Should Zoos Make Our Own Furry Fandom?

Just recently, I was talking with another zoosexual, and the topic of furries came up. She and I turned out to have a pretty similar story when it comes to furries: we both strongly resonate with furry characters, and we are both strongly repulsed by the types of toxic ideas that the furry fandom lets fly. To both of us, anthros are important, in the same way that you could say "80s music" or "rap" is important to a lot of other people: it speaks to us not just on a level of mild preference, but on a deep, deep, deep emotional level, where a lot of our most heartfelt experiences with art have been with anthros. We look at anthros and see ourselves. We look at anthros and see a perfect embodiment of the humans that we are shaped like and have the stories of and abilities of, and the animals that we aspire to behave like, look like, love like. And yet, outside of the fiction of the art and the magic of the suits, me and my friend have both seen so many of the humans behind the furry fandom turn out to be shockingly close-minded and astonishingly unwilling to stand up for others. Not everyone in the fandom is a bad person individually, you can find many little pockets here and there full of perfectly respectable folks, but on a big level within the fandom the bad ideas go so unchallenged that they seriously effect what the fandom is and what it feels like to be in it.
Let's talk about irony. Irony, for those who want a reminder, is just a communication word that means two things aren't adding up, usually resulting in a feeling of humor or a feeling of tragedy. As zoosexuals, my friend and I are of course confronted very directly by the most painfully ironic aspect of all of this. And that is the furry fandom's frothing insistence that furries and zoophilia are completely different things, and that zoophiles aren't welcome in the furry fandom. It does not take an especially wise mind to spot the irony of that. To spot why those things don't add up, in a way that is either funny or sad. But I'll say it directly: it's ironic that the fandom that fills itself with art and rp of sexualized animal characters then turns around and says the fandom is completely unrelated to having sexual feelings about animals. That's very funny; that's very sad.
Basically, we have a situation where there's this art style that's important to us, but it feels like that art style is owned by people who suck. Even if that's not true in a literal way. Nobody "owns" the concept of anthro foxes. The fandom is, again, made up entirely of individuals, all of whom may have complex and different thoughts on what anthro foxes mean to them, and different feelings about zoosexuality, with many being zoos themselves and many others who wouldn't mind hearing that their rp friend was kissing their dog out of character. But there is a general vibe here, a puritanical mythos that I seem to hear a lot of (usually younger) furries parroting off of each other, that makes the fandom "feel" intolerant, even while there are zoo meets going on at any furry convention you can think of and plenty of zoo allies who don't care. The loud voices going unchallenged still changes the feeling of "the fandom" or "the culture" sometimes, even if that's an overly simplistic way of looking at it, that's how it sometimes feels.
And it's not strictly only about feelings, either. Very popular furry websites that host sexual art of anthropomorphic animals will ban users for saying that they are sexually attracted to animals. That matters, tangibly. Very popular furry artists are willing to make a career out of drawing dog characters being seductive, but aren't willing to raise the slightest peep of a suggestion that people thinking dogs are sexy is okay. That matters, passively.
There is a somewhat intense purity spiral going through the fandom, that makes it easy to declare that zoos are evil demons who you hate, and hard to declare that zoos seem fine and you don't really care. It's a culture where you probably won't have someone challenge what you said for saying "zoo bad," whereas saying "zoo good" might get people yelling at you, making you feel like you said a bad thing, and might get you banned from many furry spaces outright. Even if most individuals in the fandom aren't wringing their hands together and going mwahaha as they perpetuate zoo hate, the purity spiral is kind of a machine that perpetuates itself by making one narrative acceptable to say and the other narrative risky to say, unless people are really willing to dig their feet in and speak out against it.
But... we do have plenty of openly zoosexual people who know how to make websites, and we do have plenty of openly zoosexual people who can draw some really great pictures of anthros without needing anyone else's permission to do it.
Should we... just leave and make our own fandom?
Should Zoosexuals Make Our Own Furry Fandom?
Let's imagine that for a minute. Like, let's really fantasize for a sec here about what the best case scenario is if every zoosexual collectively ghosted the anti-zoo portions of the furry fandom, and set up our own stuff just for ourselves. We would see our own art sharing platforms pop up, platforms that celebrate animal attraction instead of banning people over it. We would see so many talented zooey furry artists that we would never even have a reason to think about furry artists who aren't bumping zoo pride: we can just find all of the content we ever want from our own artists. And those artists would be well compensated too: all of the money that goes into furry fandom commissions and merch and that kind of stuff, now that cash is moving around within zoo hands, we are financially supporting our own people, we are demonstrating that being zooey doesn't mean you shouldn't have an income. We never have to look at a nice drawing and wonder in the back of our head, "But does the artist hate me?" We can be ourselves unashamedly.
That's the idea, basically. That's the fantasy that I'm getting at here. All of the ways that the fandom sucks, we just turn our back on and do the not-sucking version of instead.
