Furries are individuals who are especially interested in anthropomorphic or cartoon animals (e.g., Bugs Bunny). They often strongly identify with anthropomorphic animals and create fursonas, identities of themselves as those anthropomorphic animals. Some practice fursuiting, or wearing costumes that resemble anthropomorphic animals. Furries have been portrayed as sexually motivated in the media and popular culture, although little empirical research has addressed this issue. If some furries are sexually motivated, they may be motivated by an erotic target identity inversion (ETII): sexual arousal by the fantasy of being the same kinds of individuals to whom they are sexually attracted. Furries with ETIIs would experience both sexual attraction to anthropomorphic animals and sexual arousal by fantasizing about being anthropomorphic animals, because they often change their appearance and behavior to become more like anthropomorphic animals. We surveyed 334 male furries recruited from the Internet about their sexual orientation, sexual motivation, and sexual interests. A large majority of our sample reported non-heterosexual identities (84%) and some degree of sexual motivation for being furries (99%). Male furries also tended to report a pattern of sexual interests consistent with an ETII involving anthropomorphic animals. Both sexual attraction to anthropomorphic animals and sexual arousal by fantasizing about being anthropomorphic animals were nearly universal. Furthermore, male furries tended to be sexually aroused by fantasizing about being the same kinds of anthropomorphic animals to whom they were sexually attracted, with respect to gender and species. This sexual motivation and these unusual sexual interests do not justify discrimination or stigmatization.
This is a preview of subscription content,to check access.
Access this article
Similar content being viewed by others
Abel, G. G., & Osborn, C. (1992). The paraphilias: The extent and nature of sexually deviant and criminal behavior. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 15, 675–687.
Bailey, J. M. (2003). The man who would be queen: The science of gender-bending and transsexualism. Washington, DC: Joseph Henry Press.
Bailey, J. M., & Hsu, K. J. (2017). Orienting basic research on chronophilias [Commentary]. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 46, 23–26.
Baur, E., Forsman, M., Santtila, P., Johansson, A., Sandnabba, K., & Långström, N. (2016). Paraphilic sexual interests and sexually coercive behavior: A population-based twin study. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 45, 1163–1172.
Blanchard, R. (1989a). The classification and labeling of nonhomosexual gender dysphorias. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 18, 315–334.
Blanchard, R. (1989b). The concept of autogynephilia and the typology of male gender dysphoria. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 177, 616–623.
Blanchard, R. (1991). Clinical observations and systematic studies of autogynephilia. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 17, 235–251.
Blanchard, R. (1992). Nonmonotonic relation of autogynephilia and heterosexual attraction. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 101, 271–276.
Blanchard, R. (1993). The she-male phenomenon and the concept of partial autogynephilia. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 19, 69–76.
Blanchard, R. (2015, August). Departures from alloerotic heterosexual teleiophilia: Research on the less examined types. In J. M. Bailey (Chair), Erotic target identity inversions. Symposium conducted at the meeting of the International Academy of Sex Research, Toronto, ON.
Blanchard, R., & Hucker, S. J. (1991). Age, transvestism, bondage, and concurrent paraphilic activities in 117 fatal cases of autoerotic asphyxia. British Journal of Psychiatry, 159, 371–377.
Blanchard, R., Kuban, M. E., Blak, T., Klassen, P. E., Dickey, R., & Cantor, J. M. (2012). Sexual attraction to others: A comparison of two models of alloerotic responding in men. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 41, 13–29.
Blanchard, R., Racansky, I. G., & Steiner, B. W. (1986). Phallometric detection of fetishistic arousal in heterosexual male cross-dressers. Journal of Sex Research, 22, 452–462.
Broderick, R. (2014, December 23). Furries say they aren’t a fetish, they’re a community, and they’re ready to be taken seriously. BuzzFeed News. Retrieved December 14, 2017 from http://www.buzzfeed.com/ryanhatesthis/furries-say-they-arent-a-fetish-theyre-a-community.
Brookey, R. A., & Cannon, K. L. (2009). Sex lives in Second Life. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 26, 145–164.
Dawson, S. J., Bannerman, B. A., & Lalumière, M. L. (2016). Paraphilic interests: An examination of sex differences in a nonclinical sample. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 28, 20–45.
Erbentraut, J. (2014, December 18). Furries set the record straight: There’s nothing to be afraid of. Huffington Post. Retrieved December 14, 2017 from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/18/what-are-furries_n_6342184.html.
Evans, K. (2008, October 23). The furry sociological survey. Retrieved July 13, 2017 from https://web.archive.org/web/20130904201818/http://www.cannedgeek.com/images/sharedfiles/fss_report_finaldraft.PDF.
First, M. B. (2005). Desire for amputation of a limb: Paraphilia, psychosis, or a new type of identity disorder. Psychological Medicine, 35, 919–928.
Freund, K., & Blanchard, R. (1993). Erotic target location errors in male gender dysphorics, paedophiles, and fetishists. British Journal of Psychiatry, 162, 558–563.
Gerbasi, K. C., Paolone, N., Higner, J., Scaletta, L. L., Bernstein, P. L., Conway, S., & Privitera, A. (2008). Furries from A to Z (anthropomorphism to zoomorphism). Society & Animals: Journal of Human-Animal Studies, 16, 197–222.
Gurley, G. (2001, March). Pleasures of the fur. Vanity Fair. Retrieved September 9, 2017 from http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2001/03/furries200103.
Hill, D. (2000, June 19). Cuddle time. Salon. Retrieved September 9, 2017 from http://www.salon.com/2000/06/19/plushies.
Hsu, K. J., & Bailey, J. M. (2017). Autopedophilia: Erotic-target identity inversions in men sexually attracted to children. Psychological Science, 28, 115–123.
