Given the success of our large-scale surveys in recent years, the IARP decided to begin experimenting with new study designs. One of the main reasons for the novel designs was to provide converging evidence for our previous findings through alternative methodologies: if we come to the same conclusion using multiple sets of data obtained from different methodologies, we can be reasonably confident in our obtained findings. In addition, we at the IARP have struggled with the challenge of answering questions and addressing issues, both academic and furry-specific, that do not lend themselves readily to large-scale surveys of the fandom.
To this end, our team pilot-tested running three separate methodologies at Furry Fiesta 2014:
A) General Convention Survey
As in previous years, we administered a general survey to the convention. Research assistants passed out copies of the survey to furries standing in registration lines and furries walking by the Dealers’ Den. New to this year, we ran a shortened version of the survey (4 pages instead of 8-10) in the hopes of increasing participation in the survey. Moreover, we experimented with a number of new question types addressing novel questions. In sum, we received 246 surveys in return, comprising 13.1% of the total convention’s attendance (quite a significant sample!) Novel questions addressed by this survey included, but were not limited to:
1) Do furries get more involved or less involved with the fandom over time? Can we predict when furries are going to leave the fandom before they actually do?
2) Does it say anything about a furry if their fursona is just like them? What about having a fursona that’s a “better” version of you?
3) How many furries wear fursuits? Tails? Ears? Does this tell us anything about the furries themselves?
B) Three Focus Groups
New to Furry Fiesta, the IARP conducted a series of three focus groups, each addressing a different topic within the furry fandom. The focus groups consisted of a room of 20-25 furries who completed a short, 2-page survey about a specific topic in the fandom and had an hour-long discussion about that particular topic while the researcher and two research assistants tape-recorded the session and took notes. Focus groups are particularly useful for addressing specific subgroups in the fandom who are often overlooked in large-scale surveys. For example, while it would be interesting to ask questions about the experience of artists on the general furry survey, the fact that most furries do not consider themselves serious artists means that asking such questions in this regard would be wasteful of valuable survey space, as most furries would simply reply that the questions were not applicable to them. Furthermore, while it is often useful to collect survey data, descriptive, opened-ended data from interviews and focus groups can give us ideas and hypotheses that we might otherwise have missed by asking closed-ended questions in a general survey format. Three focus groups raised a number of interesting questions about the furry fandom:
Artists in the fandom (N = 20 Artists)
- What are the demographics of the furry artist community?
- Do furry artists start out as artists or as furries?
- Do artists make their living from the fandom?
- Are there issues with entitlement in the fandom?
- What other issues do artists in the fandom face?
Women in the fandom (N = 21 Female Furries)
- How do female furries the furry fandom, and with whom do they interact?
- Do women experience sexism in the furry fandom?
- What other issues do women in the fandom face?
Issues in the fandom (N = 25 Furries)
- Is the fandom getting better or worse?
- How does the fandom in general feel about artists? Women?
- How do furries feel about the content and organization of the fandom?
- What are the most commonly cited virtues and problems with the fandom?
- What other issues do furries experience in the fandom?
C) Longitudinal Study: Wave 2
Since last year, the IARP has started its biggest undertaking to date: the world’s first longitudinal, multi-year study of furries. The study investigates the long-term effects of spending time in the furry fandom on furries’ personality, beliefs, cognitive styles, identity, and much more. In addition, because of the additional temporal component (the survey takes place at multiple times), we can now begin to answer questions about direction of causality, something that previous survey-based research on furries has been unable to do. A preliminary glimpse of just some of the questions the longitudinal study will be able to address, based on responses from 124 furries who completed last year’s Wave 1 and this year’s Wave 2 of the study, includes:
- Does spending time in the furry fandom affect furry gender identity? Sexual orientation?
- Do furries like the fandom more as they spend more time in it?
- Does spending time in the fandom make furries more “open” about being furry?
- Does spending time in the fandom affect furries’ attitudes toward pornography?
If you’re interested in participating in this ongoing longitudinal study of furries, please e-mail Dr. Courtney “Nuka” Plante at email@example.com.
As always, if you have any questions, suggestions, or want clarification, please contact us. Please note that all collected information is presented here in aggregate (summarized) form, and there is absolutely NO identifying information in the data. We have no way of tracing responses back to the original participant (this is an anonymous survey). Additionally, any quotes presented are done so without any identifying information in them, to protect the anonymity of the participants.
