Dear Papa Bear,
I'm a relatively new hat in the furry fandom by which I guess I mean to say I still find it odd to be a furry. I sort of joined the fandom because a friend of mine joined. Ever since joining I haven't really had any desire to wear fursuits. I really love my spotted hyena fursona Harleen though and I've met so many good people I get on well with in the fandom so I don't want to just quit because I moved away from my furry friends. The furries in my area (or at least the ones who attend meets) are a bit well ... odd and a bit snobbish so I don't really have furries to hang with in my area.
I suppose the reason I feel so uncomfortable in the fandom is because of the notorious oversexualizing, the constant pornography and glorification of things such as rape and other questionable fetishes I see in the fandom, especially on sites such as FurAffinity where many of my friends are. I would love to attend cons but constant horror stories have kept me away. Is it possible to enjoy the fandom without having to fursuit and having to deal with the overall well ... strange side of it? You seem to have been to many cons before, what was your experience with them?
I really hope this question doesn't offend I suppose I was just hoping to hear an opinion from someone who's been in the fandom for a while.
I really appreciate your time and hope you are having a lovely day!
Harleen (age 23)
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There are really several questions in your letter, but let’s tackle them as efficiently as possible, tackling them from easy to more complex.
The easiest is fursuits. No, you do not need a fursuit to be a furry. You don’t even need a fursona, if you don’t want one (though, in your case, you do). The only real “requirement” for being a furry is that you enjoy stories that include or feature anthropomorphized animal characters. That’s a very broad definition, and therefore includes a diverse range of people from fans of novels that non-furries love too (e.g. C.J. Cherryh’s Chanur books or Richard Adams’ Watership Down) to followers of My Little Pony, and from innocent tales starring Winnie-the-Pooh or other Disney characters to the most lascivious furporn on the Internet and everything in between.
I really cringed when you said that furries glorify rape, but I am not offended by your query, for the record. I hear this stuff a lot from people new to the fandom. I don’t think what you said is true at all, however, nor do furries glorify pedophilia or zoophilia. Anyone who promotes that stuff already had a preference for it before they joined the fandom, in my opinion. Saying otherwise would be like saying the fandom makes people turn gay. The gay people in the fandom were already gay when they discovered furries. Same with people who enjoy porn. If there were no furry fandom, such people would be looking at other types of porn.
The furry fandom is what you make of it. If you wish to look at furporn and have fursuit sex, well, there are certainly ways you can do that in the fandom. If you wish not to, then don’t. There are many amazing people in the fandom who are super examples of the latter. Three who come immediately to my mind are Dogbomb http://en.wikifur.com/wiki/Dogbomb, Tycho Aussie http://en.wikifur.com/wiki/Tycho and Brownee Bear, the last two of whom are on my Pal’s list http://www.askpapabear.com/papabear-pals.html. These furries do things like perform at zoos and at children’s charities, making people smile and laugh and doing wonderful things.
There are also many fine furry authors and artists that are suitable for all audiences: Albedo, really the furry anthology sci-fi series that helped start the modern fandom, Havoc, Inc., Ebin & May, and an online comic I’m getting into called Pride of Life. You can explore a lot of these on your own by going to a site such as Rabbit Valley and searching on titles for general audiences.
That said, let’s talk about furcons. As you’ve surmised, I’ve been to several, including Further Confusion, Califur, Midwest Furfest, Further Convention North (now replaced by Motor City Furcon), and Arizona Furcon. Next spring I am planning to go to Biggest Little Furcon in Reno for the first time. I’ve heard good things about it and am looking forward to the visit. I don’t know what you have heard about furcons, but I assure you they are very safe places to be. The organizers are very cognizant of the fact that they have many underage attendees. Most larger furcons consist of a number of scheduled forums on various topics, a stage show or two, a game room, a movie room, a fursuit parade, a dealer’s den and artists’ gallery and, often, auction, and they often support an animal charity. If you’re hearing “horror stories” about rampant sex, the only sex that would be going on would be in private hotel rooms, and the only way that you will come across that if you go to a furcon is if either you host a sexual encounter in your room or you are invited to somebody’s room for sex, which, by the way, is true of pretty much any adult convention there is, whether it is a convention for car salesmen or radio broadcasters or university professors. I’ve heard stories about each type of convention that would make Bacchus blush. In short, the only way you’re going to have sex at a furcon is if you arrange for it, so don’t blame the furcon.
As for socializing, I’m sorry you find the furries in your new home area to be snobbish. I’m not sure what that really refers to (are we talking rich snobs or furry elitists?), but I’m sure not all furries in your area are like that. The ones in the particular group might be that way because the person leading the group attracts a certain type of crowd, so that means the furries who are nicer just don’t hang with that group and it will be a bit more work to find the ones you like. What I would suggest is you join sites like Furry4Life.org and start putting the word out that you’re looking for furries in your area.
It’s nice that your friend introduced you to the fandom and that you have enjoyed some aspects of it, including creating your Harleen fursona. Just as with the creation of that fursona, you are the one in control of your experience in the fandom. There is no pressure to fursuit or do anything you don’t wish to do; do the things you enjoy; look for people who share your interests, and hang out with them. Go to a furcon! They are a blast, especially if you have friends to go with you. And don’t just ingest what others put out there; create some furry stuff of your own, if you like, whether that is writing a story, drawing something, doing some crafts, whatever floats your boat.
I hope that helps ease your mind.