BY JAMES BEMBRIDGE
When my Editor suggested I try some undercover work, I had Andy Ngo in mind, or more to the point, his recent bestseller. If Ngo could make a career out of those who elude one (the ANTIFA vagrants of Portland) then why couldn’t I? Lord knows Britain has its own fair share of far-left activists who would readily beat people to a pulp in the name of pacifism.
This was to be the making of me, I was sure of it. I’d go from the boorish namedropper to the name that others drop. But as I was beginning to imagine ‘Bembridge’ seared in stage lights, my Editor then responded, with a certain, sinister relish: ‘I want you to be a furry’. And just like that the lights went out on poor Bembers. The first excitement of the third lockdown extinguished in a millisecond.
‘A furry?….. Those deviants who take “dogging” to its most literal interpretation?’
‘That’ll be them,’ the Editor replied. ‘Good luck.’
Forget stage lights, the only place this investigation would land my name would be on a sex offenders’ register. As I leafed through a furries’ costume catalogue I was drawn in by the animals’ smiles and soon found myself pondering the mechanics of lamppost watering and cross-species rutting. What bugged me the most was one question – how would you know who was under the costume? Your sexual encounter with a rat may well be with the rat you loved but who was to tell that inside that rat was the human you adored? What if the sweet person you loved had been replaced by a decrepit Krankie or an acne-ridden Owen Jones (I never found the answer to this, as costumes kill off the human. That in itself I thought suspiciously weird.)
Small mercies. Lockdown may be a misery, but it saved me the trouble of having to actually conduct my investigation in person, or persona, rather. LondonFurs, the UK’s largest furry community, has cancelled all physical events. With fursuits that have seen years of dry humping but seldom a washing machine, I imagine these furry festivals smell more like that of the Newlyn fish variety. I mean, you can hardly show up at a dry cleaners and request they clean your furry suit, can you? I get embarrassed showing them some of my suits, of the single-breasted variety. My investigation thus began by joining an online furry forum instead.
After signing up and sullying my Gmail account in the process – my inbox is now replete with offers to find local furries – I headed over to the welcome section where I gingerly introduced myself. But I did so to an empty crowd. The fur had long since settled on this ghost forum, the last update being from December 2019 announcing some sort of advertising partnership with an X-rated furry site which my newbie account status mercifully blocked me from seeing. Researching the forum’s archives, there were vague allusions to a civil war that had sundered the fandom apart: the anti-fascist furries, the fascist furries and the comparatively ‘normal’ furries. From what I could tell, those who hadn’t left the fandom after the aftermath had sequestered themselves to Twitter.
Twitter it was, then, but a tweed-wearing Tory would arouse suspicion among the furry folk, rancour even. So I created an alias ‘Dexter’ whose fersona was a fox (if only to confuse the halitotic hunt sabs who regularly attack this publication).
The results were… disappointing. No other furries seemed much interested in sniffing Dexter’s posterior, and as such, his posts barely got any traction.
For a fandom that exists to give a personality to those whose personality doesn’t extend beyond a disorder, these Twitter furries were ferociously dull. The conversations rarely stretching further than fatuous tweets about Lady Gaga Oreos.
Just as I thought I’d never understand the furry psyche, I came across an account that acted as a sort of catholic priest to whom other furries can give anonymous confessions, only to have them then plastered all over the internet.
At first, it was standard furry fare, people asking if it is bad to hug a pillow imagining that it’s a Pokémon, that sort of thing. But then things took a turn for the sinister as one poster shared how they believed they had become a furry due to the sexual abuse they suffered as a child. Tragically, it would seem that the stuffed animal aesthetic had given this person back the innocence their abuser robbed them of. It was the saddest furry case I had encountered, yet the most understandable for being so.
Delving deeper into the furry hole, I found something so disturbing that it made me withdraw from the investigation entirely: a furry who allegedly had his hands amputated in an effort to make them more pawlike. Witnessing that, along with images of a fox dry humping a chicken in a suburban setting, I decided being the Andy Ngo of furries just wasn’t worth it. I called the Editor for some sympathy: ‘Dust yourself off man, why not try your luck as a Capybara?’
I looked up Capybara and discovered an animal half pig and half rat. I wasn’t having that so initiated the very first Country Squire Magazine strike, which lasted all of a few hours. The threat of receiving a Furry Fantasy Red Fox Tail Metal Butt Plug in transparent packaging to my building soon terminated my rebelliousness. In any case, being called Dex from now on was going to be bad enough.
This ‘investigation’ gave me the impression that most furries are merely outcasts who would latch onto any movement outside the mainstream. They could have just as easily joined the Lib Dems and declared themselves pansexual had they not opted for the less mad option of dressing as anthropomorphic penguins. Good luck to them. They could be weirder – I discovered Bronies in the course of my investigations and I assure you there are few sects as peculiar as those peopled by grown men dressed in My Little Pony gear.
Just as some people have an enduring and irrational fear of clowns, I suspect I too will now have one of Disneyland costume characters, who I have seen in gravity-defying positions doing things I’d not wish on even Lloyd Russell-Moyle. Just yesterday morning I could not bear watching a squirrel from my window, as it went in search of nuts and I was forced to close the curtains. Yes, I am scarred for life. My next Zoom session with my shrink will be a lengthy and costly one.
James Dexter Bembridge is Deputy Editor of Country Squire Magazine.