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Furry fandom is a subculture distinguished by its enjoyment of anthropomorphic animal characters. Examples of anthropomorphism in the furry fandom include the attribution of human intelligence and facial expressions, speech, bipedalism or walking on two legs, and the wearing of clothes. Members of this subculture are sometimes known as furry fans, furries, or simply furs. 
Art and entertainment celebrated by furry fandom may be any fictional work that employs the concept of animal characters with human characteristics, rather than any particular type of fiction. For this reason, any work, in any medium, may be considered part of the furry genre simply by inclusion of a fantastic animal character, although such characters are most often seen in comics, cartoons, animated films, allegorical novels, and video games. The science fiction and fantasy genres make frequent use of anthropomorphism, and as a result, are especially popular in furry fandom.
Since the 1980s, the term furries has come to refer to anthropomorphic animal characters. Therefore furries are not limited to mammals (although they are the most common); people with an affinity for reptilian or aquatic anthropomorphic creatures are also known as furries.
History and inspiration[edit | edit source]
The fandom for anthropomorphized animals is said to have originated at a science fiction convention in 1980, when a drawing of a character from Steve Gallacci’s Albedo Anthropomorphics initiated a discussion of anthropomorphic characters in science fiction novels, which in turn initiated a discussion group that met at science fiction and comics conventions.
However, many fans consider the beginnings of furry fandom to be much earlier. Fictional works such as Kimba, The White Lion released in 1965, Richard Adams' novel Watership Down, published in 1972 (and its film adaptation, released in 1978), as well as Disney's Robin Hood are oft-cited examples of the beginnings of furry fandom.
During the 1980s, the increasing number of self-professed furry fans began to publish fanzines, developing a diverse social group, that eventually began to schedule social gatherings. By 1987, there was sufficient interest to stage the first furry convention.
Throughout the next decade, the Internet became accessible to the general population, and became the most popular means for furry fans to socialize; as a result, furry fandom gained higher visibility and began to grow rapidly. Virtual environments, such as MUCKs, soon became the most popular places on the Internet for fans to meet and communicate. One of the oldest and largest MUCKs in existence is FurryMUCK;[How to reference and link to summary or text] while one of the newest virtual environments to attract furry fans is Second Life.
Many members of furry fandom have cited the historical usage of anthropomorphic animals in world mythology as an inspiration, including Egyptian, Greek, Japanese and Native American traditions. Aesop's Fables is also commonly cited on lists of furry resources.
To distinguish them from seriously depicted animal characters, such as Lassie or Old Yeller, cartoon animals are often referred to as funny animals,  a term that came into use in the 1910s, first used as a reference to anthropomorphic characters in children's books, and later used to refer to animal characters in the comics and cartooning industries[How to reference and link to summary or text].
Fan creations[edit | edit source]
Furry fans are eager for more material than is available from mainstream publishers, and this demand is often met by fans, who range from amateur to professional. These artists, writers, and publishers produce their own drawings, paintings, stories, comic books, fanzines, puppets, websites, and even small press books.
Art and literature[edit | edit source]
Many furry fans participate in the arts, including amateur and professional illustrators, comic strip authors, painters, sculptors, writers, musicians, and craftspeople. The fandom produces a prolific amount of illustration, as well as sculpture, textile art, fiction, music, and photography. Some of this work is erotic, or pornographic, in nature.
While most fan-created art is distributed through nonprofessional media, such as personal websites, some is published in anthologies, by Amateur Press Associations, or in APAzines. A few works of furry art have been released in mainstream culture, and furry artwork has appeared on commercial apparel.
Crafts[edit | edit source]
Fans with craft skills often create their own plush toys, sometimes referred to as plushies; others build elaborate costumes called fursuits, which are worn for fun or to participate in parades, convention masquerades, dances, or fund-raising charity events (as entertainers). While many fursuits feature simple construction and resemble sports mascots, others feature sophisticated construction that includes moving jaw mechanisms, quadrupedal attachments, animatronic parts, prosthetic makeup, and other frills, which may cost their creators as much as $2500. Some furry fans pursue puppetry, recording videos and performing live.
Role playing[edit | edit source]
Some furry fans create anthropomorphic animal characters in order to engage in role-playing sessions on the Internet; these characters may be used in MUDs, on Internet forums, or on Electronic mailing lists, and are known as fursonas. The longest-running online furry role-playing environment is FurryMUCK (although it was predated by the GE-run BBS called The Beastie Board in which conversation occasionally led to role-play). Another popular online furry social game is called Furcadia, created by Dragon's Eye Productions. There are also several furry-themed areas and communities in the Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game Second Life.
the previous year.  In 2006, more than 25 such conventions took place around the world. The first known furry convention, ConFurence , is no longer held; Califur has replaced it, as both conventions were based in Southern California.
Furry lifestylers[edit | edit source]
The phrase furry lifestyler is used to describe people with beliefs similar to those of animistic religions and philosophies, such as Shamanism and Otherkin. Many furry lifestylers believe they have a totem animal that watches over them, or that they are the reincarnation of an animal spirit.
Some lifestylers also adopt physical attributes of an animal, such as hair styles, tattoos, and clothing or jewelry that emulate the physical appearance of animals. Instances of people such as Stalking Cat and The Lizardman undergoing extensive body modifications are well documented (as broadcast on the Discovery Channel program Humanimals: Wild Makeovers) although extremely rare.
The phrases furry lifestyle and furry lifestyler first appeared in July 1996 on the newsgroup alt.fan.furry during an ongoing dispute within that online community. One group within furry fans believed that any peripheral interest not directly relating to furry art, literature and fantasy should not be directly associated with the fandom, while others believed that the definition of what constituted furry could only be decided by the individual. The dispute was resolved by the creation of the newsgroup alt.lifestyle.furry in August 1996, created to accommodate discussion beyond furry art and literature. Members of this newsgroup quickly adopted the term furry lifestylers.  Among many furries, the fandom and the lifestyle have been considered separate social entities since that time.
Sex and furry fandom[edit | edit source]
Differing approaches to sexuality have been a source of controversy and conflict in furry fandom. Compounding this are stereotypes regarding furries and sex. Protests have been made by members of the fandom against what they regard as "distasteful, unrelated, or deviant aspects" of the fandom, in particular by Burned Furs, a group active in the late 1990s who thought that furry fandom's image was being harmed by a sexual faction within the fandom.  This group was strongly opposed by Freezing Furs, a group who did not wish to cleanse the fandom of its sexual component. This led to other groups who had two objectives: acceptance of differing points of view, as well as creation of an inclusive culture, in which both sexual and non-sexual elements were welcome. This inclusiveness is now widespread in furry fandom.
Examples of mainstream sexual aspects within furry fandom include erotic art, a style sometimes known as yiffy art (from the subculture term "yiff" referring to sexual activity or arousal), and pornographic movies of sexual activities between participants wearing fur suits.
The term is most commonly used to indicate sexual activity or material. This applies to sexual activity and interaction within the subculture whether online or offline; it is also applied to sexual arousal and to erotic material causing it. The explanation offered for the etymology of the term within the subculture is that it is an onomatopoeia for the sound foxes make when mating.
In cybersex, also known as "TinySex" and "TextSex", it is the act in which one or more players engage in the interactive writing of erotica, describing their "tinybodies" or fursonas engaged in sexual activities.
The term furvert (a portmanteau of "furry" and "pervert") specifically refers to the subgroup of the fandom that sexualizes anthropomorphic animal characters. Similar to the word queer in homosexual culture, the term furvert may be used pejoratively, as a self-referential joke, or merely as a descriptor.
Many furry conventions communicate their codes of conduct, which restrict sexually explicit material and behavior, reasoning that furry fandom includes people of all ages. 
Fandom survey[edit | edit source]
A survey which examined social and sexual attitudes in furry fandom conducted by David J. Rust published as The Sociology of Furry Fandom, interviewed 360 respondents (325 in person, 35 online). Rust's results indicated that in regards to sex:
- Furries "report a rather non-judgmental attitude" to some aspects of sexuality
- The fandom contains a large proportion of people reporting homosexuality, bisexuality, polyamory, or other non-traditional forms of relationship
- 48% reported bisexuality, 25% reported heterosexuality, 19% were homosexual, and 8% were uncertain. Additionally, 2% stated an interest in zoophilia, and fewer than 1% stated an interest in plushophilia.
- Furries have "a higher tolerance for variety in sexual orientation and activity"
- Heterosexual furries "participate in mixed-gender social body language between members of the same sex without any apparent threat to their sexual identity"
He cited these findings as reasons why inaccurate perceptions of furries arise. However, the accuracy of such statistics is questionable for two reasons: as Rust's survey required respondents to submit their legal names and 90% of the respondents answered in person, the reluctance to answer some questions truthfully may have resulted in a statistical bias; furthermore, the constantly increasing size of furry fandom may render these statistics obsolete (the research was based on data compiled in 1997 and 1998, and published in 2002).
See also[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
- includeonly>Kurutz, Daveen Rae. "It's a furry weekend", Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, June 17, 2006. Retrieved on 2006-06-30.
- includeonly>Staeger, Rob. "Invasion of the Furries", The Wayne Suburban, July 26, 2001.
- includeonly>Thomson, Desson. "Critters Offer Consumer Retorts in 'Over the Hedge'", The Washington Post, May 19, 2006. Retrieved on 2006-07-19.
- Dagna, Justin (2005). Fera Vita: Pax Draconis, Technicraft.
- includeonly>Tatara, Paul. "Furries funny, humans not in 'Dolittle 2'", June 22, 2001. Retrieved on 2007-01-11.
- includeonly>Patten, Fred. "Chronology Of Furry Fandom", YARF! The Journal of Applied Anthropomorphics, February 2, 1999. Retrieved on 2006-07-15.
- Patten, Fred (2006). Furry! The World's Best Anthropomorphic Fiction, ibooks.
- Muth, Douglas. Furries! Introduction to the Furry Fandom. Claws-and-Paws.com. URL accessed on 2006-06-30.
- Sandler, Kevin S. (1998). Reading the Rabbit: Explorations in Warner Bros. Animation, Rutgers University Press.
- Riggs, Adam (2004). Critter Costuming: Making Mascots and Fabricating Fursuits, Ibexa Press.
- includeonly>Larson, Alina. "Animal Instincts: Fans of Furry Critters Convene to Help Mankind", Tri-Valley Herald, January 23, 2003.
- includeonly>"'Furries' Descend On Golden Triangle", WTAE-TV, June 16, 2006. Retrieved on 2006-06-30.
- Cooksey, David Anthropomorphic Fandom Convention Information Sheet. URL accessed on 2006-06-30.
- Orion Sandstorrm. Catalogue of nonhuman communities. URL accessed on 2006-07-11.
- alt.lifestyle.furry - Frequently Asked Questions. URL accessed on 2006-08-26.
- Burned Fur - Frequently Asked Questions. URL accessed on 2006-08-26.
- Bardzell, Jeffery, and Shaowen Bardzell. Sex-Interface-Aesthetics: The Docile Avatars and Embodied Pixels of Second Life BDSM. Indiana University, 2005.
- Meinzer, Melissa (2006). Animal Passions. (html) Pittsburgh City Paper. URL accessed on 2007-02-05.
- Padva, Gilad. Dreamboys, Meatmen and Werewolves: Visualizing Erotic Identities in All-Male Comic Strips. Sexualities 8:5 (2005). 587-599
- Nast, Heidi J. Loving... Whatever: Alienation, Neoliberalism and Pet-Love in the Twenty-First Century. (pdf) ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies. 5:2 (2006) 300-327. URL accessed on 2007-02-07.
- Dery, Mark. Escape Velocity: cyberculture at the end of the century. New York: Grove Press, 1996. (ISBN 080213520X) 205
- Katharine Gates. Deviant Desires: Furverts. URL accessed on 2006-08-26.
- Dr. Samuel Conway. Anthrocon Standards of Conduct. URL accessed on 2006-08-26.
- David J. Rust. The Sociology of Furry Fandom. URL accessed on 2006-08-26.
Further reading[edit | edit source]
- Craig Hilton: Furry Fandom — An Insider's View from the Outside, parts 1 & 2, South Fur Lands #2 & #3, 1995, 1996
[edit | edit source]
- Furry fandom at the Open Directory Project
- WikiFur, the furry encyclopedia - furry fandom's community wiki
- A Historical And Cultural Explanation Of Furry Fandom
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