Hi, my name’s Ruth, but my Daddy calls me kitten! I love rainbows, and unicorns, and my kitty cats, and my stuffies, and arts and crafts, and reading stories and watching cartoons. I am mostly 3-5 years old, but sometimes I’m 7-9, and sometimes I’m about 13. Today I’m 4 and a half whole years old, I’m a big girl! And some yucky days when there are “responsibilities,” I have to be 33.
If your only knowledge of ageplay involves television and movies, you might have the mental image of a middle aged man, running about in a diaper, acting like a baby with some woman in leather telling him he’s a bad boy. For instance, Netflix’s recent series, Bonding, shows a similar image to this early in the very first episode. But ageplay is a much bigger world than that, and just like anything else in the kink/fetish/sex world, ageplay too, includes a diversity of practices and relationship dynamics.
Those who engage in ageplay in a younger persona are generally referred to as “littles”, while those who are taking on adult roles are generally called “caregivers” or “Bigs”. Many of the most well known or popular arrangements for this relationship involves one adult being the authority figure; Daddy/Mommy, Master/Mistress, Sir, Owner, Babysitter, or Teacher. Their partner pretends to be in a younger, sometimes submissive role based largely on their “littlespace” age, such as a little boy, little girl, schoolchild, or pet.
But whatever form ageplay takes, the BDSM community considers it to be a kink, which means that it is for adults only. This distinguishes ageplay from age regression, which is rooted in therapeutic methods for working through past trauma. Age regression is more or less the practice of trying to actually put one’s self in the headspace of their younger self, and it is more often a non-sexual headspace. Littles may also age regress, but when this is part of an ageplay session or “scene” it is more likely to include sex, rather than just being about therapy or coping.
So, to recap what we’ve learned so far, ageplay, despite its potential trappings (toys, cartoons, coloring books), is for adults only. Just like other sexual practices, regardless of how ready a minor may feel, it is wrong for an adult to ageplay with them. I’m not just being a big meanie by saying this; I care about the potential harm that can come to minors in a world they aren’t ready for. But I admit, I’m just as concerned about my community. It only takes one accusation of some sort of sexual impropriety with a minor for an entire convention, event, or organization to get shut down.
Why do I ageplay?
It’s a common preconception that people who are into sexual kinks and fetishes are damaged in some way, or that this is a result of some childhood trauma. I am a person who has experienced both child abuse and sexual assault, but I was not sexually assaulted as a minor. So there is no sexual trauma tied to my littlespace and, I refuse to accept that my sexuality has to be either defined by or limited by what happened to me in the past. However, as with much of the other kinks I engage in, if I look back, I can clearly see behaviors going back to early childhood that hinted at my future expressions of sexuality and identity. Even as young child, I often enjoyed playing make believe as an even younger child or baby, along with other make believe roles such as mermaid or princess.
I refuse to accept that my sexuality has to be either defined by or limited by what happened to me in the past.
Now that I am an adult, the main reason I ageplay, frankly, is because it feels good. Slipping into my littlespace is like, taking your bra off and finally pouring that glass of wine at the end of the a long day. You finally get to put on sweatpants, binge some bad television, and just be yourself. Littlespace is like sweatpants and wine for my brain and I find that my body typically follows. The more space I am allowed to be little, the more naturally it fits me. I am little, I am too little for all the responsibilities and worries of grown up life.
I also sometimes find it extremely challenging to let walls down with partners. In my littlespace, I am able to access and share a more open and vulnerable part of myself. The funny thing the vanilla world often misses about BDSM/kink is that for many of us, it’s a place in which we don’t need to hide, where we can find a safe space to let out our authentic selves. The ability to negotiate beforehand exactly what both partners do or do not want, gives one an ability to move more freely inside the parameters of a relationship because they are more clearly set.
When I am little and my partner knows that is where my headspace is, I know I can trust him to take care of me. He can trust that I will mostly be well behaved and obedient (though I am little, so we’re not well behaved all the time!). In this way, we take care of each other’s needs in a way that is authentic and organic to our lives.
Ageplay and sex
It’s a “little” ridiculous how often ageplay, for all its taboo goodness, gets dragged into the ongoing and largely false rhetoric attached to pedophilia. Some other child protection organizations have contributed to this stigma; for example, Britain’s NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) has said “we cannot tolerate adults engaging in role-play as children for the sexual gratification of other adults,” and ECPAT International has proposed that representations of ageplay should be banned.