Is there any reason we couldn't do that right now?
The problem is, that fantasy is unrealistically well-organized. We would never get every single secret zoo furry artist to reveal their hand at once, or probably ever, because there is too much fear. We would never get every zoo to leave behind all of the emotional attachment they ever felt to the art of a creator who had been silent on the topic of zoo, even if that silence was hurtful to us, or who made casually anti-zoo statements now and then but didn't seem to "actually" mean it. The way that reposting and memes work on the internet, it's also not even like you know, when glancing at a drawing of an anthro wolf, who the artist was and what all of their previous statements on zoo have been, and I don't think we could keep "them" art quarantined out of "us" spaces very well.
We would never get anti-zoo furries to so easily leave us alone, either: they would go out of their way to look into OUR spaces from the outside, and still kick and scream that we are making them look bad and that we need to stop, even if we were literally only doing these anthro drawings for ourselves. If that sounds to you like I'm exaggerating, you should check out some of the things furries have said about the fact that Zooier Than Thou uses anthro characters of themselves for some of the podcast art.
The perfect fantasy, the one where we just make Furry Fandom 2, wouldn't really happen that way. But... even if it would be messier than the perfect fantasy, I do think we should still advocate for ourselves as though Furry Fandom 2 was the goal.
Check it out. Even if it's not an instant fix to everything frustrating about the fandom, I think it's worthwhile to not support anti-zoo artists. Someone who has expressed anti-zoo rhetoric, even just casually, do not support their Patreons, do not commission them, do not click like on their artwork, do not share their art around. Stop making anti-zoo the safe option, as much as we're able to influence that for them. And conversely, if you do want to get commissions, even for non-zoo-related stuff, try to get it from artists who have expressed zoo-allyship or who are zoos themselves. Show that associating with zooiness doesn't mean you'll never be able to do business in the fandom again.
If you see conversations happening in the furry fandom about hating zoophilia, don't be silent, don't let that hateful speech go unchallenged. I know it's not easy if you're not already on a zoo alt, and not everyone feels they are in a position to do anything about it, but silence and complacency are how we've gotten here to begin with.
I would argue that zoos were a pretty core foundational part of building the furry fandom in the first place--furry artists didn't invent anatomically correct packages out of nowhere, and even if that part is human-looking on some characters, it's still pretty zooey to be so interested in drawing dog-faced people kissing with their dog faces. My hypothesis, from all of the many tales of yesteryear that I have heard, is that furry was zoo, and then as furry gained more of a public spotlight, it became convenient to politely deny that everyone in the fandom was a zoophile, and zoos kind of perpetuated that too, since it was a handy way of getting out of public flak while still obviously being able to roll our eyes among ourselves and know that it was just a cover story.
But, time goes forward a generation or two later, and new fandom members come in who only ever heard the cover story as "the truth," and also grew up with really activist-y ideas about their identity needing to be defended from attacks on all sides, and so with them, the casual "no zoos here officer" story evolved into impassioned denial that the fandom and zoophilia had anything to do with each other. And it happened because it's easier to stay quiet when someone is looking for something to use to start trouble. But if you can speak up, *especially* as a respected member of a furry space, that's a meaningful thing you can do towards a better furry culture. Quadruply so if you are a moderator of a furry space, and quadruply again if you are an employed admin of somewhere with furries.
That's not to say that this is a "return to when furry was perfect." Furry has always had things about the culture that you could describe as unhealthy, antisocial. But, it used to be less hypocritical on the topic of zooiness, and that's all I'm saying it would be nice to get back to there. I'm not saying that zooiness is the only thing we can speak up for either: if you see sexism, racism, or transphobia, all of which I have seen appear not as a joke and go unchallenged through furry chatrooms, you can be the one who says that's pretty fucked up actually.
And also, hey, hanging out with other zoos is fun. It can be "furry"-looking or not, whatever may end up being the case, but if you're looking for a nice culture to be a part of, there are some exceedingly decent zoo spaces out there to be found. Maybe go for those before going for a furry space that seems really toxic and you only want to be there because of the cartoon fox profile pictures. We've got animal-themed profile pictures in zoo spaces too, I promise.
Obviously the idea of making our own second furry fandom whole cloth is a little bit silly. Furry Fandom 2 isn't exactly a thing that means anything. But, the claim that "zoophiles aren't welcome in furry" is just as much a statement that doesn't exactly mean anything: we can draw and enjoy anthros as much as anti-zoos can. I got a tail I wear around all the time like it or not, biatches. We're not all forced to be in the exact same spaces together, but we do also share quite a number of interests in common. The idea of reclaiming Furry Fandom 1 for ourselves again, reinvigorating healthy attitudes again for the spaces that house these common interests, or just using anthros in abundance in our own spaces because we so are allowed to, those are ideas I like the sound of.
Article written by Alissa Dogchurch (January 2024)
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