1.1 Age and Ageism

One of the first questions we ask in any of our studies is the age of the participant. The purpose of this is two-fold: first, age can be an important variable, predicting a number of physical, psychological, and social outcomes. Second, due to ethical restrictions, the IARP is unable to study minors (as parental consent would be required, something we cannot reasonably expect to obtain if a person has not “come out” to their family as a furry).

Average Age (Years) of Furry Participants

Study Con-Going Online
W11 23.3
S11 24.0 26.8
W12 27.1 27.6
AC12 26.0 31.2
SS29 28.3
Range 24.0—27.1 23.3—32.1

As the table above and figure below shows, furries tend to be relatively young, with the majority of adult furries (over the age of 18) being in their early-to-mid-twenties, and nearly 75% of furries being under the age of 25. 1 Convention-going furries tend to be, on average, a bit older than furries in our online samples. This, we believe, is due to the fact that conventions can be expensive to attend (e.g., travel costs, hotel), requiring a level of expendable income and long-distance transportation more available to those with stable careers, who are more likely to be in their mid-twenties than their late teens and early twenties.

2011 Sample
1-1 Average Age of Furries
2020 Sample

The term “greymuzzle” is sometimes used by furries who have been in the fandom for significantly longer (12.3 years vs. 6.2 years, on average) or who are older than the average furry (e.g., 42.2 years old, on average). Approximately 9% of furries self-identify as greymuzzles.2 They are comparable to other furries in most regards, not differing in their well-being or in their identification with the furry fandom. Greymuzzles do differ on a few variables:

a. On average, it took greymuzzles much longer to discover the furry fandom after developing furry interests (9.5 years vs. 4.6 years), likely a product of internet accessibility.
b. Greymuzzles are 3-4 times more likely to self-identify as therian.
c. Greymuzzles are less likely to have an interest in roleplaying activities.3

The IARP is currently investigating the reason for a significant drop in the age of furries, particularly after the early 20s. One possibility is that, as people age, factors such as families and careers may reduce the amount of time people can devote to their hobbies. Alternatively, it may be the case that as furries spend time in the furry fandom, they form close friendships and, after a while, find themselves interacting with those friends outside of furry contexts.

On average, furries are older than anime fans (both convention-going and online), but younger than fantasy sport fans.4 Whether this is due to the fandoms targeting different age groups, requiring different amounts of resources to enter (e.g., money to spend on fantasy sport leagues), or other factors remains a topic of interest for future research.
1-1 Age of Fandom Members

In addition to assessing actual age, the IARP has also studied subjective age—the extent to which furries feel younger or older than they actually are. As illustrated in the figure below, the “peak” of subjective (felt) age is younger than that of objective (actual) age. 10% to 15% of furries identify their felt age as being under the age of 18, while comparatively fewer identify a subjective age older than 40. The average actual age of furries is significantly higher than the average subjective age of the same furries (28.0 years vs. 25.3 years), about 6.9% higher on average.5

1-1 Actual and Subjective Age of Furries
Finally, this figure illustrates that furries in the oldest quartile rate themselves, on average, 24.5% younger than their actual selves, while furries in the other quartiles feel significantly less young.6
1-1 Subjective Age by Actual Age

In 2017 the IARP began studying how age affects interactions between and attitudes toward members of the fandom, particularly whether members of the furry fandom tended to hold positive or negative attitudes toward furries outside their age group7.

To test this, we asked participants a series of questions about their willingness to interact with furries of different age categories (18, 25, 35, and 55 years old) in different contexts (e.g., willingness to talk to, get a ride to a convention with, share a room at a convention with, get advice from, interact online with). We averaged across each context to get an overall score from 0-3 indicating participants’ openness to interacting with furs of that age group (higher scores = more open).

We then divided participants up into three age categories: Under 25, 25-34, and 35+. Below, we show the results for each of the age groups.

Anthrocon 2017 Openness to Different Ages

The results reveal, first and foremost, that furries tend to congregate with furries in the same age range: Younger furries associate most with younger furries and older furries associate most with older furries. By extension, the results also show that younger furries tend to be less willing to interact with older furries and, likewise, older furries tend to be less willing to interact with younger furries.

These data are too preliminary to suggest that some sort of hostile, intentional ageism is going on, and it seems likely that furries simply prefer to congregate with those of a similar age group because they share similar interests (e.g., grew up watching the same shows, got into the fandom at around the same time) and are at similar points in their lives. Future research is needed, however, to test this hypothesis.

In an online study, we asked participants about potential generational gaps and factors which may or may not contribute to feelings of disconnection with the fandom, feelings that the fandom has changed over time, or negative feelings toward others in the fandom based on their ages. 8

In general this survey suggested that:

— Fandom engagement and connection tended to increase, rather than decrease, over time, as we had seen in earlier studies. 9 However, older furries were more likely than younger furries to agree that they felt less connected over time.
— Furries are far more likely to feel more connected to the fandom than less connected to the fandom over time; older furries were more likely than younger furries to agree that they felt less connected to the fandom over time
— Furries are a bit more likely than not to say that the fandom is different today than it was when they first joined; among those who say that it has changed, they’re significantly more likely to say that it’s changed for the better than for the worse; older furries are more likely to say that it has changed than younger furries, but are no more likely to say it has changed for the better or worse
— As they spend more time in the fandom, furries are more inclined to say that they feel they have more in common with other furries than they are to feel they have less in common; this tendency is lower is older furries than for younger furries
— Furries are slightly more able to keep up with trends in the fandom than to say they can’t; older furries say they struggle more to do so
— Most furries currently in the fandom have not left the fandom before, nor are they seriously considering leaving the fandom; older furries are no more likely than younger furries to agree with this

In an open-ended response, participants were asked whether they had ever felt out of touch or disconnected with a particular age group in the fandom and why. Significantly more comments (by a factor of about 6:1) were directed toward younger furries in the fandom than toward older furries in the fandom.

The most commonly cited issues contributing to felt gaps/divides were, in order:

Comments directed toward younger furries, by older furries:
  • Technology differences (e.g., use/proficiency with Tik Tok, Furry Amino, Twitter)
  • Perception of young furries as hyper-critical, political, overly concerned with political correctness, and concerns about cancel culture
  • Memes, trends, jargon, and slang that’s difficult to keep up with
  • Being too immature or short-sighted
  • Being difficult to interact with due to differences in knowledge/understanding
  • Different perceptions of what the fandom is or should be
  • Being overly permissive or engaging too much with respect to issues of sex/kink or LGBTQ+ issues
  • Behaviours perceived as negative (e.g., partying, drugs, being annoying)
  • Lack of respect, rudeness, self-assuredness, entitlement, or lacking in empathy
  • Being hostile or bigoted toward certain subgroups/kinks or older people
  • Generational differences in life events (e.g., college, having kids)
  • Too involved in “drama” or conflict
  • Overly-focused on fursuiting, or a shallow/superficial interest in fursuiting
Comments directed toward older furries, by younger furries:
  • Being intimidating or condescending toward younger/newer furries
  • Being too cliquish, insular, or ostracizing toward others
  • Being too openly sexual or too accepting of certain groups in the fandom
  • Being bigoted toward minorities (e.g., kinks, LGBTQ+, racial groups)
  • Technology gaps (e.g., MUCKs and other, older, technology)
  • Immaturity or negative behaviour for a person of that age
  • Conservatism/reluctance to change
  • Being “creepy”
  • Being too immersed in the fandom/having no life/being too concerned about popularity in the fandom
  • Different norms or ideas about what the fandom’s norms ought to be

References

  1. International Furry Survey: Summer 2011 and Summer 2020 Survey
  2. 2013 Online Fursona Survey
  3. 2013 Online Fursona Survey
  4. 2014 3-Fandom Survey (Furries, Anime Fans, Fantasy Sport Fans)
  5. Furry Fiesta 2015
  6. Furry Fiesta 2015 study
  7. Anthrocon 2017 Study
  8. Summer 2020 Survey
  9. See 2.2 Fandom Trajectory

15 Comments

  1. Jesse

    You guys have been collecting this data for years, right? Where’s the graph that shows whether/how the demographic of age has changed over time?

