Letters to this column have been on the decline, most likely because I can't afford much advertising right now, but the majority of the letters I do get have been from kids who all ask, in various ways, the same question: "I'm a furry and am afraid to tell my parents/friends/family." I don't post such letters and my responses because it's repetitive and doesn't add to the column. Past columns regarding "coming out furry" can be found here.
When I first started writing this column, my position on young furries (under 16) joining in the fandom was very different from what it is today. Back then, I basically encouraged kids to be furry, telling them a number of ways to broach the subject with their family and try to get them on board, or, if their family still didn't support their furriness, that they should still be furry but keep it quiet until they were adults and could make their own choices.
While I did stress to such letter writers that the furry fandom was conceived as a social group for adults and not children and that they should be careful where they go online, I still saw the fandom as an exercise in creative imagination that is important for children and that could be healthy for them, so, I erred on the side of saying they should be secret furries. That was wrong of me.
That was 10 years ago. Even then, there were dangers in the fandom for children, but these days I feel it is a much more sketchy world. In allowing their children to be furries, parents need to make one of two choices: either allow them to participate while being supervised continuously (monitor their internet and phone behavior and go with them to furcons or furmeets) or tell their kids that this is an adult fandom not intended for children and they will not allow their kids to participate any more than they would allow their kids to watch porn sites (parents need to give a clear explanation and not just say, "Because I told you not to.")
Parents, I must stress, not only have the right but also the responsibility to supervise and protect their children. Good parents stay involved in their kids' lives. But this means more than just saying "yes" or "no" to their children. Communication and involvement are essential.
Parents, if your kids want to be furry and they are, say, 10 or 12 years old, you should know that they aren't looking for sex and porn. Many of your kids write to me and emphasize that they know there is X-rated stuff online but that they just want to have a fursona and a fursuit. They are enamored by anthropomorphic animals. You need to understand that watching cartoons or movies like Turning Red sparks their imaginations and feelings of playfulness. Wanting to dress up as a fox or Husky is just creative play, not anything evil, anti-Christian, or nefarious.
So, if you wish to ban your children from the fandom, that is understandable. But, at the same time, you should also come to understand their interest in anthro characters. Play with your kids. Maybe even help them make a costume (fursuit), read them classic anthro stories such as The Wind in the Willows or Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH or Redwall and share with them their explorations into stories and fiction. This is healthy, believe it or not, and not enough parents do it.
Kids, if you are underage, Papabear understands you aren't into the fandom because of porn. You just want to play pretend. I get it. But you need to understand that the online community can be dangerous. You might think you know, but you don't. Even adult furries can face attacks by some quite nasty furs on the internet. While most furries are good people, if you aren't prepared for what might happen, you could become a victim of pedophiles or worse. The furry fandom can be a wonderful place--and it usually is (it's not about furporn, which, while it is out there, is not the purpose of the fandom at all)--but you need to be careful.
While working with Tim Stoddard on his upcoming book, Furtannia, I learned that in England the furries do not permit minors to attend furcons and meets. In fact, the idea of allowing kids into such functions is bizarre to them. In America, where we have become very permissive of people's desires and privileges, we have perhaps gone too far and no longer recognize that not all things are for children.
The bottom line is this: The Furry Fandom is an adult fandom that looks like it is for children, and that can be a potentially dangerous combination for you cubs out there. Papabear does not recommend an active involvement in the fandom--especially online--for anyone under the age of 16 without parental supervision.
But this doesn't mean you cubs can't do furry stuff. After all, the main reason we older furries love the fandom so much is to share our interest in movies, TV shows, novels, and comic books with anthropomorphic characters. You can still do that. And you can write stories and maybe make your own fursuit, too.
Parents, stop stressing about whether or not your kids are getting A's and are going to integrate into "normal society." Imagination and creativity should be encouraged and not suppressed. Don't call your kids "weird" or worse because of their interest in furries. They're just trying to be playful. You should try to remember, perhaps, what play is and how healthy it is for mind, heart, and soul.
Above all else, parents and their kids need to talk to one another. Parents, don't just "lay down the law" and forbid them from being furry; kids, don't try to hide your furriness and be sneaky with your phone and online behavior because, believe me, your parents will find out and then you will damage their trust in you.
Being furry can have many benefits for children. For example, parents, did you know that being a furry can help kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder? It's true! Watch this video for more.
Even more, being in the furry fandom can foster skills such as drawing, writing, sartorial skills (sewing is a valuable skill!), and even computer programming and the digital arts. On a less technical side, being furry often is a side effect of a person's love of animals and nature. These days, kids can feel very distanced from Nature, and caring about domestic animals and wildlife can be good for them. So, there can be many academic and social benefits.
As with anything in the modern world, being a furry can be complicated. There are both good and (some) bad things about it. As kids, you need to be aware of the dangers; as parents, you have the right to protect your kids, but don't be lazy about it by just saying "No." Get more involved in your children's lives. Find out why they like furries. Ask questions. And let them be kids. Being a parent is hard, no question, but it can be much more rewarding if you connect to your kids rather than just regulating their lives.
Questions? Feel free to write me and I am happy to answer anything you would like to ask!
I am new to the furry/fursuiting community and have suddenly risen to popularity in a little over a month. It has been a great opportunity and has really made my life amazing. My only worry is not knowing what to do with it all. I worry that I soon will be labeled as a popufur and not be seen as the person I am but instead for my fame and name. I don't want that. I just was a simple person like the rest of all of you. What do you think I should do? It's impossible for me to talk to all of my fans, but I also don't want them to feel ignored and used. Thank you for the time.
* * *
Interesting question, and thank you for posing it. To address this issue properly, one must first define what a "popufur" is. If you ask 50 furries what a popufur is, you will likely get 50 different answers. Like most things in the furry fandom, crystalline definitions are nowhere to be found. Heck, furries can't even define "furry" to everyone's satisfaction.
So, let's just go by Papabear's definition: to be a popufur, it is not enough just to be popular and have a large following; you must also be full of yourself, crave attention, behave in ways that are designed to attract attention, get angry when you don't get that attention, and, basically, be a furry for the reason that you are obsessed with being validated. This, as you might imagine, makes for a rather unpleasant personality. Popufurs are in the fandom because they discovered a subculture that, unlike in the mainstream, gives them attention and validation, and not so much because they love the anthropomorphic arts in their own right. In other words, they tend to be narcissists.
If the above does not describe who you are, then--at least, to this bear's mind--you are not behaving like a popufur. So, the question might next be: Why are you suddenly so popular? My guess is that you have either made or purchased a pawsome fursuit and that you are a good fursuit performer (since you mentioned fursuiting specifically and not, say, being an artist). This likely means that furries glom onto you for the very superficial reason that they like your fursuit. If, therefore, you wish to take a little attention off yourself, take the fursuit off and attend furmeets and furcons sans suit for a while. You can then more easily gauge how much people like you for you.
This is not to say you should quit fursuiting. I mean, I love fursuiting myself because I think it's wonderful how it breaks down barriers and people like to give me hugs and pose for pictures, which are things they would never do if I am just strolling through a hotel as myself. Fursuiting is great fun, so don't quit. What I do recommend for you, though, is that you spend more time exploring other aspects of the fandom, such as literature and gaming and movies. Diversify.
Meanwhile, when you DO fursuit, don't let it go to your head that furries give you so many compliments. Just thank them kindly and go on with your life. Don't try to "brand" yourself, don't strive to increase your following, don't be a media whore (forgive my French). Just be your fuzzy self and enjoy. Be gracious, be kind, be humble.
Hope that helps.
Dear Papa Bear,
I just turned 23 on July 27th! Here's my question: I'm not a huge fan of Iron Maiden, but being a Christian, I decided to do some research and I found out that not only is their drummer a Christian (for real!), but their song "Rime Of The Ancient Mariner" is a Christian song ... allegorical it may be! So, since I enjoy a variety of music, how do you know which rock/metal - or other genres - bands to listen to and which ones are just plain trashy like Slipknot?
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If you mean how do you tell by the lyrics, then the simplest thing to do is go to a website that posts music lyrics, the most obvious one being lyrics.com. Sometimes, it can be hard to tell just by lyrics, though, especially when you get some very poetic or symbolic or abstruse or, as in the case you cite, allegorical lyrics that are difficult to understand. Often, lyrics are very personal to the artist, self-referential, and hard to get unless you know the artist well.
If you're truly concerned as to whether a song is "Christian" enough for you, there are plenty of Christian rock bands you can listen to, as well as plain ol' church music. GodTube.com lists what it considers the 20 best Christian rock bands here.
As for mainstream rock, pop, and other genres, my thought is that you shouldn't worry about it. Just listen to what you enjoy. If you are a Christian in your heart, accidentally listening to some "bad" music is not going to make you turn Satanic. Music is to be enjoyed, not analyzed.
I began dabbling in the furry fandom when I was 19, and in college (early 2014ish). I went to a small college, and I didn't know a whole lot of furries (though I did know a lot of bronies), so I hung around with other furries on the internet. I have never been to a convention, though I've always wanted to go, but didn't have the money, the opportunity, nor my parents's approval. I have never owned a fursuit (the closest thing to one I owned was a Kigurumi until I donated it due to my parents continuously mocking me over it). Then, I got a really nice engineering job in Jacksonville. I thought I was set, and could participate in conventions, meet actual furries in real life, not just behind a screen, maybe acquire a fursuit. But due to the sensitivity of the job, I had to undergo an extensive, and highly intrusive "background investigation" (i.e. list every social media post, alias or "identity" I have ever held, credit card history, list people I was close with, etc.). I panicked. I wasn't sure if my association with the furry fandom, let alone having a secret fursona, was going to be a liability, or even prevent me from holding the job. In a frenzy, I shut down every furry/fursona-related account I had and disappeared off the internet, I didn't even tell anyone why.
Many years have passed, and I managed to make normal friends IRL (still single though). And to this day, no one in my current circle of friends knows about my past furry life. Making it more complicated is the fact that most of the people I know have a very net-negative view of furries (one of them even jokes about how he used to bully furries on 4Chan). But that is a separate issue. I want to meet people who share my interest in furry stuff. And now that the social stigma around furries has (sort-of) lightened, and become more mainstream, I figured I want to get back into it.
Over the past few months, I started to contemplate jumping back in to the fandom, and find people who actually share my hobbies and enthusiasm, but it has been years. Everyone I knew before online has run off. Most of the furry groups in this state are now defunct, save for Megaplex and maybe Gainesville Furs. And most of the surviving groups seem to be geared towards much, much younger (just barely out of high-school) furries. I want to create a new local-ish group to meet, but I'm afraid no one in the fandom even knows me, and I have no clue what a good furry meet would even look like. Is there a way for me to start over, despite being out of it for so long and jumping in kind of late? Or has my time passed and I should just close the door?
Tactical Furball (age 27),
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Dear Tactical Furball,
The past is the past and is, often, best left there. My advice to you would be to start anew as if you had never before dabbled in the fandom. You don't have to change your fursona name if you don't want to, but just start creating accounts on various social media and gaming (if you like) sites, reintroduce yourself and have fun. If someone recognizes you from the past, simply explain what happened and that you are coming back to the fandom. Most furries will understand the circumstances that led to your earlier decision to leave and will be glad you returned.
As for furmeets and running them, they can be whatever you like them to be. I would suggest setting up a page on MeetUp.com and see if you can attract some interest there. Meetups can be anything from movie or game night at your place to bowling or bar meets (for the older furs), going to parks or beaches or the lake or camping. Whatever you wish.
If you like, I invite you to join my Facebook Greymuzzle group. Over 2,000 greymuzzles there, and I'm sure you'll meet some in your state if not more locally. (Remember to answer the questions to join or you won't be allowed into this closed group).
Finally, as for your coworkers and nonfurry friends, that goes on a case-by-case basis. You should know your friends well enough to figure out which ones are cool and which ones (like that guy who torments furries online--you should dump him) are not. Tell the ones who are cool and don't tell the ones who are butt munches.
I've been talking to this guy, and he's really sweet. I'll call him Jay. We've been chatting online every day, and we plan to meet each other at MFF later this year. He seems like he genuinely cares about me, and I care about him.
I'm a freelance furry artist, and I have a day job working retail. My life isn't glamorous, but I make enough to support myself and do some fun things here and there. He's a civil engineer and can afford to travel across the country to furry cons multiple times a year. This wealth discrepancy between us has unearthed some old feelings within myself I thought I was starting to overcome.
I've struggled with depression and anxiety for most of my life, and for a while I felt like a worthless loser, regardless of how good I'm actually doing in life. Authority figures in my life told me I would never make it as an artist. Consciously, I know they're wrong, but I still can't help but remind myself of their words from time to time. It's not that I envy Jay, either. I know I would be miserable working in a field like that. I guess my problem is that I feel out of his league in that regard. I don't feel good enough for him, even though he's never talked down to me. I worry that if we did get into a serious relationship, I wouldn't be able to pull my weight financially, and I would feel like I'm just taking advantage of him. I value my independence, and I don't want to feel like a parasite.
It's no secret people in STEM tend to look down on people who work in creative fields. Not all of them do, obviously, but if you spend time in those circles, you'll come across it from time to time. Jay has never said anything like that to me, but I live in fear he might secretly feel that way.
Again, I consciously know I'm overthinking a good situation. But these old feelings of inadequacy are coming back to haunt me.
Is it better to just not? Should I nip this relationship in the bud, or should I just go ahead anyway despite my insecurities?
Thank you for your time.
* * *
Thank you for your poignant letter that, I am certain, speaks to many of my readers.
I will start by saying what you likely already know: A person should not be judged by the contents of their wallet or purse but by the content of their heart.
We live in a world--especially in America--that values money and beauty over heart and character. That is sad. And, I know, it is easy for me to speak in cliches, but I want you to know I do empathize with how you are feeling. I have been on both sides of this coin: Sometimes, I have been the one earning more than my partner, and other times I have earned less. For the most part, I have been the one doing the supporting, and I have taken great pride in that. The times when I earned less, well, you can give in to this sense that it is emasculating.
Right now in my life, I am earning less than my husband, Michael. This is largely because I am going through a transitional phase in which I am getting away from my freelance editorial work and starting my own business, which, currently, is not taking in any money. So, I have had to lean on Michael to handle a lot of the bills. A big reason this bothers me, I'll admit, is the stigma I often see in the gay community about a young(er) male who seeks out a sugar daddy to support them. Such people are often considered users who only glom onto their daddy bear in order to get their money. This is rather like the gold digger stigma some young women endure.
Of course, Michael totally understands why my income is currently low and is completely supportive of my starting a new business venture. That's because he's a great guy. That's why I married the big lug.
Here's my question to you: Do you consider yourself a good judge of character? In other words, do you think Jay is a good guy who likes you for you and not for how much money you earn or that you don't work a STEM job? If so, then give the man the benefit of a doubt that he is not going to be an elitist snot and dump you because you're an artist who works in retail. Those feelings of inadequacy are not coming from Jay; they're coming from society and your own insecurities.
Don't screw up what could be the love of your life because you don't think you're good enough. That is self-defeating.
Glomp onto Jay and allow yourself to love him. And, importantly, talk to him about your life and relationship, but don't say things like, "I think you might dump me because I don't earn much" (that would be insulting to him). Say things like, "I think we complement each other well--you're the engineer and I'm the artist--and I think we're good together and I care about you. How are you feeling about our us?" In other words, acknowledge your differences, but never ever do so in a way that might make him feel you are insecure or jealous of him. If Jay is a man of character, what he will want is a partner to share his life with, not someone who has a hefty bank account balance.
I hope things go well when you finally meet in person.
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?
Hey, there. My name is William and I had been lying about my age on my Twitter for about a couple of months. I came clean to my online friends who were 18+ artists just yesterday. A big reason I lied was due to how the fandom treats minors who are just trying to enjoy themselves. But I still felt icky and guilty doing it. I told it publicly. Some were hoping to see me when I was 18, but I hurt one of my biggest friends and supporters, and I don't know if I could come back after 4 years knowing what I have done to my most loyal followers. Do you have any advice?
* * *
To be frank, you have a lot of damage control in store for you. As you know, you violated people's trust, and it sounds like you did so for months (or years?) That ain't good.
There are several steps you need to take in order to try to repair this and move forward. Oh, and don't expect this to go quickly. You lied for a long time, and now it will take a long time to get back what you've lost.
1. Confess your lie not just once but two or more times--publicly.
2. Apologize profusely for what you did.
3. Explain why you did it, honestly, but also do not say that this is an excuse for lying.
4. Invite those you lied to to tell you how they feel about what you have done and read (or listen to) every word they say. Don't interrupt. Listen. Don't argue.
5. Make a promise and commitment to yourself and others that you will never ever repeat this mistake or lie again in any other way.
6. Do NOT indulge in creating a new fursona or other identity and then try to pretend you are not the same person because that is yet another lie, and, as a lie, it will eventually be discovered, and THEN you will have NO HOPE of recovering any legitimacy to your good character ever again. I've seen furries try to do this, and what happens is they end up on furry beware lists and become anathema to the community.
7. Learn from the comments you hear. Really listen to how you have affected others. Use this as an opportunity to grow as a person.
8. This step takes the longest: spend the next months and years being an honest furry, one whose word is as good as gold. You must rebuild your reputation not just with words but with actions. Be very patient because, as I said, it will take a loooooong time, but, eventually, people will begin to trust you again with enough evidence provided by you of your good character.
9. Accept that, no matter what you do, you will lose at least some of your friends. Not everyone will forgive you no matter what you do.
10. Finally, learn to forgive yourself. What you did does not necessarily mean you are a bad person, just that you have flaws. We all have flaws. The good news is that if we allow ourselves to acknowledge these flaws, we CAN change. I do not believe in the old saw that people don't change. They do; they can, if they are willing to put in the effort.
The good news? You're young. You have time to recover from this.
I had a bit of a weird / sexual question I wanted some affirmation on… So, I’m aroused by furry porn and porn of furry-like monsters. I feel really intense guilt about this. How do I get over it?
I didn’t used to feel bad at all about it, but when I look into the fanbase, I see people who are secretly into things like zoophilia, and it just makes me feel really guilty for being sexually attracted to furries. (Even though the amount of zoophiles are very low, it still really disturbs me.) Like, am I bad for being attracted to them? Is there some sort of psychological problem when I’m attracted to animal-like humans??
I struggle with OCD a lot, and my intrusive thoughts include a lot of what I’m worrying about… How would you recommended I cope with this guilt?
P.S. I see a therapist and I talk to her about my OCD … but the furry porn thing is really hard to bring up tbh. I feel so embarrassed about it.
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Thank you for your fascinating question. Let's step away from the zoophilia topic, since I don't think you are a zoophile, and talk about monster porn and attraction to monsters in a sexual fashion. In the world of psychology, this is called "teratophilia," a term that applies not only to monsters but also an attraction to deformed people. There is also something called "exophilia," which is having sexual fantasies about extraterrestrial sex. In this bear's opinion, the two are related closely enough to be basically the same thing, only differing on minor specifics.
In both cases, the fantasy tends to involve a powerful, alien creature that exhibits sexual prowess over the fantasizer (correct me if I am wrong, but I am guessing that in your fantasies, the monster is dominant over you; in alien dreams, it usual involves space beings performing "sex research" on human subjects). This dominance aspect of the fantasy, too, makes teratophilia related to such fetishes as S&M bondage, macrophilia, and vorarephilia. Bottom line of this is that the most common explanation for such a fantasy is that you desire to be dominated.
So, you ask, why don't you just fantasize about a dominant, muscular human? This is where feelings of guilt and shame come in. Sexual fantasies often disguise desires with symbolism, masks, and other obfuscating strategies. The "monster" is a symbol that is used to conceal your true desire for some form of forbidden sex with a real person. This, on the surface, might sound silly, I bet, because you're saying to yourself, "But I'm embarrassed about a dream involving sex with a monster! Why would that be better than a dream about sex with a hunky man?" Because you know, intellectually, that sex with a monster is impossible and, therefore, the dream fantasy is also impossible. Since the dream can never be a reality, it actually eases the moral tension you are feeling because you know you can never act out such a fantasy in real life and you will, consequently, never be "guilty" of the sin for which you yearn.
When psychologists talk about monster fantasies, they usually do it in terms of women having fantasies about monsters, but I feel this can apply to anyone with submissive tendencies, whether they are 100% submissive or only feel that way on occasion.
There might be some other underlying reasons for monster sex fantasies. Psychologists note that, in surveys, women who are more sexually open-minded respond that they have such fantasies more often than those who are conservative. Certainly, furries tend to be more open and willing to explore outside the boundaries of social standards in their sexuality, so--although I don't believe this has ever been tested--furries probably have monster fantasies more than normies. One might also, I suppose, characterize anthros as a type of "monster," though fursonas run the gamut of personalities from dom to sub to everything in between. I do, however, believe that furry sex fantasies also occur as a way of concealing feelings of guilt about sex in some--not all, by any means--cases.
To answer the question at the heart of your letter: no, you are not psychologically disturbed (and you are not a zoophile). Your brain is coming up with coping mechanisms to resolve your feelings of guilt about sex. The source of this guilt is, duh, society, which loves to impose guilt on us for being sexually open rather than repressed. The solution for you, my furiend, is to work on not feeling guilty about your sexual desires. As long as you aren't hurting anyone (and the sex is always consensual), you should pursue whatever sexual desires you wish.
Will this get rid of your monster fantasies? Well, if they are purely guilt-generated, it might. Or, it might loosen you up to create even more lurid monster dreams, but these will be dreams you enjoy rather than feel bad about.
Hope that helps! Sorry for my slow reply!
So, this is going to take a while to explain. I’m trans M2X and my parents are Christians. My dad is a LEAD PASTOR at a church that gets HUNDREDS of visitors each service. My mother knows that I was going by they/them pronouns for a while, and she went and had a chat with me. At the time, I thought I was also pansexual, so my mom now thinks I’m gay since she wouldn’t listen. I’m pretty sure I’m aroace now, though. I feel incredibly uncomfortable with getting called he/him pronouns. Some of my friends still use they/them pronouns, but Fred or whatever it was I called him previously and his sister (who I will now call Jo [fake name]) call me he/him. All of the people who know my mom call me he/him. Everyone except 3 people call me a boy.
I’m soon going to a private Christian middle school for the next two years (public school didn’t work out) where they split the kids into boy/girl groups every morning. I’m also not sure whether or not my dad knows. If my dad does know, he hasn’t acknowledged it, talked about it, or done anything about it. If he doesn’t, I really don’t want to be the one to tell him. He is incredibly protective of me, he banned all websites on my computer, so I have to ask for permission. I can’t watch YouTube, my phone doesn’t have the App Store or a web browser (I currently stole my sister’s phone, which has no restrictions at all.) He also monitors all my accounts, so I had to use my school account (it lets outside messages through, don’t worry) so that he wouldn’t track this.
I’m going to counseling, but the person I’m doing it with knows my mom in person, so I’m afraid to say too much. She also caught me off-guard at the start of counseling and asked if I thought I was trans, and I for some dumb reason blatantly lied and said no. I also would like to talk with her more about things like the fact that I think I might have social anxiety, be bipolar, etc., but she always will talk about that sort of thing for the last 10 minutes of the 45-minute sessions, and lately it’s only been about my sexuality (which I did share with her.) She is also Christian, I might add.
I really don’t know how to get my parents to accept me for who I am, and it’s getting very annoying.
Thanks for the advice,
Xyphon (age 12)
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There are many things going on here, but I will try and stay focused. To begin, at age 12 you are likely just starting puberty. This is a confusing time for anyone, which is grandly reflected in your letter. Here's the thing: you are not obligated to decide right here and now what your sexuality or gender identity are, and you shouldn't pressure yourself to try. For one thing, it's not like you're going to go on dates or have sex, so what does it matter? You yourself say you think you are aro-ace, and the reason for that is not that you actually are but because at 12 years old you should be asexual. You should not be thinking about sex yet, for Pete's sake!
A huge problem with American society is that we put so much pressure on children to decide who they are right now and where they are going to go for the next 50 years of their lives. No wonder Americans are so dang neurotic. You shouldn't be worried about what your job will be or what sex is going to be like or whether you'll marry or have children or live as a hermit in the Himalayas. And, for God's sake, you should not be going to a therapist. You're 12 friggin years old, dammit. You're not old enough to be traumatized (unless you've had a death in the family or were at a school shooting, of course).
Two words: RE. LAX.
Instead of getting all uptight on serious issues, you should be playing! You should be enjoying time with your friends at school, play soccer, play D&D, go camping, and at school, you should be learning about the wonders of the universe (sadly, American schools just make education about tests instead of learning, but do the best you can; sometimes, you might be lucky enough to have a teacher who actually knows how to instill a love of learning in their students).
When it comes to your parents, they are sadly making the same mistake many parents make: instead of spending time with their kids and monitoring what they do online, they just ban or restrict internet and phone use. This is not parenting; this is being a dictator. And the result of such a parental policy is predictable and already occurring: you're indulging in secretive behavior and doing what you were told not to do anyway. What next happens is that you will, eventually, be caught, and this will severely damage the trust between you and your mom and dad.
Instead of completely banning computer time (or just monitoring it after the fact), what should be done, at least as a first step, is to have family computing time. This is when, with you at the keyboard, you are allowed to explore the internet for school projects or even hobbies and socializing while your parents are there to see what you do. They don't have to be right there next to you, but they should be in the same room as the computer and be able to see the screen. You can start small with an hour of time a day and maybe add time later. One reason why this is important is that you are going to need to learn how to use computers, phones, and the Web in order to function in modern society, so their complete ban of such tech will be harmful to your education. But the other reason is that they need to learn to trust you at the same time you need to trust them that they are trying to protect you. Although you might be aware of the dangers in virtual reality, you don't really know how bad they can be until you actually go online and get exposed to them. There's a lot of bad stuff online, and your parents are not incorrect in their concern about your surfing behavior.
Talk to Mom and Dad. Explain that you will need to use computers in this life and tell them that you will agree to 100% adult supervision so you are able to surf freely but safely. Put the computer in the kitchen or living room or wherever you're parents hang out in plain view. Tell them you understand the internet can be dangerous and that you want them to supervise you and help you.
Pronouns. Okay. I guess I'm an old bear, but when I was in school, and then an office, and also in my house, people called me by my name, Kevin. They didn't say, "Hey, boy." They didn't refer to me in the third person. That's just weird. At school, when I was called on, the teacher was like, "Yes, Kevin. Can you solve the equation on the chalkboard?" When I'm at a party and people are chatting, I don't look at a guest and say in his face: "Does he want a beer?" I say, "Hey, Brian, ya wanna beer?" So, at school, just tell people to refer to you by your first name.
Pronouns will still sometimes come up, of course. Here's a trick you can do. Whenever you find yourself using a pronoun for other people, always use They/Them. Use it all the time. When people around you use male/female pronouns, repeat what they say and substitute they/them. For example, a classmate asks, referring to a student named John: "Do you think we should ask him to join the team?" Then you say, "Yes, I think THEY would like to join the team."
It's my belief that in the future we might stop using he/him/she/her and just use they/them. This is already happening in publishing, and professional grammarians have been converting to this philosophy of using They/Them as a singular pronoun. When I was first working in publishing back in Detroit in the late 1980s and early 1990s, writing text could sound awkward when, if we didn't know the sex or a subject in a text, we would write "he/she" and "him/her." This is very cumbersome. "They/Them," however, was supposed to only be used in the plural sense. Today, though, these pronouns are widely used in the singular sense. So, yeah, just refer to everyone as they/them and you will find that others will learn by osmosis (they will absorb your way of using pronouns) and begin using they/them pronouns all the time, too.
As for being grouped with boys at your new school, just go with it. You're ace anyway (and, even if not, you're not sexually mature yet), so don't worry about it. Schools do stupid crap like that all the time, busily trying to categorize students and fit everyone in neat little boxes. Religious schools are particularly good at this, but all schools do it. Just put up with it because you sure won't get anywhere by defying the rules, and doing so will just cause you a lot of grief.
For the next 2 to 4 years, as you go through puberty, take time to learn about yourself. We are more than just our sexuality. Learn about what interests you in life. Take time to have some fun. Enjoy your childhood because, believe me, it is over sooner than you think and you will become bogged down by college, work, and family soon enough. Meanwhile, allow your sexuality to develop naturally, organically, without pressure. You might be surprised where you end up years from now. And if your parents ask you about it, just say, "I'm not worried about that right now; I'm too busy with school and having fun with my friends (or exploring your faith, if you wish)." It is this bear's opinion that the anxiety or "bipolar" feelings you have are the direct result of your overthinking your sexuality. You're stressing yourself out and need to stop.
And stop sneaking around on school accounts or your sister's phone.
Always remember this: your parents love you and want you to be safe. Be open and honest with them. You'll save them and yourself a lot of grief. Oh, and feel free to share this email with them.
Next time you wonder whether you are gay or bi or trans or ace or whatever, the answer is this: you're a kid. Focus on being a kid. It is a short and precious part of your life. Enjoy it.
Greetings Papa Bear!
You may not recall meeting me, but I was just one row away from you at The Good Furry Awards at BLFC 2022!
And the pansy who low-key sobbed at Mark's lifetime award. What a spectacular surprise that was!
In January of this year I unexpectedly lost my best friend and the love of my life, my husband. We've been together for all of my young adult and not-so-young adult life! Although most think it's the trauma of his passing that I struggle with most... I definitely find the hardest parts and times are the most innocuous ones. The time we used to spend eating dinner and talking about our day together, the absence in the bed, the lack of a passenger in the car, waking up with a dream to tell or thinking of something I'd like to share with him but I can't and all those other things we grow used to doing with company until suddenly it just isn't there anymore...
Or better yet, to quote the infamous Scout from Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird “With him, life was routine; without him, life was unbearable.”
Although I know the recommendations that are often given as standard fanfare... Keeping busy, finding new hobbies to engaged in, try not to fixate, consider counseling and all that jazz... What recommendations &/or advice might you personally have, for someone struggling with this complex type of life change and all those really difficult struggles that it brings?
Thank you, and hope to see you again soon!
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I grieve for your loss. As you might know, if you read my column much or have seen my FB posts, I lost my husband in 2015 quite unexpectedly to a pulmonary embolism. He was only 59. So, with nearly seven years gone since his death, I am the right person to ask when it comes to what happens years after a spouse's death.
I am going to give you some short-term and long-term advice here. First of all, it is important to note that there is no time limit on grief. People who tell you to "get over it" or "time to move on" either have not experienced what you have or, worse, they don't want to deal with your grief and are brushing you off. Don't listen to them. The absolutely WORST thing a (now former) friend ever told me while I was crying in his car: "Oh, stop your blubbering." That person is irrevocably stricken from my life now. Grieve in your own way and in your own time. Secondly, grief is not the same as depression. Depression is more generalized, while grief is more specific to a particular loss in your life. In a way, this makes grief a bit easier to manage because you know what caused it and can take steps to manage it. (Oh, and whoever told you "try not to fixate" is way wrong; that's just another way of saying "get over it.")
Okay, so, short-term. Cry. Scream. Sleep. Veg. Don't hold back your emotions and let them out. It is extremely painful to do this, but it is also cathartic. You need that release. Don't bury it inside you to try to "get back to normal." I did everything from literally collapsing and gushing tears to yelling at Jim's chair, "You promised me you wouldn't leave me!" I would do this for hours until I was utterly exhausted. You have to let all that stuff out.
I will forgo some advice you already know, though. But something you might have missed is trying to be kind to yourself. One of my friends back in Michigan said you should try to do something you like, even a little thing, each day. For example, buy yourself an ice cream cone. Go on a nice walk. Play with your pet (if you have one; if you don't, I recommend it; having my Ernie with me was one of the things that helped me through the worst years).
Next--very important! Maintain a healthy diet and do some exercise and try to get restful sleep. It is extremely important to try to stay healthy. Why? Well, for one thing, if you let your body slip into illness you'll feel worse, but for another thing, you need brain support and the function of healthy organs. Grief researchers (including neuroscientists) have learned that grief changes your brain chemically and physically. Grief can adversely affect your immune system and your heart. It is actually true that you can die of grief (though this is usually more of a risk for the elderly). Keeping up your immune system is important, especially in the Era of Covid and other nasty diseases. Speaking of the brain, though, some symptoms are similar to Long Covid: brain fog, memory impairment, word fluency, visuospatial function, and decision-making abilities.
According to an article on the American Brain Foundation website:
"In response to traumatic events, the brain creates connections between nerves and strengthens or weakens existing connections depending on the duration and degree of the emotional response. Neuroplasticity, or the ability to alter neural connections, allows the brain to compensate for injury, illness, loss, and other life-altering traumatic events by forming new neural connections based on these experiences. This helps an individual adapt to new situations or environments. Low to moderate stress increases nerve growth and improves memory while reducing fear. However, chronic stress causes a reduction in nerve growth and memory and increases fear to help an individual focus on survival. This stress response can have a negative effect and the more it happens, the more it becomes hardwired."
In other words, the changes to your brain can become permanent. The ABF article comments that the brain "can be healed" with such things as therapy, journaling, meditation, yoga, etc. In this bear's humble opinion, sure, those can help, but you will never be 100% the same again.
This leads me to my long-term advice: you must learn to accept that you will be forever changed by your loss. Don't try to go back to "the way things were" and "the way I was before my loss" because you will not be successful.
You will not be the person you once were. Like the accident victim who loses a limb, you can learn to function again and have a life, but that limb will always be gone. You can get a prosthetic limb, but it won't be the same. You can be an athlete in the Paralympic Games and achieve wondrous things, but you will never be in the regular Olympics. The hole in your life that was once filled by your spouse will always be a hole in your heart.
When I write or say things like this, people sometimes think I am being insulting. I am not. Here's why.
First of all, your grief and my grief and the grief of others like us is an affirmation that Love is eternal. I will ALWAYS love Jim, and even Death cannot kill that love. That is extraordinary. Embrace it. Love conquers Death in a very real sense. That's powerful. That's beautiful.
Secondly, I have found that my loss has made me a more complex, more empathetic, and more appreciative person. I don't take things or people for granted (I didn't really before, but now even less so). I led a rather blessed life before Jim died in which things always seemed to work out for me. Now I can really understand as never before what it is like to have a setback. Oh, I did go through a divorce before this, which was very hard, but enduring the death of a loved one is much much worse.
In summary, in the short term, focus on taking care of your health. In the long term, learn to accept that you are a different person now. Not necessarily worse or better, but different. Get to know that new person. You are entering a new stage in your life. You will face new challenges, and experience success and failure. You will lose more people, but you will also meet new people. Leave yourself open to possibilities.
You are only a few months into the grieving process. You should know that the average period of intense grief is 18 months to 2 years. That's the period where you really need to focus on your health. Now, it can last longer than that, of course, so, again, no rules on time. An analogy that was told to me that I find to be true is this: Suffering through the loss of a spouse or partner is like being a ship in a storm. During the storm, you will be battered by wave after wave of grief and it will be an extremely rough ride, but even after the storm has passed, the sea will still have waves. They become fewer and farther apart and usually much more moderate, but you may still get hit with a big wave of grief, even a rogue wave. Over six years after Jim's death, and there are still days I grieve hard, especially on his birthday or anniversary. But they occur less often.
I like that you still call yourself Lucky Fox and that you are still going to furcons (thanks for your comments about the GFA). Sounds like you're doing all the right things. Just remember that you can keep living without setting the past aside. The love you have in your heart will always be a part of you.
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.