Secret Life of the Human Pups: Balanced?

The Channel Four documentary Secret Life of the Human Pups (Firecracker Films 2016, produced and directed by Guy Simmonds) is a rare glimpse into the world of human pups.

Doing its best to show pups in their normal environment and letting them do the most talking (or barking), the documentary follows a few pups in the course of their normal lives, and also highlights Mr. Puppy UK’s participation in the Mr. Pup Europe competition. Certain public events are also portrayed.

Before the release of the documentary, the pup community anticipated an exploitative scandal, and possibly an public outrage, with many pups hiding their online personas and psyching them ready for a free-for-all. In stark contrast, the documentary presents a relatively neutral portrait of a few pups, and lets the viewers make their own conclusions.

Why only relatively neutral? The documentary does its best to avoid any discussion of sexuality, being only slightly alluded to in a discussion of pup play’s roots in BDSM. Pup play is strongly portrayed as a non-sexual hobby, only there to provide a safe headspace where to escape the daily grind. As anyone exposed to the pup scene knows, this is an omission. A lot of pups play either partly or solely for sexual purposes, deriving sexual pleasure out of the pup gear, or using pup gear to facilitate other sexual practises.

This is an understandable omission, considering the context of the documentary. It is hard enough to introduce the greater public into pup play on the innocent side, let alone show what happens to pups in the back rooms of kinky cruising parties. However, documentaries are judged by their impartialness and balance, not as adverts. The discussion about sexuality is analogous to the furry community’s eternal divide between non-sexual furries and sexual furries.

The most outstanding element of the documentary is the carefully composed cinematography, soundtrack, and narration, serving to bring the viewer into the same peaceful headspace the pups themselves seek to immerse in.

All in all, the documentary is valuable in a broader sense as it exposes the general public into the not-so-usual sexual practises, and it can be argued that the time is not yet right for public to see the full spectrum of pup play, so for now, we are stuck with the fluffy part.