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Opinion: [adjective][species] on furry's 'HIV problem'

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I recently posted an article on [adjective][species], Furries & HIV, that I think deserves wide attention. The furry community hasn't has a significant outbreak of HIV, but we're being placed at risk by attitudes towards safe sex.

I chatted with a HIV-positive furry (who was happy to be publicly quoted) and a furry porn actor, who both feel that the reluctance of furries to use condoms is a real problem. We also look at ways in which condom usage can be normalized within the community.

The article has generated a fair bit of interest in the couple of days since its publication, and at least one furry convention - Toronto's Furnal Equinox - is looking at adding a safe sex panel to their schedule as a result.

Comments

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The fandom's distribution of sexual orientations suggests we're at increased risk regardless of attitudes.

I would like to see support for this at conventions, but given the fandom's art-centric bias, perhaps an updated version of the Yiffy Guide to Safer Sex might be more successful than traditional outreach methods.

Just be careful where you put the staple if you want to provide a condom with it. :-)

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The convention I used to be on staff for decided to do a Safer Sex panel one year, and there was a huge uproar among membership regarding it. This was also the year that there happened to be a TV crew there, and it became additional fuel in their slam piece that was done on the con.

Also, there was a group created on LJ that was talking about how to combat this several years ago, and we did have the idea of updating the Yiffy Guide... however, we couldn't get people to donate art.

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Though I do agree that making sure the members of the fandom have access to information regarding safe sex, having a panel at a convention isn't something that can or should be hastily thrown together. Most importantly, it requires that you have someone competent to run it, preferably someone who can speak from authority (and not just experience). Speaking as a con runner, it gets to be a complicated issue running a panel like this and not attracting folks that are just there for the giggle-factor, so to speak.

Having the information, such as the Guide, makes more sense, and have it readily available.

Feli
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Chairperson/Président, What The Fur? - http://whatthefur.ca
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http://thewarren.ca for opinion and blog

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I have a few comments about the piece which I'll post on both Flayrah and [adjective][species].

Firstly I do think it's important to use condoms. I'm part of the furry fandom but I'm also in a country which has the highest HIV/AIDS level in the world. I think it's currently at around 20% of the population (lower in certain circles but it's always in your mind). I know not everything I do is the safest but I will insist on testing before doing anything particularly risky and condoms for any penetration. It's easier for me because my university provides free HIV tests and free condoms.

If you want more condoms in art it might be best to use them as a fetish item. I've got some furry pics that depict condoms and know at least one artist who thinks it makes pics sexier. But the problem, and it has been mentioned, is that furry is a fantasy. Disease is reality. They don't mix well. Just like we can't do vore and macro/micro activities in real life, most will be opposed to bringing reality into their fantasies. I got moaned at when I pointed out a scene described in one story would require one of the characters to pass through a wall.

Lastly is just a point of interest. You talk about how furs haven't embraced condom use and that it's widespread in the gay community. I find that really strange because we know there is a large overlap because many furs are gay or bisexual. I can see two ways to explain that and it would be nice to know which is correct. Either gay furries are isolated in the fandom and are not part of the larger gay community, resolving the paradox, or furries are already aware of the issues of safe sex but don't include it in their furry fantasies. You mentioned there is a lack of acceptance of condoms, making the former more likely, but how reliable is that? Is that from some survey or just a few peoples experience that may be local? Complaining about a sex panel at a con is not necessarily a rejection of it's aims.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

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"You talk about how furs haven't embraced condom use"

It is one anecdote from one person in the article. That relates to the one person's personal social group. (Does the social group of a paid porn actor relate to yours?) No evidence is given that relates to furry fandom in general.

Considering there's no evidence given about any fandom-wide attitude or problem, I'll write this off as a non-issue that comes down to a need for individuals to be smart about what they do, the same as anywhere else people socialize.

It's just good to know as Greenreaper added- The fandom's distribution of sexual orientations - and what surveys show about incestuousness. Those indicate risk, but there's nothing to show that furries are any less smart about addressing that risk than anywhere else.

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One demographic I didn't bring up was age. Time marches on, and today's furries are younger than ever. Most did not grow up with the spectre of AIDS hanging over their shoulders. To those born after 1985, Circles is just a comic, and RENT is just a musical; they didn't hear about friends wasting away in hospital beds, covered with Kaposi's sarcoma.

Your perception of risk affects your behaviour — and despite the fandom's relatively high level of homosexual activity, I'd wager that more furs are concerned about pregnancy than infectious diseases, especially if they are new to sex.

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Well yeah, they don't have as many friends sick from it, but is that because they're "yet to catch it" or they learned about it in school health class? I know this thing was driven into us since middle school, along with the "drugs are bad, m'kay" I highly doubt that's changed too much.

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Since we've been quoted on the record, I figure I'll give a more nuanced response than can be explained in 140 characters. Obviously our attention was drawn to it when a couple of our attendees linked it to us.

Our panel programming is present so that our attendees can share and learn from one another. We are happy to provide an environment where topics of interest to our attendees can be discussed, and certainly if the Twitter RTs to us are any indication, safe sex is one of them. There's no sense in us, or indeed any other convention, standing in the way of that. It's certainly an issue with significant implications on the continued health and well-being of our fandom.

Most of our panels are proposed and hosted by our attendees. (Sometimes we prime the pump to encourage past panellists to come back but at the end of the day they originate from the attendance base.) If somebody said "Hey, I want to host a panel on X at your convention", we do our due diligence to the best degree possible before giving them a slot. Most cons act similarly.

As Feli said in a previous post, there are many variables to be considered, including securing a speaker on the subject that has the knowledge, expertise, and authority to speak on the subject and to maturely handle the ensuring discussion.

I think the best way to put it is "We can't go out of our way to find the right person for such a panel. But if the right person comes along, we'll definitely welcome them."

-- Scani (Business/Publicity, FE)

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I agree with that final statement 100%. Even WTFur would welcome a panel like this, so long as someone with qualification comes forward to offer it. As it stands, none of our staff are really able to, and no one has offered it.

Feli
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Chairperson/Président, What The Fur? - http://whatthefur.ca
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http://thewarren.ca for opinion and blog

Your rating: None Average: 2.7 (3 votes)

This is not a furry issue but a gay and society issue (think Africa)that is and perhaps should be addressed elsewhere.

Still I have my reservations any affective of a safe sex program until the community changes its attitude on sexuality i.e there are limits to behavior.

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It's not an exclusively furry issue but it's still a furry issue, especially with the amount of adult material and the tendency towards dangerous sexual practices.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

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Unfortunately you cannot state that it's a strictly gay issue. HIV/AIDS has become a problem prevalent in more than the gay community, and is something that should be examined now and then.

As for limits on sexual behaviour: How would you propose that? There aren't limits on such behaviour in any community outside of religious ones.

Feli
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Chairperson/Président, What The Fur? - http://whatthefur.ca
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http://thewarren.ca for opinion and blog

Your rating: None Average: 2.3 (7 votes)

Yeah, 'cause its totally legal to boink a twelve year old ...

Religion is hardly the only limitation on sexuality; you don't have to believe in a god to believe some things just aren't done.

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When did children come into this?

True, some things just aren't done. And no, it's not always religion. But take my comment in context to the comment above.

Feli
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Chairperson/Président, What The Fur? - http://whatthefur.ca
-----
http://thewarren.ca for opinion and blog

Your rating: None Average: 2.3 (3 votes)

"Yeah, 'cause its totally legal to boink a twelve year old ..."

If Peter Tatchell had his way, IT WOULD BE!

But, I digress...

(CAPTCHA: "large ciesher". Exactly what Peter Tatchell thinks he has...)

