This is a write-up of an educational presentation on ageplay that I gave for Headspace, a BDSM organization located in Bloomington, Indiana, on July 29, 1998.
Tonight's topic is ageplay. No, not edge play, ageplay ... which could be edge play too, for some people.
Ageplay is a form of (usually) erotic roleplaying in which at least one participant plays the role of someone with a different age. Some examples are playing the role of a baby (often called infantilism), a child, a teen, a college-aged person, or even someone older than oneself, but this is not an exhaustive list. The role you play is limited only by your imagination!
My name is Tom Lee. I'm married to Tammy Jo Eckhart, whom some of you know, and I am into really good and really bad movies, science fiction, Tarot cards, writing, computers, languages, and infantilism.
Medically speaking, infantilism means remaining in an immature state, either physically or mentally, and this is the definition one finds in most dictionaries and medical references. That's not the meaning I'm going to use here, though. To people in the scene, infantilism means one of two things. It can mean the type of ageplay that involves roleplaying as a baby in one way or another (there are many variations), as I've already mentioned. It can also mean the fetish or attraction to this type of play (this fetish is called autonepiophilia). Sometimes people with this fetish call themselves adult babies, often abbreviated to "ABs." Some psychologists have coined the term "paraphilic infantilism" to describe this, but I'm not sure it's widely accepted in the medical community. Although infantilism is mostly what I know, this talk is going to be about ageplay in general; I'll speak as broadly as I can.
One word about those involuntary emotional "alarm bells." In our society we're virtually trained to react with at least discomfort whenever anybody mentions the words "sex" and "children" in the same sentence. Just a warning: I'm going to be doing that. But when I talk about "children" I will mean not actual children, but adults who are roleplaying in a consensual, negotiated scene.
What Ageplay Is All About
If you've never ageplayed and are on the outside looking in, you might be asking, "But what do ageplayers do? What's this all about?" Well, one thing it's often not about is reality ... and here's what I mean by that.
An ageplayer doesn't necessarily fantasize about or want to exactly reenact his/her own childhood, adolescence, etc. For one thing, how many of us can remember our childhoods exactly? When we think back, there are certain memorable moments we can remember well, good or bad, but the unremarkable everyday events have blurred together or maybe even disappeared. When we try to remember what's in the gaps between those memorable moments, what we usually end up doing is reconstructing the past based on those vague blurs and sharp moments, and of course we're doing this from adult vantage points, so there is a lot of other information that gets mixed in. We fold in elements from the lives of children we see around us, in real life or in movies, TV shows or books, and from our own imaginations. The roles ageplayers want to play may bear little or no resemblance to their real childhoods, by accident or by design.
Sometimes, for example, the roles ageplayers fantasize about playing are based on the way children live today, rather than the way they lived when they themselves were growing up. Children nowadays have more money of their own and wear more expensive clothes than they did even 20 years ago. Corporal punishment is much rarer now than it was then, and disposable diapers much more common. Microwave ovens and other modern conveniences have changed our lives profoundly just in the past decade or two. The world children live in is different, and sometimes ageplay scenarios are more like today's world than the world of the players' own childhoods.
But what do ageplayers do? They roleplay. Usually you need at least two people for this, and often one will play the "child" role and the other will play an adult caregiver of some kind (mother, father, other relative, babysitter, nanny, etc.). But this child/caregiver type of scenario is far from the only scene possible, and even it has many variations.
Players may wish to reenact actual scenes from their own childhoods, or they may want the same event to turn out a different way in the end. Or, they may want to live a childhood they never had. One can roleplay a child or teen of the opposite sex, or from a different time period (the old-time schoolhouse, or being a child in the Roman Empire), or even a scenario that's totally made up (being a teenager in a world in which it's perfectly acceptable for parents to punish unruly teens with, say, bondage).
Some common ageplaying scenarios are widely known in the BDSM scene and sometimes even outside it, although it may not cross the player's minds that what they're doing is ageplay. The "strict schoolmaster/mistress and naughty schoolboy/girl" scene is almost a BDSM stereotype. (Note that the schoolmaster/mistress role is probably a role in which the player plays a role that's older than their own age.) The "juvie hall warden and teen juvenile delinquent" scene is certainly heard of. "Daddy/boy" and "Daddy/girl" relationships occur in the BDSM world (though of course "Mommy/boy" and "Mommy/girl" scenes can happen too, and the players of any role can be of either sex). Fairy-tale-type games are also almost a stereotype; imagine Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf.