Part A: General Convention Survey
Q1: Do furries get more involved or less involved with the fandom over time? Can we predict when furries are going to leave the fandom before they actually do?
One of the most interesting new questions we’ve begun to ask furries involves their projected trajectory in the fandom. Furries are asked to record on the how involved in the fandom they were in the past, they currently are, and expect to be in the future:
Since the survey was pencil-and-paper, our research assistants used rulers to measure furries level of involvement at each of the seven time points in centimeters. These numbers were converted into a value ranging from 0 to 100, with 0 representing “No Involvement” and 100 representing “Very Involved”.
The first noteworthy characteristic of the figure is the fact that on average furries identify themselves as particularly involved in the fandom presently. The second characteristic that stands out is the steady increase in involvement leading up to the present time. Most furries indicate that while there was some interest in furry content five and ten years ago, it has increased to the present day, regardless of age group. Most interesting of all, however, is furries’ projections for their future involvement in the fandom. Despite growing demographic evidence which strongly suggests that many furries leave the fandom in their late 20s and early 30s, most furries believe that their current level of involvement in the fandom will be maintained into the future.
We also assessed these trajectories for furries who reported being in the fandom for 1-5 years, 6-10 years, and 11+ years:
A similar pattern was found, although furries who reported being in the fandom for more than 10 years did indicate that they had more involvement in the fandom 10 years ago than furries who have been in the fandom for less than 10 years. Regardless, the pattern remains the same: furries’ involvement in the fandom increases to the present day, and is projected to remain constant or, if anything, increase in the future, despite evidence to the contrary.
On the graph below, we indicated the hypothesized trajectories for the upcoming year of all 246 participants in the study. A straight, horizontal line indicates the belief that one’s involvement in the fandom will not change in the next year. An upward line indicates a belief that one’s involvement in the fandom will increase in the next year, while a downward line indicates a belief that one’s involvement in the fandom will decrease in the next year.
As you can see, with the exception of a handful of particularly pessimistic participants, the vast majority of furries indicated that they expected their involvement in the fandom to stay about the same or increase in the future. The average projected change was 3.16 (SD = 14.5), a value which was found to be statistically significantly greater than 0 (t(215) = 3.19, p = .002).
Why are we interested in this? Well, one of the more difficult samples to obtain in our line of research is a sample of furries who have left the fandom. While we know that many furries eventually leave the fandom, we have little evidence as to why this is the case. Given the difficulty of tracking down furries who have already left the fandom, the next best thing would be to identify furries who anticipate that they might be leaving the fandom, as indicated by predictions of decreased future involvement. In fact, data from this study suggest that these aren’t just random predictions: furries’ estimates about their anticipated future trajectory significantly positively correlate with their presently-felt identification with the furry community (Beta = .15, t(214) = 2.28, p = .024). To put it another way: the furries who are saying they plan to become less involved in the furry fandom are already identifying less with the furry community.
In future studies (such as the longitudinal study), we hope to test the accuracy of furries’ predictions about their future involvement and to see whether or not expectations of reduced future involvement predict leaving the fandom.
Q2: Does it say anything about a furry if their fursona is just like them? What about having a fursona that’s a “better” version of you?
In the past few years, we’ve learned that there are a multitude of factors at play when furries develop or discover their fursonas. Two variables of particular interest to Nuka involve the extent to which furries identify with their fursonas (e.g. my fursona represents who I am), and the extent to which furries pick fursonas that represent idealized, “better” versions of themselves (e.g., I may be shy and quiet, but my fursona is outgoing and confident, two things I may wish to be).
Far from being a trivial distinction, the data suggest that it matters whether or not furries’ fursonas are like them and/or seen as better versions of themselves:
a) Furries whose fursonas represent idealized versions of themselves are more likely to predict that they will remain involved in the fandom in the future (Beta = .14, t(214) = 1.99, p = .048).
b) In constrast, whether your fursona expresses who you are now has no bearing on your future involvement in the fandom (Beta = -.00, p = .97).
c) Perhaps unsurprisingly, when fursonas represent a person’s idealized self, furries are more likely to want to be like their fursona (Beta = .58, t(198) = 10.02, p < .001)
d) Furries who say that their fursonas do NOT represent who they are now are more likely to have lower self-esteem (Beta = -.28, t(214) = -4.22, p < .001), more likely to experience feelings of depression (Beta = .23, t(214) = 3.43, p = .001), and are more likely to experience anxiety (Beta = .19, t(214) = 2.88, p = .004).
