Puppy play incident at Furry Weekend Atlanta – is that OK in public? (Part 1)

by Patch O'Furr

Furry twitter was growling about two puppies wrestling in the middle of a hotel lobby. It was an “OMG! Furs are having sex in public at FWA” thing. It started with one tweet of a video that sort of looks like people having sex – but then the subjects posted a close-up 360 video showing it wasn’t. Even so, online outrage kept getting the video taken down from Youtube (see it on Vimeo).

Changa Lion of the Prancing Skiltaire house, a graymuzzle furry who staffed at ConFurence and tipped me about this, said it resembled plenty of previous “bullshit said about older cons that wasn’t actually true”:

It’s like it becomes self-reinforcing. No matter what is said, it’s now firmly in place in people’s minds that furs were having sex in public at FWA. I almost want a yearly award for the biggest fan outrage of the year that is actually bullshit.

What were they doing?

Puppy Play is a recently rising community rooted in the classic BDSM leather scene. Think hoods and wrestling gear reminiscent of the gimp look, wagging tails and barking – but sex is optional while “primal headspace” is the point, according to them. Playing together in gear is a “mosh”.

Overlap of puppies and furries is especially noticeable with a hot spot like Seattle, where SEAPAH (Seattle Pups and Handlers) throws a monthly mosh at a leather bar that attracts fursuiters. For incentive to mingle, that furry scene seems to need more established night life, like regular dance parties other cities have.

Things don’t always mingle so casually at fur cons, where pups have been accused of making things creepy, yelled at or been told not to wear hoods. That’s not fair, say the pups. Furries can get similar friction about fursuits that they don’t deserve (or they used to.)

When the issue came out at FWA, it was inflamed by baggage and bad attitudes from several sides. Does puppy play belong in furry at all? Is furry actually a fetish itself? Can you call either thing nonsexual? Are furries overreacting to purify parts of themselves? Should they lighten up because the same judgement was thrown at them before? Or do both groups share some ambiguous no-mans-land, with closer ties than they want to admit?

Put your collars on and follow my lead – let’s jump into the fray for a closer look.

Furry ambiguity

I will always say that families and kids belong in furry. But so does the After Dark side. Oddly enough, they coexist even if they aren’t supposed to mingle. I call it a “big tent from Disney to Dirty.” Duality like that is everywhere, because parents have sex to have kids and raise them too. It’s just human, but I think the duality is closer to the surface in this subculture, with more blurry lines. That can make it complicated to decide what’s appropriate and how flexible the lines are. Appropriateness can be very ambiguous when things like “fursuit crushes” are in the eye of the beholder.

For example, this is an innocent kid’s cartoon, except when it isn’t:

Here’s an icon that achieved self awareness about it:

There’s a time and place for everything

Tony The Tiger didn’t object because of being a satirical furry thirst object, it was because lewdness got so public. On the other hand, even boundaries for public lewdness can be more flexible than people think.

Try Folsom Street Fair, the world’s biggest outdoor fetish event.  It’s held in San Francisco every year since 1984, and officially sponsored by the city. It’s 18+ to enter, gated for 13 city blocks, and 400,000 people go. Furries have a popular furmeet there. Fursuiting in the sun with a giant crowd takes a lot of endurance, but it’s unbeatable for excitement. I mean, actually it is beatable. You know what they say, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but whips and chains excite me…” When every other person is in bondage gear, that becomes plain and usual. What was really special was the time I found someone’s slave chained to a telephone pole, and gave them furry tickle torture while the crowd laughed.

NSFW public lewdness is on video with “Folsom Street Fair” getting 1776 hits on Pornhub. That was the year of American independence, and it’s nobody’s business to judge it, unless you’re rating how good the videos are. Naughty voyeurs should send appreciation to any furry in them you’ve been watching.

Not everyone chooses the right place. I wouldn’t tickle-torture a slave in a hotel lobby.

Fear of repeating Oklacon and Rainfurrest

Rainfurrest fell apart in 2015, and a lot of blame was thrown at a widely-shared photo of a rubber-clad guy wearing a diaper in public space. But the guy was just quickly going to a panel where he was expected. He wasn’t hanging out to show off. Nobody besides furries cared that Furry Twitter was sharing a photo of a weird looking guy. The real harm came from vandalism. Fetishists got unfairly blamed.

Oklacon also fell apart in 2015 when park rangers were alerted to a sex act that happened outside with 3 intoxicated people. Members discussed a history of tensions with the park including homophobia – and we’re talking about a camp after dark. I’ll bet more people than not have sex outdoors (on a beach, etc), or get drunk while camping. I think they should have given the con a break, but it was still a pretty obvious cause.

The FWA video made drama worse.

The video of puppy play was shot from far away and a few floors up. @Tekpup and @Murrlin posted their close-up video showing a different view of wrestling in puppy play gear, AKA a pup mosh. They explained that there was no sex, and it happened at 4AM with no kids around, and dismissed criticism. But it was still a public lobby, so the defenses didn’t stop the tension between pups and furries.

Part 2 looks closer at this with a point/counterpoint including Pup Matthias, a Dogpatch Press staffer. The main point is that how they were behaving was not OK, but what they were wearing needs to be separated.

EDIT: For a reminder that things aren’t as clear cut as some might wish, the first fursuit at a furry con in 1989 was a fetish suit. And for a reminder that overreacting can blow up in your face – here was a story about supposed public sex in fursuits that was a harmful hoax.

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