York Psychology PhD Candidate Finds Furries Aren’t a Fetish

by Debra W. Soh, MA

photo of Debra Soh with costumed character

Debra Soh and friend

Is it really about sex? Is it not? I definitely thought it was when I first heard about the furry fandom three years ago. At the time, I was working in a sexology lab and felt compelled, as any resourceful person would, to Google the phenomenon. Most popular media I found portrayed furries—people who are interested in anthropomorphic animals—as sexually deviant or psychologically maladjusted. Unable to find any academic resources on the topic, I scrolled through pages upon pages of people wearing fursuits (i.e., the furry costume), with some incorporating them creatively in the bedroom, along with furry erotica, and denials from furries that their community was anything but wholesome.

I grew transfixed by what I saw.

In 2014, as a PhD candidate in Psychology, I had the opportunity to attend Furnal Equinox, the largest furry convention in Canada, with over 900 furries in attendance, here in Toronto. As someone trained in the neuroscience of sexual behaviour, I wanted to see for myself whether furries’ interests were a true paraphilia (i.e., an unusual sexual interest or kink). After speaking with convention artists, vendors, and many furries themselves, my assessment was that being a furry is more about one’s identity and feelings of belonging than it is about sex. Most furries join the fandom due to shared interests in video games, science fiction, and art.

By publishing the first academic sexological paper on the topic (see Soh & Cantor, 2015), I wanted to challenge the common misperceptions that exist in the academic and general population about this community. On a more personal level, I was taken aback by how welcoming, kind, and open the furries were towards me, and their resounding message of tolerance and acceptance, one that I feel resonates with all of us.

For more information on Soh’s research, you can contact her at dsoh@yorku.ca, see her article in Harper’s Magazine in the March 2015 issue, or refer to the following publication:

Soh, D. W., & Cantor, J. M. (2015). A peek inside a furry convention. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 44, 1-2.