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Understanding Infantilism (.org)

ABDL for BDSM Enthusiasts

By BitterGrey

Just as a good bondage scene requires more than a just a knowledge of knots, a good ABDL scene involves more than just knowing how to change a diaper. Knowing the step-by-step practices are important, but the desired emphasis, headspace, and limits also must be understood. As in all scenes, all four (practices, emphasis, headspace, and limits) should be negotiated beforehand. These aren't foreign to BDSM enthusiasts, but how they apply to ABDL scenes might not be obvious.


A triangle relating paraphilic infantilism, emphasizing change in role or loss of control, to diaper fetishism, emphasizing diapers as objects.  In some ways, the corners are similar to transvestism, masochism, and -not surprisingly - fetishism. The value of any individual object or practice is how it contributes to the emphasis of the scene. Simply being in diapers, like simply being tied up, can get boring quickly. They need to add to the scene's emphasis. Generally, there are three aspects that can be emphasized during ABDL play; sexuality, loss of status or control, and change in role. In scenes that emphasize sexuality, the diapers would be used like other fetish objects or kinky toys. These encounters might not involve roleplay, and might not be formal scenes.

ABDL scenes emphasizing loss of status or control may use diaper humiliations in much the same way crossdressing humiliations would be used. The difference is that instead of masculinity, adulthood is being taken away. Diapers can also be used in other forms of loss, such as usurping the final control of bodily functions. There may be other forms of power exchange as well. There is little difference between an ABDL scene emphasizing loss and a more typical BDSM scene involving diapers.

Finally, there are ABDL scenes that emphasize a change in role. This doesn't involve a sense of loss, but another identity. The ABDL isn't a man deprived of adulthood, but a baby free to be itself. This is analogous to the transvestite who sets his own femininity free, or the sub who's bondage liberates him from responsibility. They may have less status or control, but there is no sense of loss.

An ABDL will generally be seeking a specific emphasis or mix of emphases. Some emphases mix better than others. A scene's emphasis can also change over time.


The practices express emphases, and the emphases permit a 'headspace'DEF. Some ABDLs regressDEF, that is, they get into the headspace of an infant. In some ways, this is similar to the headspace that submissives may pursue, sometimes called "subspace." The baby headspace is, as one might expect, an idealized emulation. It is neither like having the mind of a real baby nor merely going through the motions of babyhood, but somewhere in between. For example, the two hundred pound adult baby won't necessarily throw violent tantrums like a twenty pound toddler would. He is a functional adult in an altered headspace. He should be doing it in a safe, sane, and consensual fashion. If not, the scene should be ended. Moving into a baby headspace must be done carefully and gradually. Both physical and emotional safety must be ensured. For example, a repressed memory of a past trauma may surface while the baby is regressed.

This headspace is often described by an age: a 10-month old baby, a 18-month old toddler, etc. The practical meanings of these ages can be found on Jenifer's developmental milestones chart. The headspace-age is only a guideline, of course. Even real children are more mature in some ways than others, or simply don't act their age.

Changes in headspace might or might not be expressed clearly during a scene.

'Headspace-age-appropriate' Limits

One effect of headspace-age is the concept of 'headspace-age-appropriatenessDEF.' Most adults will intervene to protect children from age-inappropriate situations. ABDLs might be similarly protective their own 'inner child.' If this protectiveness kicks in, it ruins the scene. For example, one 'baby' may enjoy how the leather cuffs, chains, and locks that he is wearing underline his infantile helplessness. Other 'babies' might be unable or unwilling to get into an infantile headspace around him. The presence of heavy bondage would be a headspace-age-inappropriate situation that they don't want to expose their inner child to.

This limit has other causes as well. For example, sexual stimulation has a different meaning to adults than it does to infants. Depending on the adult, this difference may be undeniable. Sexual arousal above some threshold would pull him out of a baby headspace and into one that was undeniably adult.

These thresholds are influenced by perception. For example, swaddlingDEF in cotton, but not mummification in plastic wrap, would be appropriate. The restraining effect may be the same, but they would be perceived in different ways. Babies are swaddled, not mummified. Cribs and cages provide another example. Both have bars, but only one would be appropriate for a baby. This appropriateness is influenced by culture, but determined by the adult baby. Similarly, handling baby's genitals during changing is appropriate, but fondling them is not. The acts may be similar, but they are perceived differently. Headspace-age-appropriate acts, above a certain threshold, tend to disrupt baby's headspace. Of course, the views on appropriateness and the thresholds differ, so they should be discussed during negotiation.

In addition to varying between individuals, the thresholds may change over time. As with pain, desensitization might occur with exposure. The baby headspace would either become more adult or more able to dismiss things that are headspace-age-inappropriate. Of course, this can be strongly undesirable for some ABDLs. For them, a baby-like headspace is the goal. They don't want to risk making it adult. To prevent unwanted exposure, headspace-age-appropriate limits should be used unless alternate limits were discussed during negotiation.

AB, DL, or Both?

Similar to BDSM, ABDL is a broad group. ABDLs may be adult babies, diaper lovers, or both. "Adult baby" and "diaper lover" are ways to express two endpoints with a blurred gradient in between. Diaper lovers (DLs) generally don't seek a baby headspace. Usually roleplay is absent or secondary with DLs. Adult Babies (ABs) generally roleplay as babies, and may or may not seek a baby-like headspace. ABs can also be DLs at other times, and visa versa.


The terms 'ageplay' and 'ABDL' should not be used interchangeably. ABDL is a type of ageplay, but ageplay also includes other, distinct interests. One of the more visible distinctions is the gender distribution: The majority of ABDLs are men, while ageplayers that choose juvenile or adolescent ages are more likely to be women ( Dave's Diaper SurveyEXT )

"The Perfect Scene"

As in BDSM, individual ABDLs have varying notions about what the perfect ABDL scene would be. The four layers that the scene needs to operate on (practices, emphasis, headspace, and limits) are common, but the contents of each differ. Superficially, ABDL scenes consist of practices: wearing diapers, getting changed, playing with blocks, eating babyfood, etc. These practices need to contribute to the scenes' emphases; sexuality, loss of status and control, or change in role. These emphases aren't that different than would be present in fetishistic, masochistic, or transvestic scenes. For adult babies, the practices and emphasis together might support an altered headspace. In contrast to the typical BDSM headspace, described by status, the adult baby's headspace would be described by age. Finally, this scene would need to take place within negotiated limits. These scenes would be driven by the preferences and thresholds of all parties. The perfect ABDL scene might not exist, but being able to communicate our interests increases the quality of the scenes we have.

- Updated:20 March 2011  1st:10 May 2006     

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