Autistic Traits of People Who Engage in Pup Play: Occurrence, Characteristics and Social Connections

Liam Wignall, Rachel Moseley, Mark McCormack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pup play is a kink or BDSM activity and subculture that provides opportunities for social and sexual play and exploration. While growing scholarly attention has focused on the diverse dynamics of pup play cultures, and reasons for participation within them, no research has considered how pup play may be attractive for neurodivergent people. This study sample consisted of 413 pup play practitioners from an international internet survey to examine the occurrence of autistic traits and explore characteristics and social connections of people with autistic traits who engage in pup play. Autistic traits were assessed using the Autism-Spectrum Quotient-Short Form (AQ-S), with 1 in 2 participants reporting a score that is indicative of an autism diagnosis, substantially higher than the prevalence of autism in the general population (1 in 44). Using linear and multinomial regression analyses, we found that people with high autistic traits preferred non-flexible roles in pup play, had lower identity resilience, and more restricted sociosexuality. People with high autistic traits were also less likely to belong to pup play social communities or to closer-knit family/pack units despite wishing to and were also less likely to have a strong identification with pup play communities than people with low AQ-S scores. While these findings need to be treated as preliminary based on methodological and sample limitations, this research demonstrates the importance of considering intersections between autistic traits and sexual subcultures and provides evidence that sexuality research would be enhanced by a more inclusive approach to considering neurodivergence more broadly.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
JournalJournal of Sex Research
Publication statusPublished - 3 Aug 2023


  • autism
  • neurodivergence
  • bdsm
  • kink
  • identity
  • psychology
  • pup play

Cite this