Love & Sex

Talking to Strangers: Furry Convention

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"It’s really weird and intimidating to talk to someone though a wolf mask." "Of course it is. That is the appeal."

Last week, the 16th annual Anthrocon, the world’s largest gathering of furries, was held in Pittsburgh.


“Crimson,” 23 

How big a part of your life is the whole furry culture?
A very small amount because I am still very new to the game.

How did you become interested?
This creature right here [points to someone]. We’ve known each other for about four years now. That’s how I was introduced to it to begin with. I had no idea what it was until it was explained to me. The sighting came first and then the explanation.

What do you mean “the sighting?”
I was hanging out with him and his roommate at their house and this was one of the first few times I was hanging out with them, and he just came out wearing these enormous orange feet and I thought they were kind of interesting-looking slipper things. I’m like, “Where did you get those?” and he’s like, “Wait, wait, there’s more!” and he came back decked out in full orange fox suit costume and I was like, “So, were you a mascot in college and this is like a memento or what? What is this?” That’s when the explanation came.

What was the worst date you’ve ever been on?
It was a guy who met me at my work, when I was working at Express. The guy walked in, asked me out and I said OK. We met at a coffee shop. He was a half an hour late and apparently had no idea what your standard latte from Starbucks was, so I had to explain to him all the different flavor types. The whole time I felt like he was just analyzing me but not really listening to anything I was saying. I started looking around thinking, “How do I get out of here?” because I could talk to the wall and it would react with just as much interest as this guy. I think he was just hanging out with me and hoping I’d shut up and go home with him. I started telling particular stories to freak him out. I told him about my one and only experience at a night fetish club, which a girlfriend invited me to.

Tell me about how you found yourself in a fetish club.
I have a girlfriend I have known for ever and ever and ever. She’s always been a punky goth girl. That wasn’t our common point of interest; that was just how she acted, but she‘s a sweetheart. At one point she was like, “You have to go to this club with me. I’m a member,” and I said, “Sure, I’ll try it out. Just don‘t expect me to do anything crazy. I just want to go in and check it out.” It was OK. It was different. It was even different for an experience clubbing. It looks a vampire coven when you walk in. It’s very dark. There are little white candles on the tables. There is a room with an X on the door with a swing in there. I just stayed out of that room.

And you thought this would repel this guy? Because I would think if he was just looking for sex, he’d think, “Oh, this girl has been to a fetish club; my chances are better!”
He was an awkward panda, so no. It made him say, “Oh, look at the time; I should be going,” and I was like, “Buh-bye, get going.”

So based on your experience, should people avoid hitting on someone while they were working on the job?
Because I get blushy and shy when people hit on me, I didn’t know to handle that, other than to say, “No, thank you.” I’ve gotten numbers a couple times while at work and other than the one I haven‘t taken any up on those.

Has anyone ever told you something inappropriate?
Oh, god yeah! I had a group of males come up to me when I was working and they were like, “What’s going on, girl?” and I was like, “Um, I’m folding clothes. Can I help you with anything?” It ended up with, “So, listen I would like to get your number so maybe we could hook up sometime. Maybe you want to hook up or if you have a girlfriend with low self-esteem or low confidence.”

That was the wording?
That was the wording. I looked at him like I was probably going to smack his face clear off. I was like, “If I did, I would not let her ten feet in front of you, pal.”

Mike, 32 

Where are you from?
Richmond

What’s the dating scene like in Richmond?
I’m not terribly active in the dating scene, but there are plenty of bars, nightclubs, restaurants. If you’re looking for it, you can find it.

Tell me about the worst date you have ever been on.
There was one that ended in a death of silence, awkwardness and nothing to talk about and two parties departing without so much as a goodbye. Someone would start a conversation and the other would not be interested and move on. It was a very cold type of interaction.

Did you wear that mask? That might explain it.
No, I definitely didn’t wear the mask.

Have you ever dated someone who is into furry culture?
Yes. It gave us a common bond, but it was not the foundation of the relationship. We never dressed up together. I met her through a common friend who does furry art. 

What are your turn on and turn offs?
As a general rule, I like strong, independent women. They definitely have to be smart enough to hold conversations with. There of course has to be a physical attraction. And there has to be common interests, but I also like to see variety in the women I am dating, for them to bring something new to the relationship. I tend to go for the creative and artistic types.

At what point in a relationship do you mention the whole furry thing? Is that a first date kind of thing?
I don’t go out of my way to hide it. It’s definitely not a first date kind of thing. But usually it’s introduced pretty early on because it’d be a mean thing to spring late in the game.

Do you get a positive, negative or neutral reaction to it?
It’s always been positive.

It’s really weird and intimidating to talk to someone though a wolf mask.
Of course it is. That is the appeal.

Kevin, 24

Where are you from?
I’m from Central Virginia, Lynchburg, specifically.

What’s the dating scene like down there?
The pick down there for guys is pretty much OK if you like trailers. That’s essentially what you’re stuck with. From the moment I saw what the selection was, I was like, “No, I’m not that desperate.” I’m not looking for anyone, I just got involved with gaming and after a while stopped caring about the women.

