"What is infantilism?"
There is no reply to this question which can sum up all of the complex attributes which infantilism entails, for generally speaking, infantilism is a widely used catch-all term for its many forms. Generalized statements can be made, but they are often very broad, non-descriptive, and sometimes even incorrect. Everybody has their own individual feelings on the topic, and each represents only one look at infantilism’s many facets.
Basic Understanding and Overview
In the basic sense, infantilism can be defined as a set of urges, ideas, desires, and pleasures that are all centered on the themes of diapers, babyhood, helplessness, and any other associated ideas. It is regarded by some as a sexual fetish. To others, it is completely asexual and has more to do with emotional attachment and comfort. The term “infantilism” relates desires for these ideas rather than the motivation behind those desires.
In addition to the individual variations within infantilism, it can also occur in tandem with other interests. All of these will be explained in the following sections, but here, we can see a basic overview of the archetypes:
- Adult Baby (AB):
These infantilists tend to find comfort in diapers, pacifiers, bottles, or any assortment of infantile objects. Many enjoy role playing with a maternal or paternal figure (“mommy” or “daddy”). Some consider it sexual, while others do not. They are commonly called “adult babies” (AB). This is infantilism in its purest form.
- Diaper Lover (DL):
In many cases, a large part of the motivation for infantilism is related to a diaper fetish. This is generally, but not always, a sexual fetish. Those who fit into this category are called “diaper lovers” (DL’s). For a diaper lover, the diaper and sensual and/or sexual enjoyment thereof is a central part of their infantile desires.
The two main archetypes are most often seen together. Often, one motivation is stronger than the other, but both exist to a significant enough degree that the individual considers himself to fit both categories. There is very wide variation within this category.
- Infantilism Combined with Other Interests:
Infantilism can also occur integrated with other interests, several of which are common enough to be notable. The two most common are "sissy babies", infantilists who also engage in transvestism/cross dressing, and "babyfurs", infantilists who are also furries. Unique properties may apply within each of those groups.
A Closer Look
The drives behind adult baby-oriented behavior are not well understood. This tends to be hotly debated among psychologists who deal in sexology and especially among those who specialize in infantilism. However, one of the less debated topics concerning infantile interests are the aspects and behaviors it entails. There are many behaviors unique to the individuals who perform them, but some are common among most infantilists:
-Diaper Wearing – By far, this is the most common practice among adult babies. No matter how it manifests, the themes of infantilism most often revolve around diapers. The vast majority wear them, and put them to their intended use. According to a survey by BitterGrey, Between 95 and 98 percent of adult babies reported wetting diapers. Between 54 and 56 percent reported regularly soiling them. Most adult babies do this by choice for enjoyment. Some do not, as they must wear diapers for medical reasons.
-"Thumb/Pacifier Sucking" – Many infantilists use thumb sucking and pacifier sucking as a way to relax. Some get physical pleasure from it, while others enjoy it simply because of the idea that it makes them more infantile, an idea that most like to reinforce.
-Role Play – For those infantilists lucky enough to be able to enter into a relationship, role playing is a common practice. Adult babies often enjoy identifying themselves as an infant in the position of care by a mother or father figure, played by a spouse or significant other.
Other practices include the wearing of infantile clothing, drinking from baby bottles, and the owning of stuffed animals. All of these serve towards the end which infantilists strive to experience. For some, it is comfort, and for others, it is sexual arousal.
These practices are most commonly driven by fantasies. Infantilistic fantasies contain several common elements, but again, everybody is unique. Common fantasy elements include:
-Coercion/Forced Diaper Wearing – Many infantilists enjoy feeling helpless. The idea of being forced back into diapers and sometimes, being forced to use them, is particularly appealing to them as it reinforces the person’s powerless position. Helplessness is a central theme of many fantasies.
-Permanent Regression – The idea of permanent regression is one that involves returning permanently to an infantile form. In this sense, the fantasy might involve having to constantly be cared of and treated like a small child for the rest of their life. However, many infantilists, though their fantasies may include this element, do not truly wish to give up their adult life. Fantasies are fantasies, even if they defy both logic and a person’s true wants.
-Becoming Guiltless – Many infantilists will support the idea that a main draw of it is the freeing of their guilt and anxieties. In fantasies, this often manifests as the presence of a mother or father figure upon who the guilt rests, not the infantilist in the fantasy. Often times, if activity engaged in, it is this figure who initiates it and performs it. This connects with the idea of being forced to wear diapers; some feel guilty about their liking for them, so being forced to wear them by another person eliminates the anxiety that they often feel about it.
There are many other fantasy elements, such as exhibitionism, which are less common but still prevalent among infantilists. The themes of many of these individual fantasy elements can be said to be derivatives of guiltlessness and helplessness. They enjoy feeling helpless and free of anxiety, which is a feeling that can be appreciated by other groups in different and sometimes lesser forms. Any person will probably say that being free of their anxiety would be a good thing, but if asked, they would most likely not want to be dressed as a baby and coddled. On the other side of things, masochists enjoy feeling helpless in a sense, but not necessarily via the unique nurturing form of being diapered, held, and cared for. However, infantilism holds a lot in common with masochism, and often, elements will overlap between them.
