Philias: Why Pup Play Appeals to Grown Adults

Fox News recoils at the idea of pup play—but we’re looking closer. In this episode of Taboo Science, we dive into the fascinating subculture of humans who enjoy roleplaying as puppies. We’ll explore the origins of this kink, from post-WWII leather culture to the rise of online pup communities, and learn what draws people to don a pup hood and bark. Kink researcher Dr. Liam Wignall and sex educator and pup play enthusiast Pup Amp share insights on the gear, the headspace, and the joys and challenges of being a pup. We also tackle the stigma and misconceptions surrounding this kink, and why it’s important to approach it with an open mind. So, sit, stay, and listen up—this episode will satisfy your curiosity about the world of pup play, and maybe even inspire you to unleash your own inner puppy.

Video version:

Why Pup Play Appeals to Grown Adults

Fox News recoils at the idea of pup play-but we’re looking closer. In this episode of Taboo Science, we dive into the fascinating subculture of humans who enjoy roleplaying as puppies. We’ll explore the origins of this kink, from post-WWII leather culture to the rise of online pup communities, and learn what draws people to don a pup hood and bark.

Resources from Dr. Liam Wignall:

Resources from Amp Somers:

Citations and further reading:


[00:00:00] Ashley: As far as kinks go, pup play is fairly new and a little under the radar, but you’ve heard about it. If you watch Fox News.

[00:00:10] Laura Ingraham clip: Apparently, there’s something called pup kink. And one retired colonel is so confident in his identity, he reportedly released this photo. And this wasn’t just a hobby he took up during retirement.

[00:00:24] Laura Ingraham clip: Check this out. There’s bondage. Animal kink, brazenly posted on Instagram with hashtags like gay puppy play and gay leather fetish and pup play, etc, etc.

[00:00:37] Ashley: In 2022, a right wing Twitter account found an image that one retired military service member had posted of himself wearing a pup hood. The full head dog masks popular among people who engage in pup play.

[00:00:51] Ashley: He was in uniform in front of the American flag, which was catnip for right wing accounts like this. This account published a nearly 50 post long thread outing this service member and any other pup players that he was pictured with, posting screenshots from the individual’s Instagram accounts and even, in some instances, screenshots from their family members accounts.

[00:01:15] Ashley: Some of these images were like the original. Wearing pup hoods in uniform, but the majority were just sexy pictures they’d posted in their personal time. And as will happen with unverified Twitter threads, the media picked it up. USA Today wrote, Soldiers who wore bondage gear and dog masks in sexually explicit photos while in uniform are under investigation, the army confirmed Monday.

[00:01:38] Ashley: The photos in uniform were separate from the sexually explicit photos, but never mind that. Fox News went over the story several times, with Tucker Carlson also joining in to complain that the service members weren’t being punished quickly enough. This was probably many people’s first encounter with the concept of puppy play, and judgment was harsh.

[00:02:00] Ashley: Many considered these people predators, out to groom younger troops. On a forum, a commenter said, Anyone whose child is thinking of entering the armed services should be aware that they very likely could be turning their child over to a self described alpha rearer of pups. Another commenter, It’s like a horror movie, trying to come up with the most bizarre, depraved, satanic acts thinkable.

[00:02:22] Ashley: But it’s real life. The people outed in the Twitter thread took their social media profiles private, and in some cases, deleted them entirely. But for what? What is pup play? And is it really as diabolical as Fox News would have you believe? Today, we’re finding out. We’re going to explore what’s involved in pup play, how it got its start, and what it does for the people who are into it.

[00:02:49] Ashley: I’m Ashley Hamer and this is Taboo Science, the podcast that answers the questions you’re not allowed to ask.

[00:03:16] Ashley: So let’s get into just the basics. How do you define puppy play and like, what does it entail?

[00:03:22] Amp Somers: Tail. Sometimes tails.

[00:03:26] Ashley: That’s Amp Somers also known as Pup Amp.

[00:03:30] Amp Somers: I’m a sex educator on the internet. I create content on YouTube, podcasts on your favorite podcasting app, essentially just making the internet less scary for people that have questions about sex.

[00:03:40] Ashley: He’s the co host of Watt’s Your Safe Pod, an all inclusive LGBTQ plus sex education and BDSM lifestyle podcast. It aims to break down stigmas surrounding sex while educating viewers in a fun and inclusive way. It is very fun and massively popular.

[00:03:58] Amp Somers: So, like, for instance, people listening, if they were to come up to me at a bar and ask a question about, like, what does puppy play, I’d be like, well, You pretend to be a dog, you get to be silly, you get to have fun, and you get to lean into maybe a different headspace, or a different side of yourself.

[00:04:12] Ashley: It’s important to note that while pup play involves pretending to be a dog, no actual animals are involved. This is strictly a form of roleplay and fantasy between consenting human adults.

[00:04:24] Amp Somers: And also, I’ll be like, how would you imagine a person would start acting like a dog? And everyone’s kind of got their inner monologue dog.

[00:04:31] Amp Somers: If that’s who you want to call it, your inner dog. But they’re like, oh, well, if I was a dog, I would be this breed and I’d be this kind of dog. Everyone has their ideal kind of pet play in mind. And so I find that letting the person kind of introspectively think about it tends to help them understand that headspace, or at least why people might enjoy it.

[00:04:51] Liam Wignall: It’s quite difficult to understand what pup play is and do it justice, because everybody who engages in it has their own understanding and interpretation. So I’m sure what I’m going to say is. It’s accurate for some, but not, but absolutely not all.

[00:05:04] Ashley: That’s Dr. Liam Wignall.

[00:05:06] Liam Wignall: I’m a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Brighton, and I conduct research into Sex and sexuality more broadly, but my specialism is on BDSM, kink subcultures, focusing on the internet’s impact on BDSM and kink.

[00:05:22] Liam Wignall: Pup play is a kink activity and a form of roleplay where individuals imitate a dog or a puppy and engage in associated behaviours that one might see a puppy do. So being on all fours, barking, biting, scratching, licking, nuzzling. So some, it’s a completely social activity that they develop and generate this pup identity in kink environments, kind of they’re in this pup mindset, um, where they interact, these engage in these playful like behaviors, and it’s a way of generating social connections, as a way of kind of fostering a pup identity that is potentially different to your everyday identity, that is an extension of it, a way to make friends, community, etc.

[00:06:02] Liam Wignall: For others, it’s a completely sexual activity that engaging in the pup mind space, being on all fours, wearing gear, is in and of itself quite sexual, it’s, it’s arousing, um, that when they engage in pup play, it’s alongside other sexual activities, and I think the fact that it has that overlap with for the kink activities that you can be a leather pup, a lycra pup, a rubber pup, that it feeds very well or matches very well with things like bondage, so kind of being restrained, um, wearing kind of mittens, there are various tails that you can insert into the anus, which again kind of provides stimulation, um, so yeah, it overlaps quite easily with sexual stuff.

[00:06:43] Amp Somers: The other people that get into it will, will do it for therapeutic reasons, not a replacement for therapy. But it gives you a headspace that is something you can create, that is something you can navigate and make your own. And I know a lot of people that get in that space when they kind of feel traumatized or they’re feeling triggered, and it helps with the PTSD, um, plenty of people from the military come to pup play and find that community just welcoming and helpful to that headspace as well.

[00:07:14] Liam Wignall: For the majority of people though, pup play is somewhere within the middle. It can be both a social and a sexual activity, depending on the context, who they speak to, the environment.

[00:07:29] Ashley: Just as someone who participates in BDSM might identify as a dominant or a submissive, a top or a bottom, people who engage in pup play identify in certain ways too. In this context, the dominant might not be a pup at all. They might be a handler or a trainer, whatever word they choose to use. Often, a handler helps to keep a pup from losing themselves too much in the scene, especially if they’re deep into pup space.

[00:07:54] Liam Wignall: Pup space, which is the pup play equivalent of subspace, where individuals can become so immersed in, in the activities that they’re engaging in, that they lose track of time, they lose kind of track of kind of the things that are going on around them, and they engage in that more kind of instinctual like thinking in relation to pup play.

[00:08:13] Liam Wignall: And a handler’s role can be to, you know, stand to one side and just, If the pup is engaged with other pups to, to make sure that they’re okay, to provide water, to help their gear, to make sure that they’re not engaging in too boisterous activities where they’re clearly other people being like, oh my god, that pup is doing too much.

[00:08:32] Liam Wignall: So maybe they need to reel them in a little bit.

[00:08:35] Ashley: But handlers sometimes act as traditional doms too.

[00:08:38] Liam Wignall: There’s also, you know, people engaging in kink and BDSM in private spaces as well. And there’s, that same thing can happen that you have a pup and a handler, so engaging a pup player in that environment, and maybe focusing a bit more on the sexual, where they allow the pup to engage in that subspace, but kind of it’s a pup space, to A, be taken care of, but also to give up control, to allow somebody to take the lead on the pleasure, or yeah, to kind of have that, you know, Instinctual thinking,

[00:09:02] Ashley: But when it comes to pups, it’s not like they’re all subs.

[00:09:06] Amp Somers: People always assume that the puppy is the submissive one that is always told what to do. Not always the case. Sometimes they’re the doms in a situation, maybe there’s two puppies playing with each other. You don’t even need a handler sometimes if you’re just in a, a fun, playful headspace. But puppies can be tops, puppies can be switches.

[00:09:24] Amp Somers: I know people that get into their packs of just a bunch of puppies, and there’s no handler. But there might be an alpha, a beta, a gamma, omega, like there are groups and packs like that. And there’s, I can name a few here in San Francisco of like, you know, seven to eight people that are in this pack that it’s like a family, you know?

[00:09:43] Amp Somers: And some of them might be subs, some of them might be doms, some of them might even be switches. but they are still pups in, in all ways, shapes and forms.

[00:09:52] Ashley: So that’s what pup play involves. But what are these pup hoods all about? A pup hood is a full face mask designed to look like a dog, with ears, a protruding muzzle with a nose, and often little breathing holes where whiskers might usually be.

[00:10:07] Ashley: There are big eye holes so it’s easy to interact with others in it, and the muzzle is often removable so you can eat and drink easily. But beyond that, every pup hood is different.

[00:10:18] Amp Somers: I’ve got a little hood that was, like, a custom made thing. Lots of puppies love to get something that has, you know, custom colors, so I do have my own special hood that, like, I helped the person who made it, like, design.

[00:10:30] Amp Somers: It’s got, you know, little accents and lightning bolts. And it’s very personal to me. So like, if people saw that, they might know that, you know, that was my, my hood or me in that hood.

[00:10:39] Ashley: These hoods can be made of all sorts of materials at all sorts of price points, at least today. Dr. Wignall actually watched this proliferation of pup hood styles take off as part of his studies.

[00:10:51] Liam Wignall: When I was doing ethnography and watching the development of pup play, it was fascinating how quickly different kink websites that sold kink paraphernalia created ways of being an individual as a pup. Pup Play was this new kink that there were no rules, there were no ways of engaging in activity, there was no kind of set uniform, etc.

[00:11:12] Liam Wignall: So very early iterations of the pup hood would be kind of this leather dog hood mask. It was not necessarily what I would consider pup play. It’d be more kind of dog slave play. There was a dehumanizing element of it. You know, you’re that beneath me. You’re not a slave. You’re just a dog. And that is kind of where some of the roots of pup play is, but then they kind of became this whole different aspect of pup play that was separate from that, and there’s still some overlap, um, but allows kind of, again, this playfulness, so it starts to move away from leather pup hoods, which cost hundreds of dollars, and more towards, you know, neoprene hoods.