But this is one taboo that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. See, I may play as a younger version of myself and my Daddy may enjoy playing with me and caring for me when I am in a more vulnerable or a different kind of playful space than my adult self, but I assure you, I am all stocked up on my own agency, and am older than I generally like to admit. The point being, I’m well within the age of consent and I do, very much consent. This makes a difference—a big one. It’s wrong to use the language of child sexual exploitation where no child is involved.
What about my partners? I can’t speak for Bigs, but most will deny that they have any sexual attraction to real minors, any more so than owners who engage in “puppy play” or “pony play” have a sexual attraction to real dogs or horses. Having said that, statistically there must surely be at least some Bigs who are also sexually attracted to real minors, and for those people ageplay may be a safe, legal outlet for those feelings. Unfortunately, there is precious little funding for sex researchers to investigate this phenomenon, so we really don’t know its prevalence.
I am not being abused, and my partners are not abusers. We ageplay in a fictional, safe, consensual fantasy world.
Speaking for myself, my partner’s gender or sexual orientation doesn’t make that much difference to me. Provided that my caregiver can meet my (adult) sexual needs in a consensual way, while I am in my (fictional, childlike) headspace, I don’t need to know their every motivation and thought, that’s kind of the point. I am not being abused, and my partners are not abusers. We ageplay in a fictional, safe, consensual fantasy world in which they can exercise their nurturing, parental instincts with a sexual partner, and I can enjoy feeling carefree and loved.
For some people, their sexual fantasies run a little darker than this, and do extend to fantasies of abuse. Although my normal ageplay and DD/lg headspace is consensual, I do sometimes also enjoy the fantasy of being touched non-consensually. I am grateful to the partners who allow me to role play in this headspace, and I want them to be able to enjoy doing so, knowing that I trust them never to enact such fantasies with a partner who isn’t playing a role.
This doesn’t mean that I believe that such a relationship could exist in real life. Of course it couldn’t, and it would be disrespectful of survivors of such acts of abuse for me to suggest otherwise. Those who abuse children in real life, by having sex with them or by distributing images of such abuse, must be punished to the full extent of the law.
But that’s not what happens in my fantasies; the fantasies that I enact consensually with a willing adult partner are about a loving and consensual relationship between a younger version of myself and a loving caregiver. My sexual freedom and that of my partners are really two sides of the same coin, and can’t be separated. If ageplay is stigmatized as an inherently abusive activity due to its association with pedophilia, then this stigma damages me and my partners equally.
Ageplay and child safety
Don’t worry, I can already hear you saying something about “well maybe you are responsible, but not everyone…”. I’m gonna stop you right there. There are more ethical age players than not. There are exceptions to every single rule on earth. But I can tell you that the organized kink/BDSM community is vehement about the protection of both minors and adults. Here’s something stark to consider; the kink community is, in many cases, the first and last line of defense for keeping minors from experiencing things they are not legally able to consent to.
Very few minors with an interest in kink are comfortable expressing that to parents and teachers, and even friends. We still, as a society, so heavily stigmatize sex that there is no real impetus for a minor to go to one of the established authority figures in their life for general sex questions, let alone anything they know to be outside the mainstream. So, they go online and seek out others. If you are lucky, your child finds someone like me who gives them educational resources that will help them explore safely on their own until they are old enough to join the community. But for the most part, they are likely to simply be turned away.
Whatever reason people have to engage in ageplay, for me and others this is an important part of our sexual expression. Nobody is harmed by it, and we should not be pathologized or stigmatized for our sexuality. So as hard as it may be for outsiders to understand the attraction of this lifestyle, we need to stop treating ageplayers in the same way as you would treat child molesters. This means accepting it as a valid form of adult consensual sexual expression, and allowing real minors who have questions about it to have those questions answered without shame… but also with a firm resolve that this kink is not for them.
I writed for you a big, long, boring, grown-uppy, post that talks all about grown ups and grown up things and the silly things grown ups do. I’m too little to read something this grown-uppy, but if you’re a grown up who likes to be a grown up, you might like reading it. You might even like doing some of it. I’m not here to judge, I’m just here to chew gum and play with my stuffies…and I’m all outta gum.