How Being A Furry Helped Me Explore My Sexuality

“I put on the fursuit and suddenly I’m ten times more comfortable with the way I look. Honestly, that’s magical.”
Cathryn Virginia
illustrated by Cathryn Virginia
collage of two gay furries making out
Collage by Cathryn Virginia | Photos via Getty Images
A series about sex and stigma.

Contrary to popular belief, the furry community isn’t built around a fringe fetish where people who identify as animals get it on in full-body fursuits. Furries are part of a fandom, not unlike Trekkies or Whovians, defined by an appreciation for anything related to anthropomorphic animals. 

The way individual furries express their appreciation varies wildly. Some treat it like a casual hobby, discussing the fandom online and maybe going to the occasional (typically predominately PG) convention. Some make it a more central part of their identities. Many develop one or more anthropomorphic characters, or fursonas, and create art around them, or roleplay as them. Although everyone's relationship to their fursona(s) is unique, many people use them to help overcome anxieties and explore parts of themselves, or new ways of existing in the world, that they might otherwise struggle to engage with. Only a minority actually own a fursuit, though, despite their prominence in pop culture. 


While the fandom isn’t a sex thing, furries can still bring it into their sex lives. Surveys of adult furries suggest a majority at least occasionally make or view erotic content featuring their own or others’ fursonas—although everyone seems to get something different out of it. Some people take furry roleplay to a sexual place or bring elements of their characters into their wider sex lives—although how and why they do so differs from case to case. But even furries who do blend sex and the fandom rarely fuck in fursuits. They’re expensive, fragile, hard to clean, and often don’t offer much ventilation, mobility, or sensation. (Some people do make fursuits specifically for sex, often known as murrsuits, with strategic materials and openings, but these are not common—and they're actually pretty controversial in some furry circles.) You’re far more likely to find furries who use fantasy-themed sex toys than suits in bed.

“The furry community was generally a space that was open and accepting, so it was a place where I could just say, ‘Oh hey, this is attractive to me.’” —pyo

There’s a sexual side to most fandoms. (Think: erotic fanfic, rule 34 content, fantasy roleplay.) But the intersection between sex and the furry fandom is arguably especially pronounced. Most furry spaces stress the importance of openness and acceptance, and the fandom has a long history as a haven for people who feel like they don’t fit into mainstream culture—especially young queer and neurodivergent people. While only a tiny subset of furries say they joined or stay in the fandom for sex, most welcome sexual forms of expression and support others’ self-exploration—provided it doesn’t impinge on anyone else’s safety and comfort. Big public furry events notably limit the visibility of explicit content and clearly demarcate adult spaces. 


Furries rarely discuss the sexual elements of the fandom in public, because media outlets, social crusaders, and internet trolls often sensationalize them. (Furries often credit one dubious 2001 Vanity Fair article about the wild sexual escapades they claimed supposedly took place at furry events as the progenitor of a wave of fundamental mischaracterizations of the community.) Sexual misinformation has bred moral panic and prejudices about and even alleged instances of violence against furries. Understandably, many furries prefer to focus on the SFW sides of the fandom as a corrective to widespread sexual sensationalism.

However, the absence of open dialogue often creates space for misunderstandings to perpetuate themselves. To hopefully spark more nuanced conversations about how the furry fandom fits into people’s sex lives, VICE spoke to pyo. A longtime furry, pyo told us about the role the fandom and his persona, a blue dragon, have played in his sexual life. 

At his request, VICE is referring to pyo by a nickname he uses in the furry community. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

VICE: How did you first get involved with the furry fandom?
pyo: In 2011 or 2012, as a depressed 16-year-old, I ended up in the brony community. I’ve always enjoyed cartoons; animation is a medium I respect a lot. And it was a source of positivity in my life. The community was very tight-knit. It gave me a sense of belonging. Some of my brony friends were also furries. There was a big overlap between the two communities. So I fell into the furry fandom by association, but I stayed in the community because I enjoyed it. 


In the beginning, it was the sexual openness of the furry community that drew me in. I thought I was homosexual, but I was in the closet. (I now know that I’m bisexual, but 90 percent male-leaning.) I was already an outcast at my school and I wanted to be “normal,” so looking at men I felt were attractive, I felt so much shame. But the furry community was generally a space that was open and accepting, so it was a place where I could just say, “Oh hey, this is attractive to me.” And I discovered that furry characters were a way for me to explore my sexuality. 

