OK, let’s look at the this week’s identity freakshow: people who think they are animals. The Guardian brings us news of the “pups” subculture. Excerpts:
It’s easy to laugh at a grown man in a rubber dog suit chewing on a squeaky toy. Maybe too easy, in fact, because to laugh is to dismiss it, denigrate it – ignore the fact that many of us have found comfort and joy in pretending to be animals at some point in our lives.
No, it is not too easy to laugh at this insanity. By all means dismiss it and denigrate it. No grown man should behave this way. Naturally, they began as BDSM pervs:
Secret Life of the Human Pups is a sympathetic look at the world of pup play, a movement that grew out of the BDSM community and has exploded in the last 15 years as the internet made it easier to reach out to likeminded people. While the pup community is a broad church, human pups tend to be male, gay, have an interest in dressing in leather, wear dog-like hoods, enjoy tactile interactions like stomach rubbing or ear tickling, play with toys, eat out of bowls and are often in a relationship with their human “handlers”.
In the documentary, we see Tom, AKA Spot, take part in the Mr Puppy Europe competition in Antwerp, a mix of beauty pageant, talent show and Crufts; David, AKA Bootbrush, talk to camera in a leather dog mask; two pups walk through London pretending to wee on lampposts to raise awareness of their identity; and lots of men jumping up for “treats”, barking and wagging their mechanical tails.
But wait, there’s more:
Tom’s discovery of puppy play came about gradually. He knew he liked sleeping in a collar, had a fetish for skin-tight clothing – Lycra, rubber, even off-the-peg cycling shorts – then came a dalmatian zentai suit he found on eBay, a £1 orange lead from Pets at Home until, eventually, a man in a club walked up to him and said: “Oh right, so you’re a pup.” The realisation was not without its repercussions: it led to a breakup with his former fiancee Rachel and a move into a gay relationship with his new handler. Colin.
“I wouldn’t say it was the catalyst, but it was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” says Tom. “Then I had this moment of panic because a puppy without a collar is a stray; they don’t have anyone to look after them. I started chatting to Colin online and he offered to look after me. It’s a sad thing to say, but there’s not love from the heart in me for Colin – but what I have got is someone who is there for me and I’m happy with that.”
And, you knew this was coming. Emphasis mine:
Whether we see it as a kink, an identity, a reaction to an early experience, a form of escapism or a fetish, the main thing, says Tom, is that we see it at all; that we know it’s there and accept it. “It feels like you can be gay, straight, bisexual, trans and be accepted,” he says. “All I want is for the pup community to be accepted in the same way. We’re not trying to cause grief to the public, or cause grief to relationships. We’re just the same as any other person on the high street.”
As it happens, VICE did a piece on pup culture earlier this year (probably NSFW). It’s a gay male thing, it appears. Excerpts:
Already the howls leak onto 12th Street. And as you pass through the heavy black doors of San Francisco’s go-to gay biker hangout, The Eagle, the scene that greets you isn’t the expected handful of dudes quietly gathered at the bar to catch the Warriors game. It’s more like a rave at the SPCA.
Bare-assed except for tail-shaped butt plugs and Nasty Pig jock straps, sporting custom leather puppy masks and MMA mitts, several go-go boys hop and fidget to Berlin techno above the packed crowd. Huge cutouts of snarling pooches and giant bones loom over the dance floor. On the back patio, a hunky daddy dressed to the leather nines sits in a large chair, reading a newspaper, puffing a fat stogie, and resting his feet on a coiled human pup, who excitedly chews on a squeaky SpongeBob. A bootblack and a barber, both dressed only in latex aprons, ply their grooming trades with fanatical skill. Over in the corner a big cage rattles, as the human pups inside bark and throw themselves against the bars.
Figaro Pup identifies as a border collie. “I share a lot of traits with the breed. I get bored easily unless something is really holding my attention. I am always trying to keep groups together or herd people or pups. My husband is my handler, although I and the other pups in our pack call him Daddy. A typical day is surprisingly mundane. We do all of the normal things that couples do, work, chores etc. There are just a lot of little things that call out our other relationship dynamics. We switch from husbands to daddy/puppy fairly seamlessly. When we kiss hello, maybe I’ll get some scritches behind the ear, or I’ll play with a squeaky toy while we watch TV, unless it gets taken away.”
Both Papa Woof and Brue take great pains to insist that puppy play is not about bestiality…
Right. Aaaaaand, I’m out of there.
Here’s something on the same wavelength, but not as sexed-up. From a Houston TV station’s report:
Throughout the U.S., a group of people who identify as therian has been growing over the years. Therians are people who believe they are animals, either spiritually or psychologically. Within the Houston area, there are an estimated 3,000 people in this community.
“A therian is basically someone who believes spiritually or mentally that they are an animal,” said Aramond VanRahamdalph, who leads a therian group in Houston. He identifies as both vampire and therian. As a therian, he tells FOX 26 News that his identity is of both a wolf and a raven.
“When we go through our awakening, it’s brought upon by a kind of a bond with a specific animal,” said VanRahamdalph. “It could be at a zoo or out in the wild. For most therians, when we shift, which we get the animalistic instincts, a sixth sense, heightened senses, hair on the back of your neck, sensation gets a little stronger.”
Sounds like possession to me, but what do I know.
You know, on second thought, it is too easy to laugh at these deranged people (remember the Norwegian cat lady?). What they are doing is pushing the logic that demands that in custom and in law, society must recognize the right of the sovereign individual to claim his sexual identity based on will alone, having nothing to do with biology. Those men are no more dogs than Caitlyn Jenner is a woman, but we are not obliged to recognize them as canines under penalty of law and at risk of hysterical, bullying public censure by progressive members of Congress. Yet, anyway.
If human identity is not inextricably bound in our biology, then where do you draw the line? In the same way the trans bathroom argument is about something much deeper than what it’s about, laughing at these nuts too easily dismisses the very real philosophical principle at issue here: what is man? As C.S. Lewis wrote in The Abolition of Man:
There is something which unites magic and applied science while separating both from the ‘wisdom’ of the earlier ages. For the wise men of old the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue. For magic and applied science alike the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men: the solution is a technique; and both, in the practice of this technique, are ready to do things hitherto regarded as disgusting and impious – such as digging up and mutilating the dead.
It is in Man’s power to treat himself as a mere ‘natural object’ and his own judgments of value as raw material for scientific manipulation to alter at will. The objection to his doing so does not lie in the fact that this point of view (like one’s first day in a dissecting room) is painful and shocking till we grow used to it. The pain and the shock are at most a warning and a symptom. The real objection is that if man chooses to treat himself as raw material, raw material he will be: not raw material to be manipulated, as he fondly imagined, by himself, but by mere appetite, that is, mere Nature, in the person of his de-humanized Conditioners.
Very few people are going to go Therian, or play at bestiality like the Pups. But the same principle of personhood and identity that requires us to ignore biology entirely when it comes to determining male and female identity must logically allow trans-species identity. In her vicious exchange this week with law professor Gail Heriot, the bullying Rep. Zoe Lofgren inadvertently conceded the point. Heriot had said that by transgender logic there’s no reason why people shouldn’t call her a Russian princess if she insists she’s one. That prompted Lofgren, a California Democrat, to denounce Heriot as an “ignorant bigot.” Heriot then asked her (I paraphrase), “Well, do you think I am a Russian princess?”
Said Lofgren, “I have no idea.”
Lofgren perfectly well knew that Heriot was not a Russian princess, but if she had said “no,” then she would have conceded that identity is not simply a matter of desire and will. Had Lofgren done that, she would have undermined her ideology. Better to just yell, “Bigot!”
To be sure, gender dysphoria is a real psychological condition, and I don’t think it’s wrong for society to reach some kind of accommodation for people who suffer from it. But we have gone way, way too far, and accepting this principle is going to be our undoing. In for a transgender, in for a Pup and a Therian. Impossible, you say? Eight years ago, when Barack Obama was running for president, denying that he favored same-sex marriage, did you ever imagine his administration would one day order public schools to let “girls” with penises use high school locker rooms, under threat of losing all federal funding? In our unwinding culture, what is impossible today will be mandated tomorrow.
Matter matters! Personally, I blame Ockham. But you knew I would say that.