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Psychosexual Infantilism in Adults: The eroticization of regression Part 1

Section 1 of Thomas John Speaker's Doctoral dissertation "Psychosexual Infantilism in Adults: The eroticization of regression"

...I have a wide range of fantasies and have experienced many of them. Sometimes I am an adult who likes the feel of wet diapers. Sometimes I'm an adult exhibitionist who likes to show off diapers to others; sometimes an impish 12-13 year old forced into diapers, occasionally a baby and, on rarely experienced occasions, a sissy. Generally I am sexually dominant. In these fantasies I am submissive (often to women) (Bobby, a 37 year old gay infantilist.*).

* Unattributed citations originate in answers to the Infantilism Survey or personal correspondence related to same.

Every individual experiences a unique method of sexual growth and development. The individuality of our experiences stems from differing rates of development and timing of opportunity and events, from a seemingly random combination of genetic, physical, psychological and social incidents. Yet sexual orientations and preferences can be used to cluster individuals into groups with common sexual objects or behaviors. Homosexuals are more aroused by same sex relationships than by opposite sex relationships. Exhibitionists are especially stimulated when they can expose their genitals to strangers. Masochists share a common stimulation from physical or psychological abuse. Dozens of these sexual minority groups have been identified. One of them, those adults who enjoy psychosexual infantilism, is the topic of this study.

The definition for this group has evolved substantially throughout the twentieth century. The best general definition of psychosexual infantilism today reserves the term for those adults seeking "the erotic return to babyhood" (Scott, 1983, p. ix). Previously I defined psychosexual infantilism as "sexual arousal [involving] the objects of infancy (e.g. diapers) and/or the experiences of infancy such as incontinence or feeding" (Speaker, 1980, p. 2). Infantilists' sexual behaviors are similar to those of other fetishists; the common objects of sexual activity are a diaper and other baby clothing and behaviors. Describing fetishist behavior, Sarason and Sarason use rubber fetishists as an example:

Rubber fetishes are particularly popular. In England, the Mackintosh Society, named for rubberized raincoats, has over 1000 members. The group has social functions and serves as reassurance for those who feel embarrassed or isolated by their sexual interests. Some rubber fetishists obtain sexual excitement from wearing rubber garments themselves. Others dress in them, or want their sexual partners to wear theme during sexual activity (Sarason & Sarason, 1984, p. 203).

Psychosexual infantilists dress in diapers and other baby clothing, or include these items in sex with a partner, or obtain sexual arousal from dressing a partner in diapers.

The term psychosexual infantilism was coined by the German psychoanalyst Wilhelm Steckel. He described it as a syndrome involving a retreat from reality and toward a regressive fantasy life. The goal of this "retreat" was to become "the eternal infant" (Steckel, 1952, p. 85). In his book Patterns of Psychosexual lnfantilism, Steckel illustrated his theories liberally with case histories:

Case no. 13: Mr. G., a husky man of twenty-eight, dressed in a juvenile suit, appears at my office one day with his mother, who leads him by his arm, draws a chair toward him and helps him become comfortably seated. The woman then says, "Drink, my child, so that you can talk." The "child" pulls a milk bottle with a rubber nipple from his pocket and gulps some milk. Then he takes a roll from his pocket and hands it to his mother. The woman breaks off a piece of the bread and pushes it into his mouth.

"Excuse us," the mother apologizes, "but you see, doctor, every fifteen minutes my son must have a little milk and a bit of bread, otherwise he will collapse. Until a few days ago he had to go out by himself because my husband considered him a malingerer and threatened to chase him away from home. He did go out by himself, without his milk and bread, and he collapsed on the street. He was brought home dangerously ill! Help me, doctor!"

Through his peculiar behavior, G. was manifesting symptoms of his psychosexual infantilism. He had been in this helpless condition for three months. Previously he had been in sound health, held a good position, was a model man. The mother was especially concerned about this "boy's" illness because she had another son who is severely neurotic and who tormented the household, refused to work and constantly demanded money. Until his infantilism broke out, G. had been her consolation. But now, without any apparent reason, he had changed.

Formerly, he had had satisfactory contact with women. Now he was shy, had wild erotic fantasies, and had resumed masturbation. Sometimes he would masturbate several times a day. He was a daydreamer; he could not work or even dress himself.

