As part of the four-day fetish festival Darklands in the Waagnatie, a ‘Puppy Walk’ was also held for the first time on Sunday afternoon. About two hundred puppies and their companions walked through the streets of Antwerp together. Leather masks on, leashes on, sometimes barking in a group. “We are very happy that we can share our fetish here with each other.”
Darklands is a multi-day indoor festival for fetishists that combines entertainment, workshops, parties and education. This year, for the first time, a Puppy Walk was included. Puppies and their handlers (supervisors) left around noon at the Falconplein to end an hour later at the Waagnatie, where the festival started its last day.
Flexx (52) also walked along with his partner. “It’s my first time doing this,” he says. “Two and a half years ago I joined this community. I got to know someone who was a puppy and that did something to me,” says the Dutchman. “I bought a puppy mask and my fetish was born. Being a puppy gives me a sense of freedom.” It is now the third time that he descends to Darklands. “I think this is a great festival. It’s nice to see that there are so many different fetishes and that it’s all okay. That is very inspiring.”
In the parade, almost exclusively men. Every now and then they stop, a group photo is taken and collective dog noises are imitated. Then they walk again. “We are proud that we can express who we are here today and that there is no judgment about it”, say Tom (36) and his play partner (32) who bears the puppy name Xian. “This gives us a sense of freedom.” A puppy friend adds: “The world is becoming more and more prudish and then it is nice that this is possible.”
Tom has been part of the puppy community for twelve years, Xian for two years. “It started for me looking up things online and chatting with others,” Tom says. “But here we can share each other’s fetish in real life, away from the online happening. That is good, because of course there is not always someone who lives in your street who shares the same fetish with you.”
With a mask in the Belgian tricolor and with a ‘Puppy Belgium’ ribbon draped around his waist, Aston (20) is also walking along. The Brit of origin has been living in Brussels for a long time. “I’ve been part of the community for a year, but I’ve been doing pup play for about three years now. my friend is my handler† We got to know each other online, on a fetish dating site, and turned out to have the same interest.”
Two weeks ago Aston was elected ‘Puppy Belgium’. “Both the audience and a fetish lifestyle jury cast their votes. Among other things, I had to answer questions and reveal my talent. I sang a homemade song about puppy play. Winning that race felt very surreal for a week.”
But now he wants to use that title to represent the interests of his community, he says. “Pup play isn’t just about sex. Sometimes we just bark at each other, cuddle with each other, hold a training session or organize a regular game night in puppy outfit. For me this is a way to escape from everyday problems. Today you see here almost exclusively men. I would like to broaden that group in the future. Our community is growing. There are thousands of puppies but most people don’t dare to come out with them. We would like to see that differently.”