I can imagine playing a teenager just learning about his/her sexuality, and this is a scene in which the other player(s) could also ageplay as other teens. And, of course, there is infantilism, where one player is the baby and the other is the caregiver. But these are just some commonly heard-of examples; people are very creative and come up with many more ideas.
There are a few elements commonly seen in ageplay: clothes and costumes are one, from little frilly baby dresses, footed PJs and snap-crotch Oshkosh overalls to school uniforms and whatever wacky fashions are popular among those crazy kids today. Other "props" can play a part, from pacifiers, toys, crayons, fingerpaint and even elaborate baby furniture to sports equipment, skateboards, blow dryers and curling irons for those older kids.
Humiliation is an important element for some players. It doesn't have to be present, but it can be: being treated like a child and condescended to, being called names like "diaper baby" or "sissy", or even just looking like a child because of the clothing and other "props" you have with you can be erotically humiliating for some.
And, finally, sex can come into play. One might think that, since this is a presentation about erotic age roleplaying, sex would necessarily be an element. Well, that depends on what you mean by "sex." For someone with an ageplay fetish, a wonderful amount of erotic energy can be built up without any explicit sexual activity whatsoever (although this could still be called "sex" from one point of view). This is not to say that there can't be actual sexual activity in the scene; there certainly can and some players wouldn't scene without it. But for others explicit sex doesn't have a place in some ageplay scenarios, and they don't miss it. For still others, ageplay is not erotic at all; some roleplay as a child simply for emotional satisfaction.
Ageplay And Other Kinks
Ageplay relates to many other kinks, and can be combined with them. People can discover ageplay from these related kinks, and vice versa.
First of all, there is bondage. Naturally, one could do a scene in which, for example, teenagers were experimenting with bondage. But for younger roles, the ropes, chains and cuffs of "traditional" bondage may not make sense (although certainly they could, in an imaginative enough scene). However, now is a good time to mention that lots of baby equipment can be construed as bondage if you think about it in the right, kinky way. We strap kids into car seats, strollers and high chairs, and cribs and playpens are designed to confine babies. Sometimes parents use wrist leashes or even baby reins to keep toddlers from wandering too far. Usually these measures are for the children's own safety, but in kinky hands these devices can take on wonderful new meanings. Additionally, using baby-type bondage on a "child" who's supposedly too old for it can have a humiliation aspect.
Then there's discipline. Children and teenagers are punished by their parents, and this idea could easily have a place in a scene. The "parent" could punish the "child" with spanking, standing in the corner, time-outs, no dessert, grounding, or other losses of privilege. More about this a little later.
Domination and submission: Any time you have one person roleplaying an adult and another playing a child, you're going to have power exchange, but the dynamic is complex. The "girl" of a daddy/girl couple we knew in New York once wanted to buy something and pestered her "daddy" into it, saying, "Daddy, Daddy, please can you get it for me? Daddy, please, please?"
He looked at us and asked rhetorically, "Who's the dominant and who's the submissive here? I forget."
Whoever's playing the child gives up some power and privileges and maybe even some abilities, it's true, but it can be argued that children, especially young ones who need lots of attention, have a lot of power over their parents. And, depending on the role being played, the one playing the adult may have to take care of the "child" on the "child"'s own terms — although this can vary with the age of the "child" and the type of scene the players decided upon. For example, in the "classic" parent/child scene the "parent" makes the rules and the "child" must follow them, and gets punished if he/she doesn't. On the other hand, it's possible to do quite the reverse, with a doting "parent" and a spoiled, demanding "child" ... maybe even a "child" with a paddle!
SM is not really my thing, so I can't say that much about it. However, I can say that spanking, paddling, etc, could be considered SM, and they could certainly fit into an ageplay scene.
There are several fetishes that relate to ageplay. Uniform and clothing fetishes fit quite well, as there are cheerleader and schoolboy/girl outfits and baby clothes out there. Rubber and plastic fetishes go well with scenes involving diapers, and there are those who have a fetish for diapers themselves. Finally, there is a fetish for using baby paraphernalia; this is called anaclitism, and it obviously relates to infantilism.
Watersports, like SM, is not really my thing, but an interest in pee play can lead to an interest in diapers, and vice versa.
Transgender activity often relates to ageplay — as I mentioned, there are many ageplayers who wish to play as a child of the opposite sex. I myself like to play as either a little girl or as a sissy boy (a boy made to wear girls' clothes). There is also a subscene called "adult little girls", comprised of mostly men who like to pretend they're little girls of various ages, from babies to teens. An off-the-cuff theory of mine suggests that they may have an "age identity" in addition to a gender identity, but I just made that up.
How to Do Ageplay
So you've decided that you want to try ageplay. Great! I'm not going to stand up here and say that you have to do it my way, but I do have some suggestions, things to think about before you start, to keep things safe.
First of all, you need to make sure to negotiate before you go into your roles, and in my opinion the negotiation has to be more detailed in certain areas. For one thing there is the matter of what the "child" can and cannot do. Whereas a submissive may willingly give up some privileges while in scene, somebody who's roleplaying a child may actually give up some abilities, like the ability to walk and/or talk. This creates a definite difference between the player's outside life and his/her role, and this difference is often a large part of what makes the scene exciting for him/her. For example, perhaps the "child" can only crawl except when he/she's holding "Mommy"'s hand, or can only say baby-talk words, or can't tie his/her shoes and has to ask "Daddy" to do it.
There are other ways to emphasize the "child"'s new role. For example, the "adult" can always make the "child" ride in the back seat of the car, and although I've never heard of an adult-sized child car seat outside of fiction, the "adult" could always make sure to buckle the "child" in. Even a teenager may not be legal to drive yet and might have to be driven places. For younger children there are early bedtimes, going to playgrounds, or not being allowed to handle the money. For babies, there is not being allowed to feed oneself and having to wear a bib while being fed, not being allowed to use the bathroom, having to drink from bottles, or having to crawl.
The smaller the "child" is to be, the more details appear, because the "child"'s life gets more and more different from an adult's. An infantilism scene could involve diapers, bottles, baby food, and so forth. Some attention should be paid to the details here: supplies need to be bought in advance, and it should be established beforehand what foods and beverages are to be used, and what exactly the "baby" is to do in his/her diapers (the "adult" might have to change them, which might be OK, depending on the person).
A word about reality — in real life a parent could lift a child into bed, onto a changing table, etc. This may not be possible in ageplay unless the "child" is really small or the "adult" is really strong. It's probably a good idea to work out, in advance, what to do in situations like this. Example: When the "parent" pats the bed three times, that means the "child" must sit on the bed in that place.
The rules and boundaries laid down during the negotiation are one thing, but especially in discipline scenes there may also be other rules, made to be broken — children and even teens have rules that their parents lay down. The difference is that the "real" rules are set by the participants outside scene space, while the "soft" rules are made by the "adult" inside the scene. If you can keep the distinction clear, this can be fun. If this is confusing to you, perhaps this isn't the way to play. "Soft" or "internal" rules are such things as bedtime/curfew, no using foul language, elbows off the table, no smart-mouthing — rules set by the "adult" inside the scene. If these rules are broken, the "child" probably gets punished, which may have been the intent of the whole exercise. "Real" rules are such things as safewords, limits, and punishments that both players agree are OK to use. If these rules are broken, the scene usually becomes unpleasant for one or both players and probably comes to an end.
Unless the players know each other really well, and maybe not even then, I think it is a good idea to stay away from reenacting a traumatic situation from anybody's past, even if the intent is that the traumatic events themselves not take place. This kind of thing (psychodrama) should probably only be attempted by trained therapists.
When negotiating, don't forget the usual safeguards, such as limits and safewords/safegestures.
And, finally, even if you've decided in advance that you're going to mix SM play, sex, or something otherwise nonchildlike with your ageplay, it's possible for the "child" to get into a delicate headspace in which this could upset them, and possibly a nonverbal one in which they can't say their safeword. It can happen in other forms of BDSM play; it can happen in ageplay too. It falls upon the "adult" to keep an eye out for this and to keep communication lines open.
Why Are People Attracted to Ageplay?
These are some reasons I've seen and some theories I've heard. Some people make a deliberate decision to try ageplay, and sometimes it's more of a visceral attraction, part of their overall sexuality.
