If you think you’ve seen it all, you may want to watch Channel 4’s documentary The Secret Life Of The Human Pups.
The new one-off documentary about ‘pup play’, the act of dressing up and leading a double life as a dog, brings new focus to a subculture that – according to the human pups themselves – is ready to go mainstream.
Confused? Most people are.
— Anna Bowen (@MsBowjangles) May 25, 2016
— Olivia Hobbs (@oliviaspitfire) May 25, 2016
Even my dog is watching this is disbelief … #humanpups
— AngryBritain.com (@AngryBritain) May 25, 2016
But while it’s easy to laugh at a grown man dressed in latex and chewing on dog toys, it’s also easy to dismiss it. And for members, it’s a way of life.
The documentary is a sympathetic look at the world of human pups – a movement which rose out of the BDSM community and in the last 15 years, has exploded in popularity.
Human pups tend to be male, gay, and enjoy dressing in leather. They wear hoods to resemble a dog, enjoy stomach rubs, eat out of bowls and – more often than not – are in a relationship with their human ‘handlers’. The act is often, though not always, sexual.
In the documentary, we see theatre sound technician Tom Peters, AKA Spot (whose engagement to his fiancée ended because of ‘pup play’) take part in Mr Puppy competitions and live his life as a canine – but speaking to the Guardian, Tom is quick to point out that being a human pup is more than just dress up.
He said: “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.”
— Channel 4 (@Channel4) May 25, 2016
While pup play isn’t a new phenomenon, it previously only existed mostly behind closed doors – in chat rooms, at home, or in private clubs.
The documentary, which aired last night, understandably left a few people confused.
Others, however, don’t seem the harm in it:
If a guy wants to dress up & act like a pup then more power to him. Some folk are acting like these guys are joining ISIS ? #humanpups
— Craig Law (@djcraiglaw) May 26, 2016
Is it me or was that #humanpups show actually really pleasant to watch? Just people who know what they're into, living their best lives
— Tom (@RyvitaVonTeese) May 26, 2016
#HumanPups haters-your mainstream, BGT, selfie, fake nail, weird eyebrow, twitter trolling plastic lives are someone else's WTF weird too
— Scampy (@ScampyPup) May 26, 2016
Didn’t watch #HumanPups but from my timeline it seems folk too ashamed of their own kinks are dragging those who are not.
— Kevin McCulley (@SeveralBillion) May 26, 2016
Right, time for another documentary that presents harmless subcultures as a comedy topic for our mutual mirth and mockery. #humanpups
— Ben (@islandniles) May 25, 2016
Tom told the Guardian: “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.”
So while it’s a big leap for viewers to accept that ‘pup play’ exists, most of its members understand how their hobby looks from the outside – but, they insist that it’s more about a form of escapism and getting away from the pressures of life than a sexual kink or fetish – despite all that leather.