    Reply
    • Admin

      That data is being collected for an ongoing longitudinal study that began in 2014. If you wish to participate, please contact Dr Courtney “Nuka” Plante directly.

      Reply
    • K. Wolf

      Wow you’re data is way off!
      I’ve taken your surveys before but all your data is only based on people that take your survey and not the actual attendance!

      If you get your data from each conventions registration data it’s completely different! Much lower average ages!

      Anime conventions in general have been an average of about 15-16 year olds, gradually increasing over the last couple decades but not by much to 17-18 for the average age of attendees!

      Furry conventions on the other hand have a slight older average age of attendance but not by much 16-17 year olds is the average age also gradually increasing over the past few decades to about 18 years old.

      You definitely don’t take into account anyone is under the age of 18 because if you did your numbers in that range would probably make up about 5% of all your attendees!

      But of course children aren’t going to be filling out your survey unless their parents do it for them!

      Your data is bad!

      Reply
      • Admin

        “Way off” and “bad,” lack a bit of nuance, but let’s try and unpack some of this to give you a better understanding of what we do and why:

        I’ve taken your surveys before…

        Thank you for your participation!

        …but all your data is only based on people that take your survey and not the actual attendance!

        First, we accept the rebuke gratefully 🙂

        Second, we do acknowledge the limitations of any of our studies when we do the write-ups of our data for publication. In science, we have to admit what we don’t know, and offer reasons for why we don’t know it. This is what’s called “known unknowns,” i.e., we “know” that we do not know some things, and we generally know why we don’t/can’t know them, and can lead to subsequent research questions/studies or adjustments in methods: this is why scientists start to hedge when questions or concerns start to veer outside the strict parameters of their methodology or specific findings, and why the phrase “further studies are required…” is often heard in media interviews or press releases.

        But, the larger takeaway is, you’re right: we’re not flawless, nor are we the unquestionable authority on all things furry. We know what we know, and generally know what we don’t, and we can always know more, but, and this leads us to your next point:

        You definitely don’t take into account anyone is under the age of 18 because if you did your numbers in that range would probably make up about 5% of all your attendees!

        Not sure how you arrived at 5%, but your general point is valid: we acknowledge this, particularly when we discuss the age distributions of our findings because our Ethics Boards restrict how data is collected, what can be asked, who can be asked, who can handle that data once collected, and how it’s used; minors are a population from whom do not we collect data directly for these reasons. We do try to mitigate this (i.e., try to fill in some blanks that you point to because of this imposed blind-spot) by doing retrospective data of adult furries (e.g., asking adult furries what the experience of being a furry was like when they were teenagers / when they first joined the fandom, etc.)–this too has limitations, as it’s relying on memory which has its own drawbacks.

        So you’re right insofar as we don’t collect data from minors, but we do try and fill in this gap using ethics-approved means where we can, to better complete the overall picture. It’s not perfect, especially when discussing age distribution, as you rightly point out.

        But of course children aren’t going to be filling out your survey unless their parents do it for them!

        You’re right: we don’t want this. We’ll take their parents data though 🙂

        On these points:

        Anime conventions in general have been an average of about 15-16 year olds, gradually increasing over the last couple decades but not by much to 17-18 for the average age of attendees!

        Furry conventions on the other hand have a slight older average age of attendance but not by much 16-17 year olds is the average age also gradually increasing over the past few decades to about 18 years old.

