I went to a furry rave to see how furries get down
Have you ever seen a dolphin grind with a pink fox to techno music? Or a turtle lead a dog around on a leather leash? Because I have. At a furry rave.
Furries have this reputation for being a niche kink. And when you mix that reputation with the sexual tension and various vices which are normally present at a good ol’ fashion rave, it just becomes too interesting of an environment not to observe. So, when I heard about a furry EDM show coming to my hometown, I agreed to cover it, hoping to see some weird sex shit … or, at the very least, figure out how in Satan’s hell people rave properly under 5 thick inches of fur.
When I showed up for Furnal Equinox at the Westin hotel (a fancy joint by the waterfront in downtown Toronto, which seems like it would be much better suited for a golf convention, than a rave), wearing my standard hipster-douchebag uniform of skinny jeans, Converse and a polo shirt, I could not have looked more out of place amongst what I was told were over 1,000 furries in attendance.
My photographer, Sarah was running late, so I grabbed a whiskey at the hotel bar and spent a few minutes fur-people watching. I immediately noticed that there were three kinds of people attending this event.
The first were your Basic Ravers; anyone you’ve ever seen at Tomorrowland or Digital Dreams. They wore cat ears or paws at the most, but some wore just standard rave gear. Nothing new there.
Second, and the most prominent, were the kind of people you’d normally see wandering the floor at Comic-Con, except with a furry twist. They mostly weren’t in top-to-bottom fursuits. Instead, they’d have three or four costume pieces, like a mask, gloves or a tail, jerry-rigged around their normal wardrobe or cosplay (I learned later in the evening that this is because buying a full fursuit can be really fucking expensive. After asking a few fursuiters, they admitted their suits cost anywhere between $3,000 to $10,000).
These one-piece-at-a-time fursuiters were not the aristocratic, sexual elites I was half-expecting to see. They were wonderful nerds. Shy and expressive. Overjoyed and nervous. But they seemed to be in general avoidance of anything to do with the sexual aspect of being a furry.
“I’m embracing myself, let’s put it that way,” said Falvie, a short girl with facial piercings and a fox tail. “I’ve wanted to go to a furry convention for seven years, but I was nervous because of some of the things I’ve seen online. I thought there was sexual activity in public. Like sexual activity in the halls. That’s not what happens at furry-cons. This is amazing. Everyone is so accepting and friendly and fun.”
However, the very last group of people I saw were definitely Kink Enthusiasts. Some you didn’t know were there for the sexual thrill until they got on the dance floor, but others … others were pretty obvious. They were the ones wearing a BDSM-style leather dog mask. Or walking their partner around on a leash. Or were boasting (what we were later told was the ultimate identifier of a furry kink enthusiast) a zipper on the crotch of their suit.
The Nerds probably out muscled The Kink Enthusiasts at least 10-1. But they were certainly visible and in attendance.
When Sarah arrived, we made our way out of the lobby and upstairs to the convention rooms. We funneled in alongside fully suited foxes, wolves, whites tigers and various dragons, all with either big, goofy smiles, or bedroom eyes on their faces, all being beckoned by pulsing techno music.
We secured our media badges and headed inside a giant ballroom to witness exactly what you think we would. The room had been retrofitted with light-up dance floors, spotlights and lasers. People in giant animal costumes jumped around, danced on the stage and on risers, and in some cases, grinded on each other, all while throbbing house music devoured all other possible noise.
Sarah and I soaked in the abnormality of it all for a few minutes before we got to work. She started snapping pics, while I hurried off to get some answers and insight.
It’s wasn’t long before I figured out people’s methods for staying cool. There were cool-down stations everywhere. Tables on the edges of the room sported water coolers and jugs, as well as giant, industrial-sized fans, which a few fursuiters took refuge by.
We also discovered a few guests had fans built into their masks, and ice-cold cool-down tubing built right into their suits. I guess that’s where the $10,000 goes. Anyway, with my first mission complete, I turned my efforts to asking people about weird sex stuff.
I eventually tracked down two fursuit makers, who call themselves Starburst and Prisim, and who were dressed as a fox and a dragon respectively. They tell me that while furry-sex is very much a thing, most people in the furry mainstream try to distance themselves from it. “There are furs like that,” said Prisim. “But that’s more of an underground thing. As makers ourselves, we won’t make suits meant for that purpose, because I think it gets rid of the good message we’re trying to promote.”
