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Mixed-venue survey delineates furries, therians, otherkin

Edited as of Tue 7 Jan 2014 - 09:03
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Results for the Summer 2011 International Furry Survey led by Dr. Gerbasi and Nuka were released last month, and some are quite surprising. The study attracted 1940 participants (179 'non-furry'). 45% came from Anthrocon 2011; the rest filled out the survey online.

The same team ran an online survey last January, and a follow-up at Furry Fiesta 2011.

This survey swept in members of several related groups, most of whom saw themselves as distinct from furries. 74.4% of participants identified solely as furry, while 8.8% claimed to be therians and 4.7% otherkin. 3.6% felt they belonged to both furry and one of these groups.

Significant differences were found between furries and therians, and male and female furs.

Becoming furry: influences, character traits and timeline

62.9% of non-furries believed furry was a choice, while only 48.9% of furries (and 39.3% of therians) thought the same. The survey found no one source acting as an influence, but therians and otherkin appeared to be more likely than furries to note a specific experience or internal feeling.

While some had suggested family breakup as a basis for joining the fandom, the survey found "no significant difference between furries [33.6%] and non-furries in terms of how frequently their parents were divorced."

Tests on the "Big Five" personality traits found that those more involved with furry fandom reported being more extroverted, less agreeable, and more open to experience. There was no statistical difference for conscientiousness or stability/neuroticism, nor – as found previously – were there "significant differences between furries, therians and non-furries as measured by self-esteem scales and depression scales."

While minors could not participate in the survey, approximately 70% of the sample was 25 or younger; despite this, 5-10% were 40–60+. Anthrocon participants "[had] considered themselves to be a furry for statistically longer than online participants (8.4 years versus 7.0 years)" and were older (25.8 vs. 24.0). Furs began to consider themselves furry around 17, and "became a part of the furry community 2 years later". They estimated there were "about 1.4–2.8 million furries worldwide" (1 in 2,500–5,000); those strongly identified as furries estimated higher.

Therians, furries and otherkin

Therians were slightly more likely than furries to be female (19.7% vs. 15.5%), and three times more likely to be transgender (3.3% vs. 1.0%). They were also statistically more likely to feel less than 100% human, both physically (18% vs. 8%) and mentally (72% vs. 34%), and were far more likely to want to be completely non-human (52% vs. 35%), or to believe that they are human plus something else (44% vs. 31%).

Therians were also more likely to emulate their species than furries, less likely to believe their fursona/species could change over time, or that it could be chosen, and far more likely to identify as a member of their species. The 'deepness' with which they felt their species was a part of them was likewise greater (8.55 vs. 6.75 on a 10-point scale). They were more likely to engage in magical/supernatural thinking, compared to furries or non-furries (between which there was no significant difference), and were more likely to use Second Life or IMVU than non-therian furries.

Curiously, therians felt closer to furries than non-furries (5 vs. 4 on a 7-point IOS scale), while furries did not make such a distinction (both ~4.5).

Both therians and otherkin were "about twice as likely" as furries (~37% vs. 22%) to report an internal source for association with the furry community, and "about half as likely" (15% vs. 32%) to report an outside influence (vs. both or neither). Therians also had "greater connections to their species than furries, especially when it came to spiritual connections and identification with their species." Lastly, therians were more likely than furries (31.1% vs. 22.6%) to think that furry was solely something you are, vs. solely something you do (2.5% vs. 10.1%).

Therians and otherkin were more likely to choose species which they considered predators. In addition, those who had chosen predator species were significantly more extroverted than those who had chosen prey.

Gender, sexuality and relationships in furry fandom

Researchers found a significant gap between furries' reported physical sex, and their gender identification:

[...] more than 80% of the furry sample reported being biologically male, only about 45% of the sample identified with the male gender. Additionally, while 15% of so or of the furry sample identified as biologically female, less than 10% [...] identified with the female gender.

In both cases, this referred to solely identifying with one gender; substantial divisions (31% and 12% respectively) were one step closer to "equal male/female". Female furs were more likely than male furs to have a fursona with a different gender (52% vs. 64% "always the same"), and were more likely to be heterosexual in real life. Overall, "there were about 1.5 times as many exclusively heterosexual furries as there were exclusively homosexual furries", and nearly half reported a non-exclusive sexual orientation.

Furries "tended to have fursonas that were slightly more homosexual than they were" (the average number of fursonas was 2.12). This spilled into the real world, with non-furries reporting "slightly more" attraction to, physical intimacy and love with the opposite sex than furries, while furries were "more physically intimate with and had been in love with more same sex partners than non-furries." As for relationships:

[...] male furries are more than twice as likely as female furries [56% vs. 22%] to be single, and female furries are three times more likely [13% vs. ~3.5%] to be married than male furries.

The average furry reported 1.7 siblings; of the ~85% with at least one, more "reported being the oldest child (47.5%) rather than the youngest child (34.5%), while 18.0% of furries reported that they were a middle child."

Furry education, interests, community feelings and culture

Approximately 75% of furries said they had or were attaining post-secondary education. Of those who had attained it, 27.9% chose a field "directly involving computers", 24.2% had picked an "art" (including writing), 11.9% picked a "science", and 11.9% (again) studied "engineering".

While both furries and non-furries had a variety of non-work interests, non-furries appeared less interested in MUCKs and roleplay, by about one point on a seven-point scale. Furries were across the board when considering whether they were artists or writers, though they appeared to have a firmer view as to whether they were completely (16% vs. 11%) or absolutely not (21% vs. 17%) artists, as compared to writers.

When asked to rank elements of "furry culture", participants favoured art, community, acceptance, internet groups and conventions, each scoring six or more on a seven point scale. Drama (3.0), sex (3.5), gaming (4.0) and music (4.1) all scored relatively low. Most surveyed thought there was a difference between a 'furry' and a 'furry fan', typically focusing on the degree of time/monetary involvement, or "creators" vs. "consumers".

While only about 13% of furries and therians owned a full fursuit, over 45% of furries and otherkin and almost 60% of therians indicated a wish to do so. Similarly, ~25% of all three groups owned a partial fursuit, but 40% of furries, 30% of otherkin and 47% of therians planned to get one. 70% owned paraphernalia such as ears or tails, with almost none ruling it out for later (compared to ~10% for partials, 10-20% for full fursuits).

Furries, therians and otherkin all had generally positive feelings about artists, writers, musicians, fursuiters and gamers. But furries were only marginally positive towards therians and otherkin, were slightly negative towards fetishists when other groups were slightly positive, and appeared more negative towards vampires and babyfurs. All groups felt strongly negative with respect to Nazi furs.

Means of furry interaction

Most furry interactions are online; 35% have never attended a local furmeet, and another 35% only do so once or a few times a year, while 25% have never attended a convention and most of the rest either do so infrequently or make it a yearly occurrence. ~20% go to several cons a year. (Note that 45% of participants were at a convention.)

Online, 45% of furries interact with other furs over instant messengers several times a day, with 70% doing so at least once a week. Use of forums and message boards appeared slightly less regular, though over 80% used them at least monthly. About 40% used virtual environments such as IMVU or Second Life, although for 10% their use was only a few times a year, and for another 6-8% it was less frequent than weekly.

'Non-furries' included in the survey were present at Anthrocon 2011, or chose to fill out a furry-oriented survey, so may not be a perfect control group.


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Wow, far more concise than my page =P

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Being concise is part of my job!

It doesn't quite match 2009's summary in brevity, but more concrete figures were released this time.

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Hey, it's that survey that I got mad at for not allowing minors to answer questions...

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Not allowing minors to answer was not our call, trust me. We fully recognize that a significant proportion of the furry population is, in fact, under the age of 18, and we know full well that the best way to get an accurate picture of the fandom is to include those under the age of 18. Realize that we, as scientists, want the most accurate picture as possible, and as such, we wish we could get people under the age of 18 to complete the survey.

