pookie-loxI’m a professional snoop. It pays the bills, especially Bill my bookie and Bill my parole officer (and Bill Watterson, from whom I stole this joke). Preliminary investigations indicate that there is confusion about what the word “neckbeard” means.

A classic neckbeard has three things: nerdy interests, obesity and/or poor hygiene, and arrant narcissism.

Possession of only two traits does not qualify one for neckbeard status. Harry Potter’s Dudley Dursley has a large physique and excellent self esteem, but he is not a nerd, and hence cannot be a neckbeard. Comparatively, Samwell Tarly from A Song of Ice and Fire is fat and introverted and sensitive in his tastes…but he lacks the neckbeard arrogance.

Neckbeards seem like a recent fixture of our culture (ignoring occasional historical artifacts like Ignacius J Reilly). Where do they come from? The internet’s an obvious guess. Some claim that the internet is great because it connects you with lots of people – dogs, FBI agents pretending to be 14 year old girls, etc – but don’t forget the other side of the coin, it also lets you filter out people.

Take the furry fandom, which is not so much a “fandom” as a neckbeard spawning ground. There’s a feeble public facade that it’s a wacky art movement by people who enjoy anthropomorphic animals – and ten billion square hectares of sexual perversion beyond it (occasionally someone breaks ranks, reveals the sordid side of the fandom to the tabloids, and recieves an Amish-level shunning, see Chew Fox).

The neckbeardiest element of the furry fandom are the “dragons” – hardcore therianthropes who believe that they are literally dragons imprisoned in human bodies. It’s often said that dragons are the “furries of furries”, noted for their arrogance, self-delusion, and incredible social awkwardness. Here’s dragon Kaijima Frostfang telling his life story. Note certified neckbeard quotes like After my “death” (the human concept of death is so simple, and limited ;)), I was highjacked by some of the local Powers (thanks Thok’sa :p) and steered into being dropped into human society (of which I was mostly underwhelmed… except for some of the food, the music, and Anime, which is very nice :))”, which gave my computer autism. Is there any doubt that Senor Frostfang possesses a majestic beard that spills over his keyboard like R’lyehan tentacles?

The furry fandom could never exist at its current size without the internet, and just as epicycles can exist within epicycles, the “dragons” could never exist without the furry fandom. There’s no way this sort of thing develops outside of a cult-like commune that has the ability to shun outsiders. The more time you spend in an environment where people tolerate your strangeness, the less strange it seems, and the more likely you are to bring that strangeness to Sharon Tate’s doorstep.

Is it possible for a woman to be a neckbeard (or an equivalent term, like “legbeard” or “tumblrina”?) I honestly don’t think so. Nerdy, obnoxious women exist, but there seems to be a different dynamic at work there. Neckbeards have an unerring belief in their own charm. Their female counterparts are usually cauldrons of self-loathing and over-compensation. And part of the neckbeard aesthetic is that you are completely repulsive to the opposite sex. “Legbeards” still seem to get lots of male interest.

And I’ll mention that the furry fandom has avoided that issue entirely, because most of them are gay. In the words of Eric Blumrich: “furries, by and large, are bi and large.”

Again, this is an interesting historical mystery without a clear answer. It’s said that influential early furs like Mark Merlino promoted the subculture heavily in the gay and S&M communities, but I suspect only a small part of the fandom’s current base would have joined through such evangelism (most furs now have never heard of Merlino). It’s possible that gay people are more open to exploring sexualities a bit off the beaten track (phrasing!). It’s also possible that whatever causes male homosexuality is also a risk factor for other types of sexual deviancy.

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