Prisim is telling me that his appeal for the whole scene is just good vibes and creativity, when suddenly, all the heads in the room seem to turn towards a middle-aged dude wearing a tie and lab-coat.
“Oh, you’ve got to talk to that guy!” Starburst exclaimed through his fox head. “That’s Uncle Kage, he’s the chairman of Anthrocon!”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“It’s like, the biggest furry convention in the world!” Starburst replied.
I went to talk to the dude in the lab-coat. Turns out his real name is Dr. Samuel Conway, and he is indeed a real doctor. He was incredibly approachable and friendly, but with his buzzed haircut, perfectly circular glasses and clean lab-coat, he kind of gave off a ‘cult-leader’ vibe that I couldn’t seem to shake.
“North Americans have a tendency to be suspicious of things we don’t understand,” said Dr. Conway when I asked him about the sexual aspect of furries. “The first thing we assume is, ‘This must be some sort of sexual fetish.’ There are conventions in Asia, South America and Europe, where that stigma doesn’t come up. I think it’s the descendants of the puritans. If they don’t comprehend something, the first thing they say is, ‘It must be a kink.’”
Dr. Conway and I shared a laugh about him being out of place at an EDM show before parting ways. But when I caught up with Sarah and told her about my run-in with the good doctor, she exclaimed, “Oh, he’s like Doctor Moreau!”
“You know, The Island of Doctor Moreau? Where the dude turns animals into animal-people?”
Holy shit. The whole cult-leader vibe was just dialed up to eleven.
Despite many attendees wanting to distance themselves from the sexual aspect of it all, Sarah and I just kept seeing things like; a male turtle walking a lady dog on a leash, a male dolphin and a pink lady fox grinding up against each-other, and a blue male rabbit proudly jersey turnpiking as many people as would allow him to.
Everyone one of them shot us down for an interview. The turtle and lady dog stared at me with cartoonish dead eyes, before the turtle gave the leash a yank and the couple continued on their way. When I approached the blue rabbit, now with his head off, and a waterfall of sweat running down his face, he fluttered his eyes, gave me a look that said, “I’m rolling too way hard right now” and shooed me off.
The dolphin and pink fox just kept getting their groove on and we thought it best to not interrupt.
Slightly defeated, Sarah and I decide to pack it in and head back to the bar for a nightcap.
On our way there, however, we ran across a few groups of fursuiters waiting to go back up to their hotel rooms. They seemed to be a little loosened up (although we couldn’t say for sure if chemically, because, well, they were in giant animal suites), so we decided to ask them a few questions.
“People are way more private about the sexual aspect of this,” said Glucose, a guy dressed as a grey fox with pink stripes.
“The parties here are better than the parties I had in college,” said Exile Huscoon, a husky-racoon hybrid
“I’ve been to parties where you have to put plastic wrap on the floor, it gets that crazy,” added Glucose. “We all love you, so come party with us!”
One anonymous fursuiter in a wolf costume admitted, “The real parties definitely happen behind closed doors, in the hotel rooms.”
The impression we got is that the sexual aspect of furries is a very, very hushed up thing. Certainly it makes most of the attendees uncomfortable, and spins a bad image of the community in the public eye, so the ‘mainstream furries’ lean away from it, and even condemn it.
So while I can’t confirm anything, Sarah and I both agree that the whole scene just felt a little bit like Blue Velvet. Buried below the happy, friendly, clean surface, we got the impression that there was a festering underground of hedonism.
Sarah encapsulated this feeling, when we cozied up to the bar for a debrief conversation and a final cocktail, she remarked, “Just think, there are people totally having an orgy right now.”
“Probably,” I replied.
Which I guess would mean that, all-in-all, a furry rave really isn’t all that different from a regular one.
Everyone tells you it’s about love, self-expression, creativity and just enjoying the scene. And for most, I’m sure it sincerely is. Especially at an event like this. So many attendees just seemed like they were happy to find a place to be themselves.
But like any rave, out of the corner of your eye, somebody is popping pills, and somebody else is guiding a few partners away from the dance floor for the “real party.”
Words by: Chris D’Alessandro
Photos by: Sarah Renton