FWG Interview: Ana Valens on Furry, Reporting, and Patreon Guidelines for Adult Content

Welcome back for another FWG Interview! Today’s interview discusses adult content, so those that avoid things relating to erotic content or may be sex averse consider this your content warning before we continue.

Patreon has been cracking down on adult content which could directly affect income streams for furry writers. To help explain the situation and help writers prepare, we interviewed an expert on the subject: FWG member Ana Valens! Not only has she done a lot of reporting on the subject, but she’s also written many reports for mainstream media on the furry community while being a furry herself.

We sat down to discuss these changes to Patreon, her reporting, and her history with the furry community. Enough with the introductions, let’s get to the interview!

FWG: For those that might not know you, tell everyone a little about yourself.

Ana: Hello! Thank you so, so much for having me. My name is Ana Valens. I’m an NSFW reporter for the Daily Dot, a sex worker, an adult content creator, a leatherdyke, and, of course, a furry. I’m also a trans lesbian (she/her pronouns). That’s a lot of identities!

I first started writing professionally around 2012, but I really started to build a career for myself in 2014 when I started writing an LGBTQ column for a friend’s gaming site. In 2017, the Daily Dot brought me on as a freelancer, and it was there that I started to really write the hard-hitting stories about sex, gender, gaming, and trans rights. That’s also where the lion’s share of my reporting on the furry community began, including my piece on Bad Dragon, my guide to fursuits, my vore and giantess porn articles, my explanation on yiffing, etc etc etc.

FWG: What do you think makes a good story?

Ana: I have two answers to this as a fiction writer and a journalist!

For fiction, the most important thing is to create characters that readers care about. They don’t have to be similar to the reader (although I’m a huge advocate of this as a queer writer), but above all, what characters do, say, and feel need to make sense and have some sort of consistent logic, even if it appears illogical at first. I don’t believe good fiction comes from conflict (there are a lot of bad stories with good conflicts and a lot of beautiful stories with no conflict), but rather bringing characters together and seeing how they relate, interact, and grow (or don’t grow). This can be as simple as a main character understanding the world around them, or as complicated as, say, thee political drama between furry monarchs, dukes, and generals in a fantasy world under a scalie invasion. Conflict or not, characters have to have feelings that are understandable and relatable, feelings that flourish through storytelling. Achieve that, and the rest will follow.

As for journalism, a good story has to be newsworthy – that is, it has to speak to some sort of pressing issue or current event that others should know about. A lot of my furry coverage written by and for the furry community discusses issues they should know more about to make informed decisions as community members. Two good examples are my Bad Dragon story and my Mastodon story. My introductory guides to furry topics are technically for those outside the furry community, but they’re still for the community in the sense that they’re resources we can use to help educate non-furs.

In both of these cases, I believe what happens to the furry community both internally and externally is important, and it’s why I cover our community so passionately: because being a furry matters, and what happens to us matters. If you walk in to a furry story with that mindset, you’re halfway to a good story.

FWG: You have written several articles discussing furry topics from the history and issues of Bad Dragon to discussing the dfferences between mursuits and fursuits. What first inspired you to start reporting on furries?

Ana: Ahh, great question. The furry community’s history is so tightly connected with the internet, so as an internet-based reporter, the fandom has always interested me. But the thing that really turned me on to covering the furry community was the queer visual novel Anthrotari, which I wrote about for Kill Screen back in 2016. Anthrotari is an adorable game about the ‘90s queer furry IRC world, and it touches on everything from online connection amid offline isolation to the sort of playful, erotic energy that flowed (and still flows) through queer furry spaces. Just a few months earlier, I had covered Jae Bearhat and Rory Frances’ Little Teeth for Bitch Media, which I adored for its handling on the messiness of queer community (which, by the way, really came through in the full release). Anthrotari spoke to a lot of the same issues around queer belonging that made me gravitate toward Little Teeth in the first place, and so both titles planted that initial interest within me.