Hsu, K. J., Rosenthal, A. M., & Bailey, J. M. (2015). The psychometric structure of items assessing autogynephilia. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 44, 1301–1312.
Hsu, K. J., Rosenthal, A. M., Miller, D. I., & Bailey, J. M. (2017). Sexual arousal patterns of autogynephilic male cross-dressers. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 46, 247–253.
Joyal, C. C., & Carpentier, J. (2017). The prevalence of paraphilic interests and behaviors in the general population: A provincial survey. Journal of Sex Research, 54, 161–171.
Kington, C. S. (2015). Con culture: A survey of fans and fandom. Journal of Fandom Studies, 3, 211–228.
Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B., & Martin, C. E. (1948). Sexual behavior in the human male. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders.
Lawrence, A. A. (2006). Clinical and theoretical parallels between desire for limb amputation and gender identity disorder. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 35, 263–278.
Lawrence, A. A. (2009). Erotic target location errors: An underappreciated paraphilic dimension. Journal of Sex Research, 46, 194–215.
Lawrence, A. A. (2013). Men trapped in men’s bodies: Narratives of autogynephilic transsexualism. New York: Springer.
Mock, S. E., Plante, C. N., Reysen, S., & Gerbasi, K. C. (2013). Deeper leisure involvement as a coping resource in a stigmatized leisure context. Leisure/Loisir, 37, 111–126.
Money, J., Jobaris, R., & Furth, G. (1977). Apotemnophilia: Two cases of self-demand amputation as a paraphilia. Journal of Sex Research, 13, 115–125.
Plante, C. N., Mock, S., Reysen, S., & Gerbasi, K. C. (2011). International Anthropomorphic Research Project: Winter 2011 Online Survey Summary. Retrieved March 16, 2018 from http://sites.google.com/site/anthropomorphicresearch/past-results/international-online-furry-survey-2011.
Plante, C. N., Roberts, S. E., Reysen, S., & Gerbasi, K. C. (2014). Interaction of socio-structural characteristics predicts identity concealment and self-esteem in stigmatized minority group members. Current Psychology, 33, 3–19.
Plante, C. N., Roberts, S. E., Snider, J. S., Schroy, C., Reysen, S., & Gerbasi, K. C. (2015). “More than skin-deep”: Biological essentialism in response to a distinctiveness threat in a stigmatized fan community. British Journal of Social Psychology, 54, 359–370.
Půtová, B. (2013). Prehistoric sorcerers and postmodern furries: Anthropological point of view. International Journal of Sociology and Anthropology, 5, 243–248.
Reysen, S., Plante, C. N., Roberts, S. E., & Gerbasi, K. C. (2016). Optimal distinctiveness and identification with the furry fandom. Current Psychology, 35, 638–642.
Roberts, S. E., Plante, C. N., Gerbasi, K. C., & Reysen, S. (2015). Clinical interaction with anthropomorphic phenomenon: Notes for health professionals about interacting with clients who possess this unusual identity. Health and Social Work, 40, e42–e50.
Roberts, S. E., Plante, C. N., Reysen, S., & Gerbasi, K. C. (2016). Not all fantasies are created equal: Fantasy sport fans’ perceptions of furry, brony, and anime fans. Phoenix Papers, 2, 40–60.
Satinsky, E., & Green, D. N. (2016). Negotiating identities in the furry fandom through costuming. Critical Studies in Men’s Fashion, 3, 107–123.
Schroy, C., Plante, C. N., Reysen, S., Roberts, S. E., & Gerbasi, K. C. (2016). Different motivations as predictors of psychological connection to fan interest and fan groups in anime, furry, and fantasy sport fandoms. Phoenix Papers, 2, 148–167.
Seto, M. C. (2017). The puzzle of male chronophilias. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 46, 3–22.
Soh, D. W., & Cantor, J. M. (2015). A peek inside a furry convention [Letter to the Editor]. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 44, 1–2.
Stewart, S. (2016, May 6). What it’s like to have sex as a “furry.” New York Post. Retrieved December 14, 2017 from http://nypost.com/2016/05/06/inside-the-life-of-a-furry.
Wall, K. (2016, February 4). It’s not about sex, it’s about identity: Why furries are unique among fan cultures. The Guardian. Retrieved December 14, 2017 from http://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2016/feb/04/furry-fandom-subculture-animal-costumes
Winterman, D. (2009, November 13). Who are the furries? BBC News Magazine. Retrieved December 14, 2017 from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/8355287.stm
Wright, S. (2006). Discrimination of SM-identified individuals. Journal of Homosexuality, 50, 217–231.
Yiff. (2015). Retrieved May 25, 2015 from WikiFur: http://en.wikifur.com/wiki/Yiff.
Zuiker, A. E., Stahl, J., & Lewis, R. J. (2003). Fur and loathing [Television series episode]. In J. Bruckheimer (Ed.), CSI: Crime scene investigation. Los Angeles: CBS Paramount Network Television.
We thank Patch O’Furr, Kadamon Wolf, Liondog Ari, Debra W. Soh, and Ian V. McPhail for their support and helpful feedback about survey design, participant recruitment, and the manuscript.
This study was supported by the Student Research Development Award from the International Academy of Sex Research.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Human and Animal Rights
All procedures performed in this study were approved and in accordance with the ethical standards of Northwestern University’s Institutional Review Board for research involving human participants.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
About this article
Cite this article
Hsu, K.J., Bailey, J.M. The “Furry” Phenomenon: Characterizing Sexual Orientation, Sexual Motivation, and Erotic Target Identity Inversions in Male Furries. Arch Sex Behav 48, 1349–1369 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-018-1303-7