I caught up with Howl — a sex and relationship coach who’s also deep into BDSM, including pet play. While most pet play focuses on puppies, Howl is exploring their feline side.
When did you start to explore your big cat persona?
When I was a little kid — I was running around pretending to be different animals and role playing as characters from all the movies, shows, and books I was consuming. That’s typical for many kids, but I guess I just never stopped.
I started to formally explore the feline persona when I got a little deeper into BDSM and pet play about ten years ago. I’d seen puppies before at fetish conventions, but I didn’t identify much with a dog. Also, I incorrectly associated it exclusively with master/slave dynamics — it hadn’t exploded on the internet yet. But even as I learned more about puppy play, what I was seeing didn’t quite fit with my image of myself.
My Daddy at the time helped me to realise my interest in training and teaching. I still wanted to be some kind of animal, and I’d always been more of a cat person — both in preference and personality. That’s how Howl emerged. Being a cat really seemed to fit well with my style of dominance. I hadn’t seen anyone else doing it, but I tend to do what I want. Often, when I share with people that I was a big cat, the most common response is — ‘Oh wow, is that a thing?’
What is it about cats that really connects with you?
Most things — from their general behaviour, to their look. I’m very similar in personality to my favourite cats. ‘Cats don’t have owners, they have staff!’ is a saying that I share quite a bit. I feel like cats are complicated creatures, easily misunderstood and disliked, but cherished by many people. I also feel that big cats rule the animal kingdom, which I admire and respect.
When do you unleash Howl?
I’ve used Howl to resist the need to compartmentalise everything — especially where there’s opportunities to make connections and bend rules. Even my art practice — music and sound design — is extremely experimental and blends genres. Howl is a combination of so many communities and fandoms that I love.
I express Howl in the dungeons, commissioned art, sex, in the nightlife scene, the furry fandom, erotica, and even in public. I teach sex education and kink education, so Howl is even part of my professional work occasionally.
To create Howl, I’ve taken different pieces that I like from the worlds of BDSM, King, and pet play, and left out what doesn’t make sense for me.
I’m a furry with no intention over being a fursuitor, but I love to still dress up as my character and express it in other ways. I wear a lot of latex and leather, which isn’t always common or even welcome in the furry fandom. I still get art commissioned, both fetish and non, where I feature Howl as a furry, a human in gear, and hybrids of pet play and furry life. I wear gear outside of the dungeon and fetish cons. I wear heels because it makes me feel like a cat, with digitigrade feet paws.
You spend a lot of time in the club scene. How does Howl relate to drag?
I love drag and club life. I started go-go dancing and doing boylesque at a young age. I spend a lot of time in the clubs, so I bring Howl into that. In the nightlife and drag world, hyper gender-based portrayals or other illusions are common. Their looks are a major element and almost always change, and a lot of folks host and perform as their drag persona. Howl’s look doesn’t change much, similar to that of an anime or cartoon character who looks the same every episode. I don’t use makeup to create gender illusions, lipsync, tuck, or pad. I do push for a hyper illusion of an animal through my fetish gear, wear heels and nails, fuck with gender, host parties, and perform with club kids and people who do drag.
Why is pet play something that appeals to a lot of guys?
Pet Play doesn’t just appeal to guys, but it’s way too easy to feel that way. While gay white men specifically are celebrated more and dominate the airwaves and news-feeds, they’re not the only ones interested in or playing around with animal role play. Pet Play has a lot to offer, and plenty of folks are drawn to it because there’s so much there.
For a lot of folks in my circle, it’s a form of stress management. It’s something that can be fun and entertaining. It can introduce social codes for folks who may struggle with socialising, or just appreciate alternatives. There are healthier models for how to exist on the power spectrum than the abuse that we often see in wider normative culture.
For some it can be sexually arousing, while others don’t mix sexual tones in their play. People find purpose, confidence, notoriety, escapism, and authorship over who they are. Pet play allows people to take things within and express them safely in this way, as well as being a vehicle towards qualities they aspire to.
My approach is definitely a mixture of things, sexual and otherwise. It’s an opportunity for me to call on leadership and organisational skills, mentor others, as well as feel powerful and mystical.
