How Pup Play Rejects Human Dignity

On Wednesday, May 25th, Nell Frizzell penned an article for The Guardian entitled “The Men Who Live As Dogs.”

She proceeded to describe a group of men, featured in the documentary Secret Life of the Human Pups, who find community in what is referred to as “puppy play” – gay men who have an interest in “dressing in leather, wear dog-like hoods, enjoy tactile interactions like stomach rubbing or ear tickling, play with toys, eat of out bowls and are often in a relationship with their human ‘handlers’.”

At first glance, this phenomenon seems thankfully fringe and can be dismissed as comical, bizarre and creepy.  But if we take a deeper look into what Frizzell is reporting, however, we shouldn’t be shocked.

Men living as dogs is indeed a new scenario, but it doesn’t raise new questions.

This situation is another tale of the human condition, of pushing against creational norms and exchanging them for a self-autonomous manifestation of who they claim to be.

The brokenness of a fallen world causes us to question who we were made to be, maybe not as a puppy, but maybe as a man or woman. We are tempted to unnaturally separate the life of “body” from the life of the “soul” into two distinct aspects our being, when in fact they are not.

But rather than reacting to each instance of newfound identity exhibition, we should be looking into the future at the implications of each new situation. The issue here, as seemingly strange as it may be, is not that these men want to be puppies.

The fundamental issue on display is that these men are rebelling against their creator, trying to be something that they simply are not. These men are humans, not dogs.

Gen. 1:27 says,

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

God created us as physical and spiritual beings – not as two separate entities.

While these men may feel more comfortable as dogs, all people, to an extent, are discontent with their bodies in their earthly form.

In Romans, Paul discusses our great desire for the return of our King to renew our bodies:

“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Rom. 8:22-23)

And in 2 Corinthians, Paul provides an illustration of us having the ‘treasure’ of the Gospel – the grace and truth of God – contained in ‘earthen vessels,’ representing our frail, perishing bodies here on earth: 

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” (2 Cor. 4:7)

But if we take mere uncomfortability as license to abandon everything we know to be true, then where do we draw the line?

Our hope is not found in a new self-identity, but in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In the minds of these men, they should be able to fulfill these desires they have identified in any way they see fit, regardless of the consequences or future implications.

But when we use Scripture as our guide, we realize that we cannot satisfy these longings apart from our Creator. These men question their identity as human beings because they don’t know where their true identity lies.

They have rejected who they are – a human being created in the image of God.

The guiding norms of our culture are quickly discarded at the first instinct of incompatibility with our “feelings” and emotions, something that should not be so.

Frizzell quotes one of the men, Tom, as describing puppy play as something more than just “outfits and surface-level power games.” He says that, rather, it’s about being given license to behave in a way that feels natural, even primal.

But embracing a culture of identifying with your feelings, rather than being anchored in truth, is, in essence, denying the Creator.

When a feelings morality begins to trump Biblical morality, chaos ensues. We no longer have a compass to direct our steps if everything we believe is open to interpretation and alteration.

Once we accept new norms and new identities, when our feelings – confused and disoriented because of sin – become the guide, we open a door to many possibilities, but with little ultimate satisfaction.

The simple conclusion we can draw from the situations we are witnessing present day is you are not your own. In Ephesians, Paul talks about how we are under authority of our Father in heaven – something clearly greater and more powerful that we are as in individual:

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,” (Eph. 3:14-15)

Furthermore, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians,

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” (1 Cor. 6:19-20)

God is our creator, and we belong to Him. And even more so, the design of creation points to the same creator. Even as God created each of us, though, we are all still corrupted by sin.

But we have a God who says we are enough – without altering, adding to, or subtracting from our given nature.

The choices of these men, and all of us, when we choose to identity with things that we were not purposed for, are manifestations of our sin and our need for a Savior.

The Gospel tells us that we were designed on purpose, with intention, love, and care.

Our brokenness is what drives us to find satisfaction in things other than God, and our healing ultimately won’t come through these other means.

Each man a part of this so called ‘community’ – every part of who they are, what they are meant to be, and the incredible purpose they are meant to fulfill – had Jesus’ full thought and creative intent behind it.

Purpose is woven into every created thing and these men are no exception.

We are called to be image bearers of Christ. This is our greatest calling.

Embracing pup play, or any variation of it, is to devalue human life. It is denying our intrinsic worth as image bearers of the Creator.

We ultimately won’t find happiness in a new identity, be that a dog or a different gender. In Romans 12, Paul speaks to this saying,

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom. 12:2-3)

An identity grounded in a deep knowledge of who we are in Christ is the only identity that won’t leave us wanting.