Pup life: Fetish or Escapism

How this show didn’t make a dog’s dinner of presenting subculture.

For those students who have a TV you may have noticed recently a show advertised on channel four, Secret Life of the Human Pups. The show featured a series of men, particularly one who went by the name of Spot, who talked about their experiences with pup life. Pup life involves people dressing up in what is essentially latex, a dog collar and a leather dog mask and acting like a dog, playing with chew toys, going on walks, with most of the pups having a handler who treats them as any responsible dog owner would. The star of the show Spot opts for a full body Dalmatian suit complete with paws, some others opt for something a little more risqué and revealing (warning: this show features a lot of bum cheeks). We also see the show pan over to Europe for a pup competition and here they present a far more sexualised scene than that that is portrayed in the UK. I cannot lie, when I saw the show I was expecting another shocking showcase of sexual kink played out so that Channel 4 had something a little racy and freaky to talk about in this week’s Gogglebox, however the show surprised me as it moved away from scandalising a sexual subculture and opened up ideas of escapism for the modern Brit.

The role of the handler and pup mimics the classic dominant and submissive role play which often plays a part in sexual kinks, but in the show it also showcases its links with modern ideas of escapism. In being submissive to someone we can relieve the stresses of responsibility, and we can have the simple aim of only to please and follow rules. In the case of pup life they do this by taking on the persona of a puppy. One person on the show explains the relief felt in not having to talk, only bark or howl, another explains the pure gratification felt in the words ‘good boy’. Modern Brits find escapism in video games, drinking, drugs, comfort eating etc. so what’s so different between those and the puppies?

The show really opened my eyes to how quick even I, as someone who considers themselves to be very open-minded, can be in my judgement of others forms of fetish or escapism. In the end I was really rooting for Spot to do well in the competition, and after just an hour peeking into pup life I could understand why these men were so drawn to it. When we examine our own forms of fetish or alter ego, we can see this link between the human (or canine) desire to escape or submit. The last thing I expected this show to make me feel was solidarity, and what it reminded me is that we all need that little escape and relief sometimes and that’s ok. If it wasn’t for Spot’s openness and liberated attitude, I would not have realised how natural the feeling of escapism is in all its forms.


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