His daily program went something like this: when he awakened in the morning he remained in bed daydreaming. He did nothing at all unless, given an order to do something. He would stay in bed all day if his mother did not urge him to get up. Then she had to dress him and wash him. She treated him as a small child, giving in to his whims. She served breakfast to him in bed. When he arose he followed his mother around the house like a shadow. He was afraid to be left alone. The mother had to take him with her whenever she left the house, otherwise he would have a severe "attack" and be a completely helpless "baby". He mumbled nonsensical phrases, laughed without provocation. His symptoms were frightening to the parents, for they thought he had lost his mind.

His disease started when he noticed that the hateful brother who was a brat and an "ogre", as his mother called him, was really loved by the mother. The brothers had not spoken to each other for years. Both had strong mother fixations. The father had little influence on the family. The mother was a pretty woman with lustrous eyes. The older brother hated her and would not allow her to come near him. "Don't touch me," he would shout; "I am disgusted with you!"

The younger brother, our patient, adored his mother and brought her every penny he earned. But when he was seized with the feeling that his if mother loved the older brother and that this was why she let his brother stay at home to loaf and dominate the household with his sickness, he said to himself: "You are not rewarded for your decency and manliness, so you'll get sick and lazy like your brother." This thought flashed through his mind just once. But soon afterward his illness "struck", and continuously worsened, so that now his mother even had to accompany him to the toilet, hold him on the seat and wipe him.

Surprisingly, the analysis ended with a complete success. In most cases of this type, it is necessary to remove the patient from his home environment before he can be cured. But this patient remained at home and soon his manhood was restored and he was again active in his profession.

He had completely regressed to the suckling stage. He became an infant, completely dependent on the mother. The worry and pity which the mother had expended on the brother now shifted toward him. This had an excellent effect on the older brother who suddenly used his exceptional talents to get and maintain a good job. The older brother now had the chance to prove that he was stronger than his hated sibling. The brothers persisted in their refusal to speak to each other and the atmosphere in the house was tense.

When, during analysis, our patient began to improve, his first love interest was directed toward the family's maid. As stated before, maids frequently symbolize someone in the family. The mother approved his play with the maid and even advised him to have an affair with the girl. By all means, her son must become a man! "It is better than getting a venereal disease outside the house." This was her rationalization. She really wanted to know when and with whom he had sexual relations. She needed the stimulations (deeply rooted in her own incestuous tendencies) which her son supplied when he reported his sexual affairs (Steckel, 1952, pp. 87-89).

In the clinical literature the description of the psychosexual infantilist portrays a severely dysfunctional individual. He is likely to have come to the attention of law enforcement or other authorities and been required to receive treatment. Steckel's case above is a classic example; dysfunctional lifestyles are also a large part of the behavior exhibited by his model of the ultimate infantilist, the Eternal Infant:

The eternal infant is a dependent person. His psychic infantilism is manifested in many of his physical habits. His abnormal attitude toward food - he has either a great desire for or is disgusted by particular foods - has a sexual basis. His Oral zone substitutes for the genital zone.... Such a person has feelings of inferiority.... Each of these eternal infants has a specific sexual picture. Most of them are impotent, frigid or have no normal sexual relations...males lose their erections when they contact women...females become rigid or limp, as though they were paralyzed... often they prefer kissing to intercourse.... They suck the breasts and are, as a rule, passive sexual partners. They show keen interest in urination and defecation...and may go even so far as to re-introduce enuresis and [encopresis].... These people glory in filth and dirt... The day is passed in daydreams, idleness or childish games (Ibid. pp. 86-87).

It is easy to see why such a person (for Steckel saw female psychosexual infantilists as well), out of touch with reality (having retreated totally into the fantasy world) and exhibiting such unusual behaviors would be referred for psychiatric treatment. Steckel said, "General practitioners have little idea of the strange world inhabited by the psychosexual infantilist" (Ibid.), indicating his belief that only psychiatrists could successfully treat such a difficult patient.

Infantilism is defined by one psychological dictionary as:

n. 1. a condition of body or mind in an older child or adult that is characterized by failure of development or by a regression to an infantile condition. 2. a behavior, in one who is past infancy, that resembles infant behavior. -> The term is strongly derogatory. A temper tantrum is a typical infantilism (English & English, 1958, p. 261).

Although this definition is almost 30 years old it is still accurate today. Infantilism can arise from either a fixation in development or a regression as will be, demonstrated later. The same source provides a definition of "sexual infantilism":

1. failure to develop fully the anatomical characters of adult sex.... 2. regression to, or arrested development at the level of, infantile sexuality ((Ibid. p. 498).

