Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Touching Subject

As far as topics go, I think this is one of the toughest gauntlets that’s been thrown down here at the Grip for a while. Charlotte has asked each of us for our ‘Kinky limits: the deviations that are too squick for us to include in our fiction.

Like others have said this week, my squick factor has a fairly high threshold. If it’s not illegal then I’m happy to write about it. However, the one subject I’ve never chosen to write about is Furries.

I’ll explain now why this pushes my squick buttons. (NB – I don’t ordinarily use the word ‘squick’ but it’s Charlotte’s word and I think it’s fitting for the milieu of this subject. Also, I’m beginning to see that Charlotte likes words beginning with a ‘squ-‘ sound. For further information, please see her previous choice of topic when she asked what made us ‘squee.’)

I am not a tactile person. This is possibly an understatement. I am possibly the antithesis of a tactile person. If someone places an avuncular hand on my shoulder, I have to quash the urge to snap their fingers. If someone embraces me so they can talk to me more intimately, I have to quell the urge to rip their arm from the socket and beat them with the soggy end. Touch my hand whilst we’re dining together, I’ll be thinking of stabbing you with my fork. I am not a tactile person.

I can tolerate holding hands with my wife. I can allow a manly embrace from my son when the occasion merits such an exchange. But, when people who are neither my wife nor my son decide that they need to enhance our conversation with physical contact, my knuckles turn white and you can hear the splintering of enamel as I clench my teeth and grind them slowly together.

To be honest, I try not to let people know about my aversion to physical contact. I’ve practiced the smile of someone who appreciates a clammy hand on my formerly clean forearm. I’ve perfected the untroubled air of a man who yearns to have his palms and shoulders touched by sweaty strangers. I could seriously be awarded an Oscar for my performance in the life-drama ‘The Man Who Didn’t Care About Catching Germs From That Dirty Bastard.’

But, some of you might be asking, what has this got to do with Furries? Others might be asking: what the hell are Furries? This article from the BBC should answer that second question: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8355287.stm. For those who couldn’t be bothered following the link: Furries are a community of people who share the practice of adopting anthropomorphic personae. Sometimes, most often online, this is done purely through the imagination. More popularly, and particularly at community gatherings of Furries, it’s done by dressing in plush animal costumes, or at the very least, wearing a tail.

My response to the first question (What’s this got to do with Furries?) comes with the understanding that Furries are perceived as a tactile community. According to the BBC article listed above, the Furries Community is not all about sex – that’s a media exaggeration designed to tabloid-titillate easily entertained readers. However, dressing in furry costumes, petting, stroking, skritching and touching, do lead me to believe that the whole experience would be more tactile than I could tolerate.

Of course, writing about Furries would have its own set of writerly squicks that I wouldn’t dare approach. For one: I’ve never been to a gathering of Furries, so I wouldn’t be able to write the scene with any authority. For another: Furries have their own domain of language and it would take too long to translate the concept of Fursonas or Yiff to a readership not already immersed in the culture. But, most importantly: it’s all about touching and stroking and a level of tactile involvement that I really don’t want to dwell on.

So, in summary: my personal squick is Furries because I have some serious intimacy issues. I hope I haven’t offended any Furries who might have stumbled on this blog. I respect your right to the culture of your choice. And, more importantly, I hope no one wants to give me a pat on the back after reading this blog. Trust me: it won’t be appreciated.

7 comments:

  1. Hey, Ashley,

    Interesting piece - thanks for the link! I particularly found the reader comment linking the "furry" movement to totems in traditional societies to be a fascinating observation.

    I've heard about furries but I think my information was a bit biased, as I thought it was purely a sexual preference.

    Sounds like fun to me. My only concern is, living in a tropical climate, a fur suit would be sweltering!

    As they say though, different strokes...

    Warmly,
    Lisabet

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  2. Hi Lisabet,

    I found the reader comments in that piece as interesting as the article. I thought the article was balanced (although I'm not a Furry so I wouldn't know 100% if it was genuinely balanced). However, I also thought it a little sad that some commenters needed to diminish the Furry community simply because they're not members.

    And yes: fur suits in your part of the world would not be a good mix. The chances are that the main physical contact enjoyed would be from paramedics trying to revive participants after they've suffered heat exhaustion.

    Ash

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  3. Ash - I was guilty of the Squee topic. And if we ever meet, I will restrain myself from planting a gloppy kiss on your cheek. :)

    Having met Stalking Cat http://www.stalkingcat.net/
    in person, I can attest that there's a whole lotta weird goin' on out there in the furry world. (although he's not all that furry)

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  4. Hi Ash!

    I don;t know, it seems to me there is a contradiction between people who are thrilled by tactile petting and stroking and indulge this by covering temselves in thick layers of artifical fur no touch less than violent blow could reach through.

    But I get what you mean about not being touched either. There's a part of me that cringes when guys give me a guy-hug, or the latino thing of kissing your cheek. On the other hand, when hugged by large women I tend to cling on inappropriately till the husband pries me off ("Hey there, buddy, that's enough, leggo").

    Garce

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  5. Hi Ash!

    I don;t know, it seems to me there is a contradiction between people who are thrilled by tactile petting and stroking and indulge this by covering temselves in thick layers of artifical fur no touch less than violent blow could reach through.

    But I get what you mean about not being touched either. There's a part of me that cringes when guys give me a guy-hug, or the latino thing of kissing your cheek. On the other hand, when hugged by large women I tend to cling on inappropriately till the husband pries me off ("Hey there, buddy, that's enough, leggo").

    Garce

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  6. Kathleen,

    In that case, I wholeheartedly apologise to Charlotte and fully blame you :-)

    I've seen Stalking Cat on TV documentaries a couple of times. Either that or someone who looks very similar to him (which is probably unlikely).

    And, when we do meet, your restraint will be much appreciated :-)

    Best,

    Ash

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  7. Garce,

    In the world of safe sex we now inhabit, perhaps there's a metaphor in what you say about the sensory impact of the physical contact being diminished by the layer of thick fur.

    Or maybe I'm just getting too deep this morning :-)

    You're braver than I am with the hugging. When such a situation confronts me, I treat it like sex and try to get it over with as quickly as possible. ;-)

    Best,

    Ash

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