Is the Marvel character of Black Panther your ultimate fantasy?
Black Panther is a major inspiration for Howl. From the actual animal, to the political party, as well as the Marvel comic book character — Black Panther has a lot to do with who I am. However, in my conception, Howl is a royal super villain instead of a hero.
When it comes to hooking up with guys, are you only connecting with guys who are into pet play?
I’m pansexual and very kinky, so I play with all types of folks. While BDSM is a major component of my sexuality, I don’t engage in BDSM with everyone I play with. Pet play is actually a relatively small percentage of my interest and attraction. I’m usually most interested in other queer people of colour.
I play with a lot of puppies for sure, but not exclusively. I have lots of fetishes, but my cat social media is all about a cat as supreme ruler, which in my mind is exactly how a cat would post.
Is there a difference in what you feel when you’re having sex with someone as your cat persona, compared to when you’re having sex with someone just as you?
I definitely don’t go into a cat head-space in every sexual interaction. Though there is some crossover. In non-kinky situations, some of my sexual behaviours are still very cat-like and primal. I love to bite, scratch, growl, be in control, and tap into that inner-animal, because those are natural responses for me when I’m aroused. Though I definitely don’t bring that persona out fully and formally outside of BDSM scenes.
If someone was interested in starting to explore pet play, what advice would you give them?
People should do their research. It’s important to identify what elements are appealing to you, and what things you’re less interested in. I couldn’t tell you how many people I’ve come across who aren’t exploring strong areas of interest because they’re so caught up on the elements they don’t connect with, not realising that they can omit those things. I meet people all the time who say things like — ‘I love the idea of puppy play, but I don’t like it sexually…’ and my response is — ‘Then don’t bring it to the bedroom, pet play isn’t inherently sexual.’
I also think it’s important to actually find some way to play as that animal — or with the animal if your role is to be the handler. Getting on the ground, being pet and fed, getting art made, writing stories, pet nicknames, making the sounds, having folks interact with you in the way you’d like — these things are all so important!
I see people drop a lot of money on gear to express or validate an identity that they’ve hardly formulated or haven’t intimately connected with. Gear is fun and exciting, but it doesn’t have to be everything for everyone, especially right away. I come across way too many people who don’t go to events because they feel that they don’t have enough gear.
What are some of your goals and ambitions for the months ahead?
I’m going to be doing a lot more public education, performances, and fetish demonstrations. I especially love doing these in spaces that aren’t traditionally kinky. Some of the major highlights for later this year include some teaching at Great Lakes Leather Alliance, Montreal Fetish Weekend, and a European tour. I’m also working on some national education initiatives with Kink.Com.
I’m also reviving a major project of mine — Sex Out Loud Live. It’s a gathering space for candid conversations about our sex, love, and intimacy. The program includes panels, community discussions, sexual health resources, and performances. The cool part is that it takes place in non-traditional education spaces, such as nightclubs.
By trade, I’m a social worker who focuses on relationship education. I’m also working towards becoming a Sex Therapist, plus I offer sex and relationship coaching. I’ve recently introduced the option to work with clients online, as Howl.
We want to hear your opinion
Welcome to planet Akeron
Sandy Pianim from Recon sits down with body modfication specialists Alex and Yan to talk tattoos and fetish.
Tattoos & Piercings are a fetish interest we rarely get to shine a light on at Recon. So, when we met this French couple during Fetish Week London 2017 we knew that we’d eventually sit down with them to discuss what it is about body modification that makes them tick. Welcome to planet Akeron!
Alex and Yan are so distinctly different from everything around them in Nice – the sunny city on the French Riviera where they are based and run their tattoo and piercing business, Akeron Body Mod – that their impact is all the more powerful. As rare fetish visitors, we’re greeted with warmth and excitement, though this greeting would extend to all. “We wanted to create a safe space for anyone… for fetish people or not. To offer them the opportunity to do body mods, tattoos, [and] piercings in a non-judgemental place – which is very important and to help people with their journey.” Alex tells us.
It’s evident that the pair have been on quite a journey of self-discovery together and regard themselves as aliens, which is fitting given their appearance.
