I went to a nightclub in LA once, not knowing it was adult baby night. I showed up and the whole dance floor was wearing pampers. My friends and I couldn’t help it — we were laughing so hard we almost needed diapers too. The adult babies saw us snickering and they drove us out of the club and onto the street shouting, “Kink shamer! Kink shamer!” They were pointing their fingers at us as if we were the weirdos in our normal clothes and no binky.
This experience led me to reflect on what I had considered to be in-groups and out-groups. In sociology, an in-group is a community you identify with that serves as a way for you to understand reality. This is why there seems to be a uniform way of dressing and acting in certain sororities and fraternities, for example. They created an identity out of wearing an overpriced Canada Goose coat or salmon Vineyard Vines khaki shorts. An in-group creates a certain reality, while out-groups serve as something of otherness and oddity. If you showed up to a frat party in a diaper, people might not accept you into their world. When I strolled into that adult baby night, I was the out-group and I was on the stage for ridicule. I was not accepted into their world. Flipped upside down, I made the mundane yet profound realization that what is normal is determined by who you surround yourself with.
This brings me to furries. They are simply a group brought together by their fascination with anthropomorphic animals. We’ve all been exposed to them at some point, passing our judgment, whether it be spotting a man in a fox fur-suit outside Walmart or scrolling through their various fanart on Tumblr. Many furries claim that their hobby isn’t sexual, though a survey at Furry Fiesta 2013 reported that male respondents watched furry pornography an average of 41.5 times per month. It shouldn’t matter whether the fandom is inherently sexual or not — given their bad-rap and outsider qualities, they are the lowest hanging fruit when it comes to being an out-group to kink shame.
In middle school, I would see a theater kid wearing a wolf tail sewn onto their jorts and I would instantly fight the urge to give them a big swirly in the gym class toilet. Why do we feel the need to torment people who are different? It’s a fear of the unknown, and there are a lot of unknowns when it comes to furries. We wonder why they have fursonas and draw pictures of anthropomorphic lemurs with six pack abs. That uncanny of the unknown leads to anger and violence because there is nothing concrete to base our feelings on. We can’t put ourselves in their paws. Our discomfort also comes from a feeling of superiority. We cringe at catboys and otherkin because they feel so beneath us on the totem pole of teasing. We would never meow or commission a painting of a milf manatee, so people who do so must be ostracized from mainstream reality. Yet, the thing that makes furries so vanguard is that they don’t care if you approve of them or not. They embrace being an out-group, making them the ultimate counterculture.
I propose that, for a moment, we un-think everything we previously judged about furries, seeing them instead as a revolutionary movement. If you like the subversive ideology of punk rock, you should also respect furries for being noncommodifiable as the producers of their own fandom. They have no audience, because they are all the creators. Like the hippies of the 60s, furries are the anti-societal spirit of our zeitgeist. They have found their turf on the internet and are arguably a symbol of sexual liberation as they express their sexualities through both the human and animal. They celebrate debauchery and pornography as beauty, and this can give them a way to explore their identities.
I’m glad we can live in a world where we can wear a diaper to a nightclub if we want to, even finding other people to do it with us. It is an essential part of being human to find our in-group, our pack. Whether that is Delta Gamma or a furry convention, find a group that accepts that little spark of madness inside you and howl at the moon. What’s the difference between hookup culture and having sex dressed as a hyena named Starlight? It depends on who you call your community. It depends on what they consider normal.
Anya Neeze is a student at Cornell University. Comments can be sent to [email protected]. Boink! runs during alternate Sex on Thursdays this semester.