In this article we explore the history, culture and practice of the phenomenon known as ‘puppy play’. Puppy play is a practice in which people take on the persona of a dog (or handler), with participants often wearing specialist gear to further enhance the experience of being a puppy. We argue that puppy play is best understood sociologically as a ‘postmodern-subculture’ (Greener and Hollands, 2006). Additionally, we use Irwin’s (1973) model of scene evolution to explore the socio-history of the community. Whilst this practice appears to have its historical roots within the highly sexual gay Leatherman sub-culture, there is a division within this community between sexual and social play, with some participants eschewing the sexual entirely. We explore possible reasons for this split through an analysis using recent political theory concerning technologies of the self, sexual citizenship and BDSM. Through this analysis we contribute valuable empirical evidence to debates and discussion about the development of sexual sub-cultures and tensions therein concerning claims for rights and the ‘politics of respectability’ (Cruz, 2016 a, 2016b).
- puppy play
- subcultural theory