Five gay friends who belong to the Viennese fetish scene put on dog masks and play like puppies. Pup-Play is the name of this increasingly popular form of play.
It should already be a dog-friendly pub where Yoshi (21) and his friends meet in the evening, because they like to put on their dog masks and play Puppy (puppy) even in public. Devil (19), who shows up for the conversation not only wearing a mask, but in full puppy costume with a chain around his neck and a harness around his shoulders, then snuggles under the table and lets himself be cuddled, growling contentedly and enjoying the attention: “Wrrrrrr!” Those who don’t know what this is all about might react irritably to such behavior, and that, the friends admit, does happen from time to time. “But we stick together,” Devil says. “We defend ourselves with words!” And sometimes they growl back when attacked.
Pup play is pretty hot in the fetish scene right now. “You get into the headspace of a puppy dog,” explains Yoshi’s significant other Spark, who is also his “owner,” meaning his owner. “You’re playful, cuddly, inexperienced and cute.” Stupidest question right off the bat, then: do you have to have had a dog to understand Pup-Play? Or how does that work?
Escape from everyday life
“I always wanted to get into fetish!” laughs Yoshi. “And pup-play was a good way because you can hide your face and give yourself another name.” His own name is actually Angelo, and he was 19 when Spark, whose name is Armin, introduced him to the scene. Shortly after, he was already “Mr. Puppy 2019.” The chef, who learned his trade at a posh Ringstrasse hotel and now works at the relevantly well-known Café Savoy on Wienzeile, put himself up for election together with DJ Wildy (“I am a Doggo DJ from Austria Woof!”). Both had the task of rehearsing a choreography for an international jury, Yoshi reenacted scenes from his everyday working life as a puppy: “When the sous-chef comes and finishes you off, things like that.” Indeed, for Yoshi, pup-play has always been an escape from his often arduous daily life, including burnouts, relationship and family problems. “This fetish life is a welcome change,” he says. “I can relax and let the childlike come up again.”
So is pup-play more of a social fetish than a sexual one? “You can argue about that!” say Spark and Yoshi in unison, and in Germany the scene is doing that intensely right now. Some say that cute poop play can’t have anything to do with sex. Others think it comes from the fetish scene, so it must have something to do with it.
Interesting for the young
In Vienna, the fetish scene is quite clearly structured. There is the LMC, the Leather & Motorcycle Community with over 2000 exclusively gay members and a few events per year (Vienna in Black). And then there is the HFFK, the Homosexual Fetish and Free Body Culture association founded by Wolfgang aka Lupo, in which Yoshi and Spark are board members and which mainly promotes social get-togethers. HFFK is also open to straight or pansexuals, and they are particularly proud of their two female members. The “appreciative interaction with each other” and the “distance to right-wing ideas” are written into the statutes.
“The older generation is dying on us,” Spark explains, “and then the whole gay fetish scene crumbles.” Pup-Play, however, would have brought many young people back into the scene who had previously been put off by lacquer, leather and darkroom, which was often equated with violence, blood and perversion: “Oh God, fetish! I can’t do that, what would others think of me?” In the meantime, however, pup-play has become so hip that some club operators appreciate pup-play as a mood-setter, and DJ Wildy is always well booked anyway. Spark, of course, is critical of the trend: “A lot of people are just doing it because it’s become such an Instagram thing and they’ve jumped on the hype train!”
Apricot cake instead of whip
Lupo (44) and Teddy (42) come to the conversation in their army uniforms with the rank of a sergeant, without the insignia they are not allowed to wear, but with the insignia of the PKW they founded, the Panzer Kompanie Wien, in which “military gays, army gays and uniform gays” gather. The first time Lupo went to a fetish club, he didn’t take off his leather jacket for the whole evening, because he also thought that blood would spurt and everything would be disgusting. In the end, he went home with some very good apricot cake recipes.
“Fetish is much more than just sexual acting out,” he says. “There’s friendship involved, safe space, or sitting around a campfire in your uniform drinking beer.” That’s why they organize uniform fetish gatherings like the Gstettenbrand as well as joint museum visits, and at the Raffineriestraße on the Donauinsel, nudists meet during the summer in the Cruising Aera.
“The fetish was there with me for ten, twelve years,” says the social pedagogue. “People just didn’t know what it was.” In the club, they also had psychotherapists, so they would quickly notice if someone just wanted to compensate. The uniform fetish, he said, is ultimately about dominance and submission. Yoshi, who calls himself a hybrid and lives both fetishes, salutes when he meets the others and gets to lead the dog squad. “Of course, they’re all dewormed and chipped,” Lupo laughs.
Devil initially saw pup play only as a sexual fetish, but soon he slipped into it in his everyday life as well. He completed an apprenticeship at the Superior Court and moved into human resources at the Financial Regulatory Authority before starting work at a law firm. “All jobs where I walk around in a suit and have a lot of checking to do. As a Puppy, though, I can let go, get fed and petted.” He bought his first Puppy mask for 40 euros on the web, and now his entire outfit is personalized, the mask comes from San Francisco, the harness is inscribed with his name and decorated with the exact paws he wanted on it. “You start small and you step up!” he says, who also shows up on the subway as a Puppy. “If I just live it at home, nobody cares!” Says and disappears under the table, where he lets himself be cuddled again. Then he growls contentedly.
An article by Manfred Rebhandl.
This article was published first time inGerman in Der Standard.
Translated from German with DeepL.