Lifestyles, Sexual and Sociological Aspects
The phrases furry lifestyle and furry lifestyler first appeared in July 1996 on the newsgroup alt.fan.furry during an ongoing dispute within that online community. The Usenet newsgroup alt.lifestyle.furry was created to accommodate discussion beyond furry art and literature, and to resolve disputes concerning what should or should not be associated with the fandom; its members quickly adopted the term furry lifestylers, and still consider the fandom and the lifestyle to be separate social entities. They have defined and adopted an alternative meaning of the word furry specific to this group: "a person with an important emotional/spiritual connection with an animal or animals, real, fictional, or symbolic."
In their 2007 survey, Gerbasi et al. examined what it meant to be a furry, and proposed a taxonomy in which to categorize different "types" of furries. The largest group—38% of those surveyed—described their interest in furry fandom predominantly as a "route to socializing with others who share common interests such as anthropomorphic art and costumes." However they also identified furries who saw themselves as "other than human", or who desired to become more like the furry species which they identified with.
When compared with the general population, homosexuality and bisexuality are over-represented in the furry fandom by about a factor of 10. Of the US population, about 1.8% of persons self-identify as bisexual and 1.7% as homosexual according to a 2011 study from scholars at UCLA. In contrast, according to four different surveys 14–25% of the fandom members report homosexuality, 37–52% bisexuality, 28–51% heterosexuality, and 3–8% other forms of alternative sexual relationships. Approximately half of the respondents reported being in a relationship, of which 76% were in a relationship with another member of furry fandom. Examples of sexual aspects within furry fandom include erotic art and furry-themed cybersex. The term "yiff" is sometimes used to indicate sexual activity or sexual material within the fandom—this applies to sexual activity and interaction within the subculture whether in the form of cybersex or offline.
Sexual attraction to furry characters is on an climb since 2009. In one survey with 4,300 furry respondents, 37% answered that sexual attraction is important in their furry activities, 38% were ambivalent, and 24% answered that it has little or nothing to do with their furry activities. In a different online survey, 33% of furry respondents answered that they have a "significant sexual interest in furry", another 46% stated they have a "minor sexual interest in furry", and the remaining 21% stated they have a "non-sexual interest in furry". The survey specifically avoided adult-oriented websites to prevent bias. Another survey found that 96.3% of male furry respondents reported viewing furry pornography, compared with 78.3% of female; males estimated 50.9% of all furry art they view is pornographic, compared with 30.7% female. Furries have a slight preference for pornographic furry artwork over non-pornographic artwork. 17.1% of males reported that when they viewed pornography it is exclusively or near-exclusively furry pornography, and only about 5% reported that pornography was the top factor which got them into the fandom.
The International Anthropomorphic Research Project, a team of social scientists from various disciplines led by Plante, Reysen, Roberts, and Gerbasi, has been collecting data on the furry fandom using numerous methodologies. Their 2016 publication collects several peer-reviewed and self-published studies into a single volume. Among their findings were that the average adult furry is between 23–27 years of age, with more than 75% of adult furries reporting being 25 years of age or younger, and 88% of adult furries being under the age of 30. Minors were not included in the study for professional ethics reasons. 78–85% of furries identify as male, nearly 2% of furries identify as transgender, the remaining identify as female. 83–90% of furries self-identify as White, with small minorities of furries self-identifying as Asian (2–4%), Black (2–3%), and Hispanic (3%).7–10 21% of furries consider themselves to be a brony, 44% consider themselves to be anime fans, and 11% consider themselves sport fans.32–33 Furries, as a group, are more politically liberal and less religious than the average American or other comparable fan groups such as anime fans, while still containing contentious groups such as neo-Nazis and alt-right activists whose affiliation is partly in jest and partly in earnest. Religion: 54% of furries self-identified as atheist or agnostic, 23% as Christian, 4% as Pagan, 2% as Wiccan, and the remainder identified with other religions.16 Approximately 70% of adult furries have either completed, or are currently completing post-secondary education.
One of the most universal behaviors in the furry fandom is the creation of a fursona – an anthropomorphic animal representation or avatar. More than 95% of furries have a fursona – an anthropomorphic avatar or representation of themselves. Nearly half of furries report that they have only ever had one fursona to represent themselves; relatively few furries have had more than three or four fursonas; in part, this is due to the fact that, for many furries, their fursonas are a personally significant, meaningful representation of their ideal self. The most popular fursona species include wolves, foxes, dogs, large felines, and dragons. Data suggest that there are generally no associations between personality traits and different fursona species. However, furries, along with sport fans, report different degrees of personality traits when thinking of themselves in their everyday identity compared with their fan identity. Some furries identify as partly non-human: 35% say they do not feel 100% human (compared with 7% of non-furries), and 39% say they would be 0% human if they could (compared with 10% of non-furries).
Inclusion and belongingness are central themes in the furry fandom: compared with members of other fandoms such as anime or fantasy sport, furries are significantly more likely to identify with other members of their fan community. On average, half of a furry's friends are also furry themselves.[ Furries rate themselves higher (compared with a comparison community sample of non-furries) on degree of global awareness (knowledge of the world and felt connection to others in the world), global citizenship identification (psychological connection with global citizens), and environmental sustainability