You’ve probably heard about Furry on MTV or read about it in Vanity Fair and so you know the weird stuff its members, the furries, are supposedly up to: sex with stuffed animals or “plushies,” sex while wearing huge bunny suits, drawing explicit pictures of mating anthropomorphs (creatures who are part human and part animal), and other odd stuff. And you probably think furries are bizarre outcasts and shut-ins, right?

Furries, or furs, in case you didn’t know, share a love an interest in anthropomorphism. They are rather disconcerted about the media’s sensationalist take on their subculture. Furry isn’t a fetish, but a group of people who assume anthropomorphic personas, create anthropomorphic art and stories, make and wear costumes and go to furry conventions. They really love anthropomorphism, and some furs really want to actually become their personas. Furry, they insist, is more than the media portrays, and so much less about strange sex.

It’s not just about humping stuffed animals

“[People] think of it as a fetish, and a weird one at that. But it’s often a lifestyle choice,” said Gryphan Rose, a psychology student at the University of Guelph, when asked about negative media coverage. “They think of it as weird sex, but they don’t see the whole picture.”

Sex may not be a crucial factor with furries, but the social awkwardness of many furs is one of the main reasons for the existence and appeal of the subculture. Anonymouse, an OAC student in Toronto, says, “Some people are drawn to Furry because they see it as a community that’s accepting of them…others simply because furry was their first encounter with any community whatsoever.”

But why is Furry so accessible for people who are shy? Iron Raptor, an art student at Centennial College, and his friend Glaide suggest Furry is appealing because members are encouraged to treat each other as most people treat their pets. When you interact with a dog or cat, you’re very friendly even if you’ve never met them before. Furry culture, they agree, uses the friendliness and cute nature of animals so people who are shy can interact with each other more easily. Pretending to be cute animals is not just funny to some people, but takes the scariness out of making new friends.

It’s just like loving your pet – really!

So, it makes sense that furries just want to belong, but do they choose to bond over anthropomorphism?

Many furries say that even as kids they were attracted to anthropomorphism. Benjamin, who runs said, “When I was young, I had an interest in animals and felt rather drawn to Richard Scarry’s kids’ books that featured anthropomorphized animals portrayed in a human-like world.” The popularity of such books makes him wonder why people are so weirded out by furries. “A love for animals is deeply engrained in Western society through the media, advertising, fables,” says Benjamin. “We’re inundated with such images very soon after birth and well into our formative years.”

Other furs say they are drawn to Furry because of a spiritual attraction they feel to animals, such as totem animals and animal spirit guides. Even without the spiritual element, the animals upon which furries base their personas are those they identify with themselves. For example, Glaide chose a raccoon for his persona because of his curiosity and love of shiny objects.

Again, it’s not just about animal lust

But it’s not the anthropomorphism—it’s the sex. Sex is a hot topic, and when it comes to weird sex, it’s scalding.

“Sex isn’t a part of being a furry any more than it’s part of being a living, breathing human,” says Benjamin. That said, it makes sense that the interest furries have in anthropomorphism would be expressed in their sexual tastes. If you like pretending to be a fox, why wouldn’t you like pretending to be a fox while having sex?

The participants of the various forms of furry sex are usually called “yiffers,” referring, very appropriately, to the “yiff” sound foxes make while mating. There are many flavours of “yiffing,” such as having sex over the Net while roleplaying a furry persona, wearing fur suits while having sex, sex with stuffed animals, even just plain vanilla sex with another furry or group of furries.

There are, of course, many sites on the Internet dedicated to the different types of furry sex, such as, that feature pictures of people getting it on wearing large fox and bear suits, or, which specializes in anthropomorphic porn.

“I won’t deny that there are extreme elements, such as plushophilia [sex with stuffed animals] and fursuit sex, but the vast majority of furries aren’t involved in those things,” says Verec, a cognitive science student at the University of Toronto, who is also vice-president of the Toronto Roleplaying and Anthropomorphic Animal Costuming Society. “In terms of the tamer sexual aspects, I’d say that I am involved, and most furries are involved, but not all.”

Others are not so positive, such as Anonymouse. “The “sexual” aspect of [Furry] means nothing to me,” he says. “I am not involved in it, and in fact scorn it as disgusting and harmful.”

Anonymouse’s comments echo a sentiment shared by a few furs, such as the “Burned Fur” movement, that want Furry to shed its disturbing sexual aspects.

Another interesting sexual aspect of Furry is that most furs tend to be bisexual or gay males.

A Toronto woman who has Furry friends said, “I think it comes down to the fact that the group is almost like a protective cover for men. I think women, who are usually raised to give voices to their emotions, are more capable of defending themselves and men aren’t. I think [Furry] has just managed to bring a large group of men together who are quiet for the most and were probably singled out during school years for something—either bullying or studies, or something similar.”

Gryphan Rose, a female furry, suggested that “a lot of women tend to be standoffish in “friendly” atmospheres [such as Furry].”

Perhaps Furry is received negatively because it’s a group of mostly men participating in activities that are generally associated with kids. Guys aren’t supposed to like cute stuff, or desire a passive environment. They’re supposed to be powerful and handsome, not cute, friendly and shy. But, as Verec points out, there is something we can all agree on: “Warm, cuddly, fluffy things are about as unintimidating as it gets.”

*As requested by the participants, all names used are fictional, or furry persona names.