Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Puppy Packs - How Does that Work?

This picks up a little bit from where my last blog post was, but it also is a reply to some mail which asked:

“My mind has been circling around forming a pack a little before, but mostly after your demo for us. What little time I have been on fet lately searching out info has been fruitless. Could you tell me a little about the formation process, vetting, initiation and such.”

Great question!  First: There is no one way.  There is no true way.  These are just my own thoughts, but ultimately it’s about what works for you and yours.  Nobody is going to kick you out of the puppy clubhouse b/c you’re “doing” your pack wrong.

So I would suggest a few things:

First, a puppy pack is different from a Victorian-style “house.”  This family structure has been mostly popular among the het BDSM community (although you’ll find overlap w/ the gay community).  In a Victorian manner house (you’ve all seen Dowton Abbey) you have your upstairs and your downstairs.  The upstairs people are the Doms and the downstairs are the subs… but w/in each grouping you also have a hierarchy in place.  So you have the Top-Dom and the next in line… You have the equivalent of the “head butler” (sometimes called the “alpha slave”) on down to the lowly scullery maid.

The second common family structure from traditional leather is the military-styled biker gang.  You know the legend:  Gay WWII vets return from the war, are mostly processed out in NYC or San Francisco, and, missing the structure and male camaraderie of the military lifestyle, they form the first gay, leather motorcycle gangs.  They were characterized by:
  • Paramilitary biker uniforms, insignias, patches, and pins
  • The custom of exchanging insignias/pins w/ friendly clubs
  • Christening rituals (pissing on a new bike… or a new member)
  • Dress leathers inspired by the military dress uniform
  • Ritual formalism and lots of rules and protocols
  • Exclusivity meant to keep outsiders out
  • You started at the bottom (as a submissive probie) and had to earn your way up (to Master)
  • Earning leather through challenging “scenes”
  • Switches were second class b/c they “hadn’t made up their minds”
  • Of course: no girls allowed

Puppy packs are a modern (AKA New Guard or New Leather… mostly TNG) thing that breaks from both of those dynamics in a few ways.  If you want to start by asking what does a puppy pack look like, then I’d suggest you check out the TV show Teen Wolf.  It’s one of my favorite shows, and their werewolf pack is basically a puppy pack w/ super powers.

Another source would be wikipedia’s entry on canine packs:

Just to highlight some of the differences between packs vs. houses and leather clubs:
  • Less rigid hierarchy, more up-and-down movement
  • Less clear definition of roles or positions
  • More fluidity in D/s dynamics and switching
  • Less protocols
  • More traffic in-and-out (easier to join or leave; less vetting)
  • More complex “polycules” – networks of poly relationships branching off various ways, so that A might be in a relationship w/ B and C, but B and C might not have any relationship w/ one-another.

Canine packs are structured as Alpha(s), betas and omegas.

Alphas:  In actual wolf packs you usually have only one alpha male and alpha female, but human packs could have more than one… or you could have an Alpha pup and a Handler who are different, or different pups in the pack might have different Owners/Handlers, etc.  Alpha pups are Dominants (or switches in a D-role) and often sadists (although not necessarily).  Dominance in pup packs is usually established more organically than in leather houses or clubs – perhaps w/o identifying titles (“Sir”) or insignias of rank… although these may be used and some packs might be more structured than others.  (I always refer to my Alpha as “Sir” but not all of my pack mates do so.)

Betas:  The beta pups are submissive to the Alphas but dominant (at least in some sense) over omegas.  These D/s structures are usually looser than in traditional M/s relationships.  One of the trademarks (and fun) of a puppy pack is (in my experience) the way the betas constantly spar amongst themselves for ever-fluctuating Top/bottom positioning.  This can be seen in a mosh where the betas are often playfully trying to pin or mount one-another or steal one-another’s toys.  It can also be seen in the way Alpha’s orders get followed.  Often when our Alpha gives an order we start playfully fighting over who does it.  Frequently our Sir has said, “You all work it out amongst yourselves. I don’t care, as long as it gets done.”

Omegas:  Traditionally viewed as the weakest wolves/dogs, in a human puppy pack they might be the most submissive.  They get all their toys stolen in the mosh pit and usually end up having to carry their pack mates’ bags and gear around.  Frequently they are also the new kids: younger and less experienced than the other pups.  I’ve had two omegas (aged 22 and 23, considerably younger than myself) and I liked to refer to them as “the kids” or “the children” just to tease them.  I said betas are dominant over omegas, but this might not look like a traditional D/s dynamic.  I’m not a switch and don’t have a D-mode, so my relationships w/ my omegas has been more like mentor/mentee or big brother/little brother.  My current omega has his Fet status as “protected by” me, and that’s a better description than “submissive to” b/c he’s not so much my submissive as my little brother who I’m teaching, advising, and looking out for… and fucking; there’s also fucking.

How much protocol or structure does your pack need?  How much vetting or ritual is required to become a member?  Again, your mileage will vary; do what works for you and yours.  Our pack a has a more clearly defined “inner circle” denoted by our matching patches on our vests (we took that tradition from Traditional Leather – steal what works for you), and we each wear a breed pin (wolfhound, Saint Bernard, Dalmatian, etc.) and bone-shaped name tag on our vests… but we also have a more nebulous “expansion pack” and “extended family” structure swirling around us, which has more fluidity of pups, Handlers and partners coming and going.  Those w/ the pack vest have been around and demonstrated more commitment to the pack – this happens naturally (w/o a specific process) for us b/c the vests aren’t cheap and take about 10 months to get from the time you place the order, so only the pups who have really proven themselves and been w/ us for over a year get one.

Finally, one specific question I’ve been asked is, “Can you have kittens in your puppy pack?”  (And extrapolate this to: Can you have furries?  Can you have girls?  Can you have straight people?)  Again: ultimately it’s about what works for you and yours.  Modern kinksters, by and large, are much more about ‘do it your own way’ and more accepting of diversity.  My pack covers a range of ages, genders, sexual orientations, and breeds – and includes one female were-tiger.

I’d love to hear thoughts from others about how you pack works.  Email or comment.  And may your paws never slip.

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