So the data seem to suggest that whether your fursona represents your ideal self, who you are now, or both, is important. Investigating this issue further, we ran a series of analyses that found:
a) A fursona that represents your ideal self did not predict self-esteem (Beta = .09, p = .19)
b) However, having a fursona that represented your ACTUAL self predicted better self-esteem (Beta = .21, p = .002).
c) Also, to the extent that people say they feel upset that they’re not more like their fursona, they also experience lower self-esteem (Beta = -.28, p < .001).
d) Here’s where it gets interesting: If your fursona represents your ideal self, you’re more likely to be disappointed that you’re not like your fursona (Beta = .40, p < .001), but you don’t experience this disappointment about not being your fursona if you say that your fursona represents who you actually are (Beta = -.04, p = .48).
e) What does this mean? Having a fursona that both represents who you ideally want to be AND which represents how you feel right now predicts fewer upset feelings about not being your fursona (Interaction Beta = -.60, p = .045):
f) Finally, these reduced feelings of being upset also means that you’re more likely to have a higher self-esteem. For those who enjoy statistical jargon, this is evidence of significant mediated moderation (Beta = .019, SE = .012, 95% CI: .001 to .048).
So, what does all of this mean? Having a fursona that expresses who you currently are is generally indicative of good, healthy self-esteem. Having a fursona that represents an idealized version of who you are doesn’t NECESSARILY mean a person has reduced self-esteem… but if they also say that their idealized fursona isn’t anything like who they currently are, then there may be a problem, because this could indicate dissatisfaction with the self.
The moral of the story: The most healthy fursonas (for one’s self-esteem, at any rate) may be the ones that not only represent who you would like to be, but also express who you are right now.
Q3: How many furries wear fursuits? Tails? Ears? Does this tell us anything about the furries themselves?
We asked furries to indicate whether they owned, and whether they regularly wore clothing / accessories / suits that represented their fursonas.
In the first column, you see the percentage of furries who indicated that they OWNED a particular accessory. As in previous research, we see that tail ownership among furries is quite common (48.1%). We can also see that despite the fact that they are perhaps the most recognizable aspect of the furry fandom, only 18.5% of furries own a partial fursuit, and only 13.0% own a full fursuit. New to these findings, we find that about one-third of furries wear clothing and accessories also associated with their fursonas.
Perhaps not surprisingly, owners of fursuits report wearing them regularly. This is likely due to the fact that they have significant interest in fursuiting, otherwise it is unlikely they would have made such an expensive purchase! Similarly, we find that many furries who own clothing and accessories that represent their fursona also wear these quite regularly, likely due to the fact that they can may be easily worn in day-to-day life.
Interestingly, while not quite reaching a level of statistical significance, there was evidence to suggest that wearing these articles that represent one’s fursona is marginally associated with positive self-esteem (e.g., Head, Beta = .12, p = .068)… except in the case of ears. The data suggest that owning and regularly wearing ears is negatively associated with self-esteem (Beta = -.14, p = .037). This finding is quite unexpected, and future research will have to discern whether this is an abnormality in the data or whether there is a theoretical explanation for this correlation.
Part B: Three Focus Groups
Q1: What are the demographics of the furry artist community?
While our sample size for artists attending the artist focus group at Furry Fiesta 2014 is rather small at 20 participants, it should be noted that it is difficult to obtain a sample of self-identified artists, and that, until now, there have been no systematic attempts to study artists within the furry community. The present findings represent an initial foray in the subject, providing preliminary evidence which will be followed up in future research.
Our sample of artists, unlike the broader furry fandom (which has historically been shown to comprise about 80-85% males), was comprised of 50% males and 50% females (biologically); in this particular sample, there was little evidence of gender-bending, with 80% of males and females reporting genders that generally coincided with their biological sex. Participants ranged in age from 20 to 55, with a mean age of 29.1.
Q2: Do furry artists start out as artists or as furries?
100% of the male artists in our sample reported that they were furry, in contrast to 80% of the female artists.
Interestingly, 60% of female artists reported that they had been artists for longer than they had been furries; this is in contrast to male artists, of whom 30% reported that they had been artists for longer than they had been furries. A separate question provided more direct evidence of this: 60% of female artists explicitly stated that they were artists before they were furries, whereas only 20% of male artists said that they were artists before they were furries. This may suggest that female artists may be more likely to be artists who are inspired by or find their way into the furry fandom, whereas male artists are more likely to be furries who are inspired to become artists, though future research is needed to test these hypotheses.
Artists are neither more nor less likely than the average furry to self-identify as a furry (6.1 / 7.0 versus 6.2/7.0 in the general furry population, p = .72), nor do artist identify more or less with the furry community (5.0 / 7.0 versus 5.3/7.0 in the general furry population, p = .43). In other words, artists in the furry fandom, on average, identify just as much with the fandom as other furries.
Q3: Do artists make their living from the fandom?
Yes and no; While 71.4% of the artists in our sample indicated that they did receive some income from their artwork, only 23.8% indicated that sale of their artwork was their sole source of income (though it was not indicated whether this income was sufficient to constitute “making a living”, and it’s possible that other factors, such as partner income, may need to be considered).
Q4: Are there issues with entitlement in the fandom?
62% of artists indicated that they had, at least once, been requested to draw or create something they were not comfortable with. While this sometimes involved requests / commissions in a medium or containing content that was beyond the author’s skill level, artists indicated that this lack of comfort was due to sexual content, often involving fetishes, violence, or extreme content that the artist was uncomfortable with. Additionally, while 62% of artists had received such a request, 22.2% of artists have actually drawn something that they disagreed or were uncomfortable with, often citing financial incentives or a sense of challenge as motivation for doing so.
Artists report that, on average, approximately 25% of the content they produce is pornographic, with dramatic differences between individual artists (who ranged from 0% pornographic material to 90% pornographic material).
Artists indicate that they tend to receive a moderate amount of feedback to their artwork (4.33/ 7.00, SD = 1.83), with many citing that the feedback is usually quite positive, with only a few indicating that they received negative feedback with any regularity (2.14 / 7.00, SD = 1.11).
The artists in the sample, on average, considered themselves slightly better than the average artist in the fandom (4.85 / 7.00, SD = 1.31). Interestingly, despite this, many artists reported at least some concern regarding their reputation in the fandom (3.19 / 7.00, SD = 2.21): one third of artists reported moderate to near-constant concern about their reputation, while two-thirds of artists reported almost no concern.
Furry artists reported being satisfied with the amount of attention they receive from the fandom for being an artist (3.79 / 7.00, “1” = Not enough attention, 7 = “Too much attention”). Artists also report that their furry artwork has strengthened their interest in the furry fandom and in furry (4.48 / 7.00, SD = 1.40).
Artists in the fandom report that about half of their fandom friends are also artists (45.5%, SD = 32.7%). Artists feel that being an artist rarely impacts their relationships with others (2.19 / 7.00, SD = 1.81).
Finally, artists reported that furries are moderately to excessively demanding of artists in the fandom (5.25 / 7.00, SD = 1.16). In fact, 95% of artists in the sample agreed that furries were at least moderately demanding of artists.
Q5: What other issues do artists in the fandom face?
In the course of the discussion between the artists and the researcher / research assistants, several general themes emerged:
- Many artists reported being concerned about a “mob mentality” on websites that aim to publicly shame or discredit artists. Many artists expressed fear that one bad review on these sites could destroy their reputation in the fandom.
- Common pressures faced by artists include felt pressure to draw copyrighted characters and legal concerns about copyright infringement. In addition, many artists indicated that commissioners had attempted to pressure them into drawing things on their “will not draw” list.
- Several artists indicated concerns about fan entitlement, including underestimating the time needed to complete a commission, undervaluing of a piece, or expectations of free artwork.
- Common issues with commissioners included lack of specificity about what a commissioner was looking for, a lack of reference pictures to work from, and a general lack of communication between artist and commissioner.
- Artists also suggested that different styles of art are differently valued, such as the undervaluing of digital art relative to more traditional mediums, or an over-valuing of “realistic” artwork over “toony” artwork.
Q1: How do female furries enter the furry fandom, and with whom do they interact?
Given that the furry fandom is predominantly male (~80-85% male), the fandom itself may be seen by female furries as an unwelcoming place, despite the fandom’s values of openness and inclusivity. Based on prior research on norms, which has found that women often feel unwelcome in predominantly male fields such as mathematics, computing science, or engineering which, as a result, may perpetuate their male-dominated nature. With this in mind, we are interested in testing whether female furries feel a similar way toward the furry fandom.
