I just watched the infamous CSI “furry” episode (it was on TV while I was preparing dinner.) I have always had a vague notion of what the furry culture is about, but never really thought about WHY so many people are into it. I don’t know how new the whole concept of furries is (there is one in the Shining, so it has to have been practiced by at least a few people since back then.) It seems as though now there is a very large internet-based culture of furries, enough to assemble for conventions, sexual orgies, and other large group activities.
The idea of furries seems very weird to most people, I know. But, American children have been exposed to (in fact, absolutely bombarded with) anthropomorphic animals for more than half a century. Our children, for a significant part of their childhood, live in a made up world of furry friends. Stuffed animals, cartoons, games, and other things that kids play with and interact with, all drenched with this concept of talking animals with human-like properties.
So is the furry phenomenon just a logical outgrowth of this? Can we be at all suprised that some kids grow up to take the animal fantasy to an extreme?
First point, you need to avoid taking the CSI episode as something more than vaguely resembling anything but a fringe of Furry fandom.
Get the idea of sexual orgies out of your head. While they very well might happen, if so, it would, again, be but a fringe activity.
That out of the way, there’s no real way of getting a single, straight answer for this. Ask 3 Furry fans this question, and you’d probably get 6 different answers. This would likely be better served in IMHO.
That said, I would say, for me, at least, Furry fandom is not really an ‘outgrowth’ of cartoons, as a continuation and expansion of it.
Furry fandom, as a whole, is not about dressing up so much as it is about art, fiction, and roleplay (which may have sexual aspects, but it doesn’t need to) - including cartoons. (For me, personally, it has nothing to do with dressing up at all. The idea alone of wearing a fursuit makes me sweat.)
That’s actually a creative hypothesis, but I’d have to say no. My girlfriend regularly hosts fetish conventions, but I’ve only ever seen a handful of people who actually go to the trouble of full body costumes, so I’d have to agree that CSI blew it out of proportion. The problem is that children’s cartoons are usually rather devoid of sexuality. There are exceptions like Jessica Rabbit and Holly Wood, but I can’t say I’ve ever met anyone who’s enamoured with Porky Pig or Daffy Duck.
It is creative, though. But (to my knowledge) little girls and boys don’t grow up to want to have sex with plastic dolls either. Furries in adult fiction bear little resemblance to the cute cartoon characters some of us grew up with. They’re renowned for inordinately large penises, breasts, or both - in fact, the biggest subculture within furry fandom is hermaphrodite furries. It’s not at all unusual to see artwork of a horse with two penises and four huge breasts.
I think in the end it comes down to the fact that very few people within the furry fandom want to BE a furry. Dressing up is fairly rare and there aren’t a lot of people who feel like anthromorphic creatures trapped in a human body. Trying to explain fetishes of any kind is very tricky, because every good explanation has an exception. The most popular explanation is that the person in question experienced an association between the fetish object and sex in their childhood, but this would clearly be very unlikely in the cases of things like watersports and coprophagia (see my question to Cecil). The exception to this is S&M; Most psychologists believe that sadism and masochism result from an inability to learn to distinguish between pleasure and pain. Most people enjoy a bit of pain in a sexual contact (i.e. shoulder biting or rough sex), but they’re two sides of the same coin and both work by activating arousal in the brain. This theory is recognized as fairly valid in the scientific community, but we’re still scratching our heads over most of the other fetishes.
You can have a Furry fetish, but Furry is not a fetish.
There is sexual Furry art and fiction, and sexual RP, but that’s only a subset of the genre.*
Furry art and fiction ranges from anime catgirls, to funny animals - Bugs Bunny and the like - to ‘real’ animals - think Watership Down - and everything in between on that spectrum. ‘The average furry’ tends more towards the ‘funny animal’ side, but beyond that, the range stays fairly wide - from ‘nearly featureless bodies’ to ‘animal-like, but bipedal’ to ‘human-shaped, but fuzzy’. These latter don’t tend to be exagerated any more commonly than non-anthro humanoid (to include elves, fairies, and other non-Furry fantasy creatures) art - ie, they’re exagerated to extents determined by the artist’s style and whether it’s erotic or general. (Although, for obvious reasons, male horses and other equines in erotic art tend to be…generously endowed.)
As to the sexual stuff, there are a few things, other than the general fuzziness that are particularly common in erotic Furry art that aren’t in other erotic art. 'Vore (don’t ask, you really don’t want to know - I certainly wish I didn’t.) pretty much exists only within Furry erotic work. Giants are surprisingly common. Certain fetishes you can find in non-anthro porn are far rarer than in non-anthro porn- scat and rape coming to mind immediately. Other fetishes - including hermaprodites and dick-girls - are not particularly more or less common than outside. One other point that might give the impression that it WAS however - I find that the niches within Furry porn aren’t so segregated as non-Furry. As long as it’s in a porn-friendly forum, whatever porn you want is OK. That isn’t to say that everyone who enjoys furry porn enjoys the whole range of furry porn available - that’s most assuredly not the case - just that a) Furry porn’s already niche enough that there’s not really a whole lot of room for segregation, and b) fans of Furry porn are less likely to be squicked by stuff they’re not into.
Considering that I’ve seen internet groups for people who have been squashed flat without being killed, inflated like balloons, filled with water, or stuck in mud/quicksand/what have you, I strongly believe that there’s a strong element of sexualizing something from your childhood in sexual furryism. People who study human sexual behavior talk about “reappearance of childhood play patterns” in adult courting and sexual behavior (OK – if you don’t believe that, then you explain baby-talk during flirting, snookums.) I really think this is a part of that, and a logical extension of it.