That’s got to be frustrating, I imagine.
No, in some games, I am the woman. You can dress up your character anyway you want, male, female, transgender, both male and female at the same time.

Do you have any crazy date stories?
I haven’t actually been on any dates but I do a lot of online role playing, Second Life and things like that, and I have had some over the top encounters. In Second Life, I try to keep it all in the game. I am not looking for a real relationship but this one guy, who turned out to be gay, started hitting on me and I told him I am not gay, so it kind of got awkward. At one moment he told me, “I’d still like you to hump my gay husky butt,” and I haven’t talked to him in two years.  It was before I started playing female characters. That experience alone made me go to female characters. I was like, “Now no more gay guys can hit on me! Because I am a woman!”

So then straight guys hit on you? Is that better in some way?
I feel like I can have more control over that.

What’s the fun of flirting with someone you’re never going to meet?
It’s mostly about the role playing. We create a character. We create a world. You go on and do it for story development. I have had some friends, but beyond that, I shoot everything down if they try.

So there are no past girlfriends you can tell me about?
Never had any kind of relationship. Never cared. Never tried. Everyone is always telling, “Oh, yeah, the sex!” And I’m like, “And?” The only time I ever got close was in high school. I’ve always been the funny guy, the joker, and because of that this, one girl fell in love with me and wanted to be my girlfriend. But she was like the victim person. She had broken up with one of my good friends at the time and she was really emotionally clingy. It was really sad. I kind of turned her down. I was like, “No.”

Would you describe yourself as asexual?
“Asexual?” What do you mean?

I have heard it defined as a sexual orientation in which a person doesn’t want to have sex with anyone.
Basically, yeah. I mean I’ve never really cared. I consider myself straight, but I just don’t care. I’m the kind of person to say, “Too much effort in that thing. I’m going to go level off in this video game. I’m winning in life.”

So do people in your life understand that or are they pressuring you to get with someone?
My brother, he has himself a girlfriend and we get along really great because I’m not held down by anything. I’m the good friend kind of guy. I’m the best friend.

Scotty, 47

It’s Raptor Jesus!
Yeah, it’s a play on a meme and I‘m bringing it to life as people have done before me and will do after me.

How do people react to Raptor Jesus?
So far, it’s been 100-percent positive. I wasn’t sure at first when I dressed up in this costume that I would have a good response because I was considering the religious folks, and myself being one, but I think it‘s a fun expression.

Drunk bystander: Hey, reptilian! They told me you were Jesus!
I’m Raptor Jesus!

Drunk bystander: You ain’t no goddamn Jesus! Man, you got this fly-ass robe on and your goddamn silk and your nice-ass hat. You ain’t no goddamn Jesus! You ain’t even a reptilian! Man, your goddamn claws ain’t even real. Just let me wear the cross and the robe and I’ll let you go.
You got it.

Drunk bystander: Jesus, let me get right next to you. We gonna be partners. Just see how many customers you get with me standing right here. They‘re scared of me. I intimidate everyone. I intimidate him. Do I intimidate you, sir? You’re shaking right now, taking this.
You’re a good man; you’re a good man.

Drunk bystander: You good, motherfucker! Let me hold the cross for a little while.

How long did it take to get the Raptor Jesus costume together?
Pretty quick. The mask and the claws are Jurassic Park toys from the 1990s.

Drunk bystander: That’s fucked!
And the robe I got from mail order.

Drunk bystander: That ain’t no goddamn Jurassic Park.

Do you have other costumes?
I got a minotaur costume and I got a griffon costume.

Drunk bystander: I just don’t want my religion disrespected, you hear? Are you Catholic?
No, Protestant.  

Let me take it. I’m going to burn this.

Interviewer’s note: The drunk bystander then took out a lighter and tried to light Scotty’s cross on fire. Lacking full visibility and finger motion due to the costume (and seeming like a pretty passive guy), he just moved across the street. After watching someone try to ignite him, I decided it'd polite to just let him be, though he did tell me once again that this was the first negative reaction to his costume he’d ever encountered. It is true that what he does is braver than dating.


Jen, “No, you may not ask me that” 

So, you’re married. Is your husband here?
No, he hates furries and everything associated with them. It’s quite a bone of contention.

What is the worst date you have ever been on?
After I broke up with my long-term boyfriend, who I had been with for eight years, I was lonely and needed some action. So, I went out with this guy I met at a concert who was cute and seemed pretty cool. We went to see Neil Young and we went back to his place and I stayed over. In the morning, he wouldn’t get out of bed and he wouldn’t get me anything to eat. He wouldn’t let me get anything to eat because he was afraid I’d eat his roommate’s food. He wouldn’t even have sex with me again, so I walked home from Mount Washington to Greenfield. Longest walk of shame ever. [Interviewer’s note: According to Google Maps, that is a five-mile walk of shame that includes a trek down the steep hillside overlooking Pittsburgh‘s downtown and a walk across a bridge.] I stole some of his stuff.

What did you steal?
I stole his lighter and a blanket.

Did he pay for the Neil Young show?
I think he did.