Furries are one of those subcultures like bronies or adult babies that the internet is fascinated by. I’m not sure what it is about them that is so compelling—some brain residue left by watching so many cat videos?—but I was curious about the real experience of life as a furry. My knowledge had been pretty much limited to Reddit threads of people drawing tits on Bugs Bunny, so I sat down with Joe Strike, writer, illustrator, and furry, to learn all about the fur lifestyle.
The first thing Joe wants you to know about furs is that there are as many different ways of being a furry as there are furries. “Furs are like Democrats; almost everyone has their opinion about what furry is, which very often runs completely counter to what other furs believe it to be,” he said. “Furry is no one thing – it covers everything from simply being a fan of Looney Tunes characters, to ‘fursuiting’ as one’s animal alter-ego… to expressing one’s sexuality via furry. (Guess which part gets the most attention.)”
Er, yeah, actually, the very first first thing Joe wants you to know about furs is it’s not all about the sex. Though the popular perception of the furry lifestyle is a bunch of dudes in mascot costumes getting sweaty through their suit’s crotch holes, Joe is adamant that that’s not really what the scene is about. “There is a sexual context, but that is not the core of it,” he said. He estimates about 25% of furs are in it for the mascot suits. But more generally, it’s about anthropomorphism—a fascination with the admixture of human and animal.
“We have a hardwired instinct toward anthropomorphism,” he said. “Looking back through history, you see Greek myths, legends, cave paintings.” Now that most people don’t have daily interactions with animals, a lot of that drive comes out through animation, and even as young children we’re all exposed to this idea of talking animals with human characteristics.
This is what is at the core of furrydom—the fursona. The character(s) that one creates for oneself that combine animal and human characteristics. One’s fursona can be actuated in any number of ways: costuming, cartooning, drawing, animation, or fiction. This is one of the things that really drew Joe to the fur scene: the creativity inherent within it. “People create their own fur suits and become characters.” Unlike, say, cosplay, where people dress up as characters someone else created—an anime warrior or Princess Zelda or whatever—furs create their own characters.
Though the furry scene has been around since the ‘80s, the internet has really helped popularize the lifestyle. As in most things off the mainstream, what was once the realm of a few zines and get-togethers is now a huge movement with message boards and a giant deviantart following. Nowadays you can go to Anthrocon in Pittsburgh and witness a fursuit parade 700 strong, and more and more people are coming out as furs, including Joe. In fact, he’s working on a book called Furry Nation.
For anyone who wants to learn more about furs, meet some, get costuming tips, or just look at pictures of sexy bunny ladies doing each other, Joe recommends checking out wikifur or Fur Affinity. And, like every other affiliation in the world, there is a subreddit on the subject.
You can see Joe tonight talking to MTV and Hanna-Barbera animator Fred Seibert at MoCCa’s “Interview With an Animator” series.