Holidays & Travel

What is ‘raw-dogging’ on flights and would you try it?

It sounds saucy but a new trend for airborne travel could actually be good for your mental wellbeing, says Sarah Marshall.

Raw-dogging gives your mind the ultimate break on a flight
Man on plane looking out of the window (Alamy/PA) Raw-dogging gives your mind the ultimate break on a flight (Alamy Stock Photo)

Imagine the scenario: you’ve boarded an eight-hour flight to New York and buckled up to discover the in-flight entertainment is bust, you’ve forgotten to pre-order a veggie meal and your phone/laptop/tablet has died. Worse still, it’s a morning departure, so sleeping through the entire journey isn’t even an option.

For most travellers, the idea of spending a lengthy stretch in the air with nothing to do would be recourse for calling mayday. But a new breed of frequent flyers is actively choosing to abstain from any kind of interaction on flights. Known as ‘raw-dogging’, the trend is sweeping through social media faster than a Concorde.

Switch off, zone out

Despite the easily mistakable sexual connotations (no, this isn’t a perverse act of initiation into the mile-high club), there’s nothing remotely stimulating about the activity. Quite the opposite, in fact. Akin to a Buddhist monk slipping into Zen-like meditation, quiet euphoria is achieved by switching off, zoning out and staring into space.

Gazing at back-screen maps could be a form of therapy
Gazing at back-screen maps could be a form of therapy (Alamy Stock Photo)

Weirdly, the bizarre behaviour has been linked mainly to men. According to GQ, a 26-year-old Londoner named West kickstarted the idea with a viral post bragging about seven hours of fly-time spent gazing at a seat screen map.

“Anyone else bareback flights?” he wrote. Responding to ‘how to’ calls from intrigued followers, he’s since posted more educational ‘raw flight’ videos, including an empty 21-hour stint from London to Perth.

Ultimate challenge

Some converts claim raw-dogging helps them deal with a fear of flying, others see airborne abstinence as some sort of challenge, channelling the martyrdom of a priest about to enter a religious order.

“In-flight entertainment? You can watch that stuff anywhere. You know what you can’t do everyday? Look out the window and see how small things become as you get further away from the earth. It’s incredible,” a prescient  @KennethAzor posted on X back in 2022.

Others have praised the appreciation of golden silence and gaining enlightenment.

Raw dogging appears to be a predominantly male trend
Raw dogging appears to be a predominantly male trend (Alamy Stock Photo)

There are medical benefits as well. Doctors have, after all, repeatedly emphasised the importance of letting our minds rest.

“Our brains are like sponges,” claims psychologist Dr. Scott Bea, writing for the Cleveland Clinic. “They can only soak up so much information before they’re saturated, then they have to dry out a bit.”

If fasting is good for the body, why can’t it be beneficial to our minds too?

Personally, I’ve spent multiple flights drooling over the on-screen map, fantasising about future travel plans, or staring out of the window on clear days to see snow-capped mountain peaks below. Being on a plane, knowing nobody can reach me for a number of hours is incredibly relaxing. Why spoil that pleasure with a disgusting meal, cheap wine and a sub-standard blockbuster?

Free therapy

There’s a benefit to creative thinking too. Some of my best ideas have materialised during those long, empty, distraction-free stretches. People pay thousands to therapists for mental health sessions, or for retreats in far-flung Himalayan ashrams.

But the same results can arguably be achieved in a metal tube 9,000 metres above the ground, taking you on a journey far beyond the destination typed on your ticket and baggage tags.