Community Guilt

Furries ruin everything.

The bottom of the geek hierarchy.

Or just Fucking Furries!

No doubt, as a fandom, we tend to be self-deprecating about our overtly childish interests. It sounds playful, but beneath the surface is a profound and unironic guilt from being categorized as a part of the furry fandom. It's hard to publicly assert that you like something or belong to something that is so universally a target of bullying and ridicule.

The most common coping strategy I observe is to disavow the parts of our fandom most likely to be targeted by bullies; pretend the kinkiness and sexuality doesn't exist. Our fear of judgement has spawned many reactionary movements to clean up our act (e.g. Burned Furs, Improved Anthropomorphics). The most recent calls to action have surrounded the loss of venues for two long-running conventions: Oklacon and RainFurrest, ostensibly over issues with attendee behavior.

The arguments are lifted verbatim from the conservative playbook: heightened security and community policing are necessary to combat the rise in asshattery. Be on the lookout, bad furries are out there and they're growing in numbers because we're too permissive as a fandom. Some have gone so far as to suggest a blacklist registry for anyone who causes trouble to be permanently banned from all conventions.

It's not my intent to ridicule people who hold this view, but I think it deserves analysis. And I hope nobody is surprised when, like all reactionary views, it fails to pass muster.

The "Bad Furries" Hypothesis

The fundamental assumption here is that furries are behaving badly, despite anecdotal evidence that large furry conventions tend to be the best behaved fandom events:

If we assume each convention attendee has an independent probability of being an asshat in some venue-closing way, and our hypothesis is that furries are behaving worse today than twenty years ago, we should expect that this probability should have risen over that time period.

Convention Closures as a function of Asshats

The number of attendees is easy to get at. WikiFur has a convenient timeline of conventions and sizes that we can mine to understand how the fandom has grown over the years:

Growth of Furry Conventions

Wow, that's awesome! Over the past two decades, our fandom has grown from a measly 3 conventions hosting fewer than 1,000 furries to a massive 46 conventions hosting 43,000 furries.

Getting at the number of con-closing events over time is harder. We have documentation of 36 closed conventions, but it's likely that most of them closed for mundane reasons. While every con closure is more complex than a single factor, I'll credit "being unable to return to the venue" as the closure reason for: Furry Spring Break, the infamous ConFurence, and Furlaxation. This brings our total number of misbehavior-related closures to 5 conventions in twenty years.

The Null Hypothesis

When evaluating how likely our "bad furries" hypothesis is to be true, we need to have a null hypothesis. This is the model where there is no relationship between our fandom's behavior over time and the number of convention closures we're observing today. The typical bar in statistics is that it should be less than 5% likely that your data is explained by the null hypothesis.

We check that by assuming there is a fixed chance of a convention attendee doing a bad thing and it doesn't change over time. This probability is: 5 historical incidents / 260,000 historical attendees, or 0.002%. Then we ask: how likely was it that we had 2 incidents in 2015?

The statistical test for this is called the binomial test. Without getting into the math and giving you bad flashbacks to high school, we can plug in our numbers (2 incidents, 43,000 attendees, 0.002% chance per attendee) and find that there is a 21% chance that this could have occurred randomly under our null hypothesis.

Are we bad furries?

NO. There isn't any statistically significant evidence to suggest that 2015's incidents are anything more than random chance in a growing and healthy fandom. Nevermind that Oklacon had a historically strained relationship with their conservative venue and RainFurrest isn't even closing.

We don't need furry blacklists. We don't need heightened security. And we don't need congoers policing the public spaces hoping to narc out or shame any activity they might personally disapprove of. I just have no patience for any iteration of the Burned Furs and their ilk. Stop it.

Go and have fun.

Go and be welcoming of people different than you.

Go and be a furry. Because furries are awesome.