I strongly believe that people tend to fixate in childhood. You develop some sort of an idea that expands and (perhaps subconsciously) resonates with itself strengthening all the associations. It’s just when these fixations happen to deviate from normal adult behavior a little too much is when we gave them names. A woman looking for some sort of a prince charming who’s taller, older, has a beard and speaks with an accent is maybe a little picky. A guy who finds yellow summer dresses endearing is fairly regular. A woman sexually attracted only to guys dressed in midieval armor is considered weird, and men who are fixated on freckles or bare feet are fetishists.
However, we all fixate on things throughout our life, more so in childhood. It comes from the fact that our brains tend to disassemble our mental sets into their components and look for pattern. The bigger the pattern the stronger the fixation. I’ve always been a strong proponent of the fact that everybody uses mostly the same mechanisms for sexual attraction for example (but anything else goes as well), and it’s just that people that derail from standard social expectations that we call paraphiliacs.
Couldn’t you also make the case that children’s animal cartoons are just one aspect of the broader “furry” phenomenon? Anthropomorphised animals as characters date back at least to Aesop, and I don’t think you can argue that he was influenced by Saturday morning toons.
I’ve always thought of it as a sexual fetish. The real question is where do fetishs come from? Either you like it or you don’t. I’ve always been sceptical of physchological explainations, but anything is possible. Personally I can think of hardly any American cartoon characters that I would want to see having sex.
Obviously, terms need to be defined. Your question already acknowledges the term isn’t strictly sexual. Good start. It also needs to be divorced from organized Furry fandom, which is a relatively new phenominon.
The question then becomes, does ‘the broader Furry phenomenon’ encompass all anthropomorphic creatures, or just those created by those with a particular interest in anthropomorphic animals? Personally, I think the latter makes it an almost useless term, and certainly doesn’t cover everything that Furry fans enjoy.
Now, of course, this doesn’t give much insight as to why the ‘broader Furry phenomenon’ exists in the first place, nor does it address why the organized fandom began to, well, organize in the 80s (although that’s easy enough…the creation of BBSs meant more people were meeting who wouldn’t have otherwise, and the ability to actually have an organized fandom spiked.), but it’s something.
My theory (since that’s all I’ve got) is that the furry thing taps not into childhood media images but childhood fantasy… the canonical “imaginary friend” who is non-threatening, non-judgemental, understanding… which due to our experience, often takes the form of a pet or animal. I think a lot of furry-type people are those who tend to reject typical adult relationships with all their complexity and uncertainty in favor of holding on to more comfortable childhood fantasy. I have noticed that furry people seem, socially speaking, to be comfortable only when in character. Socially speaking, they seem sadly inept in realistic interactions with others. But perhaps it’s not fair to limit that statement to furries; you see it in a lot of group-mindset sort of cultures.
I absolutely do think it is, and I while I would not call myself a furry, I did go through a period where I enjoyed reading furry fiction and looking at furry porn. It really started with my being real into the Archie Comics Sonic the Hedgehog comicbooks and the ABC-syndicated Sonic cartoon right as I was just starting puberty. Like Lola Bunny in Space Jam, or a fair number of other female anthromorphic characters, the women in the “Sonic” series were drawn to be very curvy and attractive. So I thought they were kinda hot, and after accidentally finding websites with porn of them, I started to get into it.
Furry is not wearing costumes; that’s fursuit, a largely-related spin-off, but it’s nevertheless a separate thing. More to the point, the scene in the Shining was not intended to be fursuit per se, but simply to be a bizarre scene of sexual dominance during a costume party. God I’m sick of people mixing this up because of that damn CSI episode. It’s like if Law & Order did an episode about how people murder people after having sex with them and call it BDSM (actually it’s “Snuff”), oh wait, they did do that. I realize to “normal” people it all seems weird, but Jesus Christ, I wish mainstream media could at least try to get the facts right when it comes to representing paraphilias and alternative lifestyles.
While there is definitely a shady side to furry, and the conventions often have a sort of sub-convention that is a big porn-potluck, Furries don’t get together for “group orgies.”
Furry is artwork, fiction, and role-playing about anthromorphic animals, and enthusiasts usually have a fictional anthromorphic identity they take on through these activities, often called a “fursona.”
Sure, it happens, and there is a broader niche for cartoon/disney sex - but it’s really not exclusively furry. Seeing Belle and Ariel having sex is just as common within that fandom. But the majority of the people within the furry community aren’t fawning over Bugs Bunny.
Well, sure, but the entire context brought up by the OP is sexual. The question wasn’t “why do we like to watch cartoons.” It was “do cartoons influence the development of sexual associations.”
I’d also take issue with the assertion that dickgirls and hermaphrodites are no more common than in non-furry porn. It’s a lot more common than vore (which one of the other posters brought up) is - which, if anyone was wondering, is a fetish for being eaten alive (generally swallowed whole).
A sexual fetish for quicksand would make me think the opposite! How often do you encounter quicksand? Again, I think the tie to childhood makes sense for certain fetishes (infantilism and lactation fetishes, for instance) and is plausible for others, but the problem is that very few things are universal. The furry fetishist I’m closest to is a friend of my girlfriend’s named Rhonda who grew up in a very strict household with Christian parents who wouldn’t let her watch TV or visit other kids’ houses. I suppose you could make propose the theory that she was secretly smuggling cartoons, but in reality the opportunity just didn’t exist or was very small.
That’s what makes the scientific community pause. The childhood sexual association theory is excellent and plausible on the surface, but there are cases of fetishism that lack the childhood exposure necessary to validate the theory.