[00:11:47] Liam Wignall: Mr. S. Leather created a neoprene pup hood that has kind of stood the test of time. It’s still one of the most popular, and actually the price point was, at the time, super reasonable, compared to some of the other pup hoods. Now, we see a cheaper version of the neoprene, so rather than kind of the soft top layer of the neoprene, it’s kind of the layers underneath, and they can be dyed, and they can be kind of done in different ways, and you can start to kind of visually represent who you are as a pup.

[00:12:14] Liam Wignall: So if you’re a bisexual pup. You might have kind of a pup hood and then one of the floppy ears might have the bisexual flag on it. So just a visible way to kind of showing who you are as an individual.

[00:12:25] Ashley: Custom animal themed gear that expresses who you are as an individual? This is all sounding a lot like the furry community.

[00:12:33] Ashley: And yeah, there are a lot of overlaps between the furry community and the pup play community. There’s even a kind of fursona that puppies take on.

[00:12:44] Amp Somers: A fursona is just essentially a furry persona for anyone that might not be familiar. You see someone with a fursuit, you know, and they start, like, acting within that character. A lot of people that have fursuits, they have the way that they kind of handle and carry themselves while in suit, and then they might be a little different out of suit, because it’s like a mascot almost for them like at a sports game.

[00:13:05] Amp Somers: No one goes around jumping and screaming like in mascot headspace, if that’s a thing, um, at all times. As far as puppy play, I find that a lot of people come to the pup play community, even the kink community, because they get to dress up and have fun. The puppies love their sports gear, their spandex, their superhero outfits.

[00:13:23] Amp Somers: And for me, gear helps you get into a headspace as well, similar to those mascots and furries. It gives you a bit of anonymity, but also gives you permission to act as whatever you are dressing up as. It is a roleplay in that sense. Whether you’re doing it with someone or not, or with a group. Um, and the gear helps you to get into that headspace in many ways.

[00:13:44] Ashley: Some pups are also furries. The two roles can serve as different things for different people.

[00:13:50] Liam Wignall: The pup that I interviewed who is also a furry described kind of different identities, different activities that they would engage in when they were embodying their fursona or embodying their pup identity. So the pup identity for this individual that I interviewed, There was more focus on kind of the sexual aspects of it.

[00:14:07] Liam Wignall: There was more focus on the overlap with other kink activities. When they were kind of embodying their fursona, it was more about exploration of their fursona, that identity, the interaction with others. It’s complex.

[00:14:21] Ashley: On the last episode about furries, Riley Black said that at least once a year there’s an all out internet brawl in the furry community about whether to allow pup hoods into conventions.

[00:14:31] Ashley: Part of that is due to the fact that pup play is a form of BDSM, and many furries are dedicated to keeping furry spaces wholesome and appropriate for all ages. And not all pups think furries are the greatest either.

[00:14:44] Amp Somers: To say that there’s no overlap with pup and like furry, feels very disingenuous and there’s a lot of naysayers in one or the other community that say like, oh, that’s not us.

[00:14:54] Amp Somers: Um, but I find that’s a little bit of a, an insecurity or projection, where they find maybe the sex part of the pup play scary, because they don’t understand it, or people think that furries are, because of the way we sensationalize them in media, in news, talk shows, like, some pup players would be like, eww, furries.

[00:15:13] Amp Somers: But the communities, while separate, have so much overlap, and they both deserve a little bit of like the credit there of like, it’s okay to be silly. And that’s the fun part.

[00:15:26] Ashley: When we come back, we’re talking about how pup play got started, the kinds of people who participate, and why they like it. Stick around.

[00:15:40] Ashley: While the origins of the furry community are cut and dry, pup play’s history is a bit murkier. In fact, the community and the scientists tend to disagree about how it got started.

[00:15:53] Ashley: In one view, you can look at human history and see the many ways people in different cultures have taken on the persona of an animal for ritual or religious reasons. Think spirit animals, gods that disguise themselves as animals, skinwalkers who can turn themselves into any animal just by wearing its pelt. There’s no documented connection between these traditions and pup play as a practice, but they’re commonly mentioned in pup play lore.

[00:16:18] Ashley: While there are various stories about the actual origins of pup play, including unverified accounts of prisoners of war engaging in animal roleplay, the most likely roots of the kink as we know it today are in post World War II leather subculture.

[00:16:40] Ashley: See, after the war, queer service members who’d grown up in rural, intolerant American towns decided to stay in the major cities where they’d recently been stationed. These individuals formed communities and created what are now some of the most famous LGBTQ friendly regions in the U. S.: The Castro in San Francisco, Cherry Grove and Fire Island Pines in New York, and a ton more.

[00:17:04] Ashley: This was also when motorcycle clubs began to spread. Many former G. I. s started riding military surplus motorcycles in their leather pilot jackets and banding together for camaraderie and support after the horrors of war. And gay G. I. s were no exception. Lots of gay motorcycle groups sprang up around this time, too.

[00:17:24] Ashley: The combination of LGBTQ people, leather apparel, and the military love of hierarchy gave birth to the leather community and its focus on dominance and submission. And what’s one of the lowest roles a submissive can be forced to take on? An animal. A pet. A dog. That kind of animal slave play was kind of the extent of it for decades.

[00:17:49] Amp Somers: I think the cute, the fun, the more playful side kind of came out of that when people realized oh, we’re already pretty free about what we’re doing, we’re already getting into it, why not just be a little more silly and fun?

[00:18:01] Ashley: According to Dr. Wignall’s research, the pup play community as it is today didn’t get its start until the 2010s.

[00:18:08] Ashley: He traces it back to a pup in Chicago named Pup Brue. Brue had been dressing up as a dog for kink events since the early 1990s, even though many people around him didn’t really get what he was doing. In 2002, Brue attended International Mr. Leather, or IML, a major kink and leather conference.

[00:18:29] Liam Wignall: Kind of dressed as a pup.

[00:18:30] Liam Wignall: They had a tail, they had their kneepads and gloves, etc, and they were just popping out. They were just pretending to be a pup. They were engaging in pup play, and they saw somebody else, and it was that moment of like, Oh, I’m not alone! There’s another one! And they just kind of pupped out together. I think one or two people joined them like, oh my god, Let’s meet next year, and you’re the first pup I’ve come across.

[00:18:52] Liam Wignall: And it started to kind of spiral, and it just grew and grew and grew, and then there started to be pup play at other events.

[00:18:58] Ashley: By 2006, there were enough of them to rent a room at IML devoted to pub play. And the rest is history. Apparently.

[00:19:07] Ashley: Remember how I said the scientists and the community differ on the origin story? Yeah, Amp hadn’t heard this particular story. But he’s not saying it’s not true.

[00:19:17] Amp Somers: Well, considering I’ve worked with Brue for many years, if this is the same Brue I’m thinking of, um, I used to work full time at a shop called Mr. S Leather here in San Francisco. They’re definitely one of the larger retailers that sell kink and fetish goods.

[00:19:32] Amp Somers: Uh, Brue was the receiving manager, so he would receive and send out packages for Mr. S. And he’s been in the community the longest of many people that I know. I’m not saying Brue wasn’t the first one, um, but I will say that the first documented picture was from like the 70s of a guy on a leash on all fours.

[00:19:52] Amp Somers: It was very much like a dog or slave headspace that people saw and I think kind of ran with it themselves. Like, that’s my take on it is like, everyone has different ways that they see animal role play, or just acting as an animal. And I think some people leaned into it and were confident enough to play with it.

