In a recent letter to the “Ask Papabear” column, a reader named Jack asked for my input on his attraction to monsters. Being a furry myself and having a column intended for furries and the furry curious, I naturally thought he was talking about furry critters, so my response was geared toward that interest.
Not long after posting, however, a reader named Tristan contacted me and set me straight. Jack wasn’t a furry; he was a “Monster Lover.” Now, I didn’t know this before, but there is a difference between the two. A Monster Lover can be furry, but not all of them are. Thus, I was introduced to a new community of which I was heretofore unaware.
Tristan reacted to the fact that I used a psychological term—teratophile—to describe what Jack was experiencing. The thing about this term is that it refers to people who can either be attracted to a monster (e.g., a dragon or werewolf) or to humans with severe physical deformities (you’ll see more on this below).
I contacted Tristan and asked hime to educate me about Monster Lovers. Here is my (edited and cleaned up) interview with him.
Papabear: Hi, Tristan! Here’s my first question: in your comments you seem to indicate there is a community of monster lovers? Like, are there chat groups or something of people who share this interest?
Tristan: There is! I'm in a few groups here, and there are a good number more of them that aren't as much my interest. But the community is diverse. Like in the furry world, I'm not hugely socially active, so I’m not in the Discords that I know of. But I’ll add to forum discussion now and then. These groups are very age-aware and restricted because sometimes its not SFW content.
Papabear: Fascinating. So, this is like a fandom separate from furries?
Tristan: Very much so. That's actually a group rule in most places. No Furry Content. Furries being anthro creatures. Some straddle the line, like werecreatures. But overall, they aren’t seen as furry because of presentation.
Papabear: Do the people in these groups call themselves something? Like anthro lovers call themselves furries, so do monster lovers have a name?
Tristan: Not that I know of as a general thing. Overall, we joke about just being degenerates because people view monster lovers as weirdos. The communities share a lot of overlaps in things like that. I just say I love monsters. Some say "monster fucker" for the shock value. But that's more Harkness Test, too. [Note to readers: the Harkness Test refers to Dr. Jack Harkness, a fictional character from Doctor Who, who set up standards for having sexual relations with alien monsters; basically, they had to have human or above intelligence and the sex had to be consensual—no bestiality]. Exophile works well. As it was mentioned overall the community is very aware of appropriation of cultures (i.e. we do not talk about Sk*nwalkers or Wend*go to respect Native Nations.) Teratophilia leaves a lot of sour notes because we don't do human deformities/disabilities. Collectively, they're trying to divorce from the term as a community.
Papabear: Ok, don’t laugh at this question, but I’m guessing you don't have conventions.
Tristan: No questions are laughable! Learning is good! If there are conventions, I don’t know them. But it’d be hard to organize one, I think. The content is so very broad. It folds into a lot of places. Also, it could be easy to abuse in some respects. My circles are very firm in cutting out any Zoophiles/Pedophile behaviors/non-con and non-Harkness.
Papabear: I actually thought it was odd the APA [American Psychological Association] defines teratophilia as attraction to BOTH deformed humans and monsters as these are very different things.
Tristan: Language-wise, it made sense for the time period. People with disabilities and deformities were seen as being monsters, not people. Made freak shows thrive.
Papabear: I agree psychologists should have a different term to attraction to deformities. So, next question: how do you define "monster"? I mean, some people might consider furries monsters, ya know? So, what is a "MONSTER"? Frankenstein? Godziilla? Cthulthu? Gremlins? Trolls? Donald Trump?
Tristan: Oof. Trump is a whole other monster there. But he's human. All large monsters are creatures of generally nonhuman form. Though it's rife with grey areas. Vampires and trolls/orcs, for instance, are under the monster category, while elves/dwarves, gnomes, and such are classed as fae or "monster lite." They attract people, but you never call them monsters, overall. Ghosts and aliens also strike a grey area. People simp real hard for Kaiju like Godzilla. Cryptids are considered monsters. Various SCPs [refers to a survivor horror game that has lots of monsters in it] are accepted. Werecritters.
It boils down to personal view/share. There’s a group dedicated to gods of various regions and from shows. There's a group for robots. A group specifically for dragons (which I left because of the admin supports noncon and Harkness failing.) They're branded under the same umbrella.
What separates Furries from Monster Lovers is their presentation. I don’t have a monster fursona; wouldn't want one. I adore them, but don't want to be a monster. I do have and enjoy having fursonas though! I see it as being a cute, fat opposum doing my normal life things. Monsters rarely fit into society and break the norms. Furries can be monster folks. I've seen such cool designs! The ones with skull faces and such. But monsters don't work in reverse as easily.
CLOWNS. I hate clowns, but because it’s a common phobia, a lot of monsterfolk love them.
Papabear: Oh, I HATE CLOWNS, TOO, LOL! So, people in these groups are attracted to monsters but don't want to BE monsters and don't create monstersonas.
Tristan: Correct. I always gotta scroll quick when the one artist shares her clowns. Great artist but oof, no thanks.
Papabear: Okay. Now, you said something else interesting in your comment to my column. In the column, I stated that the sexual fantasies have the monster as dom, but you said it can go both ways?
Tristan: Very much! In a lot of the discussions we have, people just desire cute, everyday, balanced relationships with scary, could-kill-you monsters. Not taming them, but just existence in a safe way. I’d be happy if I had a dragon partner. Not that we'd be able to be involved physically because of size differences, which isn't my feelings anyway. But daydreaming about the domestic things is just so very nice. Not to say it doesn't have "damn, wish that monster would pin me to the wall" feelings. Because it sure does! But it's not the predominant behavior. It's split really evenly with wanting to be stronger and dom over monsters. Those discussions always get weird because of puzzling out logistics of how to dom a monster. But they're very lively talks. Sometimes a bit too descriptive for my taste. I’d say, in terms of BDSM related to monster lovers, its 40% Wholesome, ~35% dom by monster, ~25% dom the monster. But that's the communities I'm frequent to, so it’s subject to scrutiny.
Papabear: Ah! So, it isn't JUST a sexual thing but can also be romantic?!
Tristan: Yes! That’s what I mean. A lot of monster lover folks are on the Aro/Ace spectrum and don't actually want the sexual aspects. (But, gods, do we joke like we do.)
Papabear: Ok, so, the attraction is for a partner who is wild, untamed....?
Tristan: Hmm. Not necessarily. Just, dangerous, is often attractive. Wild things can be attractive. But so is haughty society. As I said, for the community, the Harkness test is important. It should be for Furries, too. Though I didn't know the name for it originally. We do fight and remove people who think the Harkness test is guidelines and not actually rules.
Papabear: I'm sorry, I sort of know what the Harkness test is, but what do you mean it is a rule? Do you mean you can't be in the group without being sexually attracted to monsters?
Tristan: Yes! Harkness rules are: Is this creature of human or higher intelligence? Is this creature mature for its species (not by human ages, but by their lives)? Can it communicate AND understand consent with you? If any of the answers is “No,” then you do not desire that monster. These are hard lines you do not cross because it makes you a pedo, zoophile, or rapey. Pokémon are a good example of disagreement. We don't share Pokémon that AREN'T anthros/gejikas because they are considered animals. Even though they're shown to be intelligent and are able to communicate with us. You cannot give a proper age for them as Pokémon because of their animal status. You only know what a baby is because it hatched. For sake of clarity, the groups require humanized Pokémon, but there are many that may disagree.
Papabear: My understanding of Pokémon is that they are smarter than many animals but not human-level smart, although that Pikachu movie made him seem human smart. I'm not much of a Pokémon fan myself.
Tristan: And that's why there's a hard line! People can't truly agree about the intelligence or ages of Pokémon. So it’s one case where anthro is important.
Papabear: Fascinating. This has been extremely educational, thank you. Oh, and one more question: could you describe the composition of Monster Lovers in terms of fans? What is the mix of males and females, different ages, education, etc.? As you know, the furry fandom skews to young white males, although it is diversifying.
Tristan: Lot of male/masc presence, but a lot of vocal female/femme and nonbinary sharing. Nonbinary masc presenting is also VERY common. Age range is tricky, since the Facebook groups do not allow under 18, but a good deal of us seem to be mid-20s and up. From what I see, looks like we have folks in their 40s who are vocal, too. I'm 33 myself. Nonbinary. We have a lot of parents and married/partnered folks in my groups as well. Overall, very Rainbow Party, though. Most people are some flavor of LGBT and nonconforming. Its great when I see folks talk about supportive partners. It makes me happy to relate.
Education. As I hazard by the groups I'm in, standard is high school grad or equivalent. A lot of the personal art shared (I’d say upward of 75% of group photo/art content) is from college students. A lot of us are working adults in various job details. It really reaches. Have blue-collar and white-collar folks. Got kitchen dogs like me. I'm a college drop out due to an abusive relationship at the time. (Thriving and safe now with a supportive spouse.)
Papabear: Can you list a couple of monster lover groups that you would recommend so if people reading this interview would like to look them up and maybe join in?
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