Interview with Pup Raff
Woof! This interview was such a savory treat. Raff aka @pupneedsmore on Instagram and Twitter, caught my attention a few weeks back. His double exposure polaroid posts capture his fun personality and the intimacy of his play. I had to ask him about his personal experiences and the pup movement.
Pup play is defined by Slate magazine as a brand of BDSM role-play where people imitate adolescent canine behavior. When done with other pups, it’s considered a “mosh” and happens regularly at bars across the country. Sounds interesting? It is a lot more prevalent than one might think!
What we learned is that pup play does involve sex, but it also sometimes doesn’t. The takeaway from this is that pup play acts as an outlet for those involved to feel immense joy by letting themselves get silly and excited as they act out the way a young pup might. Yes, there is also gear involved, but the fun lies in the experience as well as the fantasy personalities each pup cultivates.
What got you into pup play?
The first time I experienced pup play it was somewhat of a surprise, with little pre-negotiated context. I met up with a guy for a hookup and found myself on all fours playing fetch for someone I had only just met. It felt weird but also exciting. From there it sat on the back burner for a long time – years. It sparked something for me but I wasn’t really ready to unpack it, nor did I know anyone at the time who was doing it (as far as I was aware). What I’ve learned is that maybe I don’t need to answer the WHY… as long as it brings me joy.
What does pup play provide for you?
This one I am still unpacking. For starters, pup play has been a wonderful way to meet new people… or pups. I’ve met so many wonderful pups since I really leaned in. Beyond that, time spent as Raff is time where I can let myself think less, and experience more. It tends to be about comfort, curiosity, mischief, and a heavy coating of stupidity. All of which tends to culminate in a feeling of joy. Raff helps me find a space to relax and not worry so much about all the other parts of life that require more of me.
What kind of pup do you identify as (i.e., guard pup, playful)?
In many ways I am still learning who Raff is and what he needs. I expect this will continue to evolve and, of course, it’s pretty contextual. For now, Raff is a bit shy. Once he gets past that part he can be silly, cuddly, horny… really depends on the vibe. I’m learning that Raff needs to have built a rapport to feel safe enough to express himself. That’s pretty new for me but I think it’s a good thing in this case.
Are you involved in the greater pup play community?
I am still getting to know the local pups and packs. I feel really honored to have been able to meet and connect with so many in such a short time. I only really started going to events in September. I’m learning about the local “politics” of the community, the existing structures, community norms, etc. For now I am just taking it all in to see where Raff can either fit in, or carve out something new. I’m really grateful to groups like NYC Pups and Handlers (@NYCPAHhowl on telegram) and to Gotham Kennel Club (@gkcpups); and places like Rock Bar (@rockbarnyc) and All Night Skate (@allnightskate) who have been working with the community to create safe spaces for pups to socialize and play – and to the pups who put in all the work to make those events possible.
Where do you like to play?
Raff hasn’t done much play time in group settings. I’m not super enticed by the mosh set up, especially in public event spaces. Raff isn’t really looking for that kind of experience. I totally get the appeal for other pups, but for now it isn’t what I need. Raff shines in 1:1 and small group experiences. I like to feel like I’m connecting with the other pup/person rather than performing for an audience.
Do you like to play solo or with others?
Pretty early into my adventures this Fall, I met another newcomer pup, Teo (@pupteogoodboy), and have been really enjoying getting to play with him. His stupid works well with my stupid. We have very similar grand fantasies of future pup debauchery. Overall it has been nice having someone along for the ride who is also figuring out what being a pup means and could possibly look like for themselves. He’s my pup, and I’m his pup, and that just feels right. He’s also got some drool-worthy hypno content for pups (@hyphyphurray on twitter). Recently I met one guy, Wolf Pup Hunter (@wolfpupnyc on twitter) who likes to play handler and has been great at making Raff feel special and deserving – again, so grateful for these experiences and all that they teach me about myself. As for solo stuff, I started using my Polaroid to capture thoughts and feelings about pup play through double exposures. It’s been a fun way to express myself as Raff and also to connect with new people. I am hoping to get better at it and take photos of more pups next year!
Do you have one set of gear or do you like to change gear?
For now, Raff uses just one look. A simple black neoprene hood from Mr. S Leather (@mrsleather), called the Frisky Hood. I appreciate the flexibility it gives by not covering the jaw. I’ve got a few other looks from Mr. S that I have yet to use but I’m sure they’ll make their way in eventually. Hoods tend to get in the way of play for me because Raff thrives on smells and tastes. I’ve also got a pseudo collar from EX-SL that I like to wear sometimes… but I have yet to be officially collared and tagged. Not in a hurry for that but it’s something I hope to achieve with someone who earns my loyalty. I do have to say I really like the custom muzzles by Varo (@varoroo) and the hoods by Grunge Bunny (@grungebunnygear). Both of them are creating something very different than what you see most of the time.
Do you ever have challenges with partners who don’t understand pup play?
I am blessed to have people in my life who love and support me, even if they don’t fully understand. I limit what I share about Raff with folks who are outside of the pup community. I’m working through my own insecurities about pup play so I don’t have a lot of capacity to carry the weight of outside opinions right now. Being part of a kink community, as a queer person, is in some ways being marginalized within a marginalized group. Think about all the queer people who advocate for “no kink at pride” as an example. I’m working on feeling secure just standing in my own truth and for now that means telling people what I want, when I want, how I want. I recently ended a very long-term relationship because I recognized that kink was something I needed and we just weren’t aligned there. It was a difficult thing to reconcile but ultimately, I am glad I did. He’s still one of my favorite people in the world and I am forever grateful to have him in my life.
How do you have the conversation with another person that you are into pup play?
There are so many ways this can come up. I have started by indicating my interest in the apps. So if you stumble upon my Grindr, Scruff, or Recon, you’ll see a photo of Raff in there along with clearly stated interests. That’s new for me, but so far it has brought lots of new people into my dm’s that I’ve really enjoyed talking with and hope to meet. Sometimes people just ask questions about it, or share that they are interested or just starting out. Other times, people aren’t as nice. I think if I had any advice for new/curious pups, I would say to just come to a Gotham Kennel Club social event and say hello to someone. Reach out to me – I’ll go with you. For non-pups, know that you should approach a pup (or anyone) with respect and with consent. Too often, people feel comfortable touching pups in ways that are non-consensual or addressing them in ways that assume a power exchange has occurred. I don’t care for that much. For me, power exchanges are earned, negotiated, and time-limited. Oh, and please stop tugging on our tails.
Are there any boundaries you set if/when you play with others? Further, are there any rules to the play?
It changes all the time. Depends on who I’m playing with and the dynamic. When I play with my pup, it’s a lot of silliness mixed with some really intense, dare I say passionate, moments. Recently I started playing with a Sir that likes to take on the Handler role so that looks and feels very different. I’ve got my limits, as we all do, but the best part about pup play for me is that it doesn’t need to involve sex for me to enjoy myself. It can – but it’s not required. A lot of times it’s just connecting with someone, as a pup. As for rules, not much. I know that a lot of my experiences with pup play don’t align with the history of the form. There are many who engage in pet play (all kinds of animals) who stick closer to the history and traditions. They have lots of rules of engagement around how the interactions should go and what behaviors are allowed. I understand why some feel drawn to that structure, but right now I’m just focused on having a good time and doing what feels right. Not what someone says it has to be based on the history.
Do you have to keep a level of discretion in your content?
Yes and no. My pages aren’t private but I don’t promote them. There is definitely stigma associated with pup play – and with kink in general, so having your face out there with the content is a deliberate choice to make. For my Instagram content I feel pretty okay about it because I consider it more like erotic art than porn. Ultimately, having tattoos has made this all a bit complicated and somewhat futile. At a certain point I just started showing face because it seemed pointless to pretend I wasn’t going to be identified by my body already. I guess I won’t be a politician anytime soon.
Do you have a day job?
Yes ma’am. She’s a working girl. I’ve worked in the non-profit sector since I finished undergrad. It doesn’t pay as much, but it feels like I am doing something worthwhile and impactful – most of the time.
What is your favorite thing to do when you play?
Tough one! As a Gemini I don’t like to pick favorites of anything. But seriously, I just want it to feel fun for me and whoever I am playing with. So sometimes that involves a lot of barks and rules; other times it could be edging or frottage and verbal fantasizing; or just going to town on each other in all the ways possible. As a switch (vers) I think one of my favorite things is to surprise someone I previously bottomed for, with some determined top energy. It keeps things interesting.
Are there other pups you follow that you enjoy watching?
So many. I’ve met a few really sweet pups so far and spoken to a bunch more online. There are some really great packs in the city, and some out there doing their own thing also. Right now I’m really into the content that CoCo (@cocopup22) is creating. If you ever wondered what a kinky, pole dancing pup looked like…. Go check him out. Kenzo (@pupkenzo) is also super sweet and out there standing in their truth in a way that is really remarkable. I like following Piper (@piperr.spams) because it’s so great to see someone other than dudes enjoying pup play too. Max the Tribrid (@maxthetribrid) definitely has some of the strongest imagery and keeps it interesting. Cristo Phe (@phecristo) for the pup tattoos that are simply phenomenal! Gosh there are so many more pups and artists who inspire me though. I really could go on forever.
Where can we find and follow you online?
You can find Raff on insta @pupneedsmore. You can find me other places to, but let’s start there. *smiles wide*