But my passion for covering the furry community really came out when I started learning more about the furry world and meeting other furs. So around late 2018 and 2019? I felt an innate sense of belonging among trans feminine furries in particular, like they understood and accepted me. That’s partly because I’m a leatherdyke, and there’s just this feeling of connection that comes between leather and queer furry spaces: we’re “others” ostracized both for our hobbies and interests as well as our systemically marginalized identities. One thing led to another, and well, here I am today!

FWG: Part of why you became a furry yourself was because of the reporting you did on the community. Can you tell us that story and a bit about your fursona?

Ana: I’m a ‘90s kid (‘94 to be exact) who grew up with the internet and knew about the furry community from a very, very young age. Unfortunately, I first learned about furries through anti-furry sentiment on sites like 4chan, Encylcopedia Dramatica, etc. The biggest and earliest “resource” for me was God Hates Furries, which popped up in 2001 and became a well-known anti-furry site during the 2000s. I must’ve stumbled across that site when I was 10 or 11, maybe? And as an impressionable kid struggling with a fuckton of internalized homophobia and transphobia, I believed God Hates Furries – for a time.

That changed dramatically as I started coming out as queer and meeting queer furs in 2015 and 2016. The furries I met were more often than not wonderful, accepting, and non-judgmental people. Reading Little Teeth in 2016 really opened my eyes to how there are many different ways to be a furry, including incredibly queer and political ways, but also aesthetic ones too. I’m far more a fan of Rory Frances’ style than the traditional funny-animals and Don Bluth-esque looks popular during the ‘90s and early 2000s.

So by the time I really started dipping my toe into furry subculture (2019) I had a lot of furry followers who became furry friends, and I fell in love with what I saw in the modern furry fandom: queer inclusion, sexual freedom, plurality in furry aesthetics, creativity and autonomous self-expression, so many other things. I came out proper as a furry this past January, and when quarantine started, I became very close with a number of lovely, wonderful queer and trans furries who really kept me going and gave me social connection when I was at the most risk of isolating myself from others. The furry community still has its problems for sure, but I think many parts of the furry fandom are lovely places to express onself. I certainly feel right at home in the little community I’ve carved out for myself.

As for how I came into creating my own fursona. My friend campmonday does a lot of furry artwork, and I fell in love with a doe girl they created in 2019. Their doe reminded me a lot of myself in certain ways, so I reached out to monday about commissioning a doe girl fursona design for myself. One thing led to another, and that spring, I had my first official fursona.

She’s supposed to be a reflection of myself down to a T: she’s not an idealized version of myself, but more like what I would be like if I was in an anthropomorphic cartoon or comic (Little Teeth? haha), flaws and all. I adore her and the design monday did, it still feels like such a fantastic representation of who I am IRL.

FWG: What is it like not only doing standard reporting but navigating that while doing sex work and creating queer adult content?

Ana: Ooh, great question. It’s as exciting as it is challenging. There are many sex workers in media, but there aren’t many that are out and open about doing sex work. The ones that are out are generally the exception over the rule. Our identities are fluid, too. There are many folks who come out only to withdraw their disclosure for their own safety or privacy. There’s no right way to be a sex worker with a public-facing civilian job, just many different ways to do it, but being bluntly out and open about it is… quite a lot to navigate.

As for the specifics of being a sex worker and an adult creator, it requires strong boundaries between your sex work, your personal life, and your civilian job(s). There’s a lot of threat modeling involved too. Every day I have to ask myself questions like, “what happens if my OnlyFans nudes leak? What happens if harassers find my sex work accounts?” I don’t think I would have come out as a sex worker if I didn’t already have a strong, stable career that could withstand whorephobia from within and without the editorial industry. Games in particular is really bad about this.

FWG: Quite a few furries write for independant news websites strictly about furry news or book reviews. Do you have any suggestions on how to pitch ideas for these sorts of articles to mainstream publications for anyone wanting to branch out?

Ana: Yes! First off, by writing about the furry community independently (whether for an indie publication, Medium, Substack, or even Dreamwidth and Tumblr), you’ve already fought half the battle: building your portfolio. This gives you a strong advantage when pitching publications because you have examples of your writing in action, and, hopefully, proof that you have a trustworthy voice within the community you want to write about (or at least discuss).

