V. Sex, Relationships, and Pornography

5.1 Orientation

In a number of studies we’ve asked participants to indicate their sexual orientation. The 7-point scale, adapted from a traditional Kinsey scale, ranges from “exclusively heterosexual” to “exclusively homosexual” along a single dimension. 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. Furries were far less likely to report being exclusively heterosexual than the general population (wherein 90% reported predominantly or exclusively heterosexual as their orientation).🐾 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.”

5-1 sexual orientation
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.🐾
5-1 sexual orientation by gender

 

Other studies have compared the sexual orientation of furries to members of other fan groups.🐾 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.
5-1 heterosexual orientation by fandom

 

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.
5-1 homosexual orientation by fandom5-1 bisexual orientation by fandom

 

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.

5-1 other orientation by fandom5-1 asexual orientation by fandom

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.

5-1 orientation by sex and sample

It may be the case that the furry fandom, which espouses openness and acceptance as its central virtues, may be a particularly welcoming place for members of sexual minorities. Alternatively, 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.

5.2 Relationship Status

We assess relationship status of furries by asking participants to indicate, by checking from a list of all that apply, their current relationship status. The results below are fairly representative of results obtained in any given study,🐾 and show that there are significant differences in the relationship status of males and females (as assigned at birth): males are three times more likely to be single than females, while females are 2-4 times more likely to be dating, engaged, married, or in another type of relationship. One hypothesis for this difference is based on the idea that furry women are more likely to enter the fandom by way of a significant other; given the high proportion of men in the fandom,🐾 women may feel they need to justify their presence in the fandom (i.e., being an artist or friend of a furry), an issue discussed in greater depth in Section 12.

5-2 relationship status by sex

 

When interpreting differences in relationship status across fandoms, age likely plays a significant factor in these results; older participants are more likely to be married, particularly when the age difference between the fandoms amounts to the difference between people in their early 20s and their early 30s. This would explain why fantasy sport fans, the oldest fan group in the sample,🐾 are the most likely to be married and, by extension, the least likely to be single. This similarly explains why online anime fans, the youngest group, are the most likely to be single and not in a long-term dating relationship. Furries (a convention-going sample), and convention-going anime fans were comparable in their rates of dating, although the A-Kon sample was more likely to be single than furries were.🐾
 
5-2 status by fandom - single 5-2 status by fandom - dating 5-2 status by fandom - married

This brings us to another category of interest: open and polyamorous relationships. While we acknowledge that these are two distinct (if related) phenomena, results for the two items were comparable, and so they were grouped together in the following figure. As a group, furries are far more likely to engage in open relationships or polyamory than the other groups. One possible explanation for the high rates of polyamory in the furry fandom is that the fandom encourages norms of openness and acceptance,🐾 which may make it a particularly appealing, non-judgmental place for people who are in polyamorous or open relationships (which are often stigmatized in the general population). Alternatively, the open and accepting nature of the furry fandom may lead furries to consider open relationships and polyamory where, in other contexts, they might otherwise not. Further research is needed to clarify the possible mechanisms underlying these differences.

5.3 Meeting Significant Other

Given the importance of the furry fandom as a source of social interaction for many furries, we have studied whether furries who were currently in relationships met their partners in the fandom, brought non-furry partners into the furry fandom, or were brought into the fandom as a result of their partner. The data below clearly illustrate that most furries in relationships met their significant other through the fandom.🐾

5-3 self and partner as furry

As the figure below makes clear, however, these trends differ dramatically, depending on participants’ sexual orientation.🐾 Homosexual furries are far more likely to find a relationship partner in the fandom, whereas the reverse is true for heterosexual furries, were actually more likely to find their partner outside of the fandom. This is consistent with the finding that men are more prevalent in the furry fandom than women,🐾 making it easier for homosexual furries to find same-sex partners in the furry fandom, especially given that the furry fandom has a much higher prevalence rate of homosexuality than in the general population.🐾

5-3 self and partner as furry by orientation

5.4 Frequency of Porn Use

Given the prevalence of negative stereotypes about furries (e.g., association with sexual deviance, presumption that the fandom is a fetish), the issue of pornography is a controversial one in the fandom. We began by assessing the frequency with which furries view pornography. Furry men were significantly more likely to view furry-themed pornography (96.3%) than furry women (78.3%). Furry men and women both significantly underestimated these figures (84% and 70%, respectively)🐾.

