I stumbled on this website while searching for clarity. I have a 14 year old son who I discovered identifies himself as a Furry. I am not going to lie—it worries me. And I am big enough to admit it is because I can't wrap my head around it.
His father and I are divorced, it has been rough on the kid. So I get the fantasy, the escapism, the role playing side of this. I can understand that. I have found anime furry porn, so it is the possible sexual side that is concerning for me. He isn't a very confident kid, he struggles to fit in, always has. He does have friends and a social life—but what scares the hell out of me is his lack of confidence leading to him being taken advantage of—I am not trying to be disrespectful, I am trying to understand so I can support and protect my kid. I honestly don't care about sexual orientation, I just want to understand this so I don't freak out on him or shame him in any way. I love him dearly and want to be able to parent him without ignorance or being judgmental—I lack the knowledge.
Anonymous (Roanoke VA)
* * *
Thank you so much for your letter! I wish more parents were like you and, instead of blindly telling their children they cannot be furries, carefully investigated the issue as you are doing. You are clearly, also, a kind and loving parent. Bless you for that.
I’m currently working on a book all about the fandom, but it won’t be out until December at the earliest, so let’s try to address this as best as possible right here.
Just very quickly, the furry fandom began in the early 1980s when a bunch of science fiction and fantasy fans started meeting at sci-fi conventions to share their mutual interest in books and movies that featured anthropomorphic animal characters (in other words, a subgenre of science fiction). But the story is even older than that. There is a long history of fiction and fables featuring characters who are a mix of animal and human going back to Greek and Roman mythology. Such stories started because of human beings’ desire to connect to the natural world. In many mythologies there was a time when human beings could communicate with animals and were friends with them (the story of Adam in the Garden of Eden would be the Christian example), but we—largely through our own fault—lost that connection. Today, that feeling of loss and disconnectedness in our civilized world where most kids only see wild beasts in a zoo is very tangible. So, I believe that one reason there are furries is because we want to regain that connection.
Another reason is fantasy, of course. A lot of people admire the qualities of animals and wish they had them. For example, having the strength of a lion or to be able to fly like an eagle. Have you ever read the story “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” by James Thurber? (They turned it into a horrible Ben Stiller film). It’s wish fulfillment. Some wish fulfillment can be purely escapist, but often it is an exercise of the imagination, and imagination is actually a good thing to encourage.
The other thing about the furry fandom is that it is a community. Indeed, that is probably the most important aspect of it. I am attaching, FYI, a scholarly paper discussing the importance of community and how the furry fandom provides that for many young (and old) people [Papa note: unfortunately, can't attach the paper here on this site]. Also, here is a link to a (long) video these authors presented at a convention that you can watch online https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6zYWmvHnZQ.
Now, when it comes to pornography. I am sure you understand the hazards of the Internet and that furry pornography (furporn) is just one of many types of porn (regular human porn far outweighs the amount of furporn). Sadly, to view this material online, you don’t need to prove your age. My first suggestion to you, therefore, is that you install parental controls onto your child’s computer. At age 14 he should not be viewing such material, I know you’ll agree. Indeed, this isn’t just about porn; there are many other dangers out there on the Internet, ranging from stalkers to gambling sites to sites that will install malware and destroy your computer and more. Really, a parent needs to supervise what a minor is accessing (and you can explain this to him as being about safety in general). Another thing you can do is put his computer in the living room or kitchen and not allow him to have his computer in his bedroom. You have a right as a parent—indeed, an obligation—to know what he is doing online.
The best way to avoid resentment on his part regarding the computer is to take an active interest in his furriness, and be supportive. Go to a furmeet with him, or a furry convention. He will probably adore you if you take him to a furcon. There, you will witness firsthand that furries are very benign and accepting and loving people. They will LOVE it when they find out you are a parent taking your 14-year-old to the convention (and don’t be surprised if you get hugs from people you never met! We’re very huggy).
I am emphasizing here, perhaps a bit ironically given the subject, that the REAL world is very different from the online world. This is true, whether you are a furry or, as we call you, a mundane. You realize the distinction between what is online and what is in the real world, I should hope, so please do not judge furries solely by what you see online. Meet them in person.
You’re in Virginia, so you could attend Fur the 'More, which is in Tysons Corner, VA, near Washington, D.C., and I just found out there is a new furry convention at Virginia Beach, starting next year, called Fursonacon (http://www.fursonacon.com/) that you should check out. For a more extensive list of furry conventions, go here https://en.wikifur.com/wiki/List_of_conventions_by_attendance. That link comes from a website called Wikifur, which I recommend to you as a legitimate source of furry information without all the hype you’ll get from nonfurry websites.
As you become more and more familiar with furries, you will see that a definition of furriness is no simple thing. We are a very diverse group, and this diverse group is very accepting of other people from all walks of life: different races, ages, religions, political beliefs, and so on. The mistake most people make is trying to categorize us, label us neatly, put us in a little box. It can’t be done. Your son can be anything he wants to be in the furry community, and, I believe, a very important symbol of that diversity is how furries adopt different animal species (or even mix of species) as their fursonas (furry personas or alter egos) and you are accepted, whether you are a wolf, a tiger, a bear, a hawk, or even a dragon!
I hope this has helped with an introduction to the fandom. Please check out the links I gave you and continue to educate yourself about your son’s interest. The best parent is the parent who loves a child unconditionally, sharing in his or her life. Be involved, not controlling; there is a huge difference. I sympathize with you that it is a very tough job raising a person (remember, you are not raising a child, you are raising a human being) when you have been divorced, and I applaud you for your efforts!
Your son is very lucky to have you in his life. Please write again if you have any other questions.
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.