and economics and social pressures. I disagree with you that furry has become "hyperpolitical." Yes, politics have encroached upon it, but not in an all-consuming way--just enough to be annoying.
What to do about it? Number one is to avoid validating people who want to make politics a thing in the fandom (doesn't matter if they are on the right, left, or moderate). They are basically trolls and should be ignored and blocked. Second is to reemphasize the fantasy aspect of the fandom by encouraging and participating in the writing, art, and games of the fandom. Third is to do what we can to educate the younger generations about furry history and who we are. Such things as Ash Coyote's documentary The Fandom can be helpful, or reading books such as Joe Striker's Furry Nation.
Change is inevitable and will continue in any living fandom. There will be good things about the fandom and bad things, but that's okay as long as we don't lose sight of who we are. Communication and education are the best approaches. We should also recognize that some things simply are not acceptable. I, for one, do not appreciate seeing anyone wearing a swastika armband at a furcon (or the Furry Raiders' armband, which is obviously similar, and don't tell me it's not), and I'm not a fan of how Antifa furs have behaved in the past, nor do I care to see furcon room parties for Soviet Furs.
Young people in America, especially, have lost an appreciation for democracy and freedom, sadly. They have been coddled and spoiled and no longer understand how lucky they are. A Cambridge University study showed that 55% of Millennials don't think democracy is important. The failing here is not with the Millenials, however; it is with the older generation and our current politicians who have made a mockery of democracy. What the Millennials are abhorring, really, is the distorted and corrupt "democracy" we now have. The internet, as we have seen so painfully recently, is also to blame for spreading lies and misinformation about our political institutions and a number of politicians.
The furry fandom is a victim of the times. Don't blame furries themselves. I hate when people say things such as "The fandom is just a bunch of furverts and drama queens and haters." No, it's not. Almost everyfur I meet--young and old--is a wonderful person. But it only takes a drop of arsenic to poison the entire cup of tea. More and more, admins in places such as Facebook groups (including me) have been prohibiting politics and hate in their groups. If those who run social websites, furmeets, and furcons remain vigilant, they can do a lot to eliminate or, at least, minimize the problem.
There need to be adults in the room, in other words. And I call on the greymuzzles and other, younger, adults who have taken it upon themselves to assume leadership roles in the fandom to set standards for their groups and organizations. We have seen what happens when supervision is lacking (e.g., the closing of Rainfurest and some other cons). Be an example to the younger furries and you will go a long way toward keeping the furry fandom a fun and enjoyable social phenomenon.
This is an important topic, and I've only brushed the surface of it. I welcome my readers' comments and input below.
I just wanted to ask about furry cons, even though covid-19 is currently happening right now, I'm still really curious about it and haven't gotten many answers. Like are most conventions only 18+ to go to? Are there furry events in shops around (like cafes stores etc.)? And also advice on what's best to do at cons, like best travel and hotels if covid ends. I wanna be prepared.
Cookie (age 13)
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Dear Cookie (love that name),
That's a great question, thanks for asking. When COVID-19 eases up (and it will; they already have two very promising vaccines in the test stage, as well as treatments being developed), furcons should make a comeback in 2021 and 2022. What a joyous occasion that will be! I'm registered to attend Biggest Little Furcon in Reno, and it's been delayed a couple times and is now hopefully going to occur in June, so here's hoping.
Most furcons with which I am familiar are kid-friendly. While, yes, there is adult art in the artists' den and in the marketplace, these things are restricted to those 18 and older, and you will not be allowed inside those areas, so you can enjoy the rest of the marketplace and art shows without worry. Everything else at furcons--events, parades, forums--are G-rated. Occasionally, there will be a forum that is for adults, but those will be clearly marked on a program and, of course, someone your age would not be allowed inside the lecture room in those cases.
Some cons also have tracks specifically designed for youth (e.g. Furry Migration), and all furcons have rules laid out on their websites about minors. These usually involve the fact that you need permission from a parent or legal guardian to attend, pay for the registration, and pay for the room.
Most furcons are held at hotels and convention centers, but some have different settings, such as campgrounds. If you are looking for small events (you mention meeting at a coffee shop) then what you want is called a "furmeet." These are small parties or activities organized by a local furry group. They plan things like house parties, bowling events, going to movies or parks, and so on. You might try Meetup to see if there is a regular furmeet near you, or search on social sites to find local furry groups.
Because cons are held in cities all over the world, I can't really advise you on what travel and hotel options are best without knowing where you intend to go. I would advise that you check out the website of the con you wish to attend, see if they have a youth track, and contact the person in charge of events to ask about best things to do there. I would, if I were your age, attend forums to learn more about the fandom, visit the marketplace, visit the artists' den, show your parents around so they can see that furry is a lot of fun. And try to meet people and make furiends.
If you have more specific questions, feel free to write again.
Welcome to the fandom!
I have a hard time having sympathy for furries. I feel less and less care when met with news of a furry experiencing financial problems, or worse. This is not without reason, however. I have suffered sexual abuse, less than a year ago. It has opened my eyes to how disgusting the fandom is, and how rare it is to find a furry that isn't a horrible, nearly irredeemable person.
I feel that most furries feed into the culture that caused my naivety back then, and helped a predator blend in within the fandom. The cuddliness of the fandom, I loathe it. Everyone gets in their beds with mere friends and rub on each other like partners. I feel that people like that, even those who do it in roleplay, assist predators. Their actions I feel contribute to creating naivety in minors by making relationship-tier affection something just "friendly". Don't even get me started on lewd interaction.
I have been attacked for bringing this up. Everyone is so okay with the fandom normalizing predatory behavior. Maybe I am wrong? I don't want to be okay with hearing that a furry is in pain because they are likely the type of furry I was referring to. Everyone is so okay with this. My question is, am I wrong for thinking this way? Am I a bad person? I recognize your lack of qualification for help with mental illnesses, and I am not coming here with them being fixed in mind, but having another opinion would be helpful.
Anonymous (age 15)
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The prevalence of sex in the fandom through art and social interactions is definitely a thing, and I understand your concerns. I am very sorry to hear that you were a victim of sexual abuse. There is never an excuse for that.
I would not condemn the fandom as a whole because of your bad experiences, however. I myself have had very positive experiences and have made many friends in the fandom. In my humble opinion, the fandom is what you make of it (which is true of anything). I am not blaming you for being a victim of sexual abuse (please don't think that), but I am saying that one must be careful about the company one keeps. If one marches into the fandom naively (as you might have) and unprepared for what one might find, then yes, you could find yourself among the wrong kind of furry. You are 15 years old and should not be seeking out X-rated stuff, whether that is furry or not. As you likely know, thousands of youngsters are victims of sexual abuse and predation OUTside the fandom. The internet can be a dangerous place, and one should be cautious at all times.
So, don't blame the fandom per se. You will find bad people everywhere, not just in the furry world. That said, you are certainly justified to be upset by what happened to you, and again, I am so sorry you went through that!
You don't mention your family, but I think this is something you should discuss with your parents. There are some sites online you can read up on internet safety, too, such as Internet Safety 101 at https://internetsafety101.org/internetpredators. And it's not just safety from sex predators, but also trolls and scammers who want to steal your money and your identity. So, watch out for people who beg for money (something you also indicated happened to you).
But getting back to the fandom. This is a topic I am discussing more fully in my book, but the reason the fandom can be a particularly tricky place is because it is a refuge for a lot of troubled people. Many young people struggling with sexual- and self-identity issues come to the fandom to seek some release and freedom and companionship. This can, at times, lead to misbehavior. Or, at least, what a lot of people would consider misbehavior. It is a highly complex issue because people are complex, and the fandom has grown to hundreds of thousands of furries all over the world. Learning to navigate such a huge social maze can be tricky. You need to become adept at reading clues that can signal if someone is lying to you. Here's a little tip sheet on that: https://www.news.com.au/technology/online/how-to-tell-if-someone-is-lying-to-you-online-or-in-a-text/news-story/f76033116da0964f2565d5a0d0180812.
All that being said, I will conclude here that if you, personally, do not feel safe interacting with members of the fandom, then by all means don't. The furry fandom is supposed to be a place of fun and fantasy, not terror and mistrust. Most people have a great time doing furry stuff, but if you have come to hate it, then there is certainly no law that says you have to be a furry. Your safety and happiness are more important than that. But, after reading what I have said, you want to try again, then feel free to do so carefully, and write me at any time.
Finally, if you haven't already sought help for sexual abuse, please consider talking to someone. There is a sexual abuse hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673).
Where can you find a website for young furs? I try to go to furry websites but they always say you have to be 18 or older. I need a break from that. I wish I had furry friends to make online, and I just want young furs like me to have fun online too. I look at every furry website, but no young furs are allowed, so please make a website.
Peanut Butter (age 8)
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Dear Peanut Butter,
You are 8 years old, so I am guessing you are not aware of furry history. You see, the furry fandom began back in the 1970s, when a number of sci-fi and comic book fans decided to start making art and writing stories featuring "funny animals" but with adult themes (mostly violence and mature situations, but sometimes involving sex). "Funny animals" are what people used to call talking animals in cartoons such as Bugs Bunny and Mighty Mouse. Anyway, the whole point of furry was to have talking animal characters featured in more mature stories. Now, this doesn't mean X-rated stories, necessarily. There was a lot of sci-fi stuff such as in the now-classic Albedo series. But there was also stuff with more sexual situations, such as the Omaha: The Cat Dancer comic books. As the fandom matured, more and more X-rated stuff has entered websites and publications and, no, it is not suitable for kids under 18.
The demographics (who is in the fandom in terms of age, gender, race, etc. etc.) have been evolving a lot over the last couple of decades. While the majority of furries are still people in their late-teens and twenties (mostly male and white, but there are more women getting involved, as well as non-Caucasian furries), more and more furries are older and more and more are quite young. Furries such as you probably enjoy anthro characters in Disney and Pixar cartoons and films, of course, and then you find out about furries by stumbling upon them online or perhaps hearing about furries from a friend. Anyway, you are not looking for X-rated art. You just want to have fun adopting a fursona and perhaps having some online RPG adventures.
Unfortunately, at this time, there are no social networking sites like FurAffinity or SoFurry that are specifically for cubfurs, especially as young as you. I would LOVE to design and run such a site (and thank you for asking and thinking I could) but I have neither the time nor technical know-how to do so. I do keep my eyes out for such things on the Web, though, and you can be sure I will write about it if I hear anything.
In the meantime, there are still fun things you can do to meet furries in the virtual world. If your parents are okay with it, you can play online RP and other games such as Furcadia (just stay away from the Furrabian Nights adult section, but almost everything else is kid-friendly). You can roleplay while also meeting other furries. Here are some other games you might find enjoyable, many of which offer ways to chat with furries playing the game with you online (some are better for older kids, and some for younger kids):
Many furries meet other furries by playing such games, no matter what their age. In fact, it was in the early days of FurryMuck that contributed greatly to the growth of the fandom back in the 1980s. So, I would recommend you not worry about such places as FurAffinity and instead start playing some furry games.
THEN! Get an account on Discord.com, which is a place where you can hang out and chat with people about your favorite games.
Dear Papa Bear,
How can I convince my mom to let me make a mini partial fursuit? I told my mom I was a furry through text (I have social anxiety so it was too hard to say it aloud) and I told her I really wanted to make a “furry costume”. She wouldn’t let me do it and she said I shouldn’t be looking up furry stuff. I know there is inappropriate stuff but I don’t look at it. She always complains that I’m lazy so she should be happy I want to put effort into something. I wanna explain to her that it’s not inappropriate but I don’t have enough confidence bc of social anxiety. Being able to make my own fursuit would make me the happiest.
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The internet can be a wonderful thing, but when it comes to the fandom, it can prejudice parents against letting their kids explore the fandom. This is a shame, because not only is the fandom fun, it can have many benefits as well. Helping people like you who suffer from social anxiety is one of these benefits. If instead of going on the internet to look for furporn your mother searched on "social anxiety and furry fandom" she would find articles and videos about how many young people have treated their anxiety by being furry and enjoying its community. It also helps people suffering from various degrees of autism spectrum disorder.
Here are just a couple articles and videos you can show your mother:
I would also suggest your mother visit the Moms of Furries website at https://mofurries.com/. These two mothers were, like yours, nervous about their kids participating in the fandom, but they gave it a try and found it had a lot of benefits for helping them get out of their shells and socialize in healthy ways.
Being a furry has lots of benefits. Point these out to your mom and tell her she should avoid jumping to conclusions because of furporn. Porn is all over the web, not just furry sites, but that is not what you--indeed, most furries--are about.
Hope this helps. Good luck!
Hey Papa Bear,
I would like to hear your opinion on what you think about furry porn. …But that question alone is only worth maybe a “it’s good” or “it’s bad” answer, so… The true question is, what do you think of the whole scope about furry porn, and how it affects artists, members of the fandom, etc etc.
