How many times have you wished you had your pet’s life? No work. Sleep all day. Eat when you want. An endless supply of squeaky toys, tennis balls and treats. And always someone there to shower you with unconditional love. Sounds heavenly, no?
Perhaps that’s why more and more gay men are ditching their human identities for four-legged ones instead.
“Lately it feels like the queer world has become a zoo,” someone using the moniker Fuck The Theory writes in an article published by the Village Voice. “Bears, a longstanding gay subculture, have been joined by cubs, otters, silver foxes, pigs, pups, and wolves, with more presumably still to come.”
Some of these labels, like bears and otters, are used to describe a person’s body type. Others are used to described one’s preferred behavior and fetishes. Take, for instance, pups and “puppy play.”
Fuck The Theory writes:
“Puppy play” is a rapidly popularizing phenomenon involving typically doglike behavior, from obedience to sniffing to eating from a bowl. You might call yourself a pup because you like burying your nose in another man’s crotch, even though you’re not into puppy accessories, or you might get off on wearing a dog mask and tail but not really enjoy body odor.
Acting like an animal, Fuck The Theory continues, allows one “to enjoy a pleasure that you can’t imagine enjoying as human–like, say, fetching a ball on all fours.”
Puppy Play is becoming so popular that sex shops have now begun offering classes and workshops in the behavior.
“The Leather Man, in the West Village, offers puppy-play workshops,” Fuck The Theory says. “There is, however, no core curriculum; puppy-ness is a broad church.”
If you Google the word “puppy play porn” you’ll receive over 700,000 results and pages and pages of pictures, GIFs and videos of people wearing rubber puppy masks and suits behaving like canines. Even dating apps are getting in on the action. Grindr, for instance, offers a dog emoji to include on your profile to let potential suitors know your particular taste.
But it’s not always necessarily sexual, Fuck The Theory says, “sometimes people just want to step away from ordinary life.” For example:
There are many different ways to practice a niche fetish, and not all of them have to do with sex. A pioneering account of puppy play in The Stranger almost a year ago describes it as “a form of group relaxation where you could empty your mind of all your cares, forget all of your responsibilities, lower all of your defenses, and bypass small talk forever.” Nary a hard-on in sight!
Think of it sort of like a yoga class… with animal costumes.
So what’s the takeaway from all this? Basically, Fuck The Theory says, it’s opening people’s minds and encouraging them to think differently about sex and sexual roles, as well as try new things.
“It’s clear the proliferation of animal identifications is part of a general cultural project to refine, define, and unfurl sexual identities,” he writes. “Animal metaphors are proliferating just as kinks, genders, and sexual orientations are.”
Think of animal categories as “just the hanky code of the digital age — yet another technology of sex born in that vibrant, queer place where repression and ingenuity meet” he says.
And the next time someone asks if you’d like to pretend to be an animal during intercourse, think of it as being akin to asking “to have sex standing up,” Fuck The Theory says. “Why not try it out?”