        Not sure how you arrived at those conclusions, or from where that data comes, specifically, but to the general implication: we recognize, for the reasons you state, the value of third-party datasets. As you now know, we have strict ethics limitations on how data is collected, and how it’s used, and this includes third-party data, which depending on who collected it and why and how, though it may be perfectly in line, and offered to us generously, it may also be data we can’t use for a number of reasons, or just doesn’t add anything useful to the larger data set to answer the research questions we have at that time.

        On the larger, larger picture, all that being said, we value the cooperation of all the cons and all the con organizers who’ve graciously hosted us, and have given us access to their attendees. It also must be said that furries themselves are amazing when it comes to participation in our studies–our participation rates are the envy of most of our scientific colleagues in other fields, so we can’t thank the furry community enough for their overwhelming support and generous participation, including yours, for participating then, and for your considered feedback now.

        I hope this addresses at least some of your concerns. If you have further concerns or questions about data, please send them directly to me, Malicious Beaver here, and I’ll endeavor to get you the answers you seek in as much detail as I’m able 🙂

        Reply
  2. G

    Did you interview any furries under the age o 18? I think theirs probably a lot of furries under the age 18 and your missing out on.

    Reply
    • Admin

      Short Answer: University Research Ethics Board. Slightly longer answer: restrictions of ethics boards would require parental consent (historically) and that could create “outing” with harm to participants. What makes Furscience actual science is our studies are governed by university ethics and submitted for peer-review in scholarly journals.

      Reply
  3. Not character actress Margo Martindale

    Is this being found out at conventions or by all furries?

    Reply
    • Admin

      The data is a mix of in-person survey data collected from various cons and online participant recruitment.

      Reply
  4. AB Satrio

    Hello again FurSci team (Especially Doc. Plante).

    Can I ask you about the recent data on the age group among furries? from which convention or polling did you gather the 2020 report of the age group? Sincerely, your constantly monitoring uni student AB Satrio.

    Reply
    • Admin

      Hello again, to you, too!

      Can I ask you about the recent data on the age group among furries? from which convention or polling did you gather the 2020 report of the age group?

      From Dr. Plante:

      Good question! Our 2020 data was gathered entirely online, due to limitations imposed by the current pandemic! We tried to recruit from as many different online sources as possible, going through Telegram groups, social media, and contacting the chairs of several cons (and other high-profile furries) to help signal boost our recruitment request! Far from ideal, but in the absence of being able to gather con data, it’s the best we could do!

      Your constant monitoring is always appreciated, as is your patience. I hope that helped 🙂

      Reply
  5. Ragdoll X

    Hey guys, I think there’s a mistake in the table.
    The range says 23.3 – 32.1, but the highest average age reported was *31.2*, so I think the digits got mixed up.

    Reply
    • Admin

      It’s being reviewed. Thanks for reporting.

      Reply
  6. Joe G Bear

    Did this include the survey from Texas Furry Fiesta 2020, before the onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic? Just confirming. Thanks to Dr. Sharon Roberts and her team for this amazing info. It helps me when I present this at Greymuzzle panels at cons I attend like FC and FWA

    Reply
  7. Cabria

    there are alot of young furries and they get bullied alot how should we stop it

    Reply
    • Admin

      According to our data, Furries experiencing bullying at about twice the rate of the population, but bullying is a problem throughout furry and non-furry populations. If you are being bullied or have experienced bullying or are aware of the bullying of someone else, there are most likely government and/or community agency resources that you should be able to access, depending on where you live, to report and/or get some guidance on how to move forward. For our part, what we offer are evidence-based resources to all who want them, to better inform conversations about what furries are and do and what they’re not and don’t do. If you encounter someone who’s spreading misinformation online or IRL about furries, but they’re otherwise good-faith actors (i.e., they’re committed to truth but they just happened to misunderstand furries because they’ve read or been subjected to bad information), then send them here. Dr Roberts’ article, “What are ‘Furries’ Debunking Myths…” on the “What’s a Furry” Page is quick 3-minute read explaining the furry fandom and debunking some of the current and historic misconceptions. I hope this helps to get you started. If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments too 🙂

      Reply

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