A Sex Researcher At A Furry Convention

By Neuroskeptic | November 26, 2014 6:37 am

A report in the journal Archives of Sexual Behaviour describes an unusual field trip made by Canadian researcher Debra W. Soh – to a furry convention, expecting to witness some kind of sexual free-for-all (or free-fur-all).


Soh opens by saying that

I couldn’t wait to meet a furry, someone who adopts the identity or persona of an anthropomorphized animal in social – and often sexual – interactions.

Since first discovering their existence two years ago while working as a research assistant in a sexology lab, whenever people ask me what I do, I respond with a question of my own: “Have you ever heard of furries?”

Thus, she went to Furnal Equinox, an annual Toronto furry convention, along with over 900 other attendees.

I hoped to learn as much as I could about ‘‘the fandom’’ and uncover the answers most sexologists are dying to know: Is it a genuine paraphilia [sexual disorder]? Or are the media exaggerating? Is it even about sex at all?

Many of the convention-goers were dressed in the elaborate fursuits that make their community famous, but Soh was in civilian attire; she says that

I had thought about renting a fursuit of my own, but with one day’s notice, and no idea where I could rent such a thing, I decided to brave it in my usual streetwear.

Soh says that upon walking into the hall, she had expected to find herself in a dimly-lit orgy “filled with couples – or groups – of costumed folks engaging in kinky sex” but she saw nothing of the kind. In fact, she saw nothing sexual at the whole convention except some erotic anthropomorphized fan art that was on sale.

Instead, the furries were chatting, playing board games, smoking, and so on. And showing off their fursuits:

I learned the most popular choices were foxes, wolves, and dogs. More recently, the selection of animals had evolved to include hybrids that did not exist in reality, including those blended with mythical creatures (e.g. a dragon mixed with a wolf)…

There is an important distinction between fursonas and fursuits, as almost all furries have a fursona, but only a small proportion wears a fursuit.

Why do they do it? Soh concluded that

Each member of the community felt they had something that made them different and ill-fitting in mainstream society, such as Asperger’s syndrome or a facial tic.

They found some aspect of childhood, such as cartoon characters or stuffed animals, to be comforting, and this appreciation continued on into their adult lives. The fandom gave them a safe venue in which to express themselves and to feel accepted by others who feel similarly.

She even met a furry neuroscientist. One attendee observed that “there is a large proportion of furries studying the hard sciences.”

Soh concludes that the furry community is about much more than just sex and praises them for being so open and welcoming to a non-furry.

The second author on the paper is James M. Cantor, known for his research on paedophilia and transsexuality. This is the second paper about furries in the biomedical literature. The first furry PubMed hit was this one from earlier this year, which studied ‘Biological essentialism in a stigmatized fan community’. Google Scholar, which includes a wider range of sources, reveals dozens of hits.

ResearchBlogging.orgSoh DW, & Cantor JM (2014). A Peek Inside a Furry Convention. Archives of Sexual Behavior PMID: 25408500

CATEGORIZED UNDER: autism, mental health, papers, select, Top Posts
  • http://greenreaper.co.uk/ Laurence ‘GreenReaper’ Parry

    Dr Soh might have done well to consult the work of the Anthropomorphic Research Project. This team has performed psychological, anthropological and sociological research at furry conventions for many years, and its members have drawn many interesting conclusions.

    • Buddy199

      That’s an understatement.

  • Jared P

    I’m glad to read this article and see a fair interpretation of furries. As a furry, I’ve tried to explain this exact article, basically, to non-furries. I would like people to note that indeed, very few people have fursuits, and the furry community outside of conventions is so huge in numbers, it makes the conventions look small, since a lot of furries don’t attend due to work, money, not interested in the environment, etc. In the entire population of the fandom, the percentage of people owning fursuits is much, much smaller (conventions tend to attract a higher percentage of fursuiters).

    • Necromancer

      My ex gf is a furry and I understand why, nothing wrong with it at all.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/neuroskeptic/ Neuroskeptic

    Thanks for the comments Jared & Laurence.

  • http://goodreads.com/ebclay Eusebius Clay

    When’s the next event? I need to get a costume.

    • Baloo Uriza

      Wikifur has a pretty extensive list of furry conventions. Though the costume is optional. You might try Googling around and finding out if there’s some furries in your area that meet up regularly and get to know them; odds are they have some tips on how to get started if you want to start fursuiting. Expect to pay around the same money for a fursuit as you would a decent bicycle ($700) to a late model used car ($7000) depending on what style, maker and how realistic you want it.

      • http://dev.blogs.discovermagazine.com R D Barr

        This is why I love Furries. The only group that welcomes those who try to scorn them. They make the “love conquers all” trope almost come true.

        • Baloo Uriza

          Eeh, I took him as “genuine but didn’t read the article”.

    • *.,.*

      It’s okay if you don’t have a costume. I’ve been a fan for 20 years and have participated as fully as the be-suited.

  • reasonsformoving

    Biomedical lit you say? Humm….

  • Tm042

    >One attendee observed that “there is a large proportion of furries studying the hard sciences.”

    I’ve always maintained that kinkiness and intelligence were positively correlated (and there may be some more directly confirmatory data about that soon as well). Of course, regarding “studies hard science” as a proxy for intelligence could be a bit controversial, but the idea’s not wholly unsubstantiated.

    • Baloo Uriza

      I’m not sure kinkiness is the word you’re looking for. More like passion, regardless of interests.

      • Tm042

        Mm no, actually, “passion” has nothing to do with it. I meant sexual deviancy/unconventional sexual interests, which is colloquially known as “kinkiness”. The word I used was the word I was looking for.

        • Baloo Uriza

          I think you’re being too narrow in scope when it comes to intelligence and focus, which might speak more about you than about intelligence…

          • Tm042

            I’m using intelligence in the sense that most intelligence researchers (exempting the Howard Gardner types) do, as in general intelligence (g). I’m not sure how else you’d like to study intelligence and its correlates in a scientific, non-impressionistic manner.

          • Baloo Uriza

            I’m saying you’ll see that same drive and determination outside the bedroom as well.

          • Tm042

            I understood what you were saying the first time around. I posited that general intelligence and sexual deviancy were positively related, judging from the fact that hard scientists were over-represented among the furries at this convention. General intelligence as a measure is independent of “drive and determination”, and I’m also not sure why you’re conflating “passionate” with “kinky”. In conclusion, I’m baffled as to why you keep trying to explain my own hypothesis to me.

          • Baloo Uriza

            I’m not conflating the two, I was the one suggesting you were.

          • Tm042

            I’m not sure what in my original statement would lead you to believe that.

    • PaulMurrayCbr

      I don’t get it. Didn’t this researcher just find that kinkyness had nothing whatever to do with it?

  • Buddy199

    WTF?? Full grown adults walking around in Kitty-Kat and Barky-Dog costumes? I mean…seriously, folks.

    • Baloo Uriza

      I see someone grew old but not up…

      • Buddy199

        The Emperor’s New Clothes, and all that.

      • Necromancer

        I’ll never grow up, u only have one life to live. Hell, I still laugh when the ketchup bottle farts. Good day.

    • Spirit Wind

      So, I bet you think that you don’t wear a costume every single day-

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  • PaulMurrayCbr

    Damn. How dissapoint! Looks like poor Debra is going to have to find another kink/orgy scene to investigate for science.

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/neuroskeptic/ Neuroskeptic

      It wasn’t the same researchers but I blogged a while back about the neuroscientists who went to a sex club for science.

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  • Spirit Wind

    So, a high-level academic researcher goes on a field trip only to find that the behavior that was to be studied didn’t exist… kind of like a geologist traveling to a Hard Rock Cafe to look for minerals……

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  • Blood__Raven

    Sounds just like autogynephiles – something gives them comfort as kids & it becomes a perversion later.

    And that bit about Asperger’s syndrome reminds me of the frequency of AGs in tech.

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  • Jonathan Hughes

    Furries are super people. They have heaven in them. They are not ashamed of the natural things that God made. They don’t even think about that. I see that. People outside the fandom need to have heaven in them too. People who toss names at them are they that are evil. Don’t let them affect you. Good words will come from people that have good stored up within them. People who don’t work out their own salvation with fear and trembling will try to make others fear in some way or the other. Let the furry be a living being. Living beings will be sexual. That is a fact of life. They are balanced in their thinking too. Allow their child like innocence to be free without any guilt. That will in turn free you.

  • gunso rt

    Makes me wonder about people who become mascots. Are they furries in spirit?

    • Baloo Uriza

      Sometimes, but not frequently enough to be a safe assumption



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Neuroskeptic is a British neuroscientist who takes a skeptical look at his own field, and beyond. His blog offers a look at the latest developments in neuroscience, psychiatry and psychology through a critical lens.


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