The unfortunate reality of our research, however, is that we are bound to the rules of a board of ethics. We argued to be allowed to give the survey to minors. Ultimately, we were not given permission. To do research on minors, the board of ethics deems that the parent of a minor needs to give us consent - something pretty difficult to obtain online, in another country, as you can imagine. Additionally, for MANY furries, trying to get parental permission to do a furry survey when you're keeping it a secret from your family (as many furries who are "in the closet" do) makes getting parental consent next to impossible to obtain.

I guess my point is that I share your frustration =( I want to be able to include participants under 18 because my goal is to get as accurate a picture of the fandom as possible. It's not my decision, or the decision of any researcher on our research team, every one of which recognizes that furries under 18 make up a significant proportion of the fandom and who would LOVE the opportunity to include them in our research.

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Okay, I can understand that. You probably would get a lot of fake "parent permission" anyway. Believe me, I can wait two years.

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*nods* That's the other concern - that we'd just get a lot of fake parent permission anyway (ethics wouldn't like that very much >.<").

For what it's worth, there's nothing terribly racy or shocking on the survey >.>' About the most "shocking" thing we've had are a few questions about sexual orientation and, on a previous survey, some questions about interest in particular fetishes. Nothing that the average 16 year old with internet access hasn't come into contact with or heard of before =P

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I didn't figure as much, and this story has helped me show what it does include.

My only problem is I like taking online surveys, and this one has always seemed to be the most in-depth furry survey I've seen.

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*sighs* And that's the rub - we're always looking for as many participants as we can get, and we LOVE furries who are eager to take the survey and help out with the research. On the plus side, as you mentioned, it's only two more years (and unless something goes horribly wrong, I'll still be doing this research then!), and then you'll be able to contribute as well! (Unless we can convince an ethics board to let us include furries age 16+ before then!)

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Looking forward to it.

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So that's the survey I couldn't take because of a few discriminatory months.
Why not have a second survey for minors, whatever they're hiding could be censored... seriously, there are surveys teens take anonymously about dirty things anyway.
At least I'm not the only one who wanted to take it and couldn't.

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You kids are adorable!

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I don't think they're all that adorable.
*Shakes fist from his rocking chair*

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They are, as long as they STAY OFF MY DAMNED LAWN! *shakes cane* Those kids, with their Pac-Man vidya games and hula hoops!

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As mentioned above, it's not our by our choice, honestly x.x' Our own research shows that the vast majority of furries got into furry before they were 18, and we are DYING to know more about the things that get people into the fandom, especially when they're first getting into it. We want, more than anything, to be able to study people under 18, and the only thing holding us back is an ethics board that prohibits it. It has nothing to do with us thinking that people under 18 "can't handle" the content of the survey, or anything like that!

Unfortunately, it's not a matter of anonymity that's the problem. An ethics board (not us!) believes that minors need adult consent to participate in nearly all forms of psychological research. It's nothing against furries, or nothing against minors, and has nothing to do with the content of the survey. We've struggled to try and find a practical way to get around this constraint so that we can include those under the age of 18. Nothing practical has come up thus far (nothing that will allow us to do it online, at very least). This is the unfortunate reality of conducting scientific research: our hands are sometimes tied by ethics. Know, however, that we wish, more than anything, to be able to include all furries in our research - it would be silly and counterproductive of us to WANT to not include minors.

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Why not arrange for a checkbox asking for consent for the survey on the notarized consent form that if checked registration puts a mark on the minor's badge to be identified at the survey table?
Consent is already required to attend, why not take advantage of that?
On the web it is tough to gain consent, but in the physical world, is it really that hard?

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I do believe we've talked about doing that in the past. I don't recall, off-hand, what the reason for ethics shooting it down was. I think part of it may have been foreseen difficulty trying to coordinate this with the administrative folks at Anthrocon. Unfortunately, as you mentioned, this doesn't help with the online problem (which is where the vast majority of minors have access to the survey).

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One thing that I'm curious about, but I'm not sure if it could be included in future surveys, is how long do people stay in the fandom for? Are most participants here for the long-term, or is there a high turnover rate? It's a difficult question to ask because the people that leave aren't around to fill out surveys. Although maybe it could be deduced if there's a significant drop-off after certain periods of time. The other problem being how to define when a person first joins the fandom - is it when they become aware of it, start socializing, etc.

