The Internet is a strange and beautiful place which will happily educate you on any and all matters of human interaction and sexuality (whether you asked for it or not). Today’s lesson? Puppy Play, an obscure (and not strictly sexual) fetish that is all about dudes dressing up as dogs in elaborate latex costumes and then letting someone else treat them like the canine they are, treats, walks and all. Do these people also pee on the sidewalk, you may be wondering. Short answer: they at least pretend to.
The reason that puppy play is being discussed today (trust us, it’s going to be one of the main topics of conversation at your water cooler at least until Friday, when everyone will just start getting angry at Judy because she never cleans the fridge) is because Channel 4 is about to air a documentary on the subject, providing, as The Guardian points out, a sympathetic look at the practice.
Puppy play isn’t new, of course. It’s just getting its moment now due to the fact that people who are into it don’t have to wander around aimlessly looking for others who might be interested in having them beg for treats. Now puppies and their prospective handlers can find each other on message boards and websites dedicated to people living the lifestyle. And while one may assume that all people are doing is putting on expensive latex suits and having sex in them, it’s really about much, much more. For many, realizing that they’re “puppies” isn’t just about a turn-on, it’s about finding their identity.
From The Guardian, which spoke to several of the men who appear in the documentary:
Tom’s discovery of puppy play came about gradually. He knew he liked sleeping in a collar, had a fetish for skin-tight clothing – Lycra, rubber, even off-the-peg cycling shorts – then came a dalmatian zentai suit he found on eBay, a £1 orange lead from Pets at Home until, eventually, a man in a club walked up to him and said: “Oh right, so you’re a pup.” The realisation was not without its repercussions: it led to a breakup with his former fiancee Rachel and a move into a gay relationship with his new handler. Colin.
“I wouldn’t say it was the catalyst, but it was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” says Tom. “Then I had this moment of panic because a puppy without a collar is a stray; they don’t have anyone to look after them. I started chatting to Colin online and he offered to look after me. It’s a sad thing to say, but there’s not love from the heart in me for Colin – but what I have got is someone who is there for me and I’m happy with that.”
Tom’s story is not unique. Among the other men interviewed — puppy/handler relationships tend to be homosexual for the most part, although The Guardian reports you see all types — several discussed the fact that being a puppy is about feeling connected and belonging to something. In addition, it’s about not having to be verbal and is similar to age play (where people pretend they’re babies and small children) in the fact that it’s about being carefree and at the whim of someone else. “You’re not worrying about money, or food, or work,” Tom says when discussing what it’s like to be a puppy. For him, it’s about being able to enjoy the company of others on “a very simple level.”
There are, of course, some puppies who may be criticized for involving others (who didn’t want to be there) in their fetishes. Such is the case of Kaz, a man who says that he’s a puppy in and out of costume, even at work:
Kaz, another pup, argues that for some, being a puppy isn’t just a fun mask to try on – it’s how they identify; it’s who they are. “Even when I worked in PC World I would sometimes walk up to people and nip at their shirt,” he says, laughing. “I got in trouble once; someone walked into the PC repair centre and I had part of their dad’s computer in my mouth. But the other staff knew I was like that to everyone. They didn’t find it weird.”
Well, that is weird. Mainly because that’s not your computer and you probably shouldn’t be putting electronics in your mouth. You also shouldn’t be nipping at strangers, but it’s difficult to communicate this type of complex information to a dog.
Of course, sex is a big part of the equation, too. Puppy play is a subset of BDSM and many puppies engage in sexual activities with each other or their handlers. But the men who participated in the documentary didn’t participate in it so that their sex lives would be on display. Instead, they’re hoping that they’ll be seen as human (or canine, rather?) and be accepted in the same way that other minorities have been by the mainstream.