Being a human pup lets people be ‘gay, bi, straight, trans… and accepted’ say subjects of Channel 4 documentary
A growing number of men dress as human dogs and say it alleviates anxiety, and provides a safe space where sexual orientation and gender identity are not important.
The human pups, many of who are gay males, but who come from all walks of life, are the subject of a new documentary airing on Channel 4 this evening.
Rachel and Spot.
The movement finds its origins in the BDSM community, but is often mistaken for a purely sexual pastime, say some followers.
Tom, also know as Spot, takes part in the Mr Puppy Europe competition in Antwerp.
He has spent over £4,000 on custom made suits to wear when he takes on the persona of Spot.
Channel 4 estimates that 10,000 Brits find a safe space in puppy play. Many are in relationships with human handlers, and form tight-knit communities.
Speaking to the Guardian, Tom says: “You’re not worrying about money, or food, or work… It’s just the chance to enjoy each other’s company on a very simple level.”
Tom works “in the dark”, as a theatre technician, happy to be behind the scenes.
But as Spot, he says he wants to be the centre of attention, getting belly-rubs and treats, and wagging his prosthetic tail.
Those who enjoy puppy play say it is instinctive and primal, and rids them of worries related to everyday human life.
David, who works as an academic, says: “It’s so totally non-verbal… It’s pre-rational, pre-conscious. It’s an instinctive, emotional space. But within every puppy is a person. This is part of my identity, but it’s only part. I’m also a vegetarian, play the piano; I have a parrot. I was planting tomatoes on my allotment this morning. I can go months without going into pup space.”
Tom adds: “It feels like you can be gay, straight, bisexual, trans and be accepted. All I want is for the pup community to be accepted in the same way. We’re not trying to cause grief to the public, or cause grief to relationships. We’re just the same as any other person on the high street.”
Director Guy Simmonds said: “We filmed with some people that had been bullied in childhood and therefore had body confidence issues or struggled to meet new people as a result. Because it’s a very accepting community, it’s a way for people to meet likeminded people. It’s not a judgmental community; it takes in everyone.”
The director explains that many expect that there are inherently sexual elements to puppy play, but that is not always the case.
Rachel and Spot.
“It can seem sexual initially… There is an element of that—[puppy play] was born out of the BDSM [and] kink scene in the 1980s. There is a movement now where it’s escapist, roleplaying, and almost a lark…for them it’s about being more primal and escaping the stresses of a more hectic world. Putting a mask on and becoming someone else, it appeals to some people. And it’s a welcoming, accepting community.”
Check out the trailer for the Channel 4 programme below: