Is your boyfriend really a big pussy???
Although from the title this may have at first seemed to be a bad parody of Star Trek or a soft drink add (you know the one) it is infact neither. This month I'm going to bring you a short insight into the world of Anthropomorphs. This story all but landed in my lap when I was talking to a friend who in turn was pals wih an Anthropomorph. So intrigued, I charged her with the duty of letting us all in on the secret, so the following is an edited transcript of our casual interview.
Juice © Jen to start with could you give our readers some background on yourself?
Jen~ Sure thing. My name is Jennifer Bard and I'm a registered professor of psychology with the Colorado Institute. I carry out government funded research in the Fall and train adult students the rest of the year, which is where I met my Maltese friend you're so very interested in. He prefers to be called Jrin so we'll call him that so as not to release his phone listed name.
Juice © So he uses a pseudonym all the time?
Jen~ No not all the time but if you want to get his attention he'll pick that up before the name his parents gave him. He would have to use that name for signing documents and the like but other than that he is very happy to be called Jrin. From a purely medical view this to him would acknowledge that the person addressing him accepts him for what he is.
Juice © Okay, lets back track to some information for us lay people. What makes someone an Anthropomorph.
Jen~ Jrin like so many others is Anthropomorphic (an-thro-po-morph-ic), he has a facility to empathise with another 'thing' to the point where both individuals become one psyche. This has been a fairly unloved area of parapsychology for many years and as such has had very little actual research carried out to support documentation. Recently though there has been a liberation if you will of people who are anthropomorphic and I think that the medical community, certainly the circles I move in are very surprised just how many of these people there are out there and on top of that, just how happy they are about it. So much so that they have banded together under the title of Furs or Furries.
Anthropomorphs and anthropomorphism is nothing new to the world this decade, you only need to pick up any book on myths to be told of half man half beast characters or look to almost every non Christian religion for a similar billing, I'd sight Egyptian mythology as being a grand example to take. But as history has panned out it looks to be that there may well be more to the legend of the wolf-man then something to keep children in bed after dark. From talking to Jrin it would seem that anthropomorphs grow up through childhood with a deep sense of emptiness and of missing something fundamental in their psyche. This is also a common early indicator of partial schizophrenia where in later life the sufferer will develop another entire person to fill the 'emptiness' in themselves usually without them knowing, till one day the counter persona appears, usually confusing and scaring everyone. However this is different in the case of anthropomorphs. They report to feel the same hollow emptiness but do not manifest the counter person seen in schizophrenic cases, quite the opposite in fact. They actively develop additional psychological structure to remove the sense of emptiness. When focused they seem to have a vast ability to operant learn. This means that they pick up and store information that most people would usually not notice or discard. This can take on an almost autistic-like action where a person suffering from that condition can be shown pictures in book and then call on them mentally by page number. Operant learning is lovingly called 'learning without meaning to' and anthropomorphs do this a great deal and very well.
The most common form of anthropomorphism is empathy with another non-human animal.Although there have been cases of some people empathising with a natural inanimate object I don't have any details on that so I'll stick to what I know. When someone with anthropomorphism identifies with an animal they really latch onto it and reference as much information as they can. They watch hours of TV shows with this animal in it and spend lots of time at the zoo. Jrin said that although initially time at the zoo was what he needed that later on, time watching his animal enclosed there became painful and was no longer an option. Furs have a real aversion to animals in cages. With all the research that they do, especially those in childhood they operant learn vast amounts of statistics but also a great deal of behavioural information. Jrin told me that this is common with most furs, they just seemed to pick up behaviour traits and adapt them to themselves without really intending to. Some of the examples I was given were paw-like actions, splitting the hand's digits at the index and ring fingers and making animal-like noises like purring. Jrin went on to say that he scared himself and a family friend when he growled at her over dinner one night during a fight for, I think it was a bread roll. It was something he had never done before, planned to do and certainly had not practiced. This shows that anthropomorphs go through a period of or maybe continue to make empathy alignments of autonomous emotive responses to their psyche. This is very similar to children coming home from school with a new word for 'cool' every now and then. Someone at school has said a word at a time when emotions were high who is usually someone that the person identifies with or heroes and they pick up this new word. They start to use this word in common speech to mean something that it really doesn't in the dictionary without realising that they have picked it up or where from. Furs identify with their 'totem animal' so strongly that it is no wonder that they pick up behavioural characteristics that feel as natural to them, as the word 'cool' or 'hot' does to mean something that is good or fun.
If you look back at early American Indian culture there are hundreds of instances where animals were either the totems of a person, tribe or were actually part of that person in spirit. When a male reached adulthood and took a local tribe name it would not be uncommon for it to be something not unlike 'Soaring Falcon' or 'Standing Bear'. They wore skins of the animals they were named after though in most tribal cultures it was forbidden that they take the life of their totem animal to gain it's pelt. It had to be found already dead. One book I read on animal totems retold a story verbally told to the author about how as a boy an Indian watched a family a black bears for years as he grew up. The male bear died and the mother cared for the cub. The cub was later killed before reaching maturity and the mother carried on. The boy now man brought fresh kills for the bear each day until she died of old age. He took her pelt and upper skull with which to fashion a cloak and cowl from. He was one of the last remaining member of his tribe and we're very lucky to be able to read his story. So when you see pictures of elderly American Indians with wolf or bear head dresses, remember that story.
In the Eastern countries anthropomorphism is far widely more understood, or at any rate accepted. It is in their art, their literature and deep in their culture. Many martial arts styles are name after and based on using techniques that mimic animal-like actions. Examples are the Tiger Fist where the starting stance is hunched over, fingers spread at the index and ring fingers.
Juice © Alright, so they are people that think they are at least in part animals, I suppose the big question is why animals not other people?
Jen~ I think I had better clarify that a bit. When you said that they think they are animals there is a fine line that you cross in mimic and assimilation of behaviour. If you define yourself as 'human' or 'homo sapien' by the sum of your physical parts then they are all as human as we are. If however you define yourself as human by not only the sum of your parts but also they way you think, feel and act then it could well be that anthropomorphs have become altered or have altered themselves sufficiently to no longer be classed purely human, but rather a sub-species or a divergence if you will. If you are an evolutionist, religious people will say "if we evolved from primates why are there still apes?" Homo sapien erectus or humans would have been a sub species of pure sapiens and evolved along a different path. That's why we still have apes and we are here also. So it is not inconceivable that one day we will have evolved a significant sub species that could be classed homo morphous erectus, those that are descended from primates to the point in history where they were classed human then went through a period of metamorphosis, and erectus just means they walk on two legs, well most of the time at any rate. So to say that they 'think' that they are animals almost takes on the appearance they are acting out a set of learned actions and that certainly does not seem to be the case at all. During their formative period when they identified with another animal, they assimilated certain behavioural characteristics from the other into themselves, in doing so adding this information to their psyche and so part of them. When a response to a stimuli is automatic then it is not something that is a planed front, there has been a psychological change made at some point where what was currently there or was not there at all was over written with a new set of autonomous responses. This is now part of them and not something that they can just stop doing. Jrin has told me that from time to time this has caused some embarrassment when he has been out in public and done things like yelp when he's stubbed a toe rather than yelled. It's not something he could stop doing even if he wanted to but the reactions others have make it embarrassing for him.
Now to get back to your real question, 'why animals and not other people.' Well you will find it common in schizophrenia cases that the counter persona is often a mirror or adaptation of someone the person knows or possible an idol they have. This person usually has the ability to do things that the person feels that they can not do themselves so the counter persona is created as a safe front behind which they can hide. With schizophrenia the counter persona and their persons own persona split markedly and certain stimuli will evoke each to come to the fore. A common feeling with people with anthropomorphism is that they have a deep distrust for people in general and so this may well have led them to look further a field. That's not really cut and dried science but it does seem to be a common thread among furs.
Jrin, who's totem animal by the way is an otter once said that humans always want something from someone and try to get the most out of everything they can till there is nothing left. Otters don't want anything from him and they've never tried to sell him a book or sign him up for a religion, they just do what they were born to do and take care of their own and that's about it. They don't bother other animals outside their need or through lack of consideration, they just are. When he told me that I couldn't help but feel a little self conscious as I smoked my fourth cigarette which I snubbed to stop the smoke going his way, and the fact that I was trying to get some details from him about himself, so I wanted something as well, just like everyone else. Although he has always said that he loves to discuss this to help people understand and that it was not a problem I couldn't help but feel like I was the one being observed and that he was finding more out about me by how I was moving and what I was saying than what I was finding out about him. It was almost like when you watch a raven on a branch near your window for a while and you get the feeling it's watching back.
Juice © So Jrin the otter seems to be nice enough but when we were talking before the interview you said that there are all sorts of animals as totems, almost any I could think of. Although Jrin the otter might be nice are some that have things like tigers and bears as totems hostile people? You likened this condition to schizophrenia and it has been that in the past some sufferers of that condition have been extremely violent individuals, is this the case with these Furs?
Jen~ That's a fair question and one that I'm very happy to answer with no. Although I have likened the initial stages of anthropomorphism to not being unlike schitosphrenia it is in so way connected to that condition and anthropomorphs are not schizophrenic at all. I was merely using that condition as a comparison. Anthropomorphic people seem to be some of the nicest and courteous people I've ever had dealings with. They seem to be very kind and considerate of others which may well put shame to us all. In their development away from a traditional human psyche they seem to have suppressed much of the aggression, nastiness and hostility that we all seem to be so good at. In it's place they have developed a caring, almost nurturing self where they are highly protective of dear family and friends and always there to help where physically possible. I'm not saying that they have no hostile or violent tendances at all, just that it is usually directed at inanimate objects or people who really go out of their way to aggravate them or someone they care about.
Juice © So they are really nice people and nothing to be sacred of till you push the limit.
Jen~ That's true, but that's very true of everyone really, they just have to be pushed a lot further before something will escalate to violence. It would seem that when pushed that little bit too far they do have a rather over developed sense of retribution. But as I said earlier, you would really have to be asking for it. They really are just people, just different people.
Juice © You said that they could be or could end up being a subspecies of homo sapiens, so could they then be the next evolutionary step in human evolution? Are they better than us?
Jen~ That would depend who you ask, and better is such an unsubstantiated term, ask any advertising company. If they are better at anything it is filling their heads with details. They are avid learners to an obsessive level. They want to know about everything; how something feels, moves, smells, tastes, sounds and pretty much everything they possibly can about something that interests them. If they think they can add it to their 'useful information' pool then that's what they will do. They may not employ conventional student techniques to study but they get there all the same and very quickly. That's the reason I met Jrin. His hand up work was suffering due to lateness and so I brought him in for a chat and he told me his life story. I gave him a verbal test, which unbeknownst to him was much of the end of year exam and he would have passed with a high ninety score. He learned all that I taught him, some of which he quoted me word of word but just didn't write it down in assignments to prove he knew it. He was taking the subject just for his own benefit and didn't care if he received a pass or fail, he took from the lessons everything he was given but just didn't feel the need to prove it to me that he had. So if they are going to be better than us, if that's the right thing to say, they will get there by having a drive to learn and adapt, and a total refusal to stay ignorant. The fact that they would live in relative harmony wouldn't do them any harm either.
Juice © Now that some more
research is being done into anthropomorphism is there likely to be a cure looked for, or a
vaccine that children are given at an early age?
