5.1 Orientation

In a number of studies we’ve asked participants to indicate their sexual orientation. Recognizing that for many people sexual orientation is complex and difficult to plot on a single dimension, we have over time provided additional options (i.e., asexual, pansexual), or changed the way we presented the question to allow more nuanced responses.1 The result of this change was illuminating. In a recent study, we moved from a traditional 7-point Kinsey scale to a simple, categorical approach, giving participants several options to choose from. In prior studies, heterosexuality, while never a majority, was always the most commonly chosen option. When participants were able to chose labels, bisexuality emerged as the most frequent sexual orientation, with only about 20% of furries self-identifying as heterosexual. It is also worth noting that other orientations, such as asexuality, emerged as fairly prominent in the fandom, with about 1 in 11 furries identifying as such. In prior studies2 we’ve asked participants to indicate their sexual orientation using a 7-point scale adapted from a traditional Kinsey scale, ranging from “exclusively heterosexual” to “exclusively homosexual” along a single dimension.3 Recognizing that many people do not consider their sexual identity to fall within this single dimension, we provided additional options (i.e., asexual, pansexual, and an option to write in their own option). It should be noted that many of the following analyses using two or more variables, the analyses often require continuous variables and, in such instances, only the data from the 1-7 scale is used. This is not a statement about alternative sexual orientations, but rather, is a byproduct of the type of analysis used and, wherever possible, we present data on other sexual orientations. In some instances, rarer sexual orientations are presented as an aggregate “other” category to protect the identity of those who may otherwise be identifiable for having provided a unique or rare response.

The data in the figure below represent the responses of furries and a non-furry sample of the general American population on the 7-item sexual orientation dimension. In these studies, furries were far less likely to report being exclusively heterosexual than the general population (wherein 90% reported predominantly or exclusively heterosexual as their orientation).4 Furries were approximately 7 times more likely to be predominantly or exclusively homosexual. Not shown in the figure, furries were more likely to report “other” as their sexual orientation (15.0% vs. 2.4%), which included pansexual, asexual, and a variety of self-provided orientations). To summarize, furries are far more likely to be non-heterosexual than non-furries, though it would be inaccurate to characterize the furry fandom as homosexual, as the most frequently-occurring single sexual orientation among furries is still “exclusively heterosexual.”

In another study, we assessed whether there were gender differences in sexual orientation. Furries identifying as female were significantly more likely to be heterosexual than furries identifying as male.5
Other studies have compared the sexual orientation of furries to members of other fan groups.6 In the figure below, more than half of all fantasy sport fans, convention-going anime fans (A-Kon), and online anime fans identified as exclusively heterosexual. Furries, by comparison, were the only group where less than half of the group (and, in fact, less than a quarter of the group) identified as heterosexual.
In addition, furries were 2-6 times more likely to self-identify as bisexual and 3-10 times more likely to self-identify as exclusively homosexual than members of the other fandoms.
Furries were also more likely to self-identify with an “other” sexual orientation. While furries were more likely to self-identify as asexual than convention-going anime fans and sport fans, they did not significantly differ from online anime fans in this regard.

In a final analysis, the fan groups differed in the nature of the relationship between sexual orientation and sex (that is, people assigned “male” or “female” at birth). In the fantasy sport group and both anime fan groups, females were more likely than males to self-identify as homosexual (as indicated by higher numbers on the sexual orientation scale). In contrast, in the furry fandom, males—not females—were more likely to self-identify as non-heterosexual.

Given that only about 20-30% of furries self-identify as exclusively or predominantly heterosexual, it may be possible that they construe themselves as a minority within the furry fandom.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that some heterosexual furries may feel stigmatized or ostracized within the furry fandom as a result of this minority status. Alternatively, it may also be the case that members of other traditionally minority sexual orientations (e.g., lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer persons) may nevertheless feel stigmatized within the fandom because they, too, constitute minorities within the fandom.

To test both of these possibilities, we asked furries whether they believed that straight and LGBQ people were accepted within the furry fandom (as separate questions).7

In line with our asking of an analogous question about gender diverse people within the fandom,8 we then compared the responses of straight and LGBQ participants to these questions. Analyses revealed that the two groups did not differ with regard to either question: both groups strongly agreed that both straight and LGBQ persons were accepted within the furry fandom, although both groups did more strongly agree with this notion with regard to LGBQ people (6.48 / 7.00) as compared to straight people (6.14 / 7.00). In a later study 9 participants were given a series of questions about acceptance of various sexual orientations within the fandom, and asked to both guess the extent to which the average furry was accepting of each sexual orientation within the fandom, and then to provide their own rated acceptance of each orientation. The data reveal two interesting trends. First, furries’ actual rates of acceptance were considerably higher than predicted. Put another way, furries expect the average furry to be less tolerant of other sexual orientations than they, themselves, are – furries underestimate the tolerance of other furries. Second, and perhaps even more interesting, this effect seems to be largest with respect to asexuality and heterosexuality: Furries believe that other furries are somewhat less tolerant of asexual and heterosexual people in the fandom, despite furries being virtually identical in their actual acceptance of all sexual orientations in the fandom. These data go against the often-held belief among some in the fandom that straight furries are not accepted or are unwelcome in the furry fandom. Additionally, we conducted a series of analyses aimed at testing whether there were measurable differences between straight furries and non-straight (e.g., asexual, gay, bisexual, pansexual) furries on a number of different variables. 10 The results of these analyses are as follows (keeping in mind that these are only average tendencies, and do not reflect differences for all straight / non-straight furries):

They do not differ on… Non-straight furries…
– How long they’ve been in the fandom – Identify more strongly as furries, with other furries, and with their fursonas
– How “open” they are about being furry – Are less likely to have a “predator” fursona
– How much they engage in harmful forms of fantasy (e.g., delusion, excess) – Engage in more “positive” forms of fantasy
– How likely they are to have been diagnosed with autism – Have a stronger bond with animals
– Their satisfaction with their current relationship status – Are more likely to consider furry a fetish
– Their social skills / having problems with social interaction – Score lower on measures of psychological well-being
– Their belief that the furry fandom accept gay, straight or bisexual people – Believe that furries are less accepting of asexual people in the fandom

In short, evidence suggests that, in general, people are accepted in the furry fandom regardless of their sexual orientation. While there is sometimes the perception that members of the LGBTQ community are the most strongly accepted members of the fandom, evidence suggests that, while there are indeed significant differences between the straight and non-straight members of the fandom, furries are generally accepted and welcomed within the community regardless of orientation. It may also be the case that the openness and acceptance of the furry fandom may allow people who consider themselves to be exclusively heterosexual to explore aspects of their sexuality they may otherwise not consider in other contexts. Ultimately, future research is needed to explore the nature of these interesting gender and fandom differences in sexual orientation.  

References

  1. Anthrocon 2018 Study
  2. Anthrocon 2012 and IARP 2-Year Summary
  3. For more information on the 7-point scale, see Wikipedia: Klein Sexual Orientation Grid
  4. Anthrocon 2012 and IARP 2-Year Summary
  5. International Furry Survey: Summer 2011
  6. IARP 2014 3-fandom study
  7. Anthrocon 2017 Study
  8. See section 1.3 Sex and Gender
  9. Anthrocon 2018 Study
  10. Anthrocon 2018 Study

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