One hypothesis arising from this theorizing is that female furries may need a way to “get their foot in the door” as a way of “validating” their presence in a male-dominated fandom. Some evidence was found for this: While 90.5% of female furries indicated that their own interests in furry played a major role in their decision to become involved in the fandom, 45.0% also indicated that a relationship partner played a major role in introducing them to the fandom and 57.1% indicated that a friend introduced them into the fandom.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, data suggested that females in the fandom were more likely to identify with other female furries (5.15 / 7.00, SD = 1.35) than with male furries (3.90 / 7.00, SD = 1.45; t(19) = 3.32, p = .004).
Q2: Do women experience sexism in the furry fandom?
Sexism (the discriminatory or differential treatment of someone on the basis of their sex) can take a number of forms, ranging from blatant, hostile sexism (e.g., derogatory names, threats, expressing negative attitudes towards members of one sex) to far more subtle, systemic or even unintentional forms of sexism (e.g., being overly nice to someone based on their sex, neglecting to include or acknowledge members of a particular sex). Importantly, issues of sexism may be overlooked in the fandom because of its predominantly-male nature, making it all the more important to seek out the perspective of women in the fandom through targeted focus groups.
Several questions addressed different issues surrounding sexism and perceived gender norms in the furry fandom:
- 81% of female furries indicated that they felt moderately to strongly that the furry fandom was “a boys club”
- 52.4% of female furries said that when hanging out with other furries, they were often reminded of their sex; 48% of women stated that the words or actions of other furries remind them of their sex
- 19% of female furries expressed concerns that they did not belong in the furry fandom because of their sex
- 85% of female furries indicated that they wished there were more female furries in the fandom; 40% of female furries’ friends in the fandom are also female
- 42.1% of women disagreed with the statement that “women in the fandom are treated as equal to men”
- 22.0% of women felt that women in the fandom were looked down upon. 66.7% of women felt that women in the fandom were put on a pedestal or revered. Interestingly, these two variables are highly correlated (r = .61, p = .008), and past research on hostile and benevolent sexism has suggested that both forms of sexism often go hand-in-hand
- 68.4% of women agreed that the fandom was an intimidating place for women
Q3: What other issues do women in the fandom face?
In the open discussion, several themes were expressed by female furries:
- Several women suggested that fursonas represented a way for them to discover and explore gender, although there was often pressure online for women to make characters whose gender matched their biological sex
- Many women feel that males in the fandom tend to view female furries as outsiders
- Transgender individuals in the fandom may experience discomfort or objectification at the fetishization of hermaphroditic or dual-gender characters in artwork
- Given that the furry fandom is a predominantly online one, it is problematic that, in many instances, online sexism is often worse than in-person sexism
- Several participants indicated that “inappropriate touching” was a problem at conventions, with furries feeling entitled to hug or to touch them because they were in suit, cosplaying, or simply for being a female.
- Many women expressed frustration over having male friends who would try to make a relationship sexual, or who were friends with the goal of one day becoming more than “just friends”. In a similar vein, relationship statuses seemed to be a barrier for many women, who found it difficult to make male friends when they were in a heterosexual relationship
- Several participants expressed concerns that furry artwork portrayed women in an objectifying, derogatory, disrespectful, or unrealistic fashion
Q1: Is the fandom getting better or worse?
The 25 participants in this focus group, who constituted a representative sample of the general furry population in terms of demographics, were first asked whether they believed that the fandom was getting better or worse. 71% of the sample believed that the fandom was getting better, while a small minority (4.2%) said that they felt the fandom was generally getting worse.
In a similar vein, 56% of the sample said that they were getting deeper into the fandom, becoming more involved in it, while 4% of furries indicated the opposite, that they were attempting to distance themselves from the fandom.
Q2: How does the fandom in general feel about artists? Women?
These two questions were asked to provide a comparison for the artist and women focus groups. Many of the issues raised in these focus groups suggested that many of the issues important to artists and to women in the fandom were largely overlooked or not recognized by the broader fandom – illustrating the importance of such focus groups for bringing these issues to light.
Supporting the assertions of artists during the focus group, 64% of furries said that the fandom was too positive in its treatment of artists, while only 12% of furries believed that artists in the fandom were treated too negatively.
In a similar vein, 41.7% of furries said that the fandom treated women too positively, while 37.5% of furries said that women were treated too negatively.
