The XX Factor

Avid Furries Pit Tony the Tiger Against Chester the Cheetah in Junk-Food Sex War

Tony the Tiger, pictured here at an Illinois Wal-Mart in 2003, was not kind to the furries who loved him.

Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Lest you fret that you’d never get to ponder the sexual connotations of Tony the Tiger’s bowl of “milk,” furries are bombarding the Twitter alter ego of the beloved cereal mascot with pornographic images, a response to Tony’s request that they stop tagging him in sexual fantasy tweets.

The debacle began when the human behind Tony’s account noticed that furries—people who dress up in animal suits for personal and/or sexual gratification—were tweeting lewd demands at the Frosted Flakes spokestiger, which Gawker pointed out last year. All of a sudden, furries found themselves blocked by the tiger’s account. Some hadn’t tweeted come-ons, just loving kindness (“I’d definitely hug him”), and some hadn’t tweeted at him at all.

In response, furries tweeted their outrage at #tonytigergate, and some started sending Tony all manner of erotic images. Tony pleaded for them to keep things non-sexual. It’s for the cubs!

Many were sad to lose the support of their favorite heartthrob.

Others tried to organize a boycott.

But Chester the Cheetah, a sex-positive cartoon jungle cat who’s got an endorsement deal with Cheetos, was there to welcome the furries who’d been shunned by their original striped Adonis.

And the furries embraced their new fantasy cat.

Now, the two beloved junk-food mascots have divided the furry community over the tactics used in Tony-Tigergate. On Reddit, furries are debating whether tweeting erotica at Tony’s social media assistants amounted to sexual harassment, and whether the people behind the sexual tweets are trolls, jerks, or even furries at all.

In 2014, Salon called furry culture a “craze,” though it’s more like social media and a burgeoning convention scene has helped it become more visible to people outside its limits. In earlier years, furries had to be deeply committed to the scene to even find it; now that it’s mainstream accessible, it can be a casual hobby or one-time-only affair. It’s not a fetish, some furries told Buzzfeed in 2014—it’s a community, and a community that thrives online. Tony Tiger-gate is what happens when that community grapples with its own definition and its members’ diversity of opinions on respectability, protest, and degree of public sexuality.

It’s easy to see why furries landed on Tony as a favorite “daddy”: He’s got a hulking upper body, a catchphrase perfect for sexual wordplay, and a red hanky that’s flagging for fisting partners. Chester is a different kind of dreamboat: a wily sleazeball with ‘90s-era sneakers and cheese all over his fingers. But to the willing go the spoils. Then again, Tony isn’t all Puritan ideals and G-rated affirmations: That whiskered hypocrite has been known to purr over a furry-esque photo, too: