Animal Planet :: Furries Find a Place to Frolic
Driving through SoMa some evening last month, you may have been flagged by a group of people in tall animal costumes, including a vibrantly-colored prehistoric bird, a striped bear and a sexy, slender fox.
Those late-night revelers - a burgeoning international subculture interested in fictional anthropomorphic characters with human attributes - were congregating in advance of last month’s "furry" convention, which occurred in San Jose and drew several thousand attendees. But at the historic Stud bar on January 11, some 200 furries and allies gathered for dancing, drinks and to strut custom costumes ranging from a snake to that prehistoric bird that flapped his wings outside the bar.
"Furries are a new community birthed from the Internet some two decades ago. We know how to party and we watch out for each other. Lots of people from the tech industry come here for fun," said Aesop, who in costume is a manifestation of a childhood fascination with birds. By day he is a software engineer in San Jose. After talking, he turned to passing traffic outside the bar and flapped his wings.
Aesop and others at the party said that furries are stigmatized by their novelty and by hypersexual representation in the media, which have portrayed them as lewd fetishists interested in grotesque sexual encounters.
Salon.com posted an article in 2000 in which the author uneasily reflects on her subject, a "self-described computer nerd" who has sex with stuffed animals. That article was referenced by two interviewees at that party as to blame for the confusion about furries’ mores. And last month, Silicon Business Journal suggested that furries were on an "acid trip" and enforced a "psychological realignment" on nearby office workers during the San Jose convention.
But at the party, a more balanced scene unfurled among a diverse crowd of leather-clad men, fursuiters (furries wearing fur costumes), and shirtless dancers. Some sexuality could be seen on the dancefloor, where a man thrust his body against a slender lioness.
But a pet-like affection abounded at the party, akin to tenderly petting a dog, and it appeared that many sought a furry warmth from each other. And many summed their participation as fun-seeking revelry.
"I literally walked in and a guy asked me to have an Irish bomb. They’re so fun. They’re on the right path to being socially acceptable," said 23-year-old Donnie Baker, a transgender female-to-male fetishist who wore a rubbery but kind-looking Rottweiler dog mask. He performs human-animal roleplay for Kink.com and designs furry costumes.
Some interviewees said that their childhood plays a role in their interest in furries.
"So many people here find memories from their childhood and tap into that," said a shirtless man named Cali Coyote. He reflected on the furry sensation he experienced as a child when rubbing his body against blankets.
And Aesop, the bird flapping outside the club, reflected on his childhood.
"I’ve always been a bird watcher since a young child. Now I’ve been a furry for over 20 years," he said.