On furries, and against humor

One of the advantages of being an utterly serious person who never cracks a joke, is that I never let humor get in the way of facts. When it comes to “weird” subcultures like furries, it seems like a lot of people only see the humor, and can’t be bothered with facts. It’s easy to forget that furries are a subculture that actually exist, and therefore, your beliefs about them can be true or false.

You don’t really need to know much about furries, just like you don’t really need to know much about anime fandom, or death metal fandom. I don’t know much about furries, and I’m not writing this article from a perspective of greater knowledge. But it’s always important to remember, beyond the fog of your ignorance, there are actual facts to be known. You could look them up on Wikipedia at any time. There are academic studies on this subject, for real.

It may be helpful to compare furry fandom to Harry Potter fandom. In Harry Potter fandom, there are certainly some sexual fantasies going around, Harry/Draco being one of the most common slash pairings on AO3. But for some reason, Harry Potter fandom doesn’t get branded as a fandom that’s all about sex, while furry fandom does. Relative to Harry Potter fans, furries are a “marked” group. Anything that ever appears in conjunction with furries tends to stick around as an association, especially if it’s something that’s negative and confirms our already-held biases. In the mean time, the fact that the more mainstream Harry Potter fandom includes a lot of slashfic is taken for granted, or ignored entirely.

There’s also the “so what” problem. So what if people in the furry fandom have sexual fantasies? So what if it’s more or less common compared to other fandoms? There isn’t actually anything wrong with sexual fantasies, whether they involve characters who are wizards or anthropomorphic animals.

One thing I do know about furries is that they are overrepresented among queer people. And queer people are overrepresented among furries. And you can take a guess at how much of the associated porn is gay.  So in my mind, making fun of furries is practically a variety of homophobia. But if you don’t buy that, you should at least be able to see that furry-mockery in some ways re-enacts homophobia. In both cases, people let a mixture of humor and disgust get in the way of recognizing the people behind the words. And in both cases people disproportionately obsess about the sexual aspects.

I could also draw parallels to other favorite punching bags of the internet. For example, many years back we were all making fun of Juggalos, fans of the horrorcore rap group Insane Clown Posse. It’s funny to look back now, realizing that yes that was and is a real subculture consisting of real people. And also, when we weren’t looking, Juggalos were classified as a gang by the FBI, and their civil rights were violated.

Or take otherkin. Whenever someone mocks otherkin, they lose credibility in my eyes, because they’re not really treating it as a real subculture that requires research to understand, they’re just treating it like a meme.

Basically, I think people in the reality-based community should not succumb to pointless subculture bashing just because it’s funny. That’s the epitome of villainy, doing something evil because you derive enjoyment from it.


  1. says

    I concur in part. It does me no injury if someone yiffs in a furry suit, paints their face garishly, poops in a litter box, or wears their pants around their knees. “It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” Why should anyone care?

    But I don’t think it’s exactly villainous.

    There is a tendency to stress and enforce not only the ethics but also the shibboleths of the tribe. Social cohesion is not just about whom we include; it’s as much about whom we exclude. To include someone is to say, “I am like them,” and crucially, “They are worth imitating.” Socialization is as much or more about imitation as it is about analysis.

    It’s difficult and perhaps impossible for many to find that commonality. I have seen people pivot from protesting that complaining that sagging is ridiculous is racist (I agree) directly to complaining that furries or otherkin are ridiculous. White people complain that sagging is ridiculous not because it is objectively ridiculous (almost all shibboleths are objectively ridiculous) but because they cannot find commonality with black people, because it scares them to find such commonality. Thus too with furries: some people simply cannot say, “Those people are like me: they are worth imitating.”

    There are those like myself and, I think, like you, who are essentially cosmopolitan: the idea of outgroups and ingroups in the tribal sense is, to a certain extent, incomprehensible: why would anyone be so exclusive except from the most vile and ignorant bigotry? Not to say that tribalism is the height of sophistication, but I think there’s more going on.

  2. says

    Point taken, although I think I may still criticize it as villainy while recognizing that it’s a common social pattern. 🙂

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