The only solid thing that can be said about furries is “furries really like anthropomorpics” (human/animal blending, like “Zootopia” and the other talking-animal cartoons and stories). But there’s a lot of stereotypes that have been built up over the years. Why? Hard to say. Adults have a hard time with kids’ stuff and play, and a lot of the furry fandom is silly kid’s stuff. It’s a fandom that’s as old as the internet, and little groups of weirdos love to hate other little groups of weirdos. And as the world wide web took off in 1998 or so, we experienced a sort of “dark ages” of negative TV and print coverage that ran on to 2005 or so.
Stereotype: “All furries have fursuits” (or sometimes, “you’re not a real furry without a fursuit,” or “I can’t be a furry without a fursuit…”)
Truth: Fursuits–those animal costumes at furry conventions, usually cartoony, sometimes realistic and detailed–are the exception, not the rule. Maybe a quarter of furries have a “partial” fursuit (sleeves, a head, a tail), and 10% have a full fursuit. But they’re exciting to look at, many fursuiters love to act and play, and fursuits get the lion’s share of camera time at conventions and on TV, so it looks like a majority, not a minority. Because they’re expensive ($1,000 at the low end, averaging around $2,500, with the upper price based on your imagination, as high as $15,000), and most furries are young, very few people can afford them, and fursuits can be a status symbol. They’re definitely part of the look of the fandom, but not a requirement.
That being said, owning ears or a tail is pretty common!
Stereotype: “All furries are unemployed and live with mom.”
Truth: Well…with 2/3 of the fandom under age 23 or so and at least 1/3 under age 20, there’s some truth here, but that’s part of being young, and living with parents is increasingly the “new normal” now. Not an inaccurate stereotype, but it makes sense in context.
Stereotype: “Furries are all depressed, maladjusted, have personality disorders, or are just plain crazy.”
Truth: Define crazy? Seriously though, studies of the fandom show that furries are pretty normal in terms of wellness. In fact, given that young people in the fandom tend to have been bullied, the fact that furries are on average as happy and satisfied as their non-furry peers (and, in fact, may have a stronger sense of identity and self) shows the power of a strong, supportive community. Although we do have a high number of high-functioning autism/spectrum folks in the fandom. The IARP research team isn’t sure why, but has suggested that high-functioning autism has a strong “focus on one thing to the exclusion of others,” which is in some ways the definition of “fandom.”
Stereotype: “All furries are gay.”
Truth: “All” is untrue, but the fandom does have a lot more GLBTQ folks than you might normally meet. It’s hard to get solid numbers, but outside the fandom, 90% or so people are likely to identify as straight, and 5% as gay, give or take. In the fandom, there’s a nearly even distribution of straights, gays, and bisexuals, with much higher numbers of other gender-queer orientations, too. With such a large shift from day-to-day life, and a fandom culture that allows for openness about minority orientations, it’s easy to see how that perception might have developed.
Stereotype: “Furry is some sort of fetish thing.”
Truth: The sensationalist media and internet rumor engine often show furry conventions as being endless costumed sex parties. [Editor’s note: the internet also portrays furries as sad loners in mom’s basement. The internet should pick a story and stick with it.] At most furry house parties the only big pile of bodies is on the couch playing “Smash Bros” on the Nintendo. Furry’s about community, not sex.
Still, we do tend to be very open about sex. That kind of openness is a part of the GLBT community, and we inherited it. And the fandom is massively weighted toward teens-to-20something males, a group that, one could cautiously say, tends to be enthusiastic about sexual imagery. Combine that with: a lively imagination; people whose ideal selves aren’t necessarily human; and a massive artist community that will cheerfully depict anything imaginable if you have money, and you get some strange content. But is that central to the fandom? Only as much as it’s central to the individual.