Plushophilia is the devoted appreciation of and love for stuffed animals or plushies and plush toys; such devotees are frequently called plushophiles. Prominent plushophiles include FoxWolfie Galen and Vortex Kangaroo.
Plushophiles are frequently collectors of plush toys and may accumulate a large collection of all shapes and sizes. Plush collecting may come of childhood toys kept into adulthood, or begin later in life. Some plush fans begin collecting after receiving a number of stuffed animals as gifts. Like other collecting hobbies, once "the bug" has bitten, someone may find themselves newly fascinated or obsessed with the subject matter. Collectors may focus on a particular theme - such as classic teddy bears - or may seek out only a certain number of items which are found to be of special interest. Alternately, they might gather as many stuffed toys of as much variety as possible.
Plushophiles are often very particular about the quality of plush toys, becoming connoisseurs, and may commission custom pieces in order to have a one-of-a-kind toy. Plushophilia has led more than a few people to become dealers of stuffed toys or makers. As with other collecting hobbies, plush fans tend to network with one another in order to find rare items, keep notified of new toys and limited productions, and on occasion, trade. A common practice among plushophiles who are serious collectors is to purchase two of each plushie; one for display and use, and another for safe keeping and preservation. Many plushophiles consider their toys very dear and rarely trade or sell them, even when there are concerns such as limited space and storage.
Within furry subculture, plush animals are traditionally very popular. This has led to the common misconception that "furry" is synonymous with "plushophile." Approximately 6-9% of furries claim to have an interest in plushophilia according to an anonymous survey conducted by klisoura.com. This minority may find them attractive due to a general love of animals, because they like a particular species a type of plush toy represents, because they appreciate the materials such as faux fur, or all of the above and more. For some people, including but not limited to Furry lifestylers, plush animals may serve as representations of totem animals, including a person's specific totem. Some people have specified that they have animistic beliefs that cross over into their love of plushies, be they plushophiles or not. A specific furry Plush Code has been created for plush fans to identify their preferences and habits.
Role-players have also been known to create characters based on the idea of living toys and stuffed animals, and this has become a small sub-genre within Furry character types and species. The primary Furry avatar of some people is a toy character, and plushophiles frequently enjoy interacting with such characters. Not every person who enjoys playing as or with such an avatar is necessarily a plushophile or collector of stuffed animals in real life, however. Plush animals and plush characters are popular with Babyfur fans because of the natural connection between toys and child-like characters.
Furry conventions usually have dealers that stock or specialize in stuffed animals and plush toys or sculptures. It is not unknown to see dealers that sell or create custom plush pieces. Some furry fans and plushophiles are fans - though not necessarily wearers - of fursuits because many suits are much like large plush toys in their style, materials, and construction. At least a few plushophiles have constructed or commissioned fursuits with the express goal of making them plushie-like.
In addition to the general love of plush toys, some plushophiles find their fascination with plushies extends to sexuality. In this sense, plushophilia could be seen as a paraphilia. Depending on the individual, sexual stimulation and plush toys may arise from purely sensual enjoyment, may act as an aid for fantasy gratification and physical or mental stimulation alone or with another person, or may have an animistic and spiritual component. For example, some plushophiles who make use of their toys in intimate ways do so with a partner, while others only experience such feelings toward a plush animal that they view as more than an inanimate object. A common practice among sexual plushophiles is to modify a plush toy in order to make it sexually accessible or to minimize damage to it from such use. However, not all plushophiles who relate to their toys in this way modify them, and not all actually make direct contact with their plushies for intimate stimulation; either from a desire to preserve the toy or a matter of taste.
Due to the unusual nature of such sexuality, plushophilia in this context has been used as an item of sensationalism by the media and outsiders, in most cases to cast Furry interests in a negative light. Within the fandom it has also been controversial; many fans are deeply uncomfortable with such associations of plushophilia and the furry fandom as well as knowing that some furries engage in such activities. While some fans are of the position that so long as they don't have to see it in inappropriate places, it is the business of plushophiles to do what they wish in private. There have been opinions stated to the effect that plushophiles are a group which should have no association with Furry fandom.
Some feel that plushophilia has been stigmatized with little differentiation made between kinds of plushophiles and whether or not a given plushophile behaves in a publicly acceptable manner. Some general fans of plush toys and collectors feel that it has been made uncomfortable for them to display their toys or carry them around at events such as conventions. The blame for this is sometimes placed on plushophiles, sometimes on prejudice in the fandom, and sometimes on bad elements of both. In the past, there have been instances of plushophile fans behaving in embarrassing or offensive ways in public space, particularly at Furry conventions, though as with many such cases, the effects of urban legend can exaggerate tales and remove context. Even so, many plushophiles themselves are unhappy with the behavior of some of their fellow plush lovers and attempt to counteract negative stereotypes with better behavior and relations to other Furry fans.
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