Sometimes being human is simply not enough.
In Greek tragedy, King Pentheus tries to put an end to the influence of Dionysus, the effeminate, wine-swilling god.
But Pentheus pays the ultimate price. Sneaking up to spy on the women who lusted after Dionysus, Pentheus is discovered and torn to pieces by his own mother, clad head-to-foot in bloody animal skins.
The instinctual, spontaneous relationship animals have with the world intrigues us humans who, because we rely on each other for survival, live highly ordered and conventional existences. When we break out of the box and live without a thought for the consequences of our actions, we say that we are “going wild.” Who can blame Pentheus’s mom for dressing up as a beast before going in for the kill?
Little wonder that in our constrained society, there should be people who opt out and “go animal.” Some go as far as dressing up like their favourite beast of the jungle in order to get aroused.
The gay male subculture of bears, who are into chubby and hairy guys, don’t have anything on plushies and furries. They take the whole animal thing one (or two) steps further.
Plushies, as the name suggests, can be either simply interested in collecting plush toys of their fave cartoon characters – and sometimes they can be aroused by them. They might decide that, rather than just play with a Daffy Duck toy, they want to don complete Daffy drag.
Furries, on the other hand, admire esthetically or erotically, the deeper, primordial nobility of animals – they’re more likely to skip Daffy and just worship ducks. They often dress up as a favourite animal for conferences and at home. And many obsessively draw animals, often in erotically-charged poses; one fox fan I found on the Internet produced an animated short of a fox with a hard-on being fucked by some kind of water plant.
In the world of plushy and furry, the shyest accountant can be transformed into a proud predator of the African savannah; serious plushies and furries indulge in the most primal drag of all (though most don’t use real fur).
Organizations that cater to plushies and furries number in the thousands worldwide. There’s an annual Feral weekend near Minden, Ontario, Aug 22 to Aug 26, where people interested in “anthromorphic art and lifestyle” can learning drawing, writing and costuming of their favourite animals. (Their guidelines state that no pets are allowed.)
Some furry and plushy groups insist their hobby is quite wholesome (for example, there’s no mention of sex in the advertising for the Feral camp). But others – especially, of course, the many gay male practioners – admit that there is a sexual component and dub themselves furverts.
An article in March’s Vanity Fair magazine defined “yiff” as sex, “yiffy” as horny and “yiffing” as mating. A “fur pile” denotes a bunch of people lying on top of one another affectionately and “spooge” is semen – “a possible outcome of a fur pile.”
One gay male named Bungee, who is listed in an on-line furry directory, says he has a fascination with the natural scent of skunks and has “a real bottle of skunk musk which he enjoys greatly.”
“The majority of furry fans are male. It seems similar in rates to most science fiction-based fandoms,” says Torontonian Benjamin Eren Robinson, who operates the website Furry.ca. “Hard stats are difficult to come by, but the presence of homosexuality and bisexuality in the furry fandom is significantly greater than what one would encounter in the world beyond as a whole.”
Furries also tend to be in the 20s, and stumble onto fandom while in college or university. An English animal drag artist called Spikee Kingus (real names are hard to come by when you’re interviewing furries), for example, fits all the critter criteria: He’s a gay male in his early 20s who considers himself a dragon. He’s been going out for more than a year with another guy who also fantasizes about being a dragon. Kingus says that he does know some lesbian dragons, but says most dragons he’s encountered are bi guys.
Are there social codes? “Dragons hang out with other dragons.”
Robinson says the term “furry” was coined in the late 1970s. “Others might argue that the first furries were those that created the first human/animal type creatures in cave paintings so many millennia ago.”
Robinson’s group uses websites and e-mail to keep in touch and spread the word. But they also meet monthly for potlucks and four-legged type conversation. Being citizens of multicultural Toronto, Robinson’s group contains many subgroups: Wolves, foxes, big bunnies, hedgehogs and even wookies, named after Star Wars’ Chewbacca character.
People hook up any which way they want, Robinson says. But any nookie a wookie gets happens in the privacy of their own home, cave, log or nest.
Animal rights activist Mirha-Soleil Ross is skeptical about humans’ penchant to imitate or get close to furry friends.
“I wanted to sleep with Aldo, in the Planet Of The Apes,” she says. “That’s one thing. People use animals for their sex, power and healing potential. What do they give back? Often, nothing. People seem to be always asking themselves, ‘What can we pillage from other people or animals?’…. Anyone who is appropriating animal imagery should be doing something for animals.”
Ross says the gay male subculture of bears provides an example of how attaching to animals can be a positive thing, but also a selfish one.
“I like the bear community because it contradicts the ‘lookist’ gay community,” says Ross. “But, if they are going to appropriate the word bear, they should be doing something for bears.”
You could argue that the plushy and furry phenomena is born out of boredom. But it’s more about the limited opportunities for self-expression nowadays.
Animal wannabes could be onto something: Maybe changing hair colour or gender is no longer enough. Changing species is the final challenge.
You can find out more about furries, plushies and gay sex by visiting the Fur Pride webpage right at webring.yahoo.com. Information on August’s Feral conference is at www.furry.ca.
Sometimes being human is simply not enough.