Illustration by Felix Scheinberger
Puppies are all the rage these days, but that doesn’t mean Berlin’s gay male community suddenly has a fetish for Fido. An insider walks us through the scene. See them walk (or join in) yourself in Tiergarten on Easter Sunday at 2pm.
An Erdnussflip sat on his snout for what seemed an eternity. He could hear the laughs of the onlookers at Kreuzberg’s BDSM club Quälgeist as it lay precariously on his prefab dog nose. He waited until his master’s signal and then attempted to throw it up and catch it in his mouth. With the leather muzzle affecting his depth perception, it wasn’t successful, but the audience had gotten the idea. “It wasn’t like they were laughing at me, but at the situation,” giggles Sean Z. “So it was easy to handle.”
The boyish British-German 40-year-old is a proud member of the international queer left crowd. His punky clothing and Mohawk, often covered with a cap, convey some sort of kinkiness, but you couldn’t put your finger on it just from looking at him. Unlike, say, furries, Sean doesn’t actually identify as a canine. He just plays one for kicks every now and again, when he meets the right “handler”.
Puppy play is fetish play: it doesn’t necessarily involve sex, but it’s always erotic. “I like the mixture of obedience – the role of an owner and his property – with the love between both, and the loyalty and the cuteness of the puppy," Sean explains. In addition to the Erdnussflip trick, he'll sit, fetch, walk, bark... anything his handler asks. The childlike freedom of doggie roleplay appeals to him as much as the submission. “As a puppy you can be goofy or cheeky, and your top kind of also loves you for that,” he says, sipping tea. “Of course it feels silly at first, but I can be silly sometimes.”
Silly or not, one still has to look the part for the fantasy to work. The standard puppy play outfit consists of a leather snout mask, a harness and collar, and paw-like mitts for the hands and knees. Butt-plug tails aren’t uncommon. And this “play” comes with a hefty price tag. Masks alone can run from €225-€275, tails €50-80. Sean crafted his own mask, but that required a bit of skill.
What seems like a niche kink has exploded in Berlin in the past few years. “Puppies were the thing at this year’s Folsom Street Fair. Last year it was SWAT teams, this year it was puppies,” jokes Sean. Leather-clad dog-men have made the cover of Siegessäule. Entries in Berlin’s Porn lmfestival have tackled both the aggressive and tender sides of the topic (Ben Berlin’s 2014 “Dog-fight” and this year’s “Flo & Hector in Hasenheide”, respectively). Mr. B., the spendy leather and fetish emporium on Schöneberg’s Motzstraße, even has its own glossy puppy play catalogue: Fetch. A “puppy walk” through Tiergarten on Easter brought the fetishists further out in the open.
Puppy play hasn’t gone unnoticed by Berlin’s art world either. Illustrator Felix Scheinberger’s latest book Hedo Berlin includes images of puppies sketched on-site at famed sex haunts like Kitkatclub or Insomnia. And his friend and colleague Nora Marleen documented a sighting of the elusive female puppy – a rarity in the Berlin scene, to say the least.
What is it about puppy play that holds such appeal? “Visually, they just look great,” Scheinberger admits. Sean has more of an insider’s perspective. “Nowadays, young people coming into the BDSM scene start with puppies,” Sean continues. “Puppies are cute. And you don’t really harm them. So if you’re curious about fetish and BDSM, it’s an easy way in. All these puppies appearing now, I think they just think it’s a cute, interesting thing to do. I can’t really imagine that all of a sudden, within two or three years, so many people suddenly have this dog identity.”
And how is the city responding to its relatively new animal community? The puppy walk in Tiergarten during Easter went off without a hitch. From time to time, you hear remarks about someone taking their puppy on the U-Bahn, with the reaction being a simple “Only in Berlin.” But Berlin’s always been a dog lover’s city, anyway.
2. EASTER PUPPIE WALK, Apr 16, 14:00 | Meet at Brezel Company, Kalckreuthstr. 16, Schöneberg,