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You've just asked - and answered - one of the questions our team is MOST interested in! And you've identified nearly all of the pitfalls we're experiencing in trying to answer it =P It's difficult, because, as you mention, people who leave the fandom are hard to get ahold of, and social psychological research has suggested that people are notoriously difficult at being able to predict how they'll feel years down the road (e.g. to be able to answer a question like "how long are you in the fandom for? The long haul, or just for a bit?)

It's a bit easier to identify when people are "in" the fandom: they're "in" it when they decide they are. If that means, for them, associating with other furs, then that's what's important. If, instead, they call that point when they went to their first con, then that's what we use. It's like calling oneself a Republican or a Democrat: there's no dotted line you sign that makes you one "officially" - it's a matter of when you decide to start identifying as one, for whatever reason.

One possibility that we're looking into is a longitudinal study: tracking a group of furries over a period of time, and seeing what happens to them (watching how their attitudes change, and, ultimately, keeping tabs on them when/ if they leave the fandom). It does make ethics a bit sticky, because we have to collect a bit of personal data (an e-mail address or some kind of contact information), and, even though we don't attach it to any particular set of data (we won't, for example, say "oh, this is John Smith's data" (everything will be via assigned ID number), we will have to be able to say "this is participant #410's data from last year, let's compare it to this year"). Anyway, it's a work in progress, and a question that we're definitely interested in pursuing!

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Is there a question asking if the survey taker has ever left the fandom, if so how many times, and how long each time?
I met someone a few years back, he went missing for a while and then boom he was at Furstivus, not sure how long he was gone, but certainly he and people like him could answer that.

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Hmm, we've never asked anything like that. My only concern is that, at least at first glance, it doesn't seem like there'd be a lot of people who would answer "yes" to that one.

Part of the problem with having so many questions is that survey space is at a premium. For this upcoming survey alone it was difficult to get the darn thing under 200 questions! We're constantly struggling with, on the one hand, our desire to ask hundreds of questions and, on the other hand, the fact that participants, at some point, will get bored and say "this is too long".

This means that we end up comparing questions and trying to get the most "bang for our buck". I fear that the question you're suggesting, while definitely interesting, wouldn't really get enough responses to be worth it, compared to some of the other questions that we've had to take off. That said, I feel like there should be some way to get at those folks: we are considering doing a more open-ended, "interview" or "group discussion" type thing at Anthrocon this year. Perhaps we could see if we could recruit a handful of folks in that boat and have a more in-depth, qualitative session with them!

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You could ask people if they'd like to complete a bonus survey that could be finished on their own time and could be mailed in or returned upon completion. Perhaps some kinda incentive *shrugs and mutters something about the promise of shinies*
Discussion panels might not be scheduled nicely enough.. might need multiple ones, definitely place one around dead dog, if you do..

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This idea has actually come up a few times (the bonus survey idea); we're trying to figure out how to implement it, and what the logistics of it would be. As it is, even with two surveys a year, we get pretty swamped: there's data entry, data coding for open-ended questions (we have 2-3 research assistants doing that, and when you have more than 2,000 responses to go through for each open-ended question, that can take some time). Additionally, all the statistics and the summaries posted online... by the time I get finished analyzing the study from February, the Summer Anthrocon one is already beginning =P Complaining aside, I do agree that a voluntary extra survey isn't a bad idea at all - I actually suggested it about a year ago. We're still trying to decide how we would go about doing that.

Hmm, we've been toying with discussion panels for AC. Ethics seems like they may let us get away with it, but there is a LOT involved in planning one, especially if there is to be more than one session. We also have to decide what we should include in the session, if we're to make it worth everyone's time. (This is, of course, on top of the fact that we're starting to give two separate panels at Anthrocon every year).

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One possible solution you could consider is having two variations of the survey (not necessarily a second survey, though) ~ ask the participant if they'd like to take the short variation or the longer variation. Listing the number of questions each variation has would also be a good idea.

Granted, I'm not sure what the standards are you need to abide by, but if it allows for that it'd be something to consider.

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*laughs* Not a bad idea at all... except that, for the most part, we already use multiple versions of the survey. Last time we had 8 versions of a 10-page survey. It makes data entry and analysis a logistical nightmare x.o' When you start adding a long and short form survey on top of that, it begins to become a little unmanageable (though, granted, not impossible, and I'm not ruling it out as a possibility >.>) It WOULD be nice to have a shorter form for those who would otherwise not do the survey because of its length...

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Well, in terms of when someone's "in" the fandom, I mean it's important to distinguish between when their interest in animal anthropomorphism first manifested, vs. when they found out about the fandom. I knew I liked anthros when I was about 11; but I didn't find out about the fandom until I was 19, and I didn't get the chance to activately participate until I was 20. I know one fellow who knew about the fandom for years, but he wasn't geographically near other fans, and could only manage long-distance communication. It was a relief when commercial Internet service providers came along. :)

I know what you mean about longitudinal studies. My father worked on one of those, studying high school students and what they thought their employment and life situations would be like a few years down the road. The problem was a combination of being unable to contact people, and that many of the ones they could contact, no longer wished to participate. So the data pool shrank very badly and made for an increasingly worse sample size. You'd need to start with as big a group as you can and get multiple means for future contact, even through other family members, if possible.

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Since sis and I both took the survey, I think that's double dipping on the sibling statistic.

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Hmm, technically, it's legit! We're surveying as much of the fandom as we can. That includes siblings who happen to be in the fandom. Technically, one of you has a brother in the the fandom, and one of you has a sister in the fandom (or, at very least, enough so to be informed about the survey). Though, it does raise an interesting question that perhaps we should consider for an upcoming survey: how many members of your a) family b) circle of friends consider themselves to be furry? (And then have checkboxes, for "a parent", "a sibling", "a spouse/ partner", etc...)

Thanks for the idea ^^;

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We were both at AC, we were sitting outside the dealers den long before it opened while you were handing out surveys. We would have both put down 2, one is not a furry.

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Ah, I probably walked right past you! If you see me around at AC again, say hi! =)

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I wonder whether there's a significant difference in the con-related questions between American furs and those of us who live elsewhere? Even allowing for the fact that nearly half of respondents were *at* a con (and so couldn't possibly say they'd never been to one) I seriously doubt that the proportion of UK-based furs who've never been to a con is anywhere *near* as low as 25%. After all, considering only major cons, there's only really Confuzzled and Eurofurence in our entire continent! I'd suggest that Britfurs who've never been to a con (as opposed to a local furmeet) are in the *considerable* majority, though that's based purely on anecdotal evidence.

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I agree entirely with you! I hadn't thought about it, but that's a great point! Unfortunately, I'm leaving for a psychology convention tomorrow (away from the office for the rest of the week), but if I remember, when I get back, I can run that data easily enough; from our online sample, we do have several hundred furs from Europe. Shouldn't be too hard to compare the "just Europe" proportion to the North American sample (non-AC) sample! =)

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I'm interested in getting some data on species dysphoria and other identity-based dysphorias. I want to write an article for Humanity+ on the subject, as well as determine how well-aligned furries, otherkin, and therians are to transhumanist ideas and interests. I wouldn't know how to design a scientific survey on those topics though, especially since I doubt most furries, otherkin, and therians are even aware of transhumanism or what it is about.

In particular, I want to know how much self-identified furries, otherkin, therians, and transhumanists differ from the general population in positively answering questions that indicate species dysphoria traits. Heck, it would be worth asking LGBT groups to see if there's an overlap from that side.

I'd also like to finally get a consensus on how to define these terms. What makes a therian different from an otherkin? I have my own answers for their definitions, but I don't know how many would agree with my proposed definitions.

I'd love to be able to answer my questions objectively though, so maybe there's a way I could help with administering future surveys, Nuka? I have contacts from Humanity+ and other major transhumanism organizations that can share the survey link, so I could get a big online sample for self-identified transhumanists.

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