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Q and A

4 July 2007
by Paul Aitken

Who's the sexiest cartoon animal? Jessica Rabbit is an obvious choice and the lead female rat in Flushed Away was pretty hot in a rodenty sort of way. Daisy Duck's cute too, but no way would you want to bed a high maintenance chick like that. Ditto for most Warner Brothers creations with the possible exception of Petunia Pig and that's only because she never wore panties. But I'm pretty sure most men never actually fantasized about Jessica Rabbit and I'm betting that if you found her lying in bed saying; "Come here big boy," you'd put a silhouette-shaped hole in the wall trying to get away.

There are, however, subsets of men (and women) who really do get turned on by the idea of having sex with cartoon-like animals. Stuffed toy animals, to be precise. They've probably always existed somewhere out there in the darkness, rubbing up against Miss Piggy while tears of joy co-mingled with tears of shame. But thanks to the boundless capacity of the Internet to allow the discovery of like-minds, these people have found each other and started support groups, chat rooms, newsletters, and have even developed a language all their own.

The call themselves Plushophiles. Plushies for short, although plushies is also a collective term for the objects of their affections. It should be noted that plushophiles is a general term for all those that like stuffed animals whether or not they want to hump them. A teenage girls with a bed full of stuffed animals may be considered a plushophile. Plushie websites generally make it very clear that not every plushophile looks at a fluffy toy with a leer.

No one knows how many Plushophiles there are out there. Given the plethora of web sites and chat room devotees one would have to guess at a substantial number. And this only represents those that bother to talk about their obsession "openly." Countless others are no doubt content to silently bask in the glow of acceptance - one of the magical things about the Internet is how easy it is to immerse yourself in a world where even the most fractional minority can feel like a majority. An even larger number probably enjoy the pleasures of Fozzie Bear without ever guessing that there are others out there doing terribly naughty things to Garfield the Cat.

Most people don't get off on plush toys. The very idea seems absurd, almost ironic. Plush toys would seem to be the very opposite of sexy. But sexuality is a slippery notion that defies standardized definition. It manifests itself differently in every person. Our sexual tastes are as individual as our fingerprints. I love large curvaceous nostrils, for example. Go figure.

Plushophilia is considered a paraphilia, which is an umbrella term for any sexual behavior or inclination that deviates significantly from the "norm." It includes, but is not limited to, exhibitionism, fetishism, sado-masochism, voyeurism, necrophilia (sleeping with dead people) etc. There are at a conservative count over 100 named types of paraphilia and within these you have countless variations. While it may seem weird and/or funny when chalked up with the likes of bestiality, necrophilia, car crashes and feces fetishes; plushophilia must be considered one of the most benign sexual kinks going. No harm, no foul.

Like most paraphilia, plushophilia can be subdivided into several categories. Conventional plushophiles are sexually charged by stuffed toys but some plushophiles get off on Cabbage Patch Kids, while others prefer stuffed animals while a third group likes to do the nasty with hand puppets. There are also plushies that are attracted to animals with human qualities which would include all the aforementioned "sexy" cartoon animals. These guys call themselves "Furries." And given my admitted attraction to the sporty rat-gal from Flushed Away, I guess that would make me a closet Furry.

Then there are the plushophiles who like to dress up as stuffed animals, wearing, as they put it, a fursuit, or zoot for short. And, of course, to balance things out there are those plushies that get-off on people dressed in fursuits. They call themselves Zootophiles. Zootophiles like to frequent amusement parks, children's concerts and sporting events where unsuspecting people in fursuits are likely to be found. As one zootophile put it; "At the game all my friends were watching the cheerleaders but I couldn't take my eyes off the mascot." The big question for most people is why. Why would otherwise normal men and women get a sexual charge from a stuffed toy? There is no agreed upon answer of course. Behaviorists say one thing, Freudians say another, and the truth is no doubt more complex than anyone ever imagined. But it seems that, as with other fetishes, plushophilia is caused at least in part by a process we call sexual imprinting. That is to say that somehow, stuffed animals have become associated with sexual feelings.

Sexual imprinting has been observed in animals. For example, male zebra finches appear to prefer mates with the appearance of the female bird that rears them rather than potential mates of their own type. John Money, the famous psychologist, referred to this as a "lovemap." This imprinting likely happened during childhood but it could have developed at any point. The human brain seems to be remarkably elastic in this regard. As the songwriter John Hiatt once put it so eloquently, Love is so strange.

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