We also assessed other aspects of pornography use, summarized in the table below (all differences between men and women were significantly different from one another).🐾

Items Assessing Other Aspects of Furry Pornography Use

Question Response

What percentage of the furry art that you view is pornographic?

Men: 50.9%         Women: 30.7%

What percentage of the furry art that you own is pornographic?

Men: 20.9%         Women: 8.7%

When you roleplay online, what percent of the time is it sexual?

Men: 34.0%         Women: 21.4%
In the last month, how often did you view pornography?

Men: 43.5 times  Women: 10.5 times

5.5 Attitudes toward Porn

Furries were asked to estimate the attitudes of male (blue bars) and female (orange bars) furries in the fandom toward furry-themed pornography (participants identifying as male and female did not significantly differ in their estimates, and so their combined estimates are presented together). The figure below shows that male furries were estimated to have a more positive attitude toward furry pornography than female furries, though, in general, both were predicted by participants to hold relatively positive views toward pornography.🐾

5-5 attitudes toward pornography

In the figure below, participants were then asked to indicate how comfortable they actually felt about pornography, revealing a very different trend emerges. Male furries (M =5.37) held a significantly more positive attitudes toward furry pornography than female furries (M = 4.26). What’s more, female furries were found to hold far more mixed feelings toward pornography than was estimated, with nearly half of females reporting mixed feelings, and nearly as many females opposing pornography as supporting it.🐾

5-5 male and female attitudes toward pornography

To this point, the data have referred to attitudes toward furry-themed pornography. In the figure below, we assessed attitudes toward non-furry pornography. There were no gender differences between participants’ scores, so they were combined. The figure below suggests that more than a third of furries have a relatively negative attitude toward non-furry pornography, and only about a quarter of furries feel quite positive toward it. These data suggest that for many furries, if they do use pornography, it may be limited to furry pornography. Another question tested this, asking male and female furries to indicate the extent to which the pornography they viewed (if they viewed it at all) was limited exclusively to furry pornography. Male furries were far more likely to view exclusively or near-exclusively furry pornography than females were (17.1% vs. 2.2%.)🐾

5-5 attitudes toward non-furry pornograpy

5.6 Porn as a Draw to Furries

Furries are often referred to as a “fetish” group (a label which is shown to be inaccurate in section 2.10, Furry Motivation). To further test the extent to which furries are predominantly drawn to the furry fandom by furry- themed pornography, we asked furries identifying as male and female to indicate the extent to which exposure to furry-themed pornography was a factor that contributes to their involvement in the furry fandom.🐾

5-6 pornography influencing entry to fandom

Were it the case that the furry fandom was predominantly a fetish, one would expect the majority of participants to indicate that furry-themed pornography plays a very strong role in drawing them to the fandom. As the figure clearly reveals, however, only a small proportion of furries, male or female, indicate that this is the case. Male furries are significantly more likely than female furries to be drawn to the fandom by furry pornography (M = 3.36 vs. M = 1.80) but, even so, almost half of male furries say that furry pornography had little to no influence on them entering the fandom and only about 5% agree that it was the definitive factor which got them into the fandom.

An ongoing longitudinal study of furries provides converging evidence for these results. If the furry fandom were, indeed, a fetish, one might expect interest in furry-themed pornography to increase over time as furries become more involved in the fandom. Analyses suggest, however, that over the course of a year, there was no discernible change in furries’ felt positivity toward pornography.🐾

Providing further support that the furry fandom is mischaracterized when it is called a fetish, one study asked furries to indicate the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with the statement “One of the main reasons I’m a furry is because I like furry porn”. The results, presented in the table below, indicate that only a small minority of furries agree with this statement. Older furries and male furries are more likely to agree with this statement, whereas the extent to which furries identify with the furry community is unrelated to these beliefs.

5-6 porn as reason for being furry

5.7 Preference for Erotic Furry Media

Given the prevalence with which furries look at furry-themed pornography,🐾 and given stereotypes about furries as a fetish group, one might expect furries to overwhelmingly prefer erotic furry content to non-erotic furry content. To test this hypothesis, participants in one study were asked to indicate the extent to which, when viewing furry artwork, they preferred it to be pornographic versus non-pornographic. There were no gender differences in responses, and so they are presented combined in the figure below.🐾

5-7 preference for erotic media

The data suggest that most furries feel no, or at most a slight preference for pornographic over non-pornographic furry art. This lends support to the notion that for many furries, a naturally-occurring sex drive may lead them to an interest in erotic furry artwork, but, in general, they seem to enjoy furry art regardless of whether it contains erotic content.

