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Understanding Infantilism (.org)

The ABDL Triangle

By BitterGrey

In 1995, this website opened with an essay titled "Understanding Infantilism" and a simple analogy. This analogy drew on fetishism, transvestism, and masochism to help readers imagine what ABDL fantasies might be like. It plotted the different emphases among ABDLs as points defining a triangular area, and countered the presumption that ABDLs were all the same.

A brief analogy

The first corner is relatively straightforward. Diaper fetishes are simply fetishes that involve diapers. That is, the diaper becomes an arousing object. Unfortunately, infantilism is often discussed as if it were a diaper fetish. Describing the interests of ABDLs requires two more corners on the triangle.

The second corner is similar to masochism. In masochism, bondage and discipline might be used by the dominant partner to express a transfer control. To apply this corner to ABDLs, replace the harsh mistress with a firm mother figure. Next, replace the leather and chains with diapers and other reminders that the ABDL isn't in control. The differences between the second and third corners are subtle. For example, ABDLs in both corners might soil their diapers. The vestic ABDL might be changed and cuddled. The masochistic ABDL, in contrast, might be scolded and spanked. The masochistic ABDL might hold on to the identity of a grown man, even though cast in a less powerful role, such as baby or child.

The third corner is similar to transvestism. A male transvestite takes on a feminine role and identity. To reinforce these, he dresses up as a woman. In his mind, he wouldn't be a man using women's clothing. He would be a woman, wearing woman's clothing because that is what women wear. He would have a female mindset. The act of crossdressing might not be erotically charged at all. To apply this corner to ABDLs, replace the role of grown woman with that of a baby boy or girl. For a short time, he would be a baby, dressing and acting the part. Although it can be confusing, both the second and third corners would be categorized as infantilism.

It is common for individual tastes to include more than one corner. Specific scenes might change from one corner to another. They may also blend the themes, ending up somewhere on the triangle's face.

The analogy's limitations

While suitable as a brief description, this analogy has limitations. For example, while the transvestite has the option of surgically changing sex, the 'vestic' ABDL does not have the option of becoming a real baby. Furthermore, there are some masochists who approach their scenes with an almost vestic perspective: They accept the identity of slave and are happy that way.

These can be addressed by focusing on role and mindset. A grown man who embraces the role of baby won't feel deprived of control when he is treated as a baby. He will enjoy it. In contrast, a grown man who holds on to the role of grown-up will feel deprived of control if treated as a baby. He will be frustrated. However, he may enjoy the frustration. He would want to reject the role, but not want to be given the choice to reject the role.

The triangle's edges

Some attention should also be given to the triangle's edges. A reasonable definition for the boundary between the interests of ABDLs and other interests is the presence of diapers or other symbols of babyhood. Unless diapers or babyhood have a specific importance - are central and non-interchangeable - the more general category would be better. For example, someone who enjoys baby humiliations the same as other types of humiliation might best be grouped generally as a masochist, as opposed to an adult baby specifically. Another example would be the masochist who was put in diapers because he was going to be tied up for a long time: This wouldn't necessