Furry Fandom (#English)

Furry fandom researching:

- Available at the end of this web and PDF. Reference:

Gallardo Linares, Francisco J. (2013). Construcción de la identidad furry. Intersticios. Revista Sociológica de Pensamiento Crítico, 7 (1). http://www.intersticios.es/article/view/10524/7774 (Translated into English PDF: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/49775786/INTERSTICIOS%2C%20Furry%20English.pdf)

- Available at the end of this web and PDF. Reference: 

Gallardo Linares, Francisco J. (2013). Identidad furry en España y sus prácticas de género. Un análisis crítico del discurso. Aposta, (57). http://www.apostadigital.com/revistav3/hemeroteca/jglinares.pdf (Translated into English PDF: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/49775786/APOSTA%2C%20Furry%20English.pdf)

- Researching PhD statistical facts about identies.





CONSTRUCTION OF THE FURRY IDENTITY



Francisco Javier Gallardo Linares



Psychologist

Mastered in Social and Communitarian Investigation and Intervention
PhD candidate in Psychology, Psychology Faculty from Malaga

Translated into English by Gabriella Anabella-Costache (email)
 




Abstract



The essay carries out a brief but exhaustive theoretical revision of the furry identity and some of its controversies related to sexuality. Therefore, we are going to analyze its construction as gender practice: on one side, the queer theory permits us to frame the problem of the normalization and representative of identities (we provide as argument a list of gender practices susceptible to subversion); on the other side, through the cyborg feminism we frame the cultural construction of the human nature; especially within the scientific practice, which is irrevocably transcended through the cybernetic domination. Finally, we can conclude that the gender practices, as ideology about the human nature, operate imposing limits to the corporeal autoimage. The agency of the furry identity is acquired with ability opposite to the new cybernetic domination.  




Key words: Furry, identity, gender, cyborg, queer



Furry fandom is a subculture, the term of which emerged in 1992, when artists, writers and role players started generating their own slang, art and literature, organizing themselves as the possibilities of the internet appeared (Osaki, 2008a;Patten, 2010). We are talking about anthropomorphic animal characters, histories or arts, in the fandom of which they are recognized, promoted and produced (Furry Fandom Infocenter, 2012). Soon an extravagant image of the group was mediated (Osaki, 2008a; Morgan, 2008 y Altman, 2010), for example in Vanity Fair magazine (Gurley, 2001) or in the television series “CSI: Las Vegas” (2003). Apart from this sensationalism, few dare to define what means being furry (Osaki, 2008a). The only consensus revolves around an interest in animals or anthropomorphic creatures (part human, part animal), generally in one or various arts or in some sense (Staeger, 2001; Rust, 2002; Gerbasi, Bernstein, Conway, Scaletta, Privitera, Paolone y Higner, 2008; Evans, 2008); with very heterogeneous members (Morgan, 2008 and Altman, 2010).

A furry convention (or FurCon) is an event similar to the conventions of science fiction or anime, but centered on fans of anthropomorphic animals (Furry Fandom Infocenter, 2012). The most important is Anthrocon, in Pittsburgh, which started in 1997 and reached 4200 assistants in 2010[i].

Theoretically, there are various cognitive determinants of the predisposition to anthropomorphism (Epley, Waytz and Cacioppo, 2007), all of them with a strong collective and cultural component, not exclusive of the furry fandom.

This essay carries out a brief but exhaustive theoretical revision of the furry identity and some of its controversies, which, taken as gender practices, allow the analysis of its construction: starting from queer theory (Córdoba, 2003; Enrique and López, 2004; Butler, 2007; Pérez, 2008 and Marcús, 2011) and cyborg feminism (Haraway, 1995; Enrique and López, 2004).

According to the gender performativity, there is a sexual regulation of the gender and its limits shouldn’t be presupposed (Butler, 2007); any gender definition is problematic, since it excludes other fields (Haraway, 1995). We understand that this essay must turn out paradoxical (Gonnet, 2011) for those who reduce any analysis to the bipolarity male-female, obscuring the diversity (Vanwesenbeeck, 2009), but, neither in psychology nor sexology, there is an agreement regarding the concepts gender and sex (Barberá and Cala, 2008; Vanwesenbeeck, 2009). Perhaps the furryfandom is fruitful for its understanding.  

By the way, theorizing about who the subject of the enunciation is involves political, situating the rest of the discourse at the same level; specifically, the role of the science (Haraway, 1995; Córdoba, 2003; Enrique and López, 2004 andButler, 2007).

Theorical revisión

Besides the statistical sketches of the furry fandom, in English (Osaki, 2008a; 2010a; 2010b; 2012; Rust, 2002; Rossmassler and Wen, 2007; Evans, 2008; Gerbasi, Bernstein, Conway, Scaletta, Privitera, Paolone and Higner, 2008 and Supuhstar, 2009; Gerbasi, Plante, Reysen and Roberts, 2011a; 2011b; 2011c) there are qualitative investigation (Morgan, 2008 and Altman, 2010) and historical antecedents (Morgan, 2008 and Patten, 2010); quite coherent with each other, considering the limits of every methodology (see the table Main statistical and qualitative investigations about the furry fandom).


AUTHORS
PUBLICATION
PARTICIPANTS AND METHODOLOGY
Rust
2002
360 questionnaires:  325 in-person interviews 
(conventions and meetings between 1998 and 2000) and
 35 online questionnaires (with identity confirmation)
Rossmassler 
y Wen
2007
600 online questionnaires
Gerbasi, B.,
 C., S., P., 
P. y H.
2008
Correlational methodology in Psychopathology: 217 
furries, 29 no-furries and 68 students
Evans
2008
276 online questionnaires
Morgan
2008
Qualitative methodology in Anthropology: 27 fursuiters
 and 27 no-fursuiters interviewed, also more than 50 
informers.
Supuhstar
2009
More than 600 online questionnaires
Altman
2010
Qualitative methodology  in Arts: 10 in-person interviews, 2009
Osaki
2008a, 2008b
7024 online questionnaires (definitive version), 2008

2010a
9024 online questionnaires, 2009

2010b
4895 online questionnaires, 2010

2012
4365 online questionnaires, 2011
Gerbasi, Plante
2011a
4823 cuestionarios online: 4338 furries y 485 no-furries
Reysen
2011 b
242 cuestionarios: presencial (convención Dallas) y online, 
219 furries y 23 no-furries.
y Roberts
2011 c
2031: 877 presencial (convención Pittsburgh) y 1154 online; 
1961 furries y 179 no-furries.
Table: Main statistical and qualitative investigations about furry fandom

To this end, systematic research has was carried out in the main databases: PsycINFO (including PsycARTICLES), ISOC, Teseo, academic Google, Psicodoc and MEDLINES; during 2011 and less exhaustive subsequently.

Broadly speaking and according to these samples, the furries tend to be young persons (68,4-78,7% of 15-24 years), male (78,6-82,9%) and white people (71,1-89,9%) from the United States. They are interested, in this order, in graphic art, online communities, conventions, the usage of fursuits and writing; also in science fiction and role games; with a quite marked religious and political diversity (Osaki, 2008a; 2010a; 2010b; 2012; Gerbasi, Plante, Reysen and Roberts, 2011a;2011c). We call fursuit a furry suit or disguise, full-body (Furry Fandom Infocenter, 2012); therefore, it differs from the cosplay.

The term avatar is common among fantasy and role players, a representation of one’s self in the virtual environment; for example, it is possible to assume anthropomorphic animal identities (Ursula, 2006). In this sense, the furries use to have fursonas, defined with animal and human features: there are abundant canines (44%), felines (22,2%) and reptiles (8,1%); specifically wolves (17,9 %), foxes (12,9 %), domestic cats (8,6 %), dragons (6,5 %) and tigers (4,2%) (Osaki, 2008b); in other samples the rate of these features seems more varied; the 77,3% have only had a fursona, 12,3% two, 6,3% three. Curiously, only the 61,9% use a fursona exclusively of their own gender (on a scale of 1 to 5) (Gerbasi, Plante, Reysen and Roberts, 2011a), the design of which is an important activity (or not) for many furries (Altman, 2010), an idealized self-image (Morgan, 2008).

According to investigation centred on culture, we could understand the furry subculture as the effort of its members to create a more satisfactory culture (personal and general), motivated by the social exclusion; reinventing the identity, values and/or sexuality through the animal symbolism, fursuits and/or anthropomorphic art (Morgan, 20008).

As furry, they don’t tend to manifest interest in the sex; they do in half of the cases when referring to other furries, but the rate is disproportionate when talking about what the people attributes them (Osaki, 2008a; 2010a; 2010b; 2012). In other samples with less participation, of 276 furries nobody expresses an entirely sexual interest for the Fandom (Evans, 20008), and half of 600 furries meet their internet friends in the real life (Rossmassler and Wen, 2007).

In 2008, 32, 3 % declare themselves heterosexual, 35, 1 % bisexual and 22 % homosexual; subsequently, from entirely heterosexual 20,7-23,8% to entirely homosexual 10,3-13% (Osaki, 2008a; 2010a; 2010b; 2012). Besides, they can be considered of different sexual orientation from their own fursona: for some furries their fursona is more homosexual than them (Gerbasi, Plante, Reysen and Roberts, 2011a). As Morgan interprets (2008: 45) in his American sample, the great diversity of sexual orientation of the furry fandom isn’t initially related to ideological changes of gender.  

While considering oneself furry generally involves accepting the membership in the fandom, they can be more/less furry or no-furry; as well as there are also other identities in game (Gerbasi, Plante, Reysen and Roberts, 2011a; 2011c). Perhaps there are important statistical differences between online participants and face-to-face conventions participants (Gerbasi, Plante, Reysen and Roberts, 2011b), for example in an online sample, the 40-45 % don’t make public their identity in the family, at work or school (Gerbasi, Plante, Reysen and Roberts, 2011a).

Gender controversy

There are other aspects relating to the furry fandom more controversial, on the part of the own fandom, media agents, theorists and/or our culture in general. After a short but exhaustive summary of some of these, subsequently they will be related to the gender practices.

The jargon yiff is an onomatopoeia, from the etymological point of view related to the furry fandom, which imitates the sound of the fox during the sexual relations (Osaki, 2008a and Morgan, 2008); generally, it indicates sexual activity or material in the fandom, online or not (Morgan, 2008 y Psychology dictionary, 2010). Specifically, a questioner asks for “the personal involvement in the yiff”, from the item and conclusions of which (Supuhstar, 2009) we can introduce that the yiff can be seen and read for artistic and/or erotic reasons; to a lesser extent, on online chats, for participation and observation; some persons draw it for artistic and/or erotic reasons; finally, it can be disliked by many furries (the majority, excepting when they see it in drawings) or there can be no involvement.

Only the 78% agree or quite agree with “I am human” and the 4,7-6,1% don’t consider themselves entirely human (Osaki, 2008a; 2010a). They declare themselves neither male nor female the 0,5-1,5% (Evans, 2008; Osaki, 2008a; 2010a; 2010b; 2012; Gerbasi, Plante, Reysen and Roberts, 2011c). It’ a controversy because an investigation with a psychiatric approach discovered a sample of furries which didn’t consider themselves 100% human and preferred to become 0 % human. The investigators consider this belief and preference in parallelism with the sexual identity disorder (or transsexualism). They conclude that, for the most extended group, being furry is simply a way of socializing with common interests (Gerbasi, Bernstein, Conway, Scaletta, Privitera, Paolone and Higner, 2008). In a recent survey, the 19, 2 % were furries and the 8, 6 % were no-furries, and they revealed certain statistical differences in opposition to the other survey respondents. By the way, both questions are more frequent in persons which identify themselves with the therian (therianthrope)[ii], although it might be mediated by the belief mentally not human (Gerbasi, Plante, Reysen and Roberts, 2011a; 2011c). See as example this case, Therianthropy, 2007. Some authors inclusively talk about species dysphoria (Lawrence, 2009; Earls and Lalum, 2009), by analogy with the gender dysphoria at transsexuals (APA, 2005; Bergero, Asiain, Gorneman, Giraldo, Lara, Esteva and Gómez, 2008; Lawrence, 2009).

The anomaly only expresses other possible rules of life (Rodríguez, 2012). By antagonism with the psychiatrist position, the social deterioration of the trans population (transvestites, transsexuals or transgenders) it can be produced by the own society, which doesn’t accept them and make difficult their socialization (Farfán, 2007; Bergero, Asiain and Cano-Caballero, 2010 y Drescher, 2010); inclusively from a medical approach, in the transsexuals there can’t be found a mental, organic or psychopathological alteration, greater than in the general population (Gómez, Peri, Andrés and de Pablo, 2001; Gómez, Esteva and Bergero, 2006; Gómez, Trilla, Salamero, Godás and Valdés, 2009; Drescher, 2010). It is incongruent, since in 1973 APA, the American Psychiatric Association, erased the homosexuality from the DSM, explaining that presenting significant uneasiness or social deterioration was not inherent in homosexuality, therefore it could not be considered a mental disorder and, by the way, until 1983 it was not accepted as other variation of the normal human sexuality (Farfán, 2007 and Drescher, 2010). This questions the validity of the psychopathology inherent in transsexuals and, consequently, of the species dysphoria.      

On the other hand, the plushophilia refers to an erotic interest for the plush toys (Osaki, 2008a and Lawrence, 2009), it is descriptive for the 6, 9 – 9 % of them (Osaki, 2008a; 2010a; 2010b; 2012), less than 1 % in a sample of assistants at conventions (Rust, 2002). Lawrence (2009) comments about the use of fursuits in some persons with plushophilia the species dysphoria, but without a direct reference to furries, but to each supposed disorder. The use of fursuit, its paper in conventions and wearing tail or ears is described by Morgan (2008). Therefore, we can conclude that wearing a fursuit doesn’t involve having plushophilia, species dysphoria or sexual motivation (Lawrence, 2009 and Morgan, 2008).

They consider themselves zoophiles the 13, 2 -18, 4 % (Osaki, 2008a; 2010a; 2010b; 2012), the 2 % in the sample of assistants at conventions (Rust, 2002). It must be clarified that, according to the investigation, the zoophiles prefer to differentiate themselves from those who use animals as sexual objects without emotional attachment (bestiality). There are usually preferred dogs or horses, and they don’t use to show the psychopathological criterion of DSM-IV-TR clinically significant discomfort or social, labor or from other important activity areas deterioration. Seems that, unlike bestiality, it isn’t subject to rural areas or to the cultural level, and it is too complex to calculate it in the general population (APA, 2005; Earls and Lalum, 2009 and Kafka, 2010).

Given that the human sexuality has a strong symbolic component (Macionis and Plummer, 2007), apart from a possible criticism through the sociohistorical evolution of the psychiatrist disorders, in general (González and Pérez, 2007), or of the gender and sexual orientation, in particular (Drescher, 2010); it is distinguished a symbolic social regulation of the body, through social practices or gender regulations (Haraway, 1995; Cabia and Gordo, 2002; Córdoba, 2003; Butler, 2007; Pérez, 2008; Bergero, Asiain and Cano-Caballero, 2010): very specifically in the psychiatric practice, as medicolegal authority (Butler, 2007: 75 and Drescher, 2010), since the biomedicine is a “social institution and a historically determined ideological-cultural and organizational apparatus”. In the “biomedical ideology”, corporal reality is equalized with the gender normative definitions; coherently “in our culture there is a strong insistence on the embodiment of the gender stereotypes (Bergero, Asiain, Gorneman, Giraldo, Lara, Esteva and Gómez, 2008: 213-214).

Concurrently (for any person, furry or not), the internet permits re-constructing modes of interaction, identities and the emergency of virtual communities, including the non-normative sexualities (Cabia and Gordo, 2002; Pichardo, Toledo and Galofré, 2007); it also permits experiencing the seduction of the intellect and new meanings and desires in the immateriality of the information, like the cybersex (Cabia and Gordo, 2002), exploring identitary erotic paths, as well as experimenting with the own gender, with different representations or changing it, releasing the participant of the copresence through discursive practices, where the identity is constructed (Ursua, 2006), a very frequent activity among young people (Cáceres, Ruiz and Brändle, 2009). In this way, the pornography and sexual practices from the internet will probably end up eliminating the paraphilias of DSM, referred to agreed sex between adults (Silverstein, 2009 and Drescher, 2010: 453).

The cyberspace is a social space; the virtual interactions are not fiction, imitation or falsification (Gómez, 2003), but a technical appropriation of the quotidian, taking place a kind of symbolic territory in exchange of information, images and values; as well as virtual communities. Let it be understood that the knowledge, the memory or the imagination are by themselves virtual representations or social constructs, which produce effects (Martínez, 2004).  

On the other side, wearing a fursuit just for fun (with or without a sexual motivation), in one way involves the use of a body, an embodiment or materialization of the fursona, generating alternatives of social integration. 

The identities, to build themselves, require intersubjective contexts, as an expression of the culture (Marcús, 2011). “In the language games manifest forms of life” (Martín, 2008, p. 150). From a poststructuralist approach to the social movements (Fernández, 2008), neither we study the furry identity in itself, nor being furry is the cause of the fandom; actually, from the multiplicity of social actors (the fandom), new meanings reconstruct themselves in the own social interaction, creatively breaking with the already known. It is not possible to conceive a subculture as a subject of enunciation, perhaps a synthetic sum of subjects represented with an objective entity.     

Normalization, performativity and representativity of gender

Until the moment, the furry identity counts with a defining history and a great diversity of interests, preferences and beliefs; it reaffirms itself through personal practices as the use of fursonas, fursuiting and/or conventions; nevertheless, where is its objectivity?

The queer theory allows an analysis of the normalization and performativity of the identity, as also the problem of the representativy, involved, in turn, in the gender discourse (Córdoba, 2003; Enrique y López, 2004; Butler, 2007, Fernández, 2008; Pérez, 2008 and Marcús, 2011).

According to Butler, “the legal structures of language and politics create the actual field of power”, and it is necessary a genealogical criticism of its own legitimating actions. The representativity/representation has, on one hand, a normative function regarding the language, which provides the identity with objectivity, as normative ideal; and, on the other hand, a legal function (operative in the political structure, under the form of rule/law), which makes visible and legitimates as political subject. Nevertheless, the political subjects always build exclusive practices, non visible from the legal structure. Resuming, it’s a political subject that legitimates and excludes, produced at the service of this structure of power, perhaps as it has always been (Butler, 2007: 46-52). The furry identity is maintained with low linguistic normalization and legal legitimacy; inclusively in sexuality, where pornography, sexual practices and desire orientation develop explicitly apart from the identitary construction.

Related to the theoretical origin of any performative (Córdoba, 2003; Butler, 2007; Pérez, 2008 and Marcús, 2011), a contingent and ritualized historical repetition (the sedimentation) generates a belief that integrates into the social practices, under the form of discourse and inducing what it anticipates. It is also theorized that the exposition to this ritual repetition progressively makes intelligible the common subjectivity which incorporates. That is, being furry is a belief implicit in a set of discursive social practices, for example, incorporated in the practice of identifying oneself in furry spaces or in the practice of creating and using fursonas and/or fursuits: intelligibility that is acquired with the practice.

Resuming, the notion of body (a performative), the practices/rules of gender determinate what is intelligibly human, real and legitimate, and what is not;  the limits of what has to be separated and what has to be united. If we take distance from the practices, we lose intelligibility (Butler, 2007).

Every identity involves a double process of negation: firstly, the exclusion of the other opposite this identity; secondly, hiding the traces of this process of exclusion. In both cases, it’s about the fiction of an origin or essence which has always existed. Córdoba suggests that the second is not a necessary condition for the first one, given that, when the production of an identity is made clear, the exclusion maintains (Córdoba 2003). Congruent with this hypothesis, the furries are conscious of their recent historic construction; however, they talk about “we”. Moreover, through the interpellation, as the experience is re-interpreted, the founder act is also hidden.   

Probably the furry discourse re-constructs the hegemonic discourse towards other normative process, less rigid and more liberating, fact that involves losing the intelligibility/recognition from that hegemonic discourse. Nevertheless, simultaneously each legal structure produces representativity at service of its interests or ideological core, such as: different furry subgroups, the media or scientific disciplines. 

Therefore, the controversies previously mentioned (related to the gender practices); could they denote and re-produce a gender hierarchy within the furry fandom?

On the other side, perhaps if being furry denotes the desire of affiliation with its fandom or a form of signifying the own experience, it also necessarily involves a static vision and, consequently, a motivation in favour of the statu quo. New furries appear as they join the fandom, while, at the same time, anterior furries could prefer re-producing their know fandom. Moreover, different furries (new and anterior) can have different points of view about their meaning, so they could discursively compete for the linguistic normalization. With these two possibilities it could be structured a hierarchy in safeguard of the represented entity (being furry and its fandom), a normalization at service of its statu quo.   

We have two examples. Firstly, the lack of auto-acceptance or the slight feeling of guilt persists deep down in some furries; “through the negation of sexual aspects of the Fandom, in essence they are blaming it” (Morgan, 2008: 88). Secondly, in 1998-2001 already occurred that a group of furries, Burned Furs, took an opposing stance on perversion (related to the controversy previously mentioned); took up for the second time in 2005, without success (BurnedFurs, 1998; wikifur, 2012).  

It is contradictory to prioritize the definition of the political subject in order to develop its political interests, and afterwards the action: this essentialist position would oblige its own subjects, which pretends to represent and liberate (Enrique y López, 2004); fact that has already happened in the feminism with women (Haraway, 1995; Butler, 2007). A group is not the sum of its parts; at the same time, especially within the furry fandom, any substantiation of the political action, based on the supposition of the political subject represented, will be sterile.

List of the possible subversions of the gender normative

As gender identity, it would involve the dissemination of possible genders starting from the subversive parody and reconstruction of the gender normative; which occurs at each level of the cultural matrix (sexed body, gender and orientation of the desire). It allows the subjection within the community or the subculture, where they can recognize themselves with a common intelligibility.   

Being furry is a unity of gender as far as it re-constructs the gender practice or normative, susceptible of subversion. In short, its relations are:
  • The parodical repetition (repeating the gender practice pointing out its constructed character, which can result or not subversive):
-       Artistic products, principally drawings of animals and anthropomorphic creatures, provided with qualities and/or human personality. It parodies the rationality of the human being, estranged from the animal, as also the corporeal limits that define the human subject.  
-       The cultural symbolism associated to animals and gender, such as female-cat or man-wolf. For example, it can be parodied the feline as feminine attribute, which distances the feminine from the woman.
-       Hyperrealization of the gender, amplifying  the stereotypes from the real life (Ursua, 2006);
-       Fursonas/avatars with sexual and/or gender orientation different from their own (Gerbasi, Plante, Reysen and Roberts, 2011a).

  • Reconstruction of the norm (constructing starting from the hegemonic discourse, in a different sense from the previous):
-       Every artistic gender has a creative and reconstructive sense. Specifically, frequent representations and/or diverse transgressions of gender appear.
-       New meanings in and for the social interaction; for example, creation and usage of jargon, fursona and fursuit.
-       Drawing known/popular animated characters in new senses (for example, the videogame character Sonic has sexual relations); by the way, this subversive strategy probably isn’t exclusively of the Furry Fandom, but it is attributed to it through the operative definition of the artistic gender furry).
-       Transgression of the corporeal (auto)image  (inclusively beyond the dichotomy in two genders).
-       Role games in the cyberspace through a constructed body (fursona and cyborg identity).

·        Deconstruction (to distance from an essential identity, distinguishing the constructed character of the gender and the discourse that makes it up):
-       It is recognized and defended a historical genealogy that configures this identity;
-       Limited linguistic normalization of the furry subject, probably related to its poor political function;
-       Rejection of some furries to consider themselves exclusively human;
-       Acceptance (in the sense of Rogers or, at least, more tolerance) towards non normative sexualities, such as fetishes;
-       A surprising diversity of sexual orientation (Morgan, 2008);
-       Pornography, sexual practices and orientations of the desire without reference to any essential identity. Therefore, we are talking about affective-sexual diversity without subject (linguistic or political);
-       Humor and irony (Rodríguez, 2012).


Cyborg feminism

The white feminists considered the black feminism as a problem and contradiction, not a solution in itself. Nowadays we believe that the feminism must subvert the ideology about the human nature, which involves a form of social control through the domination, generating inequality or hierarchy (of race, ethnic group, colonialism, region, age, generation, sex, sexuality, gender, education, social class, labour and of access to reading and formation). The natural sciences have passed from studying organisms in functional terms (the organic person and its adaptability) to study them as cybernetic systems. The analysis of the gender can be understood as a cultural construction of the human nature, which is the starting point of the re-production of the domination or hierarchical differences. The nature of the organic person can be seen as a comparative biological science (perhaps statistically designed in order to face the variability), which passed from administration to the repression of social problems. Nature is seen as the domination based on normalization and medicalization, legitimating the statu quo psycho-biologically. Nevertheless, the cybernetic makes way to a new type of domination, through the creation of networks, designing new communications and managing the stress; a social engineering based on domination and optimization, at service of the market and the capitalist structure; it is to be understood that this cybernetic vision subverts the argument about what natural is and transcends it irrevocably. For example, within the investigation about sexuality, it moved from “studying the human variability in order to use it in a policy of social management”; according to the organic capacity, variation and health; to a further study centred on the demographic or population genetics and ecology, in connection with the communications and information technology: we must perceive gender as a verb (not as a noun), make and unmake bodies in an answerable world (Haraway, 1995: 81).

The cyborg is a metaphor or allegory of how we have turned into cybernetic creatures; a high technology product in which hardly can be distinguished human from animal organism or machine; an object theorized and fabricated within the textuality of the information fluxes. At the same time this cybernetic ontology of the cyborg is the feminist hope of political action, towards this emerging form of social control; without nature or original unity, without an oedipal or related to the bisexuality narrative; where the reconstruction of this science, ideologized towards a feminist or equalitarian science, becomes indispensable (Haraway, 1995).  

It is recalled that the concept gender and the technologies of the gender identity are a political reformulation, whose initial establishment in 1958 intended the study of intersexuals and transsexuals in medicine. The notion was fruitfully adopted by the feminism; initially Gayle Rubin defined the system sex/gender in 1975 as the system of social relations which transform the biological sexuality in products of the human activity. Nevertheless, the term has been gradually losing its original meaning, as it is usually identified with both sexes. In fact, Butler insists on the fiction of heterosexual coherence and the antagonism between men and women as a discourse intrinsic of the gender identity. It’s a regulatory fiction unnecessary and inhibitory for a responsible feminist activity (Haraway, 1995; Butler 2007; Vanwesenbeeck, 2009).

Therefore, the furry identity destabilises or subverts the gender identity (understood as an ideological justification of the human nature), which presently is being displaced by a cybernetic conception towards the reproduction of the domination. When the organic person (with its normalization and medicalization) is losing importance within the reproduction of the domination, the agency of the furry identity is ably acquired in terms of its cybernetic constituion: constructed within the ambiguity of the human, animal organism and machine.       

It seems at least ironical that the species disphoria arises as a hypothetical psychiatrist entity in parallel with the gender disphoria, as if the human nature would only recognize being man or woman, in supposed coherency with the biologic sex. Moreover, given that “the non normative sexual practices question the gender stability as analysis category” (Butler, 2007, p. 12), they are also ironic the diverse orientations of the desire, whose presence subverts the stability not of two genders, but of the questioned human nature. It seems that the controversies of the furry identity coincide with the cybernetic transgression of the human nature.   

How could we improve the scientific practice? We must accept that any description is produced and in the action of naming we find the ability to objectivise and totalize. A bad science observes but dominates with it, granting itself the establishment of meanings and body, not in order to transcend them, but for a communication which gives it power. We must understand the objectivity as a situated knowledge, incarnate and responsible; reflexive and rich in points of view; especially from the position of those subjugated subjects, not for their identity but as a visual key capable of accessing more adequate versions, sustained and, consequently, objective. This way, we would produce a rational knowledge, understood as a process of critical interpretation between interpreters and encoders, not through a logic of discovery, but of preservation charged with power, which recognizes the object of knowledge as actor or agent. Since the science is a questionable text and a field of power, its debate involves a combat for the language with value of public knowledge: the rational access to an impartial science is an illusion. Therefore, the crisis of the political identity can be solved without a logic of appropriation or incorporation, but replacing it through a coalition. In fact, the theoretical or practical fights for unity through the incorporation or domination end up justifying the bad political and scientific practices already mentioned (Haraway, 1995).

Consequently, especially in reference to the cyborg gender, the political action can’t be based on the assumption of the human universal subject (Enrique and López, 2004: 3). The furry identity will be able to organize itself politically only in coalition, given its cybernetic character.   

Conclusion

The transgression of the human nature from the cyborg metaphor allows analyzing gender practices in the furry fandom and furry identity, whose agency is ably acquired towards the new cybernetic domination.   

Being man or woman are cultural meanings embodied in life forms. Understanding the construction of an identity refers to its re-production, as normalization or practices in which it is incarnate its meaning.

Speaking about diversity in sexual orientation involves two gender identities as unique expressions of the human nature. However, reasserting in masculinity or femininity could turn out even more parodic in a cybernetic context, without a biologic body to incarnate them. 

In sum, the biopolicy based on the gender identity, as human nature, functions producing limits to the corporeal (auto)image; reduced to its coherency with two possible interpretations of the sexed biologic body. A fursona or avatar isn’t a virtual body alien to the real world, but our cultural interpretation of the biologic body is also guided by two genders, another intersubjective or virtual fantasy.

What do the revised statistics and the parameters of its controversies signify? The statistical representativity is a normalizing legal structure, a mathematical model which doesn’t explain anything by itself, but it provides parameters which must be explained. However, the legal structure of a research (including a survey) can recognize the participants as a multiplicity of contextualized social actors: the statistical parameters can provide a coalition of affinities; for example, through the recognition of the variance or diversity.


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[i] http://www.anthrocon.org/. For more information about different conventions, you can consult wikifur (2012): chronologically ordered (http://en.wikifur.com/wiki/Convention) localized on a (http://greenreaper.co.uk/wikifur/ConventionMap.html) and previewed (http://en.wikifur.com/wiki/Template:Upcoming_events).


[ii] Etymologically, it has Greek root in therion (savage animal or beast) and anthrōpos (man). Therefore, in English we talk about therianthropic (Diccionario Oxford, 2012 and Wikifur, 2012), therianthropy and therianthrope; usually shortened in therian to refer to a certain spiritual subculture. In Spanish, although the form should be teriantropía and terian identity, we have decided to adopt therian and its use is more common.   







THE FURRY IDENTITY IN SPAIN AND ITS GENDER PRACTICES. A CRITICAL DISCOURSE ANALYSIS

Francisco Javier Gallardo Linares

Psychologist
Mastered in Social and Communitarian Investigation and Intervention
PhD candidate in Psychology, Psychology Faculty from Malaga


Abstract

The Furry Fandom is a subculture surrounding the interest for animals or anthropomorphic creatures, but its Spanish-speaking population has hardly been investigated, despite the instigation of the Spanish media, which reproduce stereotypes of the American media. The article addresses how the furry identity is constructed in Spain and its relations with gender practices (sexually regulated); as also the use of the jargon. The method consists of participating observation in forums and case study interviews; which enabled the analysis of diverse content, interpretative repertoires and a critical discourse analysis. As conclusion, the furry fandom frames feminist issues on the basis of the cyborg metaphor, such as what role the science should have, ideology about the human nature and the necessity of identity coalition.   

Key words

Furry, identity, gender, queer, cyborg.


The Furry Fandom is a subculture developed around the interest for animals or anthropomorphic creatures, but its Spanish-speaking population has been hardly investigated, despite the instigation of the Spanish media reproducing stereotypes of the American media. The article tackles how the furry identity is constructed in Spain and its relationships with the gender practice (sexually regulated); as well as the use of jargon. The method consists of participating observation in forums and interviews for case analysis; this permitted the analysis of diverse contents, interpretative repertoires and a critical discourse analysis. In conclusion, the furry fandom frames feminist matters starting from the cyborg metaphor, such as the role that the science should have, ideology about the human nature and the necessity of the coalition of identities. 

Key words

Furry, identity, gender, queer, cyborg.



The furry fandom is a subculture initiated by artists, writers and role players which in 1992 started generating their own slang, art and literature (Osaki, 2008a; Patten, 2010). The only consensus about the furry identity revolves around an interest in animals or anthropomorphic creatures (partly human, partly animal), in one or various arts or in any other way (Staeger, 2001; Rust, 2002; Gerbasi, Bernstein, Conway, Scaletta, Privitera, Paolone & Higner, 2008; Evans, 2008), with very heterogeneous members (Morgan, 2008 & Altman, 2010).

We can outline the profile of those identifying as furry:  they are usually young, male and white people from the U.S. They are interested, by order, in graphic art, online communities, conventions, the use of fursuits and writing; also in science fiction and role games; with quite religious and political diversity. They tend to use one or various avatars (Osaki, 2008a; 2010a; 2010b; 2012; Gerbasi, Plante, Reysen y Roberts, 2011a; 2011c), defined with animal and human features, and named fursona; it is frequent the case of canines, felines and reptiles (Osaki, 2008b); it’s an idealized self-image (Morgan, 2008). A fursuit is a furry costume or disguise, of full body (FurryFandomInfocenter, 2012).  Its utilisation in furry conventions is described by Morgan (2008).

As furries, they don’t use to consider the sex important, but they do, in half of the cases, when referring to other furries; but the numbers are disproportionate with what people attribute them. There are plenty sexual orientations (Osaki, 2008a; 2010a; 2010b; 2012) and even the fursona/avatar can be considered, in varying degrees, with a different sexual orientation or gender from its own (Gerbasi, Plante, Reysen & Roberts, 2011a). The yiff jargon refers to furry pornography or sexual activity within the fandom (Osaki, 2008a y Morgan, 2008). Other controversial statistical data refer to a poor percentage of identification with the plushophilia (erotic interest for plushies) or zoophilia (Osaki, 2008a; 2010a; 2010b; 2012). Although online and in-person samples reflect important statistical differences (Gerbasi, Plante, Reysen y Roberts, 2011b), perhaps it’s about less than 1% with plushophilia and less than 2% zoophilia at conventions assistants (Rust, 2002). It is also controversial that some furries don’t consider themselves 100% human and they prefer becoming 0% human, issue which has been investigated in parallel with the transsexuality (Gerbasi, Bernstein, Conway, Scaletta, Privitera, Paolone & Higner, 2008).  For example, the 19, 2 % of a survey, perhaps mediated by the belief mentally non-human (Gerbasi, Plante, Reysen & Roberts, 2011a; 2011c). Some others talk about species dysphoria in analogy to the gender dysphoria at transsexuals (Lawrence, 2009; Earls & Lalum, 2009). We can also name it therianthropy (to be consulted the following case: Therianthropy, 2007). In sum, wearing a fursuit doesn’t involve having plushophilia, therianthropy or sexual motivation (Lawrence, 2009 y Morgan, 2008); but a materialization of the fursona, generating alternatives of social interaction. We want to clarify that the statistics doesn’t necessarily involve a defining normative criteria; it can also be useful in the recognition of the variance or diversity, as also the multiplicity of social actors which compose the furry fandom (Gallardo, 2013).

The internet is a virtual space of social interaction (Gómez, 2003) and intersubjectivity, requirements when building identities (Marcús, 2011). Nonetheless, from another point of view, the knowledge, memory and imagination are already social and virtual representations, with effects (Martínez, 2004). On the internet there are re-constructed ways of interaction, identities and virtual communities (Cabia & Gordo, 2002; Pichardo, Toledo & Galofré, 2007); as also the seduction of the intellect, the cybersex (Cabia & Gordo, 2002) and the exploration of identitary erotic patterns; experimenting with their own gender (Ursua, 2006). It is a frequent activity among young people. (Cáceres, Ruiz & Brändle, 2009).

In the United States, it was soon mediatised an extravagant image of the group (Osaki, 2008a; Morgan, 2008 & Altman, 2010), for example, in the magazine Vanity Fair (Gurley, 2001) or in the television series “CSI: Las Vegas” (2003). Everything mentioned gathers the proper ingredients for sensationalism and media morbidity, which in Spain reproduces the American example: “CSI: Las Vegas” in 2005; articles from the state press, such as one published in 20 Minutos  (Mañana, 2005) and two in El País (Wiener, 2008a; 2008b); as also television, “La Sexta: Noticias” (2009).

We adduce that this phenomenon can be framed within the gender practice: normalization and representativity in the multiplicity of social actors, performativity (Enrique & López, 2004; Butler, 2007, Fernández, 2008; Pérez, 2008 & Marcús, 2011), biopolitics through the gender identity (Butler 2007) and the construction of a human nature in current transgression because of the domination through the cybernetics (the cyborg metaphor) (Haraway, 1995). Considering that being man or being woman is a display of appearances and representations, two naturalized sexual statuses (Garfinkel, 2006); nowadays there are recognized only two auto-images (feeling man or woman), in coherency, from the ideological point of view, with the biological body, identity and sexual orientation  (Gallardo, 2013). Furthermore, especially related to the cyborg, it raises the impossibility of political action based on the universal human subject supposition, but the necessity of organization by coalition of identities (Enrique & López, 2004).

It is necessary to investigate the development of the furry fandom in Europe (Morgan, 2008) and in other languages. We can recognize a tremendous diversity within the furry fandom and its artistic production, but our interest focuses on clarifying the role of the gender practice and the sexed factor in its regulation. The objectives are:
1)      Understanding how the furry identity is constructed in Spain, having into account the rest of the Spanish-speaking population.
2)      Understanding its jargon which, as linguistic alternative to the hegemonic discourse, could articulate alternative gender constructions.

Finally, the necessity of a critical discourse analysis arose, in order to comprehend and oppose to the power relations in the production of the discourse (that is, in the use of the language) (Wetherell & Potter, 1998; Van Dijk, 2002; 2003; Morano & Sanchez, 2004; Pulido, Montalbán, Palomo & Luque, 2008 & Espinosa, 2010).

Methodological framework

The qualitative paradigm in social sciences doesn’t search for generalization, but it is idiographic and studies in depth concrete situations. Comprehending means associating the current data, configuration and evolution of a situation. It is a systematic and rigorous process of directed investigation, which takes decisions only from the research field; it is especially adequate for the description and study of the organizational unities and communities (Pérez, 2008b).

The discourse is the use of the language by the users in specific situations: 1) it refers to social structures (since they are a condition for its utilisation), 2) “it constructs, constitutes, changes, defines and contributes to the social structure” and, 3) finally, the discourse structures talk about, denote or represent parts of the society. Therefore, the social interaction not only expresses, but also constructs and confirms, reproducing social cognitions as knowledge, ideologies, norms and values that, among group members, regulate and control the interaction (Van Dijk, 2002: 29). The discourse constructs our reality, given that 1) it is fabricated on preexistent linguistic resources, 2) there are used some linguistic resources instead of others also available and, furthermore, 3) it is oriented towards the action with practical consequences. Thus, at the group-social level, we can search for regularities, certain inconsistencies internally coherent, named interpretative repertoires. It is proposed the following method: 1) to codify and filter the data of a group according to a theme of interest, 2) to search patterns or organizations recurrent in the argumentation (so that the inconsistencies stand out) and 3) we name each pattern interpretative repertoire and each participant combines it in a different manner. This method is unviable for the questionnaire methodology (where the percentages have a complex interpretation); it is laborious and doesn’t pretend to find empirical laws or universal psychological processes.  Rather, it unfolds in the natural context and analyses the language as a constituent part of the situation (Wetherell & Potter, 1998). In the critical discourse analysis we focus on the abuse of power domination through the discourse, taking a pro/con position towards the multidisciplinary development (Van Dijk, 2002; 2003).

The auto-narrations are defined as social forms of self expression or as a public discourse, in a historical situation (Duero, 2006; Estrada, Acua, Camino & Traverso-Yepes, 2007). Engaging in the conducts of a community, these turn out intelligible (Mandujano, 2007). For example, in virtual spaces such as forums: the contents (re)construct the identities of the participants (Pulido, Montalbán, Palomo & Luque, 2008); where the subjects internalize a repertory of norms, values and perceptions of the reality (Espinosa, 2010) and achieve the self-conscience through the others (Martínez, 2004); a real identity workshop  (Ursua, 2006). 

The common comprehension, beliefs about the life in society from within this society, can’t be totally formulated through prescriptions, given that we would always find exceptions, according to the context. An option for its study is the documentary method of interpretation, which consists in the reciprocal elaboration between the appearance and a supposed basic pattern. This method is especially frequent in linguistic studies or related to motivated actions, so that the field researcher must interpret retrospectively the appearances: only during the manipulation of a situation (and because of it), the future state of the issue clarifies; especially when the lack of knowledge about the issue impedes valuing the possible courses of action. For example, documenting the underlying pattern of a motivated character requires using what has been observed until the moment.  Let it be understood that the investigation doesn’t pretend to explain to the participants their own stories about what they do, given that they could consider it lacking of interest, making reflexive their own observable practical activities (Garfinkel, 2006). Furthermore, the observation of paradoxes allows diverse methodological strategies: given that we observe through distinctions, a paradox evinces latent structures, not visible from the distinction, supposed in the observation. To make it explainable, we can incorporate more structures or social processes into the distinction, or make it reflexive (Gonnet, 2011).


METHOD

Participants

It has been used data from five different forums, four of them with participating observation: two Spaniards, one Mexican and another Spanish-speaking (one of the Spanish persons was particularly active in the participation). There were selected some comments and 58 furries were asked for their permission: 32 became participants, 22 didn’t answer, 3 refused and one was minor. 

In parallel, there were 11 participants valid for the interviews on Messenger: 8 Spaniards and 3 Mexicans; 10 men and 1 woman; 7 members of the forum with greater participation and 4 of other three different forums. In turn, 7 have been participants at comments in forums and the majority are students. Some of them have contacted the investigator, who was asking for collaboration in the forums; others have been required for their predisposition expressed in the forums or for another relevant quality.

Finally, there was scarce participation at the revision of the conclusions: 8 participants, only two of them without previous participation.

In total, there were 38 participants for the raw data: 32 in forums, 11 in interviews and 8 in the third review phase. Of the 6 ones without participation in forum, 4 cases were related to the interviews and 2 to the review. Add the collaborators and informants for documentation, orientation and/or suggestions, related to the procedure.  

Materials
It has been used the connexion to internet for the access to Google, webs, email, Messenger, press and audiovisual media, for diverse analysis through word-processing program. Al the raw data is systemically registered through software applications.

Procedure

During the investigation, there have been carried out searches in the main data basis: PsycINFO (including PsycARTICLES), ISOC, Teseo, academic Google, Psicodoc and MEDLINES.

It has been used the classic general model of decision making (e.g. Gil y Alcover, 2004) to define three investigation phases, whose objectives and concrete methods are defined from the general ones, expresses previously. 

Firstly, the access to documents with high ecological validity was a priority (the real use in the subculture).  Google enabled searches that provided links, forums and collaborators. For that, it has been created a thread in 4 forums, identified as investigator and requesting any valid/reliable source about the furry identity and sexuality, such as articles or documents of consensus in the community. Moreover, the first interactions were aiming for orientation within the subculture. As a result, it was possible the access to webs, bibliographies and participants; it was a fructiferous first contact with the group. It should be made clear that this first phase involves the beginning of the participating observation, congruent with the documentary method of interpretation.

In the second phase, given the poor documentation of the necessary rigour, the conclusion was that it was necessary to refer to the direct experience of the furries, as also to understand the jargon and usual dynamics.  In that moment, the priority was to gain access to the experience of concrete persons in valid manner, and use it in order to accomplish the objectives. It has been initiated a field of study, through participating observation in forums and semi-structured interviews on Messenger (Pérez, 2007; 2008b). Given that there have been detected internal conflicts and towards the investigator, it has been provided the option to refuse the participation (Official College of Psychologists, 1987) through an assertive communication (Castanyer, 1996). The interviews were organized as case study method (Pérez, 2007; 2008b), emphasizing a reflexive interaction according the Rogerian theory (Rogers, 1986; Miller y Rollnick, 2003). In order to understand the sexuality of each participant, there were used four components: physical attraction, emotional connection, sexual fantasies and sexual behavior; regarding men and women in distinctive manner, given that it could result more reliable than the sexual orientation dimension (Fernández, Quiroga & Rodrígez, 2006). The axes of the interviews were: introduce themselves; the community and their entrance in it; being furry and their relation with the personal experience and the fursona; sexuality, their own and referring to furries; appreciation and keeping in touch for future issues/explanations. The forum of origin of the participant was always taken into account.

It has been included as research method the content analysis (Fernández, 2007) and contrasting information: forums, interviews, emails, private messages, webs and documents such as press articles and audiovideo material. It was also inquired about jargon, hypothesis and impression.

The questionnaire method was not reliable; therefore, progressively it has been assumed the qualitative paradigm, regarding the nature of the data. Thus, the raw data was codified and sifted in order to find regularities; inconsistencies internally coherent (or interpretative repertoires, Wetherell y Potter, 1998). Afterwards, the critical discourse analysis became necessary (Van Dijk, 2002; 2003).

In the third and final phase, concluded the analysis and interpretation of the data, it has been set as objective integrating the evaluation of the participants about the conclusions, in order to increase their validity. For that, some furries have been asked for orientation, there have been established different ways of communications for the revisions, it has been published a link that resumed the conclusions and it was promoted among forums and participants. There have participated 8 furries: their evaluations were very positive, as they appreciated the neutrality of the document and the pertinent distinction between furry and yiff. The field study lasted five and a half months, finishing by the middle of March of 2011.  

RESULTS

We do not claim the statistical representativity of the furry fandom, as we don’t suggest that being furry involves intrinsically more sexuality than any other identity. It refers to the social elaboration of the meaning, intersubjectivity, discourse and the identification constructed among the participants.


Content analysis: Jargon

Furry: 1) Artistic product with animals or anthropomorphic creatures; 2) Subculture or communities related to these artistic products (the fandom); 3) Identification related to this subculture.

In Spanish, it is frequent the specification of the gender by furro and furra. It is also met fur instead of furry, especially in the Mexican discourse. In both cases the word can start with capitals or lowercase.  All this cases frequently appear within the same conversation.

Fursona: each avatar in the furry fandom and/or the artistic character. Generally, an anthropomorphic creature, whose construction and use are very varied and personal.
Yiff: pornography related to the artistic gender furry; generally drawings. It can also refer to sexual role games on the internet or, as a synonym, to sex.

The fursuit is the suite of a fursona, used especially for leisure or conventions (they reject the denomination disguise). Few furries have manifested their wish to use it with sexual purpose; in these cases: 1) the media has irresponsibly exaggerated it; 2) the body temperature makes a fursuit of high quality the preferred choice; 3) excepting its synonymy with sex, it doesn’t make part of the yiff jargon; 4) it doesn’t necessarily involve real sexual intentions; for instance, it can be just ludic, like a game.

Content analysis: Means of communication

We can use the content analysis of the chapter from the CSI: Las Vegas” (2005) series, three articles from the state press (Mañana, 2005 y Wiener, 2008a; 2008b) and a video broadcasted by “La Sexta: Noticias” (2009); we can recognize common regularities in the image that they reflect on the furry fandom:
A sexual community dedicated especially to the cybersex and sexual meetings, based on the fursuits and a paraphilia for the synthetic fur. For that, they create an animal avatar that imposes over their previous human identity, used in the sexual experiences. It installs a them, the furries, in opposition with the we, the normal.

Discourse analysis: Informative repertoires

Subsequently, there are enumerated possible subjective components of the furry identity, none of them sufficient or necessary; but a discourse shared by some members as a debate (so that each of them could be an interpretative repertoire susceptible of study): auto-assigned, subjective/personal, identification, having a fursona, inclination to consume and/or produce artistic gender (especially drawing and, to a lesser degree, narrations, but also any other artistic form), interaction with other furries, the community, the fandom, open-minded, tolerance, respect, liberty, imagination, spirituality, sensitivity with animals, interest and/or identification with animals and/or anthropomorphic creatures, special interest for animation, a way to connect with the animal side, fursuit (for entertainment or sexuality), symbolism of specific mythological creatures (for example, the wolf man), taste for role games and anthropomorphic creatures (sexual or not), to consume and/or produce yiff (as pornography or artistic style), sex, sexual liberty, erotic dreams with anthropomorphic beings, eroticism towards anthropomorphic animation (similar to a fetish for anthropomorphic beings), tendency to define a disregarded identity, tendency to define the taste for some animation/ myth/ anthropomorphic, continuity around the creation of the fursona through the fandom, a certain point of view about life (especially through the anthropomorphic art, either comical, affective and/or sexual), a sense of belonging  or affinity with other furries, certain compromise for some “furry reason” or the fandom, a way of “joining diverse interests” and/or a part of the “life/ leisure/ taste/ mind”. “The furry is a fandom where everyone can stay for the reason they want.” 

Therefore, they should be understood as possible attributes depending on the experience and individual reconstruction, an organizational axis of different interpretative repertoires. In sum, it is perceived as something abstract but with its own entity. According to the objectives presented, we will focus on the following interpretative repertoires: fursona, sexuality in the fandom and this investigation.

            Fursona

A furry can have one, various or no fursona; generally, they use to alter over time, as one of them consolidates, and require a very personal process that can reach (or not) many years. They can represent animals, anthropomorphic creatures, mythological beings, characters from videogames or popular cartoons. The fursona can be experienced and used in many ways, not mutually exclusive: a nickname, a very personal auto-definition, identification, with humour/entertainment, role games, a caricature of reality, in a spiritual sense, fursuiting and/ or sexual activities.

Sexuality in the Furry Fandom

Furry is not sex, but interest for the anthropomorphic art and animals, as also the group of its followers; in this respect, yiff would be a part of the furry art or the synonym of sex in the jargon. Nonetheless, the art/porn yiff is a type of furry art and its followers are necessarily also followers of the furry art. This led in Spain to a semantic labyrinth: on one side, part of the Spanish fandom discourse doesn’t manifest explicitly that, in specific persons, there is a relation between the development of their furry identity and their sexuality (perhaps on the basis of the fear that this idea could expand over the furry essence, in answer to the media sensationalism); on the other side, they appear in interviews or on forums, enunciated as “the sexuality is intimately connected with the furry”. Therefore, it is true that for some specific furries their sexuality is related with being furry, independently of their statistic representativity; but for other specific furries this doesn’t apply.

Yiff can refer to different meanings depending of each personal interpretation (or rather of the use of the witness; hence its constructed nature): in addition to what we have already defined as jargon, there is pornography/ art of the furry gender (depending of degree of anthropomorphism, being feral the most animal), “like it exists the hentai in manga”. It is known the large amount of fetishes that can be developed within the yiff; besides, some furries mention the yiff as a fetish, identifying it with the desire orientation. In fact, besides pornography, it also includes a diverse affective or erotic   content around relations, contexts and symbolism.
                                                    
The different hypothesis about the large affective-sexul diversity in the fandom explain this fact, though there is a certain consensus consisting in an intermediate point between the essentialism and the constructionism of the sexuality: on one side, the fetishes that appear in the fandom also exist outside, therefore some furries become more open-minded through the fandom. On the other side, people have a previous sexual orientation that discover through the fandom, although it is assumed a much more opened conception about the limits of the sexual orientation. Thus, in these two regards, some of them talk about a certain reconstruction of their sexual orientation. Moreover, it is believed that the affective linkages or concrete moments can have a very important paper in the genesis of the desire.

It seems reasonable that, to define being furry, the yiff must not be more important than any other possible subjective component, such as drawing or the sensitivity regarding animals. That would involve an imposition on the others. But the fundamental inconsistency (not reflected by the Mexican participants) would be other: why denying the yiff as a possible component, neither necessary nor sufficient, from among many other subjective components? In the end, none of them seems objectively defining.  This inconsistency represents a strong reason of conflict: for instance, the investigator asked twice in the forum “There are persons interested in the yiff (in a wide sense) and others that are not; why shouldn’t we study both parts?”, but no participant answered directly and they even became more hostile.   

            The investigation about the furry fandom

This interpretative repertoire has not been detected in the Mexican participants, which have shown predisposition to collaboration and receptivity towards possible relations between the furry and the sexuality. Thus, in a part of the Spanish fandom this repertoire has been generated, related to the furry investigation (this repertoire has also been observed towards initiatives organized by furries). The attitudes towards the investigation are varied, constructing a constantly changing image:
-          positive: the investigator acts professionally, educated and he has good intentions. In some moments he feels offended in one of the forums and there is hostility, but that is a normal situation, as the previous experience has demonstrated. A study about sexuality in the fandom is worthwhile; for example, about sexual orientation; perhaps it could reveal the uncertainties that many furries also have related to this issue.
-          negative, besides the opposite to the positive ones: the furry fandom is a source of income for any kind of investigator, exclusively through sensationalism and discredit.  The investigation about the furry fandom generalises the yiff and it associates it with paraphilia and fursuiting, as also with the totality of the furry identity. The methodology is rejected for being incorrect/invalid. This cannot represent the work of a psychologist; perhaps he could investigate about psychopathology, although it would not be beneficial for the fandom either.  There is no differentiation between science and journalism investigations. The investigation on furry shouldn’t be confounded with the investigation about sex, given that the yiff research should give up investigating the furry identity, even though in some specific cases this relation appears. If the investigator doesn’t have a subordinate attitude, he must be sensationalist and dangerous.

Perhaps the negative aspect could be resumed as the lucrative and generalizing intention, attributed to all investigators, which involves a certain image of science; in fact, as the investigator witnesses it, the knowledge transmitted about science applied to the furry fandom is diffuse (in content and discipline), lacking precision and negative. For example, a furry interprets that asking openly about yiff on a forum “means to keep insisting on the fact that furry is yiff or that it always has a sexual connotation”, which is an attribution of intentions that doesn’t recognize other reasons.  

Critical discourse analysis

What is wrong with the fact that some furries are sexually attracted to fursonas and others aren’t? Moreover, what is wrong with the fact that a small percentage of furries affirm that they are zoophiles? Is it that, in order to defend themselves from the media defamation, the more normalized furries should reprimand the others, the minority, so that they could reach a more desirable social image? In such case, the supposed liberty of the group would become a discourse of double moral, of exterior composure, reproducing the power hierarchy. Is it that some furries must be silenced for the benefit of the group?  

In our culture, almost all sexualities are normalized by conceiving them a socially recognized identity: the homosexuals are gays/lesbians, the oglers are voyeurs and who enjoys being humiliated can be a slave; it is necessary when we need to indicate the other. How should we call the user of yiff? Seems like the furry fandom doesn’t have a jargon for it, but it reduces to pornography, sexual practice and/or desire. The slang term yiffer has been investigated, but it doesn’t correspond to this meaning and it is hardly used. We could interpret it in two very different senses: either as an exclusion and negation mechanism or both. Probably the first case is more likely to occur, but in Spain it also works discursively for the separation of yiff from the supposed furry essence, as a mark of the objectivity of the dictionary.

How is it that this situation has developed in Spain? CSI: Las Vegas” (2003) determined many American furries to protect their public image (Morga, 2008) and it occurs a subsequent parallelism in the Spanish furries and press.

Previously, we have accomplished a media content analysis, which indicates that the Spanish means of communication converge in a eccentric and sexual vision of the furry fandom, but this image is incongruent with the data and analysis already exposed. It is surprising how, after a television series, different state means of communication (in different formats) have reduced their actions to the confirmation of a television stereotype, instead of actually informing about the issues. All of this highlights irresponsible journalistic practices, both in form and content. For instance, this happens in a prestigious newspaper such as El País, according to how Wiener denotes openly in his first article that, after an “intensive and heroic day”, he came back from the beach and managed to investigate and write the article in the same day (Wiener, 2008a).

Reaching this point, an interesting constructionist effect takes place:
In the Spanish furry fandom, there is a discursive reaction opposite the sensationalism of the meanings constructed by the media and partly attributed to the investigators. Nevertheless, these meanings were unknown and pointless for the investigator. Moreover, they appear as quotes/discourse in the furry-investigator interaction. The investigator centers contents of the investigation on them, given that they seem important for the participants. Therefore, the investigator submerges in what the Furry Fandom denies, starting from the re-citing of the furries. Fortunately, this investigation understands the knowledge contents as productions resulting from the interaction, as a process; unlike an investigation centered only on contents, such as essences to be discovered, which could re-confirm and re-produce.

Perhaps the fundamental problem is re-citing what is detested, such as quotes previous to the interaction; which are actually re-constructed with this, reproducing cognitions and social structures: the auto-accomplished prophecy. This means, the best way to counter-verify an uncertain image is showing what the false image subverts, and not negating it and classifying every social actor with these false roles.

In this respect, the audiovisual mounting and writing of the means of communications generate the impression of a prediscursive resource, such as criteria of maximum rigour; but they are produced descriptions. On one hand, the media can realize a construction that turns abject and frivolous something with subversive potential; but it can also be subversive for their self-interests: for example, the transgressor and successful advertising campaign of Orangina (2010) in France, which uses the yiff as satire of other quotidian products through animalized humans and implicit eroticism.   

Certainly, “CSI: Las Vegas” (2005) was frivolous towards the furry fandom, but also against the investigation processes. It is ironical that some furries could feel defamed by the investigators while they don’t even question the defamation of the media towards researchers, even confounding journalism with science. Anyway, it should not surprise us the fact that victims of prejudices also do it, but the role they have in the construction and reproduction of the identity. What should cause surprise is that a television series consolidates a point of view that has been re-produced by the media in an irresponsible manner and, most important, whose victims haven’t acceded to these means in order to produce a public discourse from their own point of view.

FINAL REFLEXIONS

The participating observation in forums requires taking decisions during the recollection of data in a virtual space and its analysis is laborious; nevertheless, as a qualitative methodology, it allows a first approach to the common understanding and motivation of the participants. On the basis of its initial documentation it can be realized a content analysis of the raw data, interpretative repertoires and, finally, a contextualized interpretative labour opposed to the domination, a critical discourse analysis.

Once the furry identity is understood, we confirm that its jargon (such as fursona, fursuit, yiff and being furry) constructs alternative gender practices for the hegemonic one: the virtuality of the corporeal self-image is questioned, monopolized from the gender oppression in man or woman, although both are also virtual, since they are social constructions. Moreover, it is an open identity and, on the basis of its diversity, they explicitly deny the possibility of resolving it.

In consistence with the cyborg feminism (Haraway, 1995), clever regarding the cybernetic ambiguity person-animal-machine, the furry fandom frames feminist issues such as the role of science, the ideology about the human nature and the necessity of a coalition of identities. For instance, the basic political and media logic preserves a conception of representativity of the fandom on the basis of the furry subject; nonetheless, this approach generates violence and exclusion, inside and outside the group. Therefore, it is essential to abandon the identitary normalization that defines the legitimate represented subject and act directly through a coalition of multiplicities. En consistence with this article, the scientific practice should combat the cybernetic domination (that also operates through the media); otherwise, it would be constituted a technology in the service of this domination. 

Having concluded the objectives, we can compare this investigation with the quoted ones. As similarities we have found: also in the case of the Spanish-speaking participants the fursonas of canines and felines are frequent; the presence on Furaffinity.net and the hobbies around graphic art and virtual communities; the sex is not important al the person level as furry, but it is considered important concerning many other furries, and it is disproportionate in relation with the public image created by the media. As differences, these participants hardly refer to the furry literature and the community is not so “strong”. Comparing the Spanish participants with the Mexicans, the data reveals that the Spanish furries is more immersed in internal conflicts, is very critical in regards to the possibility of organization and part of its discourse refuses the investigation about its sexuality; but both groups frequently interaction through the internet, favoring a common language and small communities in the cyberspace. 

The future qualitative investigation could reproduce this study in other forums, with other languages and/or other cultural contexts; define better the jargon; go in depth in every interpretative repertoire. It could also be repeated after 5-10 years in order to check the discursive changes occurred longitudinally; moreover, there could be applied other methodologies, such as the ethno-methodology and the action-investigation. On the basis of the quantitative research, we have studied deeper the variables and categories that were quantified as common knowledge, but they were incomprehensible for lectors not familiarized with the jargon: it could be realized a quantitative study about the use of categories, reproducing items of other researches and their subsequent statistical analysis. Finally, it is recommended to the future investigators to work with furries directly, as members or collaborators, in order to facilitate the access to the subculture.


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