Yesterday I responded to a tweet of the awesome Pup Bolt who was wondering if pup play was going out of fashion and what is going to be the next big thing in the fetish world. My response got me so many direct messages that I decided to blog about it.
As an economist specializing in marketing and minor in sociology, I am focusing on these aspects. If you have gotten a profound sociological or psychological opinion on this topic, please share it! Also, in order to not make this post too long and overly academic I made some generalizations.
In my response tweet I call pup play a “macro trend” which is a governing set of actions, believes and looks prevailing for years. A macro trend can have many micro/ sub trends like this case wearing Mr S Neoprene pup hoods with individual color schemes. In order to make an educated guess what the Next Big Kink could be, let’s take a look why and how trends emerge.
Among other things human behavior is driven by the urge to belong to a group of people and to express one self. So people tend to gravitate to groups which have a strong internal cohesion and differentiate themselves against the rest of the population (being a so called in-group against the majority which is call out-group). All trends start out as a small in-group which through different means gain momentum until at some point the majority looses interest, a small “hardcore” in-group remains, some elements have been integrated in the out-group for good and a new trend emerges.
Let’s look at four major means which facilitate a small nice in-group becoming a major trend:
- Accessibility: The lower the entrance barrier, the more likely it is people are going to adopt elements of the trend. Entrance barriers can be necessary investments in paraphernalia like likes cloths or accessories, having to travel to events or the nature of association messages which are accepted by the in-group.
Pup Play Example: In order to belong to the pup community, one has just to call himself a pup. Different sub-groups have higher entrance barriers like owning a tail or a hood.
Desirability and Rewards: Openly associating oneself with a group allows for certain assumptions what a stranger can expect from a person and thus influences the interaction with this person (so called halo effect). If the reputation or the actions which result out of these assumptions are considered desirable, more people will gravitate towards the in-group.
Pup Play Example: Getting affection like scritches, lowering the barriers to interact with stranger or being allowed to leave the conventions and responsibility of everyday live behind and behave like a dog for a period of time is considered desirable by many people.
- Exposure and Self-Affirmation: The more exposure in mass and nowadays social media a trend and its rewards gets, the more people know about its existence and can decide to join. The degree of exposure depends on the “novelty factor”, meaning how much news or shock value or escape (pleasure of doing something other than the everyday routine) a media item has and thus how likely it will be read. In order to create cohesion expressions of belonging to the in-group is rewarded by its members with a kind of attention people crave called resonance.
Pup Play Example: Pup Play has been featured in all major types of media in the western world. Posting a picture of playing pups or a new hood on social media usually causes a bunch of positive feedback, boosting the poster’s ego.
- Commercialization: As soon as an in-group leaves its initial small niche, businesses try to commercialize on the trend, lowering the entrance barriers, giving it exposure and structuring the scene. Through product selection and advertising business construct the image what it takes for an outsider to enter the scene because from a certain point of time on businesses are more vocal than the initial in-group. At this point of time, it is not uncommon for the initial in-group members to distance themselves from the trend because it has changed so much.
Pup Play Example: Mr S through renaming their bondage mitts “Puppy Mitts”, their many pup hood and muzzle designs and selection of tails, had a big influence on what springs to mind when the word “Pup” is mentioned. That this image is subjected to change over time in relation to products can easily be seen here: 5 years ago many people associate the Mr S Woof Muzzle with the word “Pup”, today it is their Neoprene Puppy Hood.
Looking at social media postings, reports on the pup community and interviews with community members for most pup players the relinquishing of self control and just entering a primal state of mind is what draws them towards this kind of play. This is a logical response to a world with an ever-increasing complexity. Two in-groups have gotten increasing presence in the kink community over the past two years which would continue this trend: Gimps/ drones and fisting. The gimp/ drone trend is pushing the de-humanization to the max: Not being expected to do anything but just being an anonymous object is the ultimate state for leaving the stressful world behind. Fisting is triggering a primal sexuality which blends out everything else. The intense sexual feelings go along with the increasing desire for hedonism in most developed countries. Both trends have low entrance barriers, their media is getting big exposure in social media and according responses and after all through cat/ gimp suits (and for drone play most commonly e-stim and milking machines) and anal toys for fisting the trends are commercialized.
But: Will there be a new macro trend at all? With the rise of the internet in the past 20 years the way trends emerge has changed. Before the internet means of mass communication were expensive and there was no egalitarian access to the publishing industry. Thus only few trends emerged and people gravitated towards them. The infinite way of communication and organization of the internet lead what is called the “Long Tail” (no pup pun intended). People who otherwise never would have gotten in contact are now in touch, forming their small in-groups around the globe, giving them a level of cohesion and thus satisfaction from it, making them independent of macro trends. In the end the internet solved to some extended the coordination problem, through the individual combination of in-group behavior the expectations fade creating an increasing transformation problem.
While this is all interesting from an academic point of view, do not think too much about it but go out, be kink and have all the fun you want.