To give you more to work with, ever since I was a wee little chap watching TV with my lower lip quivering, and my eyes gleamed when I saw Flamedramon for the first time, I knew what I was in for. That said… The porn is good and all, but I’m always very sad to see how it affects the fandom. This mix of popularity and sexuality seem to entice many people, artists and commissioners alike, into very deplorable habits of flaunting for instant gratification, of filling their galleries to the brim with art of very varied levels of quality involving their sonas into every possible existing sexual scenario on this planet, just for the sake of… Attention, right? Well, money too, in case of the artists. Is that really worth it in the long-term?
It always bums me out that this sexy animal guy I’m jerking off to is almost surely a total douchebag if I met him in person, which… From my own experience, is very often true (But I admit that that’s on ME because I’m a very judgmental idiot and I also have impossibly high standards for everything. I’m sure someone out there could get to know one of those people and find their life-long partner, and that’s perfectly okay.) Still, there are also exceptions. I’ve seen some artists who draw porn but they don’t let their egos get mixed up in it (as much), and I respect those way more because they’re just more human to me. And I’m glad because otherwise that would’ve probably made me a total hypocrite, grabbing my dick with one hand and pointing and judging people with the other…
... Anyway, now that I made my point of view awfully, almost tangibly clear, I would like to hear yours. Hopefully it’s different from mine because I’d like to learn something new from this.
I await curiously for your reply.
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Dear Uncle Tuper,
Sex and the fandom is a huge topic, and it is one I discuss in my book. It is difficult in a column to cover all the bases, but here's the gist of my take on furporn: Mundanes focus on this aspect on the fandom because they themselves do not have healthy attitudes about sex or they are incredibly inhibited about it (religious and other societal pressures cause this). They are uncomfortable with the idea of a fantasy-related fandom, and so, in seeking a way to reject it because it is "not normal," they zero in on what they feel is its unsavory aspect (furporn), and stereotype furries as sex addicts and zoophiles in order to reject and shame them.
Why, then, do furries get into the porn aspect? There are a lot of reasons, and none of them have to do with zoophilia. Furporn is just one form of many types of sexual fantasies that people have. You can go on the Internet and find all kinds of fantasy porn out there, some of it is much more strange than anthro sex. Okay, so, why specifically fantasies about anthros? Gosh, there is a laundry list. For one thing, various anatomical features of animals could turn people on, such as the soft fur of a feline or the genital girth of a horse or the fact that an elephant can play with you with its trunk. There are also fantasies such as vore, which has to do with the submission fantasy or even the fantasy of the return to the womb (very Freudian). There is, too, the animalistic nature of it all--wild and passionate sex without inhibition. Also, assuming a fursona in sexual roleplay is a form of self-defense against sexual shame ("It isn't ME doing this, it's my fursona.") Why so much furporn out there? Why do so many people commission artists to draw porn? Well, one reason might be that the fandom demographics skew toward the young range, and, let's face it, young people have "raging hormones" and tend to be horny. Hence, porn. If it weren't furporn, it would be something else X-rated (Star Wars porn, cartoon porn, whatev).
I have no problem with furporn (in fact, I'm a fan LOL). It is not inherently "bad" or "good." Sexual fantasies are only "bad" if they become addictions (i.e., you become so obsessed with porn that it interferes with your daily functions in the world) or if they become violent or hurtful to others in any way (i.e., acting out fantasies for any kind of non-consensual sex). Outside of these two conditions, furporn and sexual fantasies about furries can actually be a healthy and normal thing. Sexual fantasies can assist people in exploring their sexual identities, likes and dislikes, and add a bit of zing to a relationship you might already be in.
What mundanes need to get over is focusing on this one aspect of the fandom. The furry fandom offers a lot more than just some X-rated art. If you focus only on porn, you are missing out on a lot.
So, when it comes to you, personally, I would suggest you explore a bit further what exactly you like about Flamedramon, and this can teach you a bit about yourself. As for online relationships, you should always be cautious about these and make sure you don't let in a predator or other jerk. Such people eventually make themselves known, so you will figure out whether "sexy animal guy" is a jerk or not. If he is, dump him and move on. There are lots of furries out there who are very cool people.
Don't beat yourself up for having sexual feelings or that these feelings range into the world of fantasy. There is nothing wrong with you. Just remember to be kind to other people and avoid trolls along the way.
Hope that eases your mind.
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.