"You Make Me Wanna" is a column celebrating pop culture-fueled sexual awakenings—from crushing on cartoon characters to humping pillows while watching boyband videos.
Maybe it was the fur? It could have been the fur. That luscious, caramel coat: scarred, peppered with moles, and lightly weathered from all its years on the streets.
Or maybe it was his smile? That dangerous grin, which somehow managed to strike the perfect balance between naughty and nice, tender and menacing.
For those who aren’t following, I’m talking about Charlie—full name Charlie B. Barkin—from the 1989 classic musical-comedy film All Dogs Go To Heaven. As the title suggests, Barkin was a dog—but he was also the first creature that made me feel anything in my vagina.
My sexual awakening was never going to be conventional. As the much loved, socially awkward child of a single mother, male role models remained almost exclusively on my peripheries. There was no solid father figure, no Freudian male to help form my desires—just a strange amalgam of cultural signifiers that tried to tell me what my ideal partner should be. Obviously, looking back, it’s clear that I read them all wrong.
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My fascination with cartoon dogs began with the Disney cartoon character Goofy. As a six-year-old, I had an unhealthy fixation on Mickey Mouse’s fedora-wearing friend. I re-watched his films, slept with his picture under my pillow, and would regularly daydream about us teaming up and going on adventures together. It never strayed into anything sexual at the time, but it was certainly an early indication of the obsessive little creep I would one day morph into.
This led to Charlie B. Barkin, who I discovered at the age of eight. Voiced by ’70s dream daddy Burt Reynolds, his All Dogs Go To Heaven character served as a natural successor to Goofy, whose dumb jokes and tiresome naiveté quickly began to wear thin. In Charlie, I finally found a dog who was older, tougher, more clued up—a charming canine con-artist with a feather-light heart.
While I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I started getting hot over this fictional dog drawing, I do know that he marked a significant starting point in my sexual development. The way I thought about Charlie was completely different to the way I thought about other cartoons. While I wasn’t aware what sex was, I knew that his roguish appeal was exciting. This was a way more interesting character than most of the pale and stale princes Disney had been drawing up. This was a brave dog. A complex dog. A dog who had seen things.
Thoughts of Charlie began filling my mind. Then, Simba from The Lion King got involved. He was eventually joined by the fox from Disney’s Robin Hood. I started dreaming up strange scenarios where I would explore forests with them, chill out in dens, and eat spaghetti by bonfires.
Soon, the fantasies became weirder and more twisted. I’d imagine myself being kidnapped, and trapped in strange devices that left me helpless (my sweet fox-dog hybrid would of course save me in the nick of time). Jafar, from Disney's 1992 classic Aladdin, soon started making appearances. Eventually I stopped caring about characters altogether, and focused more on power dynamics and understanding what was and wasn’t taboo. There were no set rules, no gender roles, and hardly any faces in these fantasies. They were abstract, fluid, and ridiculous.
I’m told, believe it or not, that this isn’t all that weird. Anthropomorphism—which refers to non-human entities who are given human traits or characteristics—has such a wide appeal that it’s managed to spawn an entire subculture in the shape of Furries, who dress up as animal characters and congregate at specialist events, with thousands of members across the world. There’s even a more specific term, schediaphilia, for people who dream of getting dirty with cartoons from their childhood.
In my case, these furry cartoon fantasies got straightened out relatively quickly. As the years passed, my desires became more and more vanilla. The attraction to lovable, cartoon dogs developed into an attraction to lovable, cartoonish men. I felt myself being drawn to larger-than-life characters who were loyal, strong, stupidly masculine, and had a juvenile sense of humor.
I do sometimes wonder, though, what would have happened if I’d carried on misreading all the sexual signposting that was being spoon-fed to me by society. How would my sexual desires developed if I was given absolutely free reign? If nothing had held me back? Could I have gone Furry? Do I actually like men? Is there a part of me that would rather be alone in the woods, masturbating with a bunch of wild dogs? The questions are endless.
For now, though, I’ll settle with the cartoonish men. And hopefully a dog. I really want a dog.