“When I met Yan he only had one tattoo and two piercings” Alex says “So I helped him modify his appearance. I’ve been into body piercing and modification since I was 14 and I got my first heavy body mod when I was 18”
Yan recounts his first piercings “I did my first piercings myself, my labret and naval, I was like 16. [Though] I also had my ears pierced when I was 12.”
We asked them what they like about modifying themselves and Yan explains, “For us it’s not a real fetish, It’s a way of life. We don’t think about it, we live for tattoos and piercings. It’s a passion for us. It’s a way of freedom”
The themes of freedom and self-expression are evident in their desire to have more done. “As you get older you discover yourself and try a lot of things. It wasn’t fashion.” Trying to find the words to describe how they enjoy pushing their limits in English, Yan jokes “We like to stretch holes! Sometimes on Sunday we don’t have anything to do then it’s like ‘Oh why don’t we do some scarification today? OK!’ Or a new piercing or a new tattoo.”
They must have a lot of free Sundays, as they’re covered head to toe with a variety of modifications. This approach also gets us wondering if they had any limits. Alex says, “Everything I said no to when I was younger, I ended up doing anyway, so never say never. We don’t like limits.”
How this lack of limits translates into their sex life seems a salient point, so we ask what their other fetish interests are. Alex discovered his love for rubber and bondage from some guys he met on Recon in Nice about five years ago. He also mentions that he loves deep throating. “I would say it’s my main talent in life!” Yan interjects jokingly, referring to the movie Alien, “And I’m a face hugger!”
If you’re wondering how they manage to have sex with all their piercings, Yan fills us in, “It’s horrible to fuck with all our piercings. You cannot suck. There is always something that goes wrong…” Alex interrupts with his disagreement of this, but Yan continues “He’s lost a lot of piercings. Always losing piercings!” Alex concedes this point. “I used to have some high Monroe piercings with tiny balls when I did them. Maybe one or two days after I got them, Yan was fucking my mouth, the balls came in and it went so bad! He can’t help himself. He likes to make me suffer. He’s a bit of a sadist.”
Not only have they evolved together with regards to their body modification, but Alex continues with telling us how Yan helped him evolve sexually. “When I met Yan, I was mostly top and then he forced me into being a greedy bottom. I discovered anal pleasure with him. I’m very thankful for it because now I enjoy it from both top and bottom. I would never have imagined being here four years ago. It’s constant evolution.”
Alex has a list set out in his mind about what he wants his next evolutions to be. “I want my labret cut again, I would love my conch removed, I would like my eyes touched up, my tongue split a bit more, my nipples removed, my naval removed, and my dick implants with some silicone work. Not silicone injections, silicone implants… bits and ribs. I would like a lot of silicone work on my arms as well and facial scarification, more facial tattoos done… a lot of stuff.”
One might think that even after all they’ve done that the pain associated with these procedures is second nature. They both exclaim, “Of course we feel the pain!” Alex continues, “I don’t enjoy pain at all, I’m just willing to get through it for the results.”
The couple have to deal with people’s perception of them and whilst we hang out we notice people’s reaction to them more and more. Yan reasons, “The fact is that we haven’t invented anything, it’s just modification that has been around for thousands of years.” When they feel like people think they’re odd or scary Alex’s response is, “…I say thank you. It’s definitely not my point to be scary, but if that’s the perception from others then ok, I don’t care.”
One of the most noticeable reasons why people stop and stare could be due to their most dramatic modification: their eyes. “In a lot of sci-fi movies what makes the difference between humans and every animal or extra-terrestrial thing is the eye colour. It definitely changes you. It takes the humanity away, and that’s what I really like about it” says Alex. Yann adds, “The day after, it felt like we were reborn.”
Alex’s shares his view with us. “We don’t live for other people. I can understand their reaction, as they’re not used to seeing people like us, but we’re here to open minds.” Yann adds, “And that we are free, it’s a free country, it’s important for us. Some humans are not free today. People cannot be themselves. We are lucky to be here and to be free, together as gays. We can do what we want so we have to enjoy it.”
We love Akeron’s spirit and energy and encourage people to go to Nice to visit them and their shop or reach out to them on Recon or social media with any tattoo, piercing or body modification questions and queries.
Photos by Joaquin Bielsa for Recon
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