Event review: Recon’s London Fetish Week 2016

This July saw the 7th annual Recon Fetish Week in London. Having been to all of them, since the first one in 2010, it’s interesting to see how the weekend has evolved to be a full week of kinky craziness, and even recently branching out to non-sexual events, such as a film screening and an art display.

My first event was the Best in Show pup play event on Wednesday evening. Held in the club Fire, this was the first time pup play was featured so prominently on the agenda. The main programme of the event was a pup play contest in multiple parts, awarding medals in five categories. All parts of the competition were professionally organised, and went smoothly, but it was evident that many people had not expected a drawn-out, real competition. Also, the lack of any dark room was somewhat noticeable, but then again, life is about improvisation, so I had my fun with a rubbered pup in a suitably dark corner, away from curious eyes.

Thursday featured the ever-present Sportswear Cruising party once again at the Hoist. This has become a fixture on the Thursday programme, and Hoist was again full of hot and sweaty sportsmen. Deviating from my usual plan to wear my Spider-Man suit (Recon explicitly allows this in their written dress code!), I borrowed an American football kit from a friend and went as football pig.

Friday was the oddest evening of the week. Previously, Friday had always featured a general fetish party with a mellow theme, such as the BLF Party, the Black Party or the Into The Tank party, uniting everyone. This year, Recon had made the surprising choice of putting the Skinhead party on Friday evening (and by mistake, having conflicting information about dress code in their publicity). This was held in the back section of Union, and proved to be somewhat small, also without a dedicated darkroom. Also, the Hoist had a roleplay-intensive private event on the evening so there were no close-by options. Putting a niche event such as Skinhead on Friday evening is a dubious choice, and the Skinhead event should be moved back to its normal place as a daytime bar event.

Also on Friday was the Fetish Dinner, at the Counter at Vauxhall. I don’t know anything about food, and I don’t pretend to, as the event is more about socialising than food. My burger was great though.

Saturday was the much-anticipated Full Fetish at the Coronet, for the last time since the venue will be closed soon. Everything was functional in the party, which is no small feat, so kudos to Recon for that.

Sunday featured the standard double-event of the Rubber Party and Deconstruction. The Rubber Party was once again at the Union, although this time with rather demotivated staff, serving customers as slowly as possible and showing little enthusiasm for the event. In contrast, the security people were the funniest and energetic I’ve seen in a long while.

Overall, Recon’s Fetish Week has established itself as the European go-to event competing with other major events such as the Easter or Folsom Europe in Berlin. It will be seen what the venue for Full Fetish will be next year. With a few schedule adjustments, Recon has an amazing concept in its hands.


Secret Life of the Human Pups: Balanced?

The Channel Four documentary Secret Life of the Human Pups (Firecracker Films 2016, produced and directed by Guy Simmonds) is a rare glimpse into the world of human pups.

Doing its best to show pups in their normal environment and letting them do the most talking (or barking), the documentary follows a few pups in the course of their normal lives, and also highlights Mr. Puppy UK’s participation in the Mr. Pup Europe competition. Certain public events are also portrayed.

Before the release of the documentary, the pup community anticipated an exploitative scandal, and possibly an public outrage, with many pups hiding their online personas and psyching them ready for a free-for-all. In stark contrast, the documentary presents a relatively neutral portrait of a few pups, and lets the viewers make their own conclusions.

Why only relatively neutral? The documentary does its best to avoid any discussion of sexuality, being only slightly alluded to in a discussion of pup play’s roots in BDSM. Pup play is strongly portrayed as a non-sexual hobby, only there to provide a safe headspace where to escape the daily grind. As anyone exposed to the pup scene knows, this is an omission. A lot of pups play either partly or solely for sexual purposes, deriving sexual pleasure out of the pup gear, or using pup gear to facilitate other sexual practises.

This is an understandable omission, considering the context of the documentary. It is hard enough to introduce the greater public into pup play on the innocent side, let alone show what happens to pups in the back rooms of kinky cruising parties. However, documentaries are judged by their impartialness and balance, not as adverts. The discussion about sexuality is analogous to the furry community’s eternal divide between non-sexual furries and sexual furries.

The most outstanding element of the documentary is the carefully composed cinematography, soundtrack, and narration, serving to bring the viewer into the same peaceful headspace the pups themselves seek to immerse in.

All in all, the documentary is valuable in a broader sense as it exposes the general public into the not-so-usual sexual practises, and it can be argued that the time is not yet right for public to see the full spectrum of pup play, so for now, we are stuck with the fluffy part.