Jen~ That really opens a huge can of worms with moral and ethical issues. It was not all that long ago that people were looking for a cure for homosexuality. Should that have been done, I personally don't think so but I'm sure there will be people that will try. You know what people are like, they are scared stiff of anything different from them and try as hard as they can to make whatever it is fit into their mould of 'normal' especially if it's something that might just be a little superior in anyway.
Juice © Do these people ever get better or do they want a cure?
Jen~ Well medically they are fine and probably better than if their anthropomorphism was suppressed at an early age. So really they are just great now. The same goes for a cure. That would like saying that you want a cure for liking warm sun and cool grass, this is what feels right to them and they are very happy with so they certainly will not be the instigators of a cure or cure-like research.
Juice © It would appear that society is only now just becoming aware that these furs exist, what do you think we may see in the future as a result of this new awareness?
Jen~ Well once again I'm going to back track your question if that's alright? As I said earlier on there is nothing new about anthropomorphs in this world. History just seems to have reached a point in the last hundred years or so where people didn't want to talk about it any more. There are cases of people admitted to asylum-like facilities where horribly primitive things were done to them to try and find a cure. The case histories are quite horrific compared to today's methods. Much of which involved exploratory brain surgery. But as the world started to take religion as more of a pass time and less as a strict way of life, mainly Christianity that is, the stories of the half man half beast from history passed with the fear of witches, fire and brimstone into the obscurity of legend when in actual fact they were probably earlier anthropomorphs. In recent times there have been the odd tabloid story of 'The Feral Child!' and the like but nothing till the last ten years when these people found that it would server them better to become revealed to the rest of the world.
Juice © Just finally before we ask Jrin to join us, have there been any interesting or genuinely odd things that you have see as far as us accepting furs into society?
Jen~ Well firstly I don't think we have to accept them, they're already here but I did read an interesting thing on the internet the other day. A lady in Ohio who was looking for donor sperm for use with her ovum stipulated that she was in search of a donor that was an anthropomorph. When asked why she repeatedly said that she wanted her child to have every chance she could offer. Not really odd, but I'll go with interesting.
(at this point Jrin was brought into the room as he kindly gave up his time to field some personal questions)
Juice © We've been talking to Jennifer about the Research that she has done with anthropomorphs, especially with yourself and would really like now to hear some things straight from the furs mouth. In pictures I've been shown by Jennifer some furs wear animal costumes about. Do you do this and if so what does it mean to you?
Jrin~ Yes I do have a costume, we prefer to call the Fur-Suits or they are nicknamed 'Zoots'. I don't wear a full fur-suit, just ears, a tail, gloves and feet but the principle is the same. Why, well it's all in good fun really. we don't need to but it is 'nice' sometimes. When I'm at home or out and I can feel my tail brushing the backs of my legs as I walk it is very comforting. IT feels familiar, which is nuts really as I have never had grown tail but for some reason it feels like it should be there. I really can't explain it. I do know that after wearing it for a while and then taking it off my balance is all off.
Juice © So you just have the parts of a fur-suit, not the complete suite. Is there are reason that some furs only wear certain pieces of fur-suits and not a complete one?
Jrin~ Well there are two main governing factors in that. One being money and the second being confidence. Fur-suites of any quality cost a lot of money to construct. As it's a labour of love most are completely self funded and made at home. This may sound a bit basic, but many of them would out to shame the ones they have at Disney Land, and they often tend to look more like animals instead of toons of them. One thing that many furs seem to lack is a huge amount of confidence when going out in public wearing fur-suits. With a full, body covering suit where no one can see who you are you are protected by that level of anonymity. If you have ever done drama, you may remember that it was much easier to be brave in front of people you don't know when you are wearing a mask. The same principle applies to masquerade balls. We go out and have fun, but seem to attract people that have one purpose in life which is to make fun or physically interfere with other people. Most furs won't go out by themselves in full fur-suit for fee of getting assaulted by humes.
Juice © Humes, am I to take it that normal humans have a nickname too?
Jrin~ (smiling) I'm sorry, it's nothing personal. Humes is a slang used to describe humans that treat us or animals in general badly. But it's used more commonly as a term of effecting of humans in general. It's pretty much in the pronunciation and tone that makes the difference.
Juice © What about extra skills, abilities. Jennifer was telling me before we started that you could hear a pin drop on the other side of the room. Why can you do this?
Jrin~ Well that may be a bit more than I'm capable of but I certainly have older friends that could. Probably tell you if it's a thick or thin one too. Why can I do this. Well it's certainly nothing that I was born with, it's very much an ability that I have spent lots of time learning. Taking the hearing example that you mentioned it's called Peripheral, or Pan-Directional Hearing and it's not something that only furs do. Peripheral Hearing has been used for a long time in Asian martial arts and relaxation techniques to give the person a far greater understanding of their surroundings without having to turn their sight from what they are viewing, or for that matter, open their eyes. It's really useful too.
Juice © Are there any drawbacks to this. What else have you learned?
Jrin~ Drawbacks, yes there are some, for one I get a lot of head aches if I'm in public places with lots of other people all talking or making noise for too long, but the books I've been reading and other furs have told me that you do learn to deal with this and you brain gets progressively better at filtering and discerning sounds. I know my girlfriend is much more advanced than me, she's been learning for longer than I have and it really shows. As far as other draw backs, well when we have hume friends over we sometime forget when we start talking to them from the other end of the house that they haven't head us. Also when you go and see a film you here every giggle and crisps packet crunch.
Juice © What's something else you've taught yourself?
Jrin~ Well I'm currently reading two books, 'Changed Landscape' and 'Tracking the East', both are instructional books on tracking animals, including people. The concept is to be able to look at an environment that you haven't seen before and be able to see what is wrong with it to determine characteristics about what may or may not have passed through. It's really turning out to be a lot of hard work but I'm getting better and my love is helping my with testing me on what I've learned.
Juice © You've mentioned that your girlfriend helps you with this, is she a fur as well?
Jrin~ Certainly is, her name is Lifysis and we've been together for about four years and eight months.
Juice © Is it common for furs to partner up with other furs or is it more common for furs to fall in love with humans.
Jrin~ I really have no idea at all, what sort of question is that? I can say though that I know of many furry couples that are very happy together and I also know many furs that are with humans. I know lots of furs that are very lonely being alone after being hurt by being in a relationship with non-furs. Love does strange things I suppose and it takes special, understanding people to make things work out.
Juice © Changing topic then, how has this invent of the internet effected the anthropomorphs in the world?
Jrin~ Well I can pretty safely say that without the web we'd still be so far in the closet that you'd never hear about us at all. The web was the vessel by which a few brave furs decided to get together and put together a web page where other furs could meet and discuss ideas and so on. It was called Furry Grand Central, it still exists but it's all but been superseded by FurNation, which is the same sort of thing with more services. The web has made it possible for furs that think that they are the only one on the planet like them to find others and feel not so uniquely odd. There is always a down side to everything though. As we have become more public through the web we have picked up the people we call furverts.
Before you predictably ask, furverts are people that have a bizarre fascination for furs. Sort of like a fetish really. They can be really creepy and stalker-like. Lifysis was dealing with one when I first met her. She was getting five plus e-mails a day that were pretty scary content wise, then then this person got her phone number and started calling at all times of the day and night we moved out together into a new place. It really wasn't a safe feeling. I don't know what they get out of it but we just want to live our lives and not get stalked.
Juice © So you might liken them to overly devoted fans of movie and rock stars? Did you know about this when you decided to be a fur.
