Concerns over conduct of Northwestern sexology researcher
Kevin Hsu is a sexology researcher based at Northwestern University on the outskirts of Chicago. In 2013 he sought, and received, approval from the Northwestern Institution Review Board (IRB) – an ethics committee that oversees research with human subjects – to study furries.
Hsu's research is intended to follow work published by Dr. Anne Lawrence in 2009, which references furries as a group possibly displaying a hypothetical phenomenon associated with fetishistic behaviour named "Erotic Target Location Error". Hsu's hypothesis is that many furries – possibly most – are zoophiles, where that attraction manifests as the furry identity and in activities such as fursuiting, and that furries can therefore be classified as "autozoophiles".
Hsu emailed me in November 2014 seeking input and assistance. We discussed Dr. Lawrence's paper and his premise; I have reviewed each of those topics in articles recently published on [adjective][species]:
- Furry Research: Autoplushophilia and Erotic Target Location Error (published 30 March 2015)
- Furries and Erotic Target Identity Inversion (published 20 April 2015)
The review and analysis in [adjective][species] articles is mine, not Kevin Hsu's or anyone else's (except where referenced).
Over the course of our correspondence, I became concerned with Hsu's behaviour toward the furry community. In an email on 9 November 2014, Hsu admitted that he'd been barred from recruiting participants at Midwest FurFest in December 2013 by the organisers, but attended anyway and tried to talk to several furries about their sexuality. He would demonstrate further examples of what I considered inappropriate conduct and judgement over the coming months. I raised my concerns with Hsu, but he brushed them off.
Later in November he asked me to review a draft survey intended to gather data on furry sexuality. I expressed several strong reservations with his survey, which he again dismissed. I continued to correspond with him out of curiosity and respect for his science.
In February 2015, Hsu emailed me with his final survey and asked if I would publicise it on [adjective][species]. I suggested he could submit a draft article for consideration, copying Patch from Dogpatch Press as an alternative venue. On 5 March, Dogpatch Press hosted a short article and link to Hsu's survey, which received several comments from furries who had taken it. (The survey was not linked from [adjective][species].)
On 7 March, Dr. Kathleen Gerbasi – who has spent several years researching furries as part of the International Anthropomorphic Research Project and has a long (and positive) relationship with several furry conventions – commented on the Dogpatch Press piece. She said that the "Northwestern study concerns me greatly", and listed several specific problems. Hsu responded, brushing off Dr. Gerbasi's concerns much as he had mine. Soon afterwards, Hsu emailed me to say that Dr. Gerbasi had raised concerns with his ethics board (the Northwestern University IRB).
On 12 March I emailed the Northwestern IRB outlining my own concerns with Hsu's behaviour and conduct. I made four main points:
- That Hsu had been barred from recruiting at a convention and attempted to do so anyway.
- That Hsu had treated vulnerable members of the furry community without due concern for their welfare.
- That Hsu's survey contained trans slurs (such as use of "shemale").
- That Hsu had possibly breached IRB guidelines.
Hsu's survey has since been taken offline. My subsequent emails to Hsu and the Northwestern IRB have gone unanswered.
My intent with this story is twofold:
- To provide information to furries who may have, or may in the future, have contact with Kevin Hsu.
- To inform convention organisers of Northwestern's study. Dr. Gerbasi has raised her concerns with Dr. Sam Conway, chairman of Anthrocon, and it's my hope that this article will raise awareness among other conventions (especially those in the vicinity of Chicago).
I'm happy to be contacted with any questions or further information - email/Skype firstname.lastname@example.org.