[00:20:11] Amp Somers: And I think that’s where it just got popular. But I’ll, I’m willing to give Brue that credit.

[00:20:18] Ashley: Yeah, I’m starting to, it’s, it’s easy to think about kink practices as like tech devices or something. Like someone had to invent it, but I think that’s not how it is. I think that you, you see things in your life and they, they spark something in you and you want to practice it.

[00:20:35] Ashley: And there’s, it’s not like you need someone to tell you how to do that. Um, but then, If you see other people who are like you, that’s when, you know, practices and, and, and terminology and stuff starts to pop up.

[00:20:47] Amp Somers: Yeah, community starts.

[00:20:49] Ashley: So however it happened, pup play is now a practice and a community that appeals to a lot of people.

[00:20:55] Ashley: Those people are mostly gay men, though not exclusively.

[00:20:59] Amp Somers: One of the top questions I get as an educator that’s visible online, because I put myself out there, is why is it only for guys, or why is it only for gay men, when in fact it’s not. They just, that community formed quicker, and it’s now the most visible for some people when they look into pet play.

[00:21:18] Amp Somers: Um, but there are tons of, not only female identified, but more femme title holders, even non binary and trans people that are part of that community that help run those events behind the scenes that you don’t see, maybe, but they are absolutely vibing, existing.

[00:21:33] Liam Wignall: One of the really interesting things about pup play is, you don’t really need much to engage in it, and if you’re focusing on the social aspect of it, it doesn’t matter what body you have or, or what your sexual orientation is, etc.

[00:21:46] Liam Wignall: So, I, uh, I’ve often seen at pub events kind of a lot of trans people, non binary people, queer people. I also see a lot of different body types. There isn’t really a set type of individual who engages in pup play, you know. It has that kind of real flexibility and real, there can be a real openness within the community to different people engaging in it.

[00:22:08] Liam Wignall: Particularly, again, when you’re focusing on the social aspects. If you’re a pup kind of looking at somebody in front of you, you just see a pup in a hood on all fours. You don’t necessarily know what the gender or sexual orientation is.

[00:22:21] Ashley: So, here’s the big question. Why? From the outside world, seeing someone dressed in what’s essentially bondage gear and acting like a dog is kind of strange.

[00:22:32] Ashley: What’s the appeal of being a pup?

[00:22:34] Amp Somers: People can’t understand why a bunch of grown adults want to get on a pair of, like, wrestling mats and put on a costume, for lack of a better term for some people, and wrestle around, and bark, and play with toys. People have a hard time understanding why you would want to do that.

[00:22:53] Amp Somers: But like, why do you go to the gym? Why do you go to the golfing range? Why do you hit some balls? Like, you are doing an activity that is not only fun and invigorating and gets your juices flowing, but you’re able to get into a fun, silly headspace. And when you break it down like that, they’re like, oh okay, I get it.

[00:23:10] Amp Somers: I go to the gym. I’m able to do that to like, for, for like, getting out of my body, getting out of my stresses. But you can do it in a fun mask, too? Like, when you start to talk about it, people can wrap their mind around it. But when you look at someone just being on all fours, barking and acting silly, it’s kind of weird.

[00:23:26] Amp Somers: And I’ll be the first to say, it’s weird. And I don’t mean that in a negative way. Like, it’s just weird.

[00:23:31] Liam Wignall: We don’t often question why people engage in yoga or running, because we just assume that it’s an enjoyable activity. We assume, and we know that people describe feeling better after it. Um, for the why people want to do like marathons and whatever is beyond me because I’d just be exhausted.

[00:23:45] Liam Wignall: So people describe kind of being relaxed at the end of yoga. All those kind of things people have described about pup play, that they feel relaxed at the end of it. One of my participants was stressed for upcoming exams, they put a pup hood on. And there was something comforting about putting the hoods on and just engaging in the activities that they felt a reduction in stress.