How did you explore your sexuality through the fandom?
I mostly engaged with the fandom online, and at first I just talked to people in the community about all these feelings I’d wanted to talk about but had never been able to open up about before. It was about losing stigmas and developing supportive companionship and community. 

Several furries have told me that developing fursonas helped them explore their sexualities and genders, because those characters were free to be anything and like anyone, and they got to inhabit them in safe spaces. Did you develop a fursona to help in your exploration?
[Ducks behind his desk and returns holding a fursuit head.] In fact, I did! But it took a while, because at first I was mostly in the fandom for community. The idea of developing a fursona—of identifying through another identity—felt daunting. Then I went to an anime convention and saw a girl selling felt hats like Link’s from Legend of Zelda, but light blue and with spikes along it like on a dragon’s tail. I bought one and soon after I drew a dragon character in Microsoft Paint. 


As I got deeper into the furry community, I saw how other people interacted with their fursonas, decided to try on this identity, and it stuck with me. My character isn’t as detached from me as fursonas are for some people. They’re not a separate persona, but more like a pseudonym I can use to embody parts of my true self that I don’t always feel like I can explore as myself. It’s nice, because the situations I explore as my character, in any context, still feel connected to me. There is still some detachment from myself, though. My character is cartoony, for example, because I felt like if I made my character more human-like and it didn’t have my physique, which I am not entirely comfortable with, then I’d be lying to myself and to others about who I really am. 

How did your furry fandom manifest in your sex life in practice?
[Laughs.] Well, I am autistic, so I can come off as cold to others, and it can be hard for me to connect with other people. Sharing something like this fandom, which is such a big part of my life and other people’s, makes it easier for me to get to know people I’m interested in, and to get comfortable enough to have sex. Not that I meet people and immediately have sex, of course. 

“Sharing something like this fandom, which is such a big part of my life and other people’s, makes it easier for me to get to know people I’m interested in, and to get comfortable enough to have sex.” —pyo


It’s about having a space where you feel safe exploring intimacy with others in general?
Yes. If I wasn’t in a community like the furry community, I’m not sure I’d ever have had sex. 

So how did your furry-ness manifest in your early sexual experiences, if at all?
I didn’t play a role in my first sexual relationship. I met that person in the brony community. They were also sex-negative, and that relationship was kind of a mess. Actually, maybe that experience was part of what led me to gravitate away from the brony community towards the furry community. I was looking for a more sex-positive community and relationship after that. But in later relationships, being a furry has often been a part of my sexual experiences. 

So, my fursona is a dragon, right? There’s this thing that happens between some furries when they have sex, where they start roleplaying as their fursonas a little. I might throw in a roar here and there, for example. It’s nice and playful. It’s a way to … not spice things up, but maybe to feel more comfortable. It’s difficult to find the right words to express this, but when I’m having sex with someone I met in a community where I usually present myself as this dragon, it just feels nice to identify with the character in some way when we’re in the bedroom as well. 


Is it like, you meet people through a community you feel comfortable within, so doing things like roaring that connect you to the safe and playful experiences you’ve had within that community helps you feel safe and comfortable going deeper into a sexual experience?
That is exactly what I was trying to say, thank you! Yes, you have this sense of belonging in this community and you identify with this character to detach yourself from social stigmas, so identifying with the community and the character in the bedroom is a source of comfort! And it’s cute. It’s interesting. You get to be whatever you want… You can get much more into it. 

Have the ways you bring your fursona or other elements of your fandom into sex evolved?
Yes. You know the BDSM concept of headspace

I’m fond of being in a submissive headspace. It’s soothing to let go of my thoughts completely and get told what to do. But sometimes it’s difficult for me as a person to get into that headspace. My fursona is a vehicle I can use to help me get into that headspace more easily and reliably. 

I use explicit art of my fursona to explore BDSM scenarios, too. Sometimes it’s easier for me to send someone else a picture of something I want to explore than it is for me to talk about it. For example, I commissioned a picture of my fursona getting constricted by the Pokémon Dragonair, and the artist added the Pokémon lightly biting their neck. I’m so fond of that picture, because it not only incorporates a fantasy kink I’m interested in, it also validates something that I might otherwise feel shame expressing. I can look at it and say, “Yeah, sexually speaking, that is me.” 


“My fursona is like a pseudonym I can use to embody parts of my true self that I don’t always feel like I can explore.” —pyo

It's easier to express that through art of your character than art of yourself?
Yeah. If someone took pictures of me having sex, for example, I wouldn’t want to see those. 

When we were first in touch, you did mention that your fursona helped you feel more confident in your body, and that helped you feel more sexual. Can you speak to that?
I sometimes find it difficult to look at my body. I’m a large guy, and usually slightly unkempt, maybe because I can find it difficult to care about my body as it is right now. But through my character, I can physically express myself in ways that don’t feel possible in my own body. 

For example, you may have noticed that I refer to my character using they/them pronouns. I don’t identify as non-binary personally, but the way I want to express myself is less masculine than I come off as in person. They help me to express myself in the ways I want others to see me.

Is there anything else you’ve used your fursona to explore sexually?
I recently bought a VR headset. It was such a great purchase because I get to be my fursona now, to look at my hand and see my character’s. You can express yourself more physically, and do things that aren’t necessarily physically possible, in a VR environment. So I’ve had interesting sexual experiences with that headset. For example, I’m sexually interested in a friend who’s on the more masculine side in person, but in our VR chat their avatar is this cute anthropomorphic otter with a skirt and arm warmers. I’m not necessarily interested in the non-human elements of that avatar, although I can be attracted to elements of 3D fantasy creatures. But they get to align more with their personality than their physical body does, and we both get to feel more comfortable as our fursonas in that space, which can lead to a very fulfilling sexual experience. 

Since you have a fursuit and there's one thing people always assume about furries and sex, I’ll ask you to address this directly: Have you ever brought your suit into your sex life?
No. I have taken half-naked selfies in my fursuit, but those are mostly just for me. It’s part of how I use my character to feel more comfortable in my body. If I embody parts of my character while I am partially or fully naked, then I don’t feel as disgusted by my body. I put on the head and suddenly I’m ten times more comfortable with the way I look. Honestly, that’s magical. 

Sorry, I’m getting emotional about this part. It’s like, people are really going to be so judgmental about something that brings me so much comfort, like posing half-naked in my fursuit? [Cries.] Fuck, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize how emotionally important this is to me. Fuck, sorry. 

It’s OK. Do you want to take a break for a while?
No, it’s fine. These are more happy tears than anything else. I’ve just been exploring this photo thing so much more recently. Physically involving my character’s traits in how I see myself physically and sexually has been such a source of comfort for me. It helps me get closer to feeling like my true self—who I am sexually in my brain without the confines I feel around my body. My character is just so precious to me. They’ve helped me explore so much about myself. 

You’ve talked about the sex-positivity of the furry community and how it’s helped you, but there are furries who don’t think sex should be associated with the fandom, either visibly or at all. As someone who’s involved in the sexual side of the fandom, have you interacted with those types of people before? If so, what have your interactions with them been like?
There’s a good video on the origins of the modern furry community, which shows how sexual the early community was. When people deny the community has sexual elements in it, or that sex has a place in the community, I’m like, well, the community isn’t a sexual thing, but sexuality is woven into it. Still, I can respect the fact that elements or offshoots of the community are entirely non-sexual. There’s space for everyone in this community. And if there’s a space that’s not explicitly sexual, then I’m not going to be explicitly sexual there. I’m open about sex, but I’m not public about it. It’s like how I’m not going to walk naked through the center of my city, you know? But I do believe there is value in having parts of the community that are very sex-positive and sexual. Society needs to put less stigma on the fact that these parts of the community exist. 

Is there anything else you want to share that I haven’t given you a chance to say yet?
I may sound preachy, but as a neurodivergent individual, I want to say that it’s fine to have your comforts, and to take them with you wherever you need them, whether it’s in your work, your social life, or yeah, even in the bedroom. My character is so interwoven with me. It’s a such a source of comfort. Actually it’s more than that. They’re more me than I could ever be. And the furry community and characters are such a source of comfort and of self-expression to so many other people, too. I’m not going to deny myself that, or have it denied to me or others by anyone.