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This unfortunately can happen and certainly is something that should be talked about. Unfortunately in this era, you can talk about it and inform people, it feels to me like it really only reaches people who are aware already. Sometimes it seems like no matter what you tell people, they have to find out the hard way.

I mean, I think a lot of our readership knows about the danger of STDs, as they are a bit older then average fur. The best thing to do would be, as a fandom, to try and push for a "fur-national safe yiff awareness week" or some (better named) stick. You have to get those young porn drawin' yipper snappers on board. We have these random "MLP week" or "Flamedramon day", don't see why we couldn't squeeze in a little bit for the condoms.

Circles is still the only furry work that comes to mind when it comes to talking about STDs in any seriousness.

Still, it should be seen as a challenge to try and make being safe look sexy.

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If sex ed is taught in schools I don't see why it would be a problem at a +16 convention, the panel could even be 18+, it's something thats really important and I think should be taught at every convention. As just a little reminder that you are a damn buff wolf man or foxboy who's immune to aids, sorry bud, it could happen to ANYONE, it could happen to you.

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Thanks you guyz for being amazing and open on this topic. As a fandom, you tend to receive a lot of flak on this topic, and the fact that you're willing to up and go "HERE'S THE FACTS GUYS. THIS IS WHERE WE'RE AT. YOU CAN TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT" is really astounding. Next time I have to bear someone going saying "Oh the furry fandom is just a bunch of guys who do it in fursuits" I think that I'm going to link them to this article. If they're too chicken to read the whole essay and get the reality of the thing in their heads, it's a lick on 'em.

I will not go specifics, but the lack of debate on this topic from a certain other fandom has left me very dissapointed. This other fandom is MUCH larger than Furry Fandom, but the topic is mostly ignored, because sometimes they seem to be trapped in a fantasy world as well.

Also, Adjective/Species is rapidly becoming my favorite blog, ever, for their smart critiques of furry society that I have never had the courage to right. Congratz.

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It's a good topic to bring up. However, it's a stretch to go from talking about risk level, to suggesting there's an attitude against safe sex, based on nothing more than one personal anecdote.

My own anecdotal evidence says that furry fandom has no more attitude against safe sex than any other social group. Actually I'm going to correlate the way furries socialize via technology to education level, and say they're already more aware of these risks than the general population.

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I think the most shocking reaction I've received to a piece of art may well have been the objection that was voiced when a character in the comic I draw put on a condom in preparation for sex. I'll readily admit that I don't tend to draw condoms in one-off art, because there's no context around it where infection or pregnancy would become relevant, and drawing on a condom can get so fiddly, but in something like a story or, in this case, a long-running comic, I don't consider there to be room to just ignore the risks of either or both of those, provided it's an issue in the setting. Apparently for the person raising the complaint, the presence of the condom ruined their immersion in the furry fantasy.

I can also add that in my experience, it's only in fandom I've run across people who are disappointed when I want to cover up for "standard" penetrative sex, but men who cannot grasp why I'd want to use a condom for oral sex are everywhere. (It's also, I think, important to remember that HIV is not the only risk out there - I sure don't want to catch HPV or syphilis or what have you either!)

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It can actually be strange, I suppose. The best way I could put myself in their shoes is saying it's like picking up a game of Grand Theft Auto to find all the violence sensored. I mean sure, violence is wrong, but people are engaged in a fictional act, and use it as a fantasy. Just because they play GTA isn't going to make them go out and kill people. So likewise having people draw characters without condoms doesn't necessarily mean it's going to promote them to go out and engage in unsafe sex.

The reason why the originial artical could say that "Gay porn without condoms was like watching death on the screen" was because the gays working in the film were actaully engaged in the act without proper protection, while their jobs require them to be sexually active which makes it even more reckless. When a anthro bunny is doing a chicken to make cad berry eggs, no one is in any danger to create the product.

So in that regard to say it's the artist's fault if there's an STD outbreak in the fandom would be as to blame GTA for school shootings. The art is fictional, the acts that cause such things to occur are very real.