[00:24:03] Ashley: There’s also a lot to be said for belonging to a community, one where you can be yourself, or even be a different version of yourself.

[00:24:11] Liam Wignall: Pup play has allowed some people to have that kind of pathway into a kink community, um, that attendant, playful events where there’s very minimal requirements on gear, if any, you know, one participant said, you just need a mindset to be a pup, you just need to kind of

[00:24:27] Liam Wignall: jump in and act like a dog. If you can do that, you know, you’re doing pup play. So it provides people with access to, uh, to a community, to, to an entire subculture. And I think the final kind of social aspect is, relates to an identity that one can create. And this isn’t kind of unique to, to pup play.

[00:24:47] Liam Wignall: There’s a whole bunch of different leisure activities where people create a unique identity. But if one is particularly shy in their everyday life, when they’re engaging in pup play, they could think to myself, Okay, I’m going to be the loud, boisterous one. I’m going to be the energetic one. I’m going to see how people respond in this safe environment.

[00:25:05] Liam Wignall: I’m going to, I’m going to be so fucking queer. You wouldn’t believe it. I’m going to make sure that I feel sexy in my body. I’m going to do all this kind of stuff and they’re going to explore different aspects of themselves. And they might then adopt some of those things to their kind of everyday identity, and then might be starting to be like emerging of the two.

[00:25:22] Liam Wignall: It’s a real unique opportunity to kind of play with one’s identity.

[00:25:26] Ashley: Something that this has been reminding me of, and I feel like maybe it’s the wrong comparison because of this headspace thing, but it’s, it’s sounding like improv?

[00:25:35] Amp Somers: Oh yeah.

[00:25:36] Ashley: It is? It’s similar to that?

[00:25:37] Amp Somers: Improv and kink, or even just like a nerdy kind of like D& D.

[00:25:42] Amp Somers: If you, if you play D& D and you love D& D, you’d be a great DM both in D& D but also in an actual dungeon like a dungeon master because being able to improv gives you so many skill sets of, Oh, I’m, I’m always hyper vigilant and aware of what’s happening. Oh, this person’s feeling this way or body language looks like this and you’re able to kind of roll with the punches.

[00:26:05] Amp Somers: There is nothing that takes you out of a scene quicker than oops, or like someone that doesn’t know what to do next. And improvisation is— I loved Whose Line Is It Anyway as, as a kid, like one of my faves. Um, yeah, but you can tell when someone’s like really good at like, crafting the scene and even just rolling with the punches, even if there’s no punching involved.

[00:26:25] Ashley: Okay? So getting on all fours and acting like a dog with other people is a way to have fun, relax, get out of your head, try on a new identity and be a part of a community. That makes sense. But what about that is sexy? Well, for one thing, the anonymity that you get from putting on a pup hood can be exciting in and of itself.

[00:26:45] Ashley: There’s a freedom there that you might not get with people who know you in your everyday life and a thrill of the unknown. Anything could happen.

[00:26:53] Ashley: But pup play can also be a way to pair more intimidating kink activities with a little dose of fun.

[00:27:07] Liam Wignall: Pup play has a lot of different overlaps with other kink activities, fondage, water sports. fisting, flogging, pain, all that kind of stuff, a whole bunch of different activities that you can engage with alongside pup play. And pup play, because of the nature of what it is, I’ve argued it provides a route into kink that is potentially easier for people compared to in the past.

[00:27:33] Liam Wignall: So you can engage in certain kink activities and because you’re not within that kind of slave mindset, you’re not in that. submissive mindset where maybe there’s kind of a focus on you need to please the other person, you need to do as you’re told. If you’re a pup and you don’t like something, you can bark and crawl away.

[00:27:50] Liam Wignall: And there’s just kind of that different mindset that the kink activities that are occurring are done in a potentially playful environment because of the, the association of pup play. So it allows people to kind of potentially explore different kinks and activities at an easier pace, a safer pace, with a different mindset.