5.8 Openness of Porn Discussion

The figure below displays the responses of furries to being asked how openly they felt the fandom discussed pornography, organized by participants who identified as male (blue bars) and female (orange bars).

5-8 opennness of porn discussion by gender

As you can see, female furries were significantly more likely than males to say that pornography was very openly discussed in the fandom (M = 5.70 vs. M = 5.13). Put another way: for nearly half of all female furries, the fandom is seen as a place that talks very openly and very frequently about the topic of furry sexuality (right-most bar), something which many males in the fandom don’t see themselves. This difference in perception may reflect the fact that females in the fandom, sensitive to cues that they may not belong🐾 and feeling far less positive about pornography than they’re told they ought to feel,🐾 perceive pornography within the fandom as being a very salient topic.

For more information on the psychological theories grounding this topic, you are encouraged to look up the social psychological phenomena of Stereotype Threat and Pluralistic Ignorance.

5.9 Porn Perception

Because of the stigma experienced by furries from non-furries around them, it’s possible that furries expect non-furries to disapprove of furry content, particularly erotic furry content. This would lead one to hypothesize that non-furries would rate furry-themed erotica more pornographic (explicit) than furries, due to considering it to be more deviant or inappropriate. To test this hypothesis, we had furries and non-furries rate furry and non-furry themed pornographic images in a computer-based study.🐾 Participants viewed both furry and non-furry images that were either “clean,” mildly erotic (e.g., nude characters), or explicit (sexual intercourse). Images were balanced to include an equal number of heterosexual and homosexual images, as well as an equal number of male and female characters. Participants were asked, for each image in the set, to rate how “pornographic” the image was.

5-9 perception of pornography by sample

Furries rated the erotic furry images as being significantly more pornographic than non-furries did, with the opposite pattern of results for non-furry erotic images. The effect was even stronger when it came to explicit images, where furries called the explicit images significantly more pornographic than non-furries did. The groups did not significantly differ when it came to categorizing explicit non-furry images.

In the same study, furry and non-furry participants were also asked to rate how positive they felt about the images, and to estimate how positively the other group felt about the images. The figure below shows how furries felt toward the images (blue bars), and how non-furries estimated that furries would feel toward the images. Given that the orange bars are all lower than the blue bars, non-furries underestimated how positively furries actually felt about the erotic and explicit material (in contrast to the fears of many furries that non-furries assume them to be sexual deviants and perverts). Non-furries correctly inferred that furries would be preferentially positive toward furry artwork compared to non-furry artwork (as indicated by the “furry” bars being higher than the “non-furry” bars).

5-9 actual and estimated rating of images by sample

A near-perfect reversal of the above phenomenon happens in the figure below,🐾 which shows how non-furries responded to the images and how furries predicted that the non-furries would respond. Of greatest importance in this figures are “Erotic Furry” and “Explicit Furry” categories, where we see evidence of furries’ expectation of non-furry disapproval: furries significantly underestimated how positively non-furries would feel toward furry images. Moreover, furries overestimated the extent to which non-furries would feel positively toward non-furry material (though, like non-furries, furries did get the pattern correct, where non-furries preferred non-furry art to furry art). Taken together, the data suggest that furries overestimate how negatively non-furries perceive the furry fandom and its content. While non-furries certainly show greater preference for non-furry pornography as compared to furry pornography, the anticipated revulsion toward furry artwork that many furries anticipate from non-furries seems to be overblown.

5-9 estimated attitude of nonfurries toward pornographic images

In short, the primary difference between furries and non-furries in the study seems to be that non-furries were not seeing erotic and explicit furry content as being pornographic to the same extent that furries were. Follow-up analyses suggest that this effect was driven predominantly by arousal. Put simply: if participants found the material arousing, they considered it pornographic. Since non-furries did not find the non-furry artwork as arousing as furries did, they did not consider it to be as pornographic as furries did. Unexpectedly, furries also rated fursuit pictures (non-erotic) as more pornographic than non-furries did, though it’s worth noting that the average score for furries on this measure was 1.2 out of 7, suggesting that, generally speaking, furries do not find fursuits, in and of themselves, to be particularly pornographic.🐾