Jrin~ I don't think you're quite getting it yet. The rest of the world's furs and I didn't just suddenly think it would be nifty to start barking at the mailman and by the way, at the same time be someone that society on the whole would revere and shy away from. We didn't make a conscious decision to reduce the chance of every finding someone to love us, to have our parents reject us or try to have us committed. We just were born and I'm sorry but I don't have a better answer for you on that. Maybe you should be asking people why they behave the way the do towards us as it may be easier to change that.
As for the furverts, they are something that you learn about and hope to never come across. They're not all a problem but they can be annoying. Imagine you had an ex-boyfriend sending letters or calling you all the time just to see what you are having for breakfast and what you're using to eat it with once a week. But with some of them it's just plain scary and can only be called stalking. They mean no malicious harm at all, it's just a complete invasion of privacy. I must confess that we are all half expecting there to be one that does have a more nasty agenda in mind, but I'm not about to tempt fate further than that.
Juice © Just following on from that; how about when you all go out in the Fursuits and are all covered up, how do you know that one of the people that you are out with is not a Furvert?
Jrin~ This is going to sound like a very poor excuse for an answer but you just know they're a non-fur. We've had fur's non-fur partners turn up to get togethers and they stand out a mile. Imagine one of those stupid World Wrestling Federation wrestlers, if you can call them that, in a dress trying to pull off a Marilyn. I think you'd just about pick that not only was it not Marilyn reconstituted from her ashes, but not actually a woman at all. I think you get the gist, and a cute mental image to take home.
Juice © What sort of things would give one of us away at one of your get togethers?
Jrin~ All the furs there would be showing that they are very genuinely at home in the presence of the other furs in anything that they did and said. Non-furs have a constant air of trepidation or anticipation that you can see a mile off. They also fall over when they try to walk digitigrade for any extended period of time.
Juice © That's not a term that I'm familiar with, digitigrade and I'm sure some of our readers will want to know too. What does it mean and why do you walk about like this at the get togethers?
Jrin~ Digitigrade means that you walk on the balls of you feet and plantigrade means that you walk on the flats of your entire feet. If you want an example, look at dog's feet, they walk on the toe and ball pads, not on the rest of the foot which is actually the rest of the lower part of their leg. If you look you will see that they still have a yet to be removed by evolution pad on their ankle, which would look to be like the elbow of their hind legs. It sounds messy so just go and have a look and you'll see what I mean. I have always walked on my toes, ever since I was a very little kid. My parents always thought that I was trying to be taller as I didn't start to shoot up in height to my massive five foot six till I was thirteen. But after talking to other furs it would appear that most of them walked on their toes though most of their childhood, often causing their parents to think that that my well grow up homosexual as there was supposed to be some connection between the two. Well even if that was the case it would appear that many of them grew up to be furs, sure some of them are homosexual furs, but furs none the less. I did it and I'm straight so maybe the old walking on toes theory needs to be rethought. We just do it without realising it. I know that a lot of furs that go to school and work where this may be thought of as odd wear hight top boots and other such footwear in an attempt to stop them doing this. Have a look at mine for example, they lace up well past my ankle.
Juice © Do things like this make a big difference in your life; like not being about to walk digitigrade and so on. What stops you from doing these things all the time?
Jrin~ Sure it makes a big difference to us. Ask a feudal Chinese woman with strapped feet if she wants to jog down the shop to get some milk and you might get a similar feel for how we feel. Okay, maybe not to the same degree but that's the general idea. We behave in a way that is not readily acceptable in society and so make constant changes to the way that we act so as not to freak out all the closed minded non-furs was live with. If you were told that you couldn't every clap you hands or drink anyother way bar though a straw I think in the privacy of your own home you might just sneak a sip or two, furs do the same thing. At home we walk digigrade and act how we want where society won't bother us. I know that doing that doesn't promote a higher social understaning about furs, but neither does rubbing it in your faces. I think that with the invent of the internet and the increase of global communication that furs are slowly being discovered in work colligues, relatives, friends and partners and will one day be able to always be happy and proud to be anthropomorphic. Who knows, we may even be useful.