Q3: How do furries feel about the content and organization of the fandom?
Several questions assessed furries’ feelings regarding the content of the fandom and the overall structure and organization of the fandom.
40% of furries indicated that the fandom contained too much content that came from mainstream media, while 20% of furries indicated just the opposite, that the fandom was too exclusive and closed to outside media.
40% of furries indicated that the fandom was too inclusive of sex and sexual content, while 12% of furries indicated that the fandom was not inclusive enough on this subject.
Most furries tended to conceptualise the fandom not as a single entity (e.g. “furry”, 36%), but instead as a conglomeration of scattered subgroups (e.g. “therians and bronies and artists and writers, etc…, 56%).
33% of furries believed that there were groups in the fandom that they wished were not a part of the fandom. The most commonly cited of these groups included babyfurs/cubfurs, fetish subgroups, and zoophiles.
Q4: What are the most commonly cited virtues and problems with the fandom?
Furries were first asked to list the three most positive aspects of the fandom. The most common answers included:
- Openness / lack of judgment
- Artwork and creativity
- Promoting individuality / non-conformity
- Openness to sexuality and gender
Next, furries were asked to cite the three biggest problems observed in the fandom. The most common answers included:
- Negative media portrayals
- The sexualisation of the fandom
- Drama and social awkwardness
- Bigotry, discrimination, and intolerance
- Becoming too mainstream
Q5: What other issues do furries experience in the fandom?
In the open discussion, furries discussed additional issues and topics that they wished to be addressed, both in discussions among the fandom as a whole and through continued research on this subject:
- Bullying in the fandom, and a recognition that bullying does occur in the fandom. Despite the fact that it may not be physical bullying, significant social bullying occurs (e.g., rumors, ostracism, etc…)
- The fandom, with its numerous subgroups, can be a particularly cliquish place, making it difficult for newcomers to integrate
- Despite the fandom’s purported openness and acceptance, physical disabilities still receive significant negative attention
- Issues such as spirituality and religion are looked down upon or discouraged by the fandom
- Issues regarding artists, including artist entitlement, artists acting professionally, or felt frustration that commissioners are unable to commission particularly popular or famous artists
Part C: Longitudinal Study, Wave 2
Q1: Does spending time in the furry fandom affect furry gender identity? Sexual orientation?
Some of our more interesting hypotheses revolve around the concept of identity within the fandom: how identity changes over time, how it may depend on the setting a person is in, and the effect of having an alternate identity or fursona on a person’s non-fursona entity. One set of questions deriving from this line of questioning involves whether or not furries’ sense of gender identity and sexual orientation may shift as a product of spending time in a fandom where prevailing stereotypes suggest that male furries are effeminate and where, as past research has shown, bisexuality and homosexuality are far more accepted and expressed than in the general population.
Interestingly, preliminary evidence may suggest that spending time in the furry fandom may affect a person’s non-fursona gender identity, though not in the hypothesized direction. On average, furries indicating their gender on a 5-point scale ranging from “masculine” to “feminine” (with other options for those who do not identify on a binary gender dimension) scored about one third of a point more “masculine” in Wave 2 than they did in Wave 1, a difference which was statistically significant even after controlling statistically for the effects of age (F(1,114) = 7.72, p = .006). Put another way, furries’ non-fursona identity became more masculine after spending about a year in the fandom.
It is worth noting that in this case we asked only about non-fursona gender, not about fursona gender. As a result, we cannot compare whether changes in fursona gender occurred over time. One possibility might be that furries “furry” or “fursona” identity may become more feminine over time, which would lead to furries making a starker contrast between their “furry” selves and their “non-furry” selves (which would lead the non-furry self to be perceived as more masculine. Of course, it is an empirical question, to be tested in future waves of the survey).
We ran a similar set of analyses regarding sexual orientation, based on prior findings that older furries, on average, were more likely to self-identify as homosexual. Our aim was to test whether it was the case that spending time in the furry fandom could influence a person’s sexual orientation, or whether it was the case that homosexual furries remained in the fandom for longer. While we did find preliminary evidence that members of the furry fandom reported slightly more homosexual orientations in Wave 2 as compared to Wave 1 (3.81 / 7.00 vs. 3.55 / 7.00, t(92) = 2.03, p = .045), the effect fell to non-significance when we statistically controlled for participant age (F(1,91) = 1.64, p = .20). These findings are preliminary, but may suggest that while homosexuality is more prevalent in older members of the fandom, the effect of spending time in the fandom on sexual orientation may, at most, be a small.
Q2: Do furries like the fandom more as they spend more time in it?
We asked furries in Wave 1 and Wave 2 of the study to indicate how positively or negatively they felt about the fandom on a scale from 0 to 100, with 0 indicating “Very Negative”, 100 indicating “Very Positive”, and 50 indicating “Neither Negative Nor Positive”. Two competing factors influenced our hypotheses. On the one hand, data from Furry Fiesta 2014 suggests that, over time, furries become more involved in the fandom and, at very least, anticipate remaining as involved in the fandom, which might suggest increasingly positive feelings. Moreover, social identity theory from psychology would suggest that we are biased to see the groups that are most central to our identity in a positive manner. On the other hand, as a person spends more time in the fandom, it may be the case that, like in relationships, they lose the “rose-coloured glasses”, and become aware of less desirable aspects of the fandom. This awareness may reduce their evaluation of the fandom over time.
What do the data suggest? Furries in Wave 1 rated the fandom 78.8 / 100 on average, while the same furries rated the fandom nearly ten points lower, at 69.8 / 100 approximately one year later, a difference that was statistically significant, even after controlling for age effects and level of involvement in the fandom (F(1,113) = 12.6, p = .001). Put simply: furries were more likely to see the fandom less positively the more time they spent in it.
There are two important points to consider. First, it is worth noting that furries in Wave 2 did not rate the fandom negative – their average score was still about 70, well into the “positive” side of the scale. This supports the hypothesis that furries “lose the rose-coloured glasses”, and not an interpretation that “furries start to hate the fandom”. It is also worth noting that these findings may contribute to our understanding of why furries may come to leave the fandom. If, over time, furries do begin to adopt a less and less positive view of the fandom, they may be less motivated to devote time and energy to their participation in the fandom, which could explain why furries leave the fandom. Future research on this subject aims to test such mechanisms.
Q3: Does spending time in the fandom make furries more “open” about being furry?
We asked furries in Wave 1 and Wave 2 of the longitudinal study to indicate the extent to which they self-disclosed their furry identity to non-furry friends, co-workers, strangers, and new acquaintances.
When these groups were averaged together, we find that furries, as a group, tend to self-disclose their identity more as they spend more time in the fandom, controlling for age (3.01 / 7 vs. 2.58 / 7; F(1,122) = 13.45, p < .001). This is perhaps unsurprising: the more time a furry spends in the fandom, the more apparent their interests may become to those around them. Interestingly, follow-up analyses revealed that this effect was driven almost entirely by increased self-disclosure to their non-furry friends, an increase of three-quarters of a point on a 7-point scale on average (t(123) = 5.07, p < .001). In contrast, while furries did indicate that they were slightly more likely to self-disclose to their co-workers, to strangers, and to new acquaintances as they spent more time in the fandom, none of these increases reached statistical significance (all ps > .14).
What does this mean? It suggests that as furries increase their involvement in the fandom and spend more time as a furry, they disclose this fact to their non-furry friends, but are far less likely to do so to their co-workers or to others in their lives.
Q4: Does spending time in the fandom affect furries’ attitudes toward pornography?
Given the openness of the furry fandom toward sexual orientation and sexuality more broadly, coupled with the fact that prior research has shown that the vast majority of furries use pornographic material, furry-themed or otherwise, we tested whether or not spending time in the fandom has an effect on the positivity of one’s attitudes toward pornography or the extent to which the content of their pornography changes over time.
We asked furries in Wave 1 and Wave 2 to indicate how positively they felt about pornography in the fandom. Results suggested that spending time in the furry fandom had no discernible effect on furries’ felt positivity toward pornography(t(120) = -.233, p = .82).
Interestingly, we also asked furries to indicate the extent to which their pornography use was limited to furry-themed pornography. Interestingly, while we found that furries reported that they viewed / read furry-themed pornography more exclusively in Wave 2 than in Wave 1 (t(110) = 3.19, p = .002), this increase fell to non-significance when taking into account participants’ age (F(1,109) = 1.33, p = .25). In other words, while furries’ pornography use was more exclusively furry in Wave 2, it may be the case that aging, and not spending time in the fandom, accounted for this difference. Future research may help to disentangle these findings.