Sexual infantilism in an anatomic description is a conditions caused by hormonal deficits (Money, 1961). The latter definition is more relevant to the current discussion. Infantile sexuality does not necessarily have to use the Freudian definition (English & English, 1958, pp. 498-499); sexuality involving the use of infantile behaviors and objects is more accurate (c.f. Speaker, 1980, p. 2). Steckel's choice of "psychosexual" as a modifier is also accurate:

1. pertaining to the mental aspects of sex.... 2. characterizing a manifestation of sex having a psychic aspect. 3. characterizing a psychic process as having its origin or cause in a somatic sexual process (English & English, 1958, p. 428).

Psychosexual infantilism is, then, sexual behavior, with psychic and physical origin, involving sexual arousal from the behaviors and objects of infancy. Succinctly, "the erotic return 'to babyhood" (Scott, 1983, p. ix). In the interest of brevity psychosexual infantilism will be shortened to infantilism and its practitioners called infantilists.

Clinical reports of infantilism are rare. A literature review uncovered five case histories involving a diaper fetish: Bethell, 1974; Tuchman & Lachman, 1964; Malitz, 1966; Dinello, 1967; and Berest, 1971. Two Czechoslovakian studies focused on "infantile sexuality" (i.e. Freud's concept of polymorphous perversity) and regression to that type of sexual orientation in adult populations: Student and Devota, 1978; and Nedoma, 1973 (Nedoma updates Steckel's research and theories) (See also Freud, 1962).

Less detailed reports of psychosexual infantilism are presented anecdotally in research on variant sexuality, e.g. Scott, 1983; Stoller, 1976; and Scharfetter, 1980. Psychosexual infantilism is almost unknown even among clinicians today, and few of those cognizant of its existence knows anything about the lifestyle of the average infantilist. This is because of the difficulty in obtaining subjects due to the secrecy in which the fetish is practiced:

Few studies of fetishes, transvestites and sadomasochists have been carried out because of the many difficulties involved in obtaining subjects. The results of those studies that have been done are hard to interpret because of the unrepresentative samples the investigators have been forced to use. Researchers become very creative in searching for these hard-to-find subjects (Sarason & Sarason, 1980, p. 208).

The level of secrecy is so high that often infantilists themselves are unaware that others share their fetish or that support groups and specific fantasy literature has been developed solely for them.

The purpose of this dissertation is to shed some light on the psychosexual infantilist's lifestyle, define a range of infantilist behaviors, describe an "average" infantilist, discuss the fantasy literature and analyze the support systems infantilists have developed.

The problems Sarason and Sarason describe above have not been solved. The basic methodology of the present study utilized informal support networks organized by infantilists: correspondence networks. In the process of following up on the subjects of the 1980 study (Speaker, 1980) I was referred to other infantilists wishing to become part of the research. I utilized the mail for most of the contacts as anonymity was high. (Most correspondents use postal boxes and some use false names until you have gained their trust. This is perfectly understandable as this fetish behavior is not generally accepted.) Over the past six years I have surveyed and interviewed approximately fifty infantilists including three females. This research involved a literature review, extensive self-reports, several face-to-face interviews, and use of two survey instruments: The Infantilist Survey (Speaker & Heller, 1985; see also Wetmore, 1977); and the Fantasy Questionnaire (Wilson, 1978). See appendices A and B. The Infantilist Survey was also available for downloading (copying to one's personal computer) in the Alternatives (aka Paraphiles) Special Interest Group data library, Human Sexuality Section (HSX), of CompuServe Incorporated, a large public database service with approximately 300,000 subscribers. (Approximately fifty subscribers downloaded surveys between March and August, 1985; seven were completed and returned.) Most of this research is based on information provided by 27 subjects completing the Infantilism Survey (26 males, 1 female). 0f these 27, 15 completed the Fantasy Questionnaire (14 male, 1 female). Six of the 27 subjects also were described in detail in my first research on psychosexual infantilism (Speaker, 1980). This latter group was used to provide at least partial information as to levels of infantilistic behavior over a five year period.

This research involves some substantial caveats . The survey group was self-selected and the survey could be answered anonymously. (One subject gave only first name and listed his residence as "California".) Criteria for inclusion were: A) self-identification as an "infantilist" defined as sexual arousal involving diapers or other baby clothing; B) over 21 years of age; and C) must have acted out infantilist fantasies as an adult. Attempts were made to control for fantasies (limiting reports to actual behavior) by following up replies with further questions if possible, requesting a short social history and use of the Fantasy Questionnaire separate from the Infantilism survey. Respondents were also given the opportunity to describe fantasies on the Survey; it is believed they separated fact from fiction.

Dissertation: 1986| HTML conversion: 16 August 2010

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