By Jonathan Singer
The freaks are taking over. With its “Geek Squad” technical support service, Best Buy advertises the hipness of being a nerd, while hipsters walk around wearing thick rimmed glasses to keep up with the latest fashion trends. The dreams of these nerds become reality on a steady basis. Forty years ago they put a man on the moon, then Reagan had the audacity to name it “Star Wars,” and today, militaries develop mecha suits that let people lift 400 pounds with ease.
There are Live Action Role Players, hackers, Trekkies, Nerdcore rappers and sci-fi novelists. Then there’s the duo of Paul Calhoun and Barry Levin, two Stony Brook University students with a knack for nerdy subcultures
And according to these two, now it’s the furries that everyone’s looking down on.
People have their rumors, and it’s the job of Calhoun and Levin to quell speculations. Those involved in furry fandom have a thing for anthropomorphic mammals, and thus some of them go as far as dressing up as exactly that. Think of a person wearing a Wolfie costume, only they enjoy it and don’t get paid for it.
Along comes Rule 34, a meme that suggests that if it exists there is porn for it. That would imply there is porn for Star Wars, Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica, along with furries who proceed to fornicate in their suits.
“Like everything there is a spectrum,” says Levin. Calhoun goes as far to admit that he identifies as a furry, but “the difference between me and the full suit is money,” he says. “And I have no yippie tendencies.”
For the record, “yippie” is a word for sex. Like many, many other furries, Calhoun enjoys the craftsmanship involved in designing and making fur suits, just like other fanboys and fangirls enjoy the craftsmanship involved in forging and wearing knight’s armor or dressing as their favorite X-Man. “It’s like the fashion industry in a different way,” says Calhoun.
As colleagues, Calhoun and Levin created a group to deal with these issues. While they’re yet to receive USG recognition and thus funding, the Advanced Civil Rights Organization (ACRO) is working on creating a forum for stigmatized subcultures. And as long as both parties consent, the two officers (and so far the only members at Stony Brook) support the rights of sexually charged furries.
For some reason, in a recent interview with Levin and Calhoun the subject matter would commonly shift to furries, as opposed to Live Action Role Players or Trekkies. “The human society tends to run very significantly into the anecdotal system,” says Calhoun. To put things into context, Levin asks, “if you consider it, what’s Bugs Bunny?” An episode of CSI that falsely portrayed a furry convention as being based around sex certainly does nothing to help fix stigmas. “I know a couple of people who have boycotted CSI just because of that,” says Levin, although both he and Calhoun admit they have never seen the episode.
But other nerds still have their fair share of problems, and ACRO is an inclusive organization. For example, Calhoun asks the question, “How much of a weapon is a concealed buffer sword?” For a live action role player, the right to bear arms becomes a significant legal issue. “We support the rights of LARPers in public,” says Levin.
The I-CON science fiction and fantasy convention is only once a year, and is not returning to Stony Brook in April. But these people, whom some consider “freaks,” are active all year round. Some of them choose to have sex, just as some of them choose to joust like it’s the year 1423. “We’re okay with consensual violence,” says Levin.
But both are willing to admit that, unlike nerds, no technological advancement would make furries an integral part of society. So while some people spend their weekends shooting foxes in the woods, others spend their weekends dressing up as foxes in the suburbs.
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