There is no way to define an adult baby. Common elements persist in their actions, fantasies, and desires, but this is overshadowed by their individuality. Many want different things, and will focus their desires, fantasies, and actions on those things. By itself, it is difficult to define, but often easy to recognize. There are wide overall similarities but differences in the details.
Infantilism is most often combined subtly with other interests. In the case of a diaper lover, it is combined with the element of fetishism, which is defined as an irrational fixation on an object or idea. Overwhelmingly among diaper lovers, the fetish is sexual. Sexual fetishism is defined as receiving sexual arousal and gratification from an object which is not inherently sexually charged. In this case, the fetish object is a diaper.
Many diaper lovers often consider their infantile desires to be direct result of a diaper fetish. Indeed, there are some who enjoy only diapers and only in the sexual respect; no desire for other infantile objects or themes are necessarily present. However, there are many diaper lovers who also have other desires common to infantilism.
Some diaper lovers enjoy them only emotionally rather than sexually. Some find diapers become sexually arousing during their teenage years, but that this element dissipates after the onset of adulthood, even if the infantilistic ones do not.
The activities engaged in by diaper lovers are very common within the group. In a survey by BitterGrey, between 80 and 85 percent of DL’s reported wetting diapers, and between 25 and 30 percent reported soiling them. The most common outlet for sexual gratification is masturbation in diapers. Many find the warm, lubricated feeling arousing, similar to how a heterosexual man might find that same feeling arousing in a woman’s vagina. This tendency helps to illustrate why the behavior is more associated with men, as the male genitalia is externally located.
There is much controversy over what a diaper lover actually does versus his or her intent in doing it. Diaper lovers often masturbate in diapers, or look at pictures of people in diapers while doing so. This often leads to the accusation of diaper lovers as pedophiles or perverts. However, one must examine this in a different light if one is to truly understand it. When looking at pictures of somebody in diapers, or even of a child in diapers, a diaper lover does not get his sexual gratification from the child in the picture. He gets it from the object in it, in this case, the diaper. This is the nature of a fetish at its most basic level.
Sissy Babies and Babyfurs
Infantilism can occur alongside other interests. Two particular common combinations are "sissy baby" and "babyfur".
Sissy babies are generally infantilists who have an interest in transvestism, the wearing of the opposite gender’s clothing. The activities engaged in by infantilists and by transvestites are usually not separate in those who have an interest in both. They most often view themselves as a baby whose gender is the opposite of their own. A man who is a sissy baby might view himself as a baby girl. He might wear sun dresses and other clothing that very young girls wear.
It should be noted, however, that transvestism is not the only mechanism behind the enjoyment of wearing clothing articles of the opposite gender. Some sissy babies enjoy it because it acts as a form of humiliation or submission. Forced infantilism can come in tandem with forced feminization in both vestic ageplay and masochistic roleplay.
Babyfurs are infantilists with an interest in the furry fandom. The furry fandom is a group which holds an appreciation for anthropomorphism, or the imposing of animal-like characteristics onto humans.
Often times, a babyfur will create a "fursona" (an anthropomorphic portrayal of themselves) which is infantile in its nature. There is no defined line that splits up the two interests; for most, they see themselves not as a baby who is also an animal, but as a baby animal.
AB/DL: How The Interests Interact
Most adult babies are simultaneously diaper lovers. Some will describe their interests in that they are "Mostly AB" or "Mostly DL". The reason for such a description is that the interests, though they come in tandem, are often kept separate; for many, the activities associated with each interest are usually not performed together.
In a survey by BitterGrey, approximately 23% of the sample size reported being equally "AB" and "DL", and, collectively, approximately 81% of the participants reported being, at least in part, both "AB" and "DL". In addition to this, when asked “Are Diapers Sexually Arousing?", the figures for those who answered "yes" were 90-95% for "DL", 95-100% for "Mostly DL", 95-100% for "Equal", 85-90% for "Mostly AB", and 75-80% for "AB".
While many adult babies consider themselves to be diaper lovers and most consider diapers to be sexually arousing, most do not like to engage in sexual activities while they are role playing. According to BitterGrey’s survey, between 50 and 55% to keep sexual elements out of role play, regression, and, for some, out of all fantasies, games, and scenes. Another 20 to 25% allow some, if moderated in some way. The remaining 20 to 30% allow unrestricted sexual acts. As can be seen from these numbers, many adult babies prefer to keep sexuality and role play separate. A common reason given for this might be that sex between a "mommy/daddy" and a "baby" would seem incestuous or otherwise out of place for a baby. While the participants are usually consenting adults with no relation to each other, a large number of adult babies strive to reach as infantile a role as possible, and sexual acts would not be appropriate within this role.
Different circumstances bring different motives for similar activities and an adult baby or diaper lover can enjoy certain things for different reasons at different times. An adult baby might find a pacifier comforting during purely regressive role playing situation, but he might also enjoy it functioning as a gag in a more adult role play scenario. It is similar with diapers: he might find them soft, comforting, and presenting security during regression, but they might become a form of humiliation or a source of sexual gratification in another situation. In both cases, the circumstances and the motives change, but the objects remain the same. This is a possible indicator of why so many adult babies are also diaper lovers; the same object can be relevant to several different urges.
Myths About Infantilism
Myth: "Infantilists are pedophiles."
This is entirely a myth. In no way is infantilism inherently associated with performing sexual acts on children. Granted, within any group, pedophiles exist, but the term "infantilism" does not in any way imply pedophilic tendencies. Moreover, pedophiles are particularly frowned upon by infantilists as much, if not moreso, as they are by any group of people. Between the stigma placed upon the community by this false charge, and an increased appreciation of the innocence of childhood, the infantilist community tends to be particularly strongly adverse to pedophiles.
Infantilists have their eccentricities, but are otherwise just like anybody else, and just like anybody else, they wish for children to have the happy, innocent lives which they deserve.
Myth: "All or most infantilists are homosexual."
Actually, studies have shown that the vast majority of infantilists are heterosexual males. One possible reason for the seemingly larger number of homosexuals in the community is that, because of infantilism, there is a selection bias towards people are more open about their sexuality, and willing to admit that they are gay or bisexual. Fetishism occurs among all sexual orientations.
Myth: "Infantilism is harmful to development."
Infantilism is not, by itself, intrinsically harmful to development. It is possible for any activity to be harmful if practiced to the point that it interferes with one’s ability to live a happy, healthy, and successful lifestyle. However, most infantilists are reasonable people who do not allow infantilism to control their lives.
Myth: "Infantilism is like what is shown on TV episodes of shows like Jerry Springer and CSI"
TV show representations of infantilism are almost universally sensationalized examples. They tend show people who have taken infantilism to its most extreme degree, and they imply that all infantilists are deeply immersed in some over-the-top fantasy double life. Worse, it is often implied in these depictions that infantilism is something sick or twisted which should cause revulsion.
The practices shown do occur, but the shows unrealistically portray the degree to which most people take them. The men in these episodes are an excellent example of what many would consider an "unhealthy" infantilist: one who takes it to a level which interferes with the rest of his life. While many infantilists may fantasize about going to that extreme, the overwhelming majority have the good sense to use moderation. Most infantilists are normal people who are perfectly capable of making rational adult decisions about where to draw the line.
Many infantilists feel that these television programs reflected a very poor image of the adult babies. Since these are fairly popular television shows, and so few people have any other experience with infantilism, infantilists often fear that these shows’ portrayals heighten public stigma against them. In reality, the people shown on these TV shows are anomalies; most infantilists are normal, responsible members of society.
Conclusion: The Perception of Infantilism and Moving Towards Acceptance
The first perception of infantile interests is almost identical for infantilists and non-infantilists; confusion. For infantilists, understanding their desires is difficult, especially when they are recognized in late childhood or teenage years. Some feel disgusted with the way they act and wish it would stop, but the urges are often too powerful to overcome in the long term causing the urges to resurface and the behaviors to reoccur. Many infantilists are ultimately able to educate themselves about their desires from sex books, magazines, and the most commonly, the internet.
Accepting oneself as being highly unusual is a long, difficult process for most people, but once informed, most are able to do so and find a way to balance in their lives.
Most non-infantilists have never heard about infantilism, and those who have know little about it. People tend to react negatively to things which they do not understand and which are unusual. Worse, many are not particularly open-minded, and many idealize simple heterosexuality as the "only normal" form of sexuality. Many find it difficult to not persist in negatively writing an infantilist off as a "freak" or a "pervert."
The alternative, acceptance, requires open-mindedness and a willingness to accept the different nature of others.
Acceptance is a concept that many people ignore when they first hear that someone close to them is an infantilist. They don’t understand it, and they are unable to find a way to simply accept it for what it is. They may try to either cut off contact with that person (usually between friends) or they try to change him (usually in the case of family).
However, the harsh reality is that these are not effective solutions. Psychological therapy is a primary choice of parents whose children are infantilists, but this rarely, if ever, ends infantile desires. Cutting their child off from anything that could allow them to indulge in infantile tendencies only worsens the situation, because not only does it provide no outlet for infantile desires, but it also threatens the trust between parent and child.
The reality of infantilism is that it, by itself, poses absolutely no direct danger to anybody. The indirect dangers are those of negative perceptions and immoderation. As with all desires and interests, infantilists must find a healthy balance between their infantile desires and adult responsibilities. A healthy infantilist is one that is able to reach this balance. An unhealthy one is one that is unable to do this.
Despite the fact that all human beings are different from each other, a stigma exists against anything unorthodox. Infantilists are particularly unorthodox, and therefore face a particular strong stigma. What is needed by both infantilists and those around them is an acceptance that we all have our unique differences, and that simply being different is not a bad thing.
-“Accepting Yourself – And Your Liking of Diapers”
-Wikipedia article on “Paraphilic Infantilism”
-Wikifur article on “Babyfur”
This article was edited from the ADISC Wiki article "Infantilism".
Many members of the ADISC community contributed to this text.