I do think furries have gotten used to not seeing them, which might explain the reaction. I don't expect it to change any time soon, but not all furry worlds are the same, and I don't think anyone should expect them to be.

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I feel like [a][s] just writes about everything and then ties it to the furry random in some way.

Prevention of STIs is important for any sexually active person (and the knowledge to do so important for anyone who plans to be), regardless of whether or not they are a furry.

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Equivamp - He's pointing at the furry fandom in particular because we tend to glorify and even embrace bareback sex in our artwork and stories. Furries need to know that a lot of it is the fantasy aspect of how we wish things were; not something meant to be emulated IRL that would be considered high risk behavior. The only [thin] layer of protection the furry fandom has going on is a lot of sexual furry partners tend to be closed off to "outsiders". However if you've read the article on [a][s], you know what can happen when someone in that group decides to take a chance to... well, go all the way to an "outsider". If that furry didn't know the proper actions to take after unwisely having unprotected sex with the "outsider", wrongly assumed he didn't catch anything, and continued on with his previous... well encounters with his fellow furries, the consequences can be deadly.

I think the most vulnerable group of all is underage/teen furs who lie about their age so they can look at yiffy art. A lot of them have little or no proper eduction about safe sex, or assume condoms are just solely used to prevent pregnancy. And they can be pretty naive young people at times.

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Tell me about it. I remember seeing a comment on the topic saying something to the tune of "Wearing a condom shows a lack of trust." and that was one of the better argue points which is particularly scary.
The thought that a condom some how shows a lack of trust? That's beyond backwards. If anything it shows a real act of affection. A guy willing to wear a condom shows that he genuinely cares enough about his partner to want to protect them even at the cost of some of his own pleasure. It's a unspoken gesture of caring for another person besides yourself.

And a partner that reminds their lover to wear one shows the same kind of affection. The same desire to protect and care for someone outside of yourself.

@ Equivamp: Correct it should be absolute common sense to anyone regardless of fandom or anything else. It's when furries think "Oh well we don't count because we're furries and only date other furries." That we need to go out of our way to point out "NO it can happen to you." As much as I wish we didn't need to there are probably a significant number of people who think along the same lines as one of the article's comments.

"Just a furry on October 10, 2012 at 10:01 pm said:
As you said furs keep it in the fandom. WIth us not playing with outsiders it helps to prevent STDs. Most furs are innocent virgins when they enter the fandom and stay innocent with other innocent people. While there is a lot of sex in the fandom its with people that are innocent and STD free so that is why we feel safe not using a condom. I feel that if you play outside the fandom, as this roo did. . .well your putting yourself at risk for getting an STD….and he proves this fact all the more true. Sure not every fur is pure as most but most furs know how to smell a real fur from posers and we’ll more then likely know whats going on. For those that are unable to tell the differences or those that dont know how to spot things well….better the stupid then us."

Read that and tell me your brain cells don't die just a little.

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Well, in furry porn's defense (and there's a phrase I neve thought I'd write), what kind of porn doesn't glorify unprotected sex? Real porn may show condoms, but that's like wearing a hard hat at a construction site; they don't wear the things because they want to, but because their job's safety rules require them too.

And, a movie quote for extra bonus points:

"Did you use protection?"

"Of course. I had my 9 millimeter Beretta."

"No, I meant did you use a condom?"

"Only sailors use condoms!"

"Not in the nineties."

"Well, they should, those filthy beggars, they go from port to port."

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My solution to this problem. Red condoms. They are available in those multicolored condoms you find for free at most testing and safe sex places being handed out like candy. Now if you are looking at most furry porn they got animal colored dicks right? Here have a red condom and let your imagination run wild. I bet it would mean a lot more people wearing them when they do their nasty together.

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About the author

jm (JM Horse)read storiescontact (login required)

a horse from London, UK

Contributor to [adjective][species].