[00:28:11] Ashley: When you think about pup play as a fun, more playful version of other kink activities, it starts to seem really weird that someone might see it as a uniquely sick and deviant fetish the way that Fox News does. Like whips and chains are one thing, but put on a cute puppy mask when you do it and my goodness, someone think of the children.

[00:28:32] Ashley: But the fact is, they do see it that way, which is one of the reasons the anonymity of pup play is so important. In light of that, I asked Amp about the risks people face when they engage in the community.

[00:28:44] Amp Somers: Well, they, first of all, they risk getting, um, a bunch of dog brands emailing you every other day asking to be sponsors of your dog podcast.

[00:28:52] Amp Somers: And that’s probably, that’s, that’s a problem only for me. Um, but I think

[00:28:58] Ashley: Like kibble and like stuff like that?

[00:29:00] Amp Somers: Dog food, dog toys, dog, like boxes of, of specific,

[00:29:04] Amp Somers: They

[00:29:04] Ashley: just like haven’t done the research.

[00:29:06] Amp Somers: They don’t. Yeah. And then when I, when I do respond, if I ever respond, they’ll be like, Oh, sorry.

[00:29:12] Amp Somers: Um, but for the general population that joins the community, um, I think that people do sometimes have that, like, that hesitation to get involved because they don’t want to be outed, they don’t want their employers seeing them in a dog mask.

[00:29:28] Amp Somers: And I think that that’s a valid concern because the way that we have sex but also kinks so sensationalized by the media, by politics, by our politicians who are saying like, kids are using litter boxes in high schools, which was a proven, like, made up thing that then politicians ran with, are trying to make bills now where they can have animal control come and reprimand children for just being a furry like you do face that stigma of people sensationalizing who you are as a sexual person or not, and that’s, that’s, that’s hard, that can be scary.

[00:30:07] Ashley: Amp knows. Those members of the military who were outed on Twitter? Those were his friends.

[00:30:13] Amp Somers: They got dragged by all of the right wing, you know, news, by everyone online, where they had to go private, like, they don’t, they don’t exist online anymore. They’re still unabashedly themselves and happy with who they are, but there is a backlash sometimes because people don’t understand why you would want to get into that kind of headspace.

[00:30:34] Amp Somers: And it’s not easy. I wish people would understand that we’re all into something. We all get the butterflies from extracurricular. quote unquote, not normal things. And I wish we were all a little less judgmental because of that. Because whenever, whenever I see discourse online, it’s from a place of stigma or shame that was put there by someone else.

[00:30:59] Amp Somers: Whether how you were raised, your parents, your religion, politics that you’ve been forced to consume, whether inadvertently or on purpose. And those misconceptions start so many fights that make people feel invalidated. I just wish we all understood that we all come from a place that’s different, but doesn’t make it scary.

[00:31:21] Ashley: Thanks for listening. Huge thanks to Dr. Liam Wignall and Amp Somers for talking to me.

[00:31:27] Ashley: You can buy Dr. Wignall’s book about gay men’s subcultures online called Kinky in the Digital Age on Oxford University Press. There’s a link in the show notes.

[00:31:36] Ashley: You can hear and see Amp on Watt’s Your Safe Pod on your favorite podcast app, Watt’s the Safe Word on YouTube, and his frequent live streams on Twitch. And you can also find him on most social apps under PupAmp, all one word.

[00:31:51] Ashley: Taboo Science is written and produced by me, Ashley Hamer. The theme song is by Danny Lopatka of DLC Music. Episode music is from Epidemic Sound.

[00:32:01] Ashley: I’m starting to think about extra episodes of the Philias miniseries, so if there’s a kink or fetish that I haven’t covered that you want to hear about, let me know! You can email me at

[00:32:13] Ashley: The next episode is all about cuckolding. Turns out the types of guys most likely to call people cucks are the types of guys most likely to be cucks themselves. Who knew? Hope you tune in next time. I won’t tell anyone.