Plushophilia May Not Be As Uncommon As You Think
There's a good chance you know someone who is into plushophilia, and you wouldn't even know it. It may sound shocking, but most of us have a few secrets about the personalities that we don't necessarily share with everyone we know. And many plushophiles, as people embracing plushophilia are called, are becoming increasingly open and honest about their interest, especially through an avenue like online therapy.
That's not to say that plushophilia is common amongst people, but if you factor in all the people you encounter on a regular basis, it's not a stretch to suspect that at least one of them takes part in this interest.
Maybe you, yourself, have an intense interest in plush toys, or plushies as they are affectionately called. If so, you may be wondering where exactly your plushie interest fits in with the rest of your life and whether there are others out there like you. (Rest assured that there are.)
This article covers the different varieties of plushophilia, what it means to be a plushophile, and some of the places where plushophiles or others interested in plushophilia may find information or community.
What Is Plushophilia?
At its simplest level, plushophilia is the “devoted appreciation of and love for stuffed animals or plushies,” so called because they are made of a fabric called plush. Plush can be made from any of several different textiles, with the distinction being that it has a pile. Pile is formed by sewing the fabric into loops that rise from the surface. Modern stuffed animals are made from polyester plush, which is a synthetic material.
Stuffed toys come in a variety of different types. Some are cute. Some are related to a particular story world, TV show, or movie. What they all have in common is that they are soft, furry toys filled with stuffing. These toys are commonly given to small children as comfort objects.
Adults who enjoy having a plush animal also tend to find them to be objects of comfort and reassurance. Also, however, adult collectors of stuffed animals may have a particular set of characteristics they look for in their stuffed friends.
Collecting Stuffed Animals
Collecting stuffed animals (specifically ones that are not only for children) has been a hobby for much longer than the term plushophile has been around. You can easily find communities of stuffed animal collectors, many of them interested in vintage or particular types of stuffed animals. For some of these collectors, a sense of childhood nostalgia is involved in their interest in stuffed animals.
In fact, some popular retail and auction sites have sections specifically for the buying and trading of stuffed animals intended for an adult's collection.
Is Plushophilia a Sexual Fetish?
Plushophilia is considered a form of paraphilia, which is the sexual interest in objects not usually given sexual value by people. Although it has been considered a mental health disorder by some, the truth is that it is more accurately classified as a fetish or sexual fetish. Plushophilia and any form of paraphilia is only a mental health disorder if the individual becomes obsessed with these fetish-related behaviors to the point that it interferes with their ability to function socially or complete tasks of daily functioning.
It should also be pointed out right at the start that some people who identify as having plushophilia do not consider their interest to be of a sexual nature, necessarily. The word fetish can, and often does, refer to a very particular sexual interest, but it can also simply denote the worship or intense devotion to a particular object or behavior. Therefore, though there can be an intimate stimulation or sexual stimulation with plushophilia, for some it may only be a mental stimulation or there may be an animistic or spiritual component to their love of plush toys. Whatever the case, such feelings are valid as many people have intense connections to their childhood toys or other inanimate objects.
For some plushophiles, the obsession with and befriending of stuffed animals do not involve sexual attraction or activities. It may be an interest they pursue as a type of play that allows them to relieve stress by throwing off some of the chains of adulthood. Just as a child would, they treat their plushies as living toys, interacting with them and developing intricate storylines and personalities for them. Allowing themselves to play with and innocently enjoy plush toys or a toy character, like a child, is a type of mental relaxation.
Others may use plush toys in part of their age play. That is, they may enjoy entering a mental state where they can pretend to be children again. And again, this can be a form of stress-relieving play for adults who enjoy these activities. Many people perform this kind of play with intimate partners, where one partner allowed themselves to be taken care of and ordered around like a child. It takes away some of the pressures of adult life for people who enjoy these types of interactions. And the partner who takes on the more child-like role may use stuffed animals in entering this mental state.
In this case, the partnership with the other person may have a sexual component, but the stuffed animals themselves are not an object of sexual attraction or use.
It does not require a person to have a partner to engage in such play. Single individuals may enjoy doing child-like things typically in the privacy of their own home to relieve the stress of responsibilities they have at work or other outside roles.
Furthermore, some plushophiles may just have a strong love for these inanimate objects that they become serious collectors of them. They may rarely trade or get rid of them, and keep them around for comfort and support when stressed.
It's not a far stretch to see how people form sexual bonds with their stuffed animals. Many young people utilize soft objects like pillows or stuffed animals in their exploration of masturbation and sex. An individual who explored early masturbation in this way may hold onto that source of comfort or familiarity even as they sexually mature.
Sexual plushophiles also engage in other sexual activities, including sexual activities with other individuals. Their plush fantasies may be one of several types of sexual fetish or interests they enjoy, and some plushophiles even combine their plush interests with activities that include a sexual partner.
Plushophilia And Furries
The plushophilia and furry community often overlap. Furries create characters based on their favorite animals and give them a human persona. Despite the fact that most people associate furry lifestyles with fantasy gratification or that people become furries for purely sensual enjoyment, as with plushophilia, being a part of the furry fandom can create either a physical or mental stimulation. Some people create such an avatar to express part of themselves or overcome social anxiety; others create these fursonas to become more sexually accessible to other furries or similar people with furry fandom.
Plushophiles may become furries if they decide to turn their love for plush toys into something more. They may base their fursuits or fursona on the real-life plush toys that they love the most or their favorite totem animals. Furries are often plushophiles as they not only create their own fursuits but may create or collect plush toys of their favorite animals.
More About Plushophilia
Different plushophiles have their reasons and feelings for their attachment to stuffed animals. Here are a few thoughts, though, on why people form attachments to plushies in the furry community.
- A stuffed animal can never leave you.
- It's always there for you to lean on, confide in, and cry to.
- It's always there to cuddle when other people are not.
- Stuffed animal pets and friends don't die (although they may eventually get worn out), making them longer-lasting sources of comfort than, for instance, a real dog, cat, or bunny.
Some adults even use stuffed animals as a form of comfort for their anxiety or depression. The good feelings associated with a particular plush toy can help them during difficult mental health periods. These people may not have any form of plushophilia, but they still find that a specific stuffed animal helps them to feel better. It's not much different from having a pet for comfort and managing your emotions.
Sources of Community for Plushophiles
If you or someone you know identifies as a plushophile, it's good to have places where you feel like you belong. Multiple types of online communities exist for people with either non-sexual or sexual plushophilia. Forming bonds with other people who share your interest can help you to keep your plushophilia healthy rather than allowing it to become an addiction that isolates you socially from others. In fact, having other people who understand you can make your plush toy experiences even more exciting and enjoyable.
Social media in its various forms allow people to find and communicate with other people who share their interests. If you're looking for welcoming individuals to discuss your stuffed animal interests with, you can find groups on many different forms of social media.
You can also find people with similar interests or at least those who are open to befriending plushophiles in general sexual fetish and kink communities. You can also find furries and plushophiles at furry conventions and online communities.
Discussing Your Feelings With Online Therapy
If you’re curious about plushophilia, or want to develop your social connections with others but aren’t sure how to, speaking with a licensed therapist can help. Studies show that online therapy is an effective tool to discuss sensitive subjects, for people who may not otherwise be comfortable expressing their feelings. In one study, researchers noted that online therapy can provide greater anonymity(as well as increased accessibility and lower cost).
As mentioned above, online therapy is a discreet form of counseling for when you want to discuss potentially taboo subjects in a non-judgmental environment. With BetterHelp, you’ll have the option of participating completely anonymously. The qualified mental health professionals at BetterHelp are there for you if you want to work through complicated sexual feelings in a private, judgment-free forum. Read below for reviews of counselors who have helped people in similar ways.
“Dr. Smith has been very kind and understanding. I haven't felt judged and I've felt very comfortable with him. He's super easy to talk to and has been very helpful.”
“Jackie has been great to work with over the past few months -- very thoughtful and insightful. His style of counseling is very calmed and reasoned, and he really helped me organize my thoughts and make sense of underlying causations in an open-minded and non-judgmental way. Would definitely work with him again if the need arises!”
If you want to discuss your plushophilia or similar need for a stuffed animal, without worrying about a negative response, you’ll be able find an open-minded counselor online who you can talk to about your exploration of this interest. Take the first step today.