(Photo by Mario De Fina/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Artillery Row

Pups, Furries & Kinksters have no place in Pride

Homosexuals and bisexuals need to unite to put fetishes back in the closet

There’s a new rights movement fighting for acceptance; it seems the latest group to feel excluded from civil society are those with fetishes. Last week the UK Pride Organisers Network sought to embrace “pups, furries and kinksters” into the rainbow family. This followed the publication of a survey by LGBT+ organisation ANIMAGI which concluded representation of fetishists at Pride marches is too low. One can imagine a rallying cry; “Kinksters of the world unite, all you have to gain are chains.”

Unsurprisingly, the social media reaction to the suggestion that fetishists be formally included in Pride marches was somewhat hostile. Many ordinary lesbian, gay and bisexual people who have only latterly shed the stigma of being sexual deviants were angry at the association. Unlike homosexuals, people with fetishes have no history of discrimination so one wonders what further rights or acceptance they wish to gain. As Kate Harris of the LGB Alliance explains:

If anyone decided to take LGB rights back a hundred years, they could not have dreamed up anything more effective. A century ago, we were called inverts; deviants; perverts. We have disproved these ridiculous slurs and by example have shown that LGB people deserve equality under the law and respect in society.

The digital revolution has displaced the boring old suburban sex clubs; allowing like-minded people to meet with greater ease than ever before. The proliferation of fetish communities online has served to make the most peculiar peccadilloes seem normal; from “human dolls”, “furries” and “adult babies” fetishists can now swap tips and pornography in Facebook groups or on specialist sites. Today members of these once hidden subcultures are increasingly coming out, demanding to be recognised as sexual and sometimes social minorities. There are now flags and identities to mark every “gender identity” and sexual disposition. The LGBT+ organisation My Umbrella promotes everything from “age play” to “armpit fetishism”, replete with specially designed symbols and flags. The My Umbrella website proudly displays a partnership with the LGBT Police group; fetishes, it seems, are now respected by the establishment.

“Kink” has been creeping into the mainstream for a while. In a sympathetic interview for The Guardian from 2016 a “human pup,” called Kaz opined “All I want is for the pup community to be accepted … We’re not trying to cause grief to the public, or cause grief to relationships. We’re just the same as any other person on the high street.” There may well be many people on the high street who, like Kaz, squeeze into rubber dog costumes to role play their canine urges, but for the most part they do so in the privacy of their own homes. The lack of social acceptance for public sex acts might be personally frustrating for human pups like Kaz, but it is not comparable to the legal and social barriers faced by generations of lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

The drive to include fetishes in Pride marches is symptomatic of how aimless the “LGBTQ+” movement has become

When it comes to sexual politics the boundary between private and public is fuzzy. For many years risqué gay men have pushed the boundaries of public decency at Pride marches with arse-less chaps and egregious displays of exhibitionism, but arguably the addition of the ‘T’ to the LGB has turbo-charged this trend toward sexual display. It might not be politically correct to admit it, but for many men transgenderism is a form of fetish, a step-up from cross-dressing. Broadly there are two types of men who seek to be seen as women, the first tend to be deeply closeted gay men, the second are what sexologist Ray Blanchard describes in his “Transexualism Typology” as autogynephiles. Autogynephiles are men who are sexually aroused by the thought of themselves as women. It seems public sympathy for the former has opened the door to the latter, and hot on their high-heels a host of fetishes have followed. Being sexually excited by the thought of oneself as a woman, or a rubber-clad sex slave or adult baby might be a genuine urge, but it is quite different from loving someone of the same sex. As transsexual male Debbie Hayton explained in an article for Quilette with disarming honesty:

Autogynephilia drove my own transsexualism. And I can attest that there is huge mental dissonance built up in the brain of a male who somehow is heterosexually attracted to their own body.

Two years ago lesbian protesters were ejected from the Pride in London march for refusing to accept “transbians” (that is, men who identify as lesbian women) in their community. In the same year a photo emerged of police officers smiling whilst holding the leads of adult men dressed in “human-pup” fetish wear. This stark contrast, the expulsion of women protestors and the embrace of male fetishists marked a turning point, with many lesbian, gay and bisexual people leaving Pride marches all together.

The drive to include fetishes in Pride marches is symptomatic of how aimless the “LGBTQ+” movement has become; the passing of same-sex marriage legislation has left advocacy organisations looking for new oppressed groups to represent. With legal equality won, it seems all that is left with regard to the acceptance of sexual minorities is to push against the boundaries of social decency by bringing fetish under the LGB banner. Those who have long been involved with the fight for same-sex equality are not giving up without a fight, Kate Harris of the LGB Alliance explains:

These fetishists try to latch onto our LGB movement to push their own repulsive agenda. They tell us we must be “inclusive” and use catch phrases like “acceptance without exception”. Our message to them is clear – you and your ideas can go elsewhere – you were never part of our movement and never will be. Inclusion and acceptance without exception? We don’t think so.

The early gay and lesbian liberation movements were not just about who one had sex with, they posed wider questions about where homosexuals stand in relation to heterosexual society. It was a given that loving someone of the same sex was a world away from feeling aroused by wearing rubber or frilly pants.

It is not necessarily wrong to judge those who indulge in fetishes that might be harmful to others

Today there is a balance to be struck; identity is a matter of personal choice but when one’s fetish depends upon an audience or public validation “choice” becomes a social matter. Consent should not be assumed, we have a right not to be made bit players in another person’s public fantasy. It seems rules developed by communities of men online are seeping into the real world, potentially threatening the gains made by so many who fought not to be smeared as perverts. Critics are warned not to “kink shame,” and told that questioning public celebration of fetishes is evidence of a sexually repressed and closed mind. In stunning social volte face, shame is reserved for those who question the right to exercise one’s fetish in public. But shame has a useful and protective social function, and when uncoupled from homophobia it is not necessarily wrong to judge those who indulge in fetishes that might be harmful to others. It is high time homosexuals and bisexuals united to push fetishes back in the bedroom closet where they belong.

Enjoying The Critic online? It's even better in print

Try three issues of Britain’s newest magazine for £5

Subscribe
Critic magazine cover