Though this article wasn’t published at American Sexuality until this past January, I wrote it about a year back. Shortly after it went up, it sparked a minor controversy and was taken down from the site. It appears here in full.
Venus in Furs
A Look at Furry Sex in Second Life
By Bonnie Ruberg
With its relative anonymity, universal access, and unique power to connect people across the world, the internet is a breeding ground for sexual expression. Websites, chat channels, and, most recently, massively-multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPs) have become the contemporary homes for all kinds of sexual subcultures still on the fringe of offline society.
Goreans, cannibal fetishists, voraphiles: these groups may seem foreign to mainstream America, but tucked away in the niches of the internet, such communities can flourish more or less free from outside scrutiny. Yet, in this age of to-each-his-own online acceptance, there’s still one group that regularly ruffles feathers: furries.
Furries are self-described “animalistic creatures with humanoid features.” Wolves, dragons, orca wales: anything goes. Like familiar cartoon characters, these animals can talk, stand upright, or wear clothes. But make no mistake: if furries–frequently shortened to “furs”–have great senses of humor, that doesn’t mean that being a lion, a mouse, even a skunk, is a laughing matter. Furs often associate closely with the animals they imitate.
Though Furry-dom isn’t sexual for everyone, sex does have a strong presence in the furry community, whose membership has boomed thanks to the internet. Online, furs can share fan fiction and art, roleplay over chat servers, or create their own animalistic avatars in virtual worlds. Which isn’t to say furries only exist on the internet. Many hardcore fans own “fursuits”� and attend real-life furry conventions.
Furry fandom has a sizable following. Yet it’s a phenomenon that, if often sensationalized, rarely gets approached constructively. Who better to shed some light on the issue than the people who understand it best, the furs themselves?
“Furries are simply those who look at ‘humanity’ as a whole and say ‘Why?’� explained “bunny” Geo Vaughan. Furry fan Solaire Epsilon agreed, “Furryness is an opportunity to escape human conventions.” As for what makes fur more attractive than human flesh, internet sexpert Noche Kandora posited, “I think the furry skin also can serve as a psychodramatic aid, something to actually help lure out the more base behavior a lot of people tend to keep buried.” In escaping “humanity”� furry-dom allows fans a chance to explore other sides of themselves.
Perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions about furs is that they’re somehow linked to bestiality. “While the concepts… seem similar, many furs are rather put off by the idea of sex with an actual animal�” said Vaughan. “Furries will take animal characteristics of different species and apply them to a human form, but they still mark the difference between a furry and an animal.” In fact, in a recent survey of 360 furries, only 2% expressed interest in bestiality. Instead, bisexuality and a non-judgmental attitude towards sex were the predominant characteristics.
Not that furry sexuality is without its quirks. Take, for example, the fur community in the online game Second Life. Here furries are regular faces in the crowd. They have their own areas, like FurNation, and their own hangouts, like the roman baths–where the pornographic fan art on the wall quickly sets the playful but sexy tone. In Second Life at least, the furry population is largely queer. It’s not uncommon to come across a furry who proclaims himself the only straight fur in FurNation.
Regardless of the gender of the furs involved, there are a number of things that differentiate furry sex and human sex in Second Life. First, the strong identification many furs feel with their “fursonas” and in particular their species, often transfers over into their sex lives. Canine furs have knots on their genitals to grab onto their lovers; feline furs purr with pleasure and scratch like only cats could. Though most furries don’t discriminate by species in picking their friends or sexual playmates, species pride is a given. As one rabbit boasted to another across the steam of the roman baths, “Bunnies make the best lovers.”
How do furs pick their animals selves? The choice seems to be more about self-representation than sexual taste. Kami Woebegone, a blue dragon in a bathrobe, explained, “[in real life] I’m very power hungry and egotistical… so dragons seemed like a logical choice for me. They’re revered.” Still, Woebegone admitted his slithery forked tongue had its perks.
Certain animalistic practices, like rough play or even violence during furry sex, are surprisingly toned down. This stands in contrast to Gor, an extreme form of B.D.S.M. and another popular subgroup in Second Life, which focuses on human power relations.
However the most marked trait of fur sexuality in Second Life is its emphasis on writing. All online sex that uses text chat as its medium relies on the sexual power of words. But fur sex stands alone for its attention to proper spelling, grammar, and, above all, coherent narrative.
For example, take the following encounter between Mynx and Kiatta, two particularly well-spoken feline furries. After a flirtatious run-in on the beach, Mynx has playfully thrown Kiatta over his shoulder and taken her back to his Second Life home, where he has locked her in a sling. Though Second Life does have pose balls–small, floating circles that, when clicked, allow characters to act out motions–the vast majority of these actions are only take place in text. An excerpt from their transcript looks like this:
Mynx frees your tail and begins to use it to tickle your rump.
Kiatta squirms and twists around, giggling…..
Mynx grins and teases your petals with your tail, feeling his sheath swelling up. “Mmm. I can taste that lovely scent.
Even as the situation gets more heated, Mynx and Kiatta’s language stays tight–as if their performances for one another, instead of showing off sexual prowess, are demonstrating under-pressure writing skills:
Mynx pants hotly into your neck, holding you tightly as he continues to pump… growling gently and feeling veins pop to the surface of his shaft to caress your insides… he murrs, claws stroking over your nipples and under the curves of your breasts…
Kiatta shivers, her fur bristling as your clawtips tease her soft nipples, and her sex wettens with excitement as you slide in and out of her rear entrance, her back arching. She arches her hips back, moaning helplessly…
For readers of erotica or erotic fan fiction, these transcripts might not seem particularly impressive. But compare Mynx and Kiatta’s encounter to samples of non-furry text-based sex in Second Life (Character names have been changed to protect the anonymity of the research alt.):
Martin: oh yeah babydoll do it like that i love feelin your tits
Sally: up then down on me. i ur pussy, but no rubbing.
George: Ooooo ooo. U want it on ur knees? Im gonna give it to u hard. But come on tell me r u wet?
Speaking, of course, from generalization, furs seem more likely to avoid the written sloppiness typical of online chat. Whereas, in the non-fur excerpts, capitalization, spelling, grammar, and vocabulary take a back seat to rudimentary communication of desire and/or a sexual act, attention to language comes first in the furry transcript. The two types of text also differ greatly in approach. During sex, in the furry example, direct speech is rare (“I put my paw on your waist.”). Much more common is narration in the third person (“He put his paw on her waist.”). This creates a sense of collective storytelling. As a result, the transcript from the fur encounter more closely resembles a piece of written erotica–or perhaps a piece of the fan fiction thatâ€™s so integral to furry culture–than an impromptu sexy dialogue.
But why is furry text-based sex so different? Perhaps it’s become, as anthropomorphic animals, furries have father to stretch their imaginations than normal players. It’s this heavy reliance on roleplaying that resurfaces in fur sex as narration. Or maybe, since furry-dom is so inextricably linked to imagination, it attracts more creative, language- and narrative-oriented participants in the first place.
If thereâ€™s one thing furry sexuality can teach mainstream America, said Epsilon, itâ€™s that â€œsexual deviance is not a reasonable basis for guilt. Being different is not a crime or a sin.” Which is true for all furriesâ€“all peopleâ€“regardless of sexual activity. â€œIn Second Life there are a lot of furries who only want to have sex,â€ � reminded border collie Gin Clayton, â€œbut there’s also a lot who just like to talk.â€ � To really understand furry-dom, explained Ian Soulfox, â€œBasically just picture reality, the same problems and pleasures, but probably with ears and a tail.”