Interacting with a Fursuiter
So there’s giant, furry animal heading your way, what do you do? Well there’s really only two ways people react to fursuits: positively or negatively. I’ll start with the people whose gut reaction is negative when confronted with a fursuit.
When You Dislike Fursuits
It doesn’t make you a bad person or furry just because fursuits make you uncomfortable. Liking fursuits is not a prerequisite for being a furry, but since most furry gatherings/conventions will have a bunch of fursuiters at them it is in your best interest to learn how to deal with them.
The first thing you have to realize is that most fursuiters are not “out to get you” and they often cannot tell if they are making you uncomfortable. Fursuits have very limited vision, so they may not be able to see your face or body language. They may also be unable to hear you unless you are very close to them or shouting. If you are feeling threatened or uncomfortable there is a right way of getting a fursuiter to leave you alone, and a wrong way.
The Right Way:
Just walk away, the fursuiter will almost never re-engage with someone who walks away from them.
Clearly tell them you are uncomfortable around fursuits, they will usually understand and leave you alone.
If you don’t want to get close enough to tell them you can usually talk to the fursuiter’s handler (a person not wearing a costume, who helps the fursuiter). The handler will be able to talk/signal to the fursuiter.
The Wrong Way:
Punching, hitting, or shoving the fursuiter. There is a person in that costume and hitting them is still assault. If your first instinct is to lash out, keep in mind that the person wearing the costume may very well be someone who you could hurt or traumatize very badly.
Yelling abuse or profanity. There’s no need for foul language, especially since any place you encounter a fursuiter will likely have children around.
Demanding a fursuiter to remove their head. Unless you are law enforcement, or own the venue, you cannot demand that a fursuiter remove their head.
When You Like Fursuits
Now for all of you who just love fursuits, it’s great that you do, but are you acting appropriately when interacting with a fursuiter? It’s a common problem among fursuiters, that people treat them harshly or in a dehumanizing way, even when that person obviously loves fursuits.
A common misconception is that fursuiters dress in animal costumes because they want to be treated like animals. While I’m sure there are some fursuiters who do, many fursuiters find it insulting to be treated like an animal even while in costume. Not asking for consent to touch a fursuiter is rude and can quickly cross the line to assault. Not all fursuiters want to give hugs or be petted, so you should always ask permission before you do so. Please don’t be insulted if a fursuiter says/signals that no you can’t touch them. Think of it like this, if you ran to a stranger on the street and asked to hug/pet them you’d probably have the cops called on you! Most fursuiters will be happy to give you a hug as long as you’re polite about it, but they always have the right to say NO.
Asking for permission also applies to pictures. There’s nothing a fursuiter hates more than having a picture taken of them when they are not ready or even have their heads off. This is a request that is almost never denied, so just ask or make a “camera” gesture and you’ll be amazed at how fast a fursuiter will strike a pose.
While fursuiters may seem to be stuffed animals, they are not toys and so should not be treated as such. Not only is it demeaning to be yanked around, tripped, or tackled, it can also lead to injury. While some fursuiters may roughhouse or play-fight, you should still treat them gently. And if you see a fursuiter being roughed up it would be very good for your karma to step in and ask the offender to be gentler with the fursuiter.
Fursuits have limited vision, so when approaching a fursuiter, approach them from the front so they can see you coming. If you’re trying to interact with a fursuiter and they walk right by you, they probably didn’t see you, so please don’t be offended. If the fursuiter seems to be in a hurry, don’t try to delay them. They may be in distress and need to get somewhere to take off their costume. Convention etiquette also demands that you let fursuiters into the elevator first. This isn’t because they are considered better than you, it’s just that a fursuiter often needs to get to their rooms or the headless lounge to take off the suit. Fursuits get very hot and heat exhaustion/heat stroke is a very real problem.
While I, and most fursuiters, understand wanting to wear a fursuit (How could we not?) asking to wear someone's fur-suit can get mixed reviews. Some don’t mind and other’s do. A fursuit is often the performer’s own character, and can even be considered a representation of themselves. Many fursuiters do not like being asked to let someone else wear their fursuit. Think of it like this, you wouldn’t let someone you just met drive your car, right? The one you’ve been saving all year to buy. It’s kind of like that.
Don’t ever touch a fursuiter without their permission.
When touching a fursuiter, avoid the groin and chest area so you don’t accidentally grope a stranger.
If you hug a fursuiter be gentle. Being bear-hugged can hurt and being picked up can be terrifying.
Ask permission before taking a picture.
Be gentle with fursuiters. Don’t pull, trip, or tackle them. Glomping = Tackling.
Approach fursuiters from the front so they see you coming.
Don’t delay a fursuiter who’s in a hurry, they may be overheating.
At conventions, let the fursuiters into the elevator first. They may be overheating.
When asking a fursuiter to try on their fursuit, don’t be offended if they say no. It’s very personal and often very sweaty.
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