POV: Plushie Love
Are you a Plushie?
In the seven years since the founding of the first online plushophile website, organizers say their community has mushroomed from a few people discussing their obsessions with soft toys to include thousands of adherents worldwide. If the organizers are to be believed, plushaphilia is now so prevalent that as you read this someone you know is either having, just had or dreaming of having, an intimate relationship with a stuffed toy.
Like any other sub-culture, plushophiles are banding together to support each other in their chosen furversion and fighting for both recognition and an end to misunderstandings and misinformation surrounding the joys of plush. For Plushaholics, who call those of us not interested in close relationships with stuffed toys, biosexual, the rigors of their community extend well beyond just collecting soft toys.
New converts need to learn an extensive and fairly arcane dialect; codes, words and phrases that denote not only the quality of the relationship you can have with a plushie but also the various acts you can commit with your soft friends.
There are furvert's, people who are solely sexually attracted to 'furry' characters, there's the motto to memorize, 'In Plush We Thrust' and then there's the almost saviour like rush plushophiles get when they liberate a plush from the wild - that is, visit Toys R Us and trap a new bed pal with their Visa. Then there are definitions like anthropomorphic (shaped like a person) and arctophile (teddy bear lover), boinkables and plushies with SPA's (strategically placed appendage) or SPH's (strategically placed hole). And most importantly in the plushie world, whether you identify as a macrophile (big stuffed toys) or microphile (little stuffed toys).
But while the general consensus is that Plushophiles are both sad and sick, the move to non-human relationships seems inevitable. "We've seen it with the growth of dog culture," says one therapist who asked not to be associated with this article, "as we become more deeply embed into a virtual world where there are fewer barriers to living in fantasy, people lose the skills of interaction." She goes on to say that even caring for a dog requires a level of reciprocity that is eluding more and more people, "it seems obvious that the next step would be inanimate objects," she says.
But for Davie, a computer programmer from 'somewhere in Los Angeles' it's much simpler. "If you saw the women at my work," says Davie who prefers to call himself a Furry since plushies are getting a bad name, "you'd prefer plushies too." During the course of our conversation he confesses that women are just too tough for him, too brittle, too strong, too everything, it would seem. And he's not alone. Phil* who works in a science lab in Vancouver, Canada says he's cognizant that his plushie relationships are substitutes but he also says he doesn't feel manly enough for, as he describes it 'the world of women.'
Both men are adamant that the plushie lifestyle is not about sex and both say the plushie support groups they found on-line saved their lives. For Davie, it was about feeling special. "These days everyone has to be special," he says, "You can't just be an ordinary guy having an ordinary life. Knowing I have a couch full of lovable furries waiting for me at home makes me feel special. It gives me the edge I need to cope."
While Phil says the plushie life style has become his antidote of choice to a world he calls fragmented and dehumanized. He agrees that there's a paradox to finding belonging in a virtual community, the perpetrator in the first place, as he sees it, of the narrowing of real communities to virtual worlds, but he says there were not a lot of options left in a environment where he felt increasingly invisible.
So depending on where you sit on this one, the internet has either provided a healthy outlet for a group of lonely and disenfranchised people or this latest manifestation has bought out yet another latent perversions that while potentially lurking in the heart of us all, was better left undisturbed.
And as for the chance of the plushie lifestyle crossing over into every day life? Mitchell, who calls himself a Plushie historian says you'd be surprised at who goes home to a candlewick covered in stuffed toys. He adds that plushiedoms crowning moment would have to be the TV show ALF. While we thought we were watching innocent family entertainment about a family that live with a animate soft toy it was actually a plushies deepest fantasies made real. ALF he explains stands for alt.lifestyle.furry. "That show really kick-started the whole movement. And let's not forget," he says in his final email to me. "plushies are made to be loved!" Now you know.
© Barbara Sumner
Burstyn, January 2002, send feedback to email@example.com