Beyond that, do some research into the different publications out there and whether they have prior furry or online subculture coverage. Then, pitch to places that are friendly to new voices: write a 300 to 400 word email to the submission editor detailing your past work, what you want to cover, and why it matters. On the queer and feminist side of things, Bitch Media, Autostraddle, and, of course, Daily Dot are all great picks. In terms of geekdom and gaming coverage that converges with the furry world, Fanbyte, Unwinnable, and Gayming Magazine are all friendly to new voices and pay decent rates as well.

FWG: Let’s move on to our main topic. It’s no secret that there are many erotica writers in the furry fandom. Plenty of these writers use Patreon to help get paid for their writing within the furry community.

Patreon has recently begun to crack down on adult content, even content posted to other websites. You have been reporting on these changes as they happen. Can you discuss why Patreon is doing this?

Ana: I used to believe Patreon’s recent censorship wave all came down to credit card companies and banks dictating what kind of content can be posted where and when on Patreon. I still think that’s the biggest contributing factor, but I don’t think that’s the sole explanation. There are high-risk payment processors out there that Patreon could have partnered with, but chooses not to. And if Patreon really cared, it would find ways to make room for the kind of content it’s now banning, just as it would have found ways to make room for the sex workers it deplatformed.

As Veil Machines’ E-Viction pinpoints so well, Patreon is engaging in something called digital gentrification: The site became popular because it provided adult content creators and sex workers with an avenue to collect money without a middle-man (i.e. a publisher, a studio) facilitating the exchange. Patreon now wants to change its image and branding so it’s influencer-friendly, so it’s cleaning out the porn and remaining sex workers. Now, YouTubers squeamish around hypno smut and murrsuits don’t have to feel uncomfortable using the site! Hooray! /s

TL;DR: Patreon is facing external pressure from its payment processors, but it’s also trying to change its target demographic, so they’re engaging in the same cruel cycle that happens all the time in Silicon Valley: a new start-up says sex workers and adult creators are welcome, raises investment money off our backs, becomes stable enough to no longer require us, spits us out, and invites in a more “respectable” crowd.

FWG: Some might be worried that getting their customers to move off Patreon, where they are already comfortable, might result in a serious loss of support. What can authors do to protect their sources of income through this?

While Patreon is the most popular, should furry writers consider switching to a different platform now to save time building a base there?

Ana: The sad reality is that we don’t know what’s going to happen next. I think Patreon will continue slowly picking its battles by carefully censoring and deplatforming the folks it knows it can get away with censoring and deplatforming: fetish creators, kinky erotica writers, adult artists doing anime content, furry porn writers and artists, etc. If it’s non-normative smut and likely to squick out a random person on the street, it’s a target.

Furry writers on Patreon should book a day to audit their online presence and figure out which platforms are the most important to them financially and socially. Then, use that report to create a backup plan that prepares you for the worst. If you rely on Patreon for most of your income, and if it’s the sole way you communicatee with the majority of your fans, start to branch out and monetize your base elsewhere. Twitter is a hot mess, but it’s where most people are these days, so I highly recommend hopping on there to start. Consider creating a Discord server and inviting your patrons and non-patrons alike to it: that way you can engage in direct communication with your fans and even create monetization solutions via your server. I don’t think it hurts to create a SubscribeStar right now either, although I would continue monetizing your content on Patreon for as long as you can to prevent potential income loss.

One closing thought: When the Tumblr NSFW purge hit, artists and writers that already had a strong following off-site on Patreon, Discord, Twitter, Mastodon instances, etc were in a much better position than those who did not. The key right now is to see where your target demographic hangs out and plant your feet there. But I wouldn’t run away from Patreon quite yet, because the purge process is still very slow: it’s better to be prepared than to uproot suddenly.

We would like to thank Ana once more for sitting down to talk with us! You can keep up with her and her work by following her on Twitter (NSFW). You can also check out her creative writing by checking out her trans lesbian BDSM erotic game Blood Pact on itch.io. We hope this interview was as informative as it was entertaining! Until next time, may your words flow like water.

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