Some kind of bad childhood experience, not necessarily what you would call traumatic, could cause an interest in ageplay — it may or may not be a specific event that can be pointed to; it might be an unpleasant environment of some sort. Perhaps they were forced to "grow up too fast" or found the world a cold, hard place to be a kid in.
They may wish that they could go back to a time before the experience occurred, or that they could have a childhood in which it never happened that way. The wish may not be conscious; it may just be a vague feeling that just became part of them as they grew up. And the ageplay fantasies they have as a result may not have anything to do with the negative experience.
Sometimes a usually bad experience can become eroticized, such as bedwetting, spanking, a boy being made to wear girls' clothes, or some other humiliating punishment.
However, bad experiences do not necessarily lead to a desire to ageplay; sometimes they can predispose a person against it. There may be certain periods from childhood that a player doesn't like to remember, much less return to — this is understandable and perfectly OK, and if this describes you, then ageplay may just not be for you, at least playing certain ages.
For some, though, childhood was a great time, and they want to relive it so they can recapture the fun and happiness.
It's possible to consciously try ageplay because you have a related fetish, as I mentioned earlier. Some people, like me, just have erotic fantasies about being treated like babies. The variations are countless, though. Someone with an attraction to watersports could become interested in diapers and hence infantilism, or someone who had a fetish for wearing cheerleader uniforms could become interested in roleplaying as a teenage cheerleader.
As for me, I have some theories as to why I'm into what I'm into. For almost the first five years of my life I was an only child, but then my brother was born. Suddenly my parents were giving lots of time and attention to the new baby, time and attention that used to go to me. I probably felt jealous, and it's common for kids to feel that way in such a situation. But then, a little over a year later, my mother died. So any hopes I had that things would go back to the way they had before had just become fantasies. My father worked; it was impossible for him to give my brother and me the time and attention he wanted to give us. My brother was sent to day care and picked up by a babysitter at the end of the day, and I had to go to a neighbor's house after school. This neighbor ran sort of an after-school day care at her house for school-age children; I think she did this as a source of extra income. I hated going there; the other kids weren't nice. It's easy to see that my life had suddenly become much harder and to understand how I might have wished that I could just go back and be a baby again.
I used to wet the bed as a child; looking back, I think it was just slow muscle development, a physiological thing. When I was about seven I started sneaking into my little brother's room, taking a pair of plastic pants from a dresser drawer and wearing them at night, possibly thinking it would help with the bedwetting, or possibly using this simple garment, usually worn only by babies, as a symbol of the care and attention that I had lost. He was mostly in disposable diapers, so the plastic pants weren't used often and weren't missed. But once I started doing this, I discovered that the vinyl felt great. I remember wishing I had a whole suit of the stuff. Oddly, I don't wish that anymore, but it clearly led to a fetish. Later on, when I was about 10 and had an allowance, I started buying plastic pants and disposable diapers and wearing them secretly, fantasizing about being a baby again.
These have all been theories about why someone would want to play as a child, not why someone would want to play an adult to someone else's child role. I haven't heard many theories about that. I would imagine it has something to do with the reasons why people have children, possibly mixed in with the reasons why people roleplay in BDSM, but that's a very vague answer; I myself just know too little about it.
Ageplaying isn't really a scene unto itself, but there are some organizations I've heard of catering to some of its subscenes, and perhaps somebody out there has heard of others. With few exceptions these are really companies and not clubs; they are for profit and have no elected officers.
For "adult little girls," there is Echo Productions, which has various different "clubs" for "little girls" of different age ranges.
Otherwise, there are only informal local groups of ageplayers out there, although recently one of these in Portland, Oregon got organized and called itself KATS ("Kidz and Adultz Together Sharing", the coined terms "kidz" and "adultz" referring to adults roleplaying as children or grown-ups). They have an Internet mailing list.
The book Different Loving, by Brame, Brame and Jacobs, includes a chapter on ageplay in which some prominent ageplayers are interviewed. The book itself has a web page, and there are links to various kinky sites from there, including sites about ageplay.
As with any other kind of play, there are some who just aren't interested in ageplay and others for whom it's their most important fantasy. But if you have any interest in ageplay at all, there's a wide range of creative ground there for you to explore and enjoy.