Dear Papa Bear,
I am a teenager living in Texas and over the past few years, I've developed an interest in the furry fandom. No one in real life knows about this and I'd like to keep it that way.
To put it simply, I have rather odd fetishes, which often involve furries. Very few people I know even have a vague idea of what a furry is, and the handful that do believe it to simply be a collection of depraved freaks with a taste for bestiality.
My question is: Should I tell my family and friends that I'm interested in furries, and if so, how?
Sean the Charizard (age 14)
* * *
As you might imagine, Papabear gets this question a lot. These days, I usually refer writers to this page http://www.askpapabear.com/1/category/coming%20out%20furry/1.html to see my earlier answer and/or write to them personally without posting the letter because many of my readers have seen this issue before.
However, mail has been very slow of late, and, too, it doesn’t hurt to occasionally readdress the problem of coming out furry now and again, especially for my newer readers who may not have read some of my earlier posts. Also, since you are a minor, there are some things that need addressing here.
First of all, it should be recognized that the words we choose to describe something are very powerful. When you say that no one “in real life” knows you are furry that implies that your furiends online are not real. What you mean to say is no one in your daily life (family and friends you interact with offline) knows about it. That might seem like a dumb thing for me to say, but you need to acknowledge that the people online are real people, too, not fantasies. I know that’s not what you meant, but just indulge me on this point.
The other phrase you use is “odd fetishes.” What you mean is “socially unacceptable sexual interests.” It’s important to note this because when you say “odd fetishes” you are immediately putting yourself down, which is not healthy. It might surprise you, being 14, that pretty much all sexually mature people have fetishes of one kind or another. Most of these go unspoken in “polite company,” especially in conservative circles, but they remain nonetheless. The reason many people become neurotic, even psychotic, is that they suppress their sexual feelings for fear of being rejected by those they care about. This is understandable because the biggest driving emotion of almost everyone is the desire to be loved and accepted.
It’s healthy to recognize that human sexuality is a complex thing. My feeling on sexual “kinks,” shall we say, is that everything is okay as long as the sex is between consenting adults and you are not hurting anyone physically, mentally, emotionally, or financially. Pedophilia is out because you are emotionally taking advantage of a sexually immature person who doesn’t understand what sex is, really; rape, of course, is waaaay out; using sex as a negotiating tool in a relationship is also wrong; and so on and so on....
But you should not feel ashamed of yourself for having some sexual preferences that other people might not have. That’s what I wish to emphasize here.
As for telling your parents, that all depends on the parents. Some parents are very open-minded and supportive, others can be, well, less kind. If you have a good, positive, life-affirming relationship with your parents, then you should feel free to express yourself to them. If you have parents who would lock you in your room and throw away the key if you did anything they did not approve of, then, for your own sake, it is best not to tell them you are a furry with sexual kinks until after you are old enough to leave the house and support yourself.
As for how to tell them, the best way to do this is to approach the subject casually. Don’t make a big deal out of it. When you make a big deal out of something (“Oh, God! I’m a furry! Can you forgive me? I’m so messed up!”) then, naturally, your parents will freak out and tell you that you can’t be a furry. Realizing that you are a furry and that it is okay and doesn’t make you a bad person is the first step. Then, you can explain furry in more sane terms, such as, “You know how some people are really into Star Trek or Lord of the Rings? Well, I’m into anthropomorphic characters. You know, like Bugs Bunny and Donald Duck [characters they might know and relate to].” Keep it tame. Mundanes too often get an initial bad impression of the fandom, which is easy to do because sexual deviance is titillating and sensational.
The other thing to note here is that you are still a minor. You really should not be looking at anything pornographic on the Internet. Responsible websites do their best to block minors from looking at adult material, although this is often easily circumvented by anyone who simply clicks “Yes” when asked if they are 18 or older; other sites require a credit card for verification purposes. Really, such sites have warnings mostly to protect themselves, not minors. I am sad to say that many furry art sites do nothing to discourage minors from viewing explicit content.
Laws in the United States and elsewhere in the world are still up in the air on this topic. Such things as the 2000 Child Internet Protection Act simply require that libraries apply filters to their computers to prevent people from viewing X content unless a librarian gives them a password. The earlier Child Online Protection Act that put the burden on site providers to keep minors out was found unconstitutional in 2007. Not that you’ll go to prison for viewing such material—the burden of possible legal problems is on the websites, not the young web surfer.
What could easily happen if your parents find out you are looking at furporn (or any porn) is that they could apply a filter to the computer or simply tell you that you can’t surf the Web, at least not privately. Frankly—and I don’t mean to be a buzzkill about this—if it were me who was your parent I would have you only use the computer in the family room, living room, or kitchen. At the same time, I would encourage you to ask questions about what’s on the Web without judging you. At your age, you really should not be preoccupied with sex. There are so many other things in life that are fun and exciting and interesting.
While having sexual thoughts is a normal thing for any teenager, it becomes unhealthy when such things preoccupy your mind most of the time—when they, in essence, become an obsession. I hope that is not what is happening with you and you have other things in your life that you enjoy.
I suppose I have rambled a bit. My apologies. To sum up: 1) be careful not to disparage yourself for having sexual fantasies that are not considered “the norm”; there really is no such thing as “normal,” only things that people are not embarrassed to talk about vs. those things they are too shy to admit; 2) when discussing your being a furry with anyone—should you choose to do so—do it in benign terms; furry is not all about sex, but about much much more, so emphasize the tame aspects of it, which are the majority of what furry is about, and don’t act like being a furry is a big deal; 3) your fetish issue, whether furry related or not, is a different subject from furry and something you would be wise to keep to yourself until you become financially independent, unless you have amazingly sympathetic and understanding parents (not likely, but possible); and 4) don’t allow yourself to become too preoccupied about sex; sex is just one small aspect of life in a world filled with a gajillion other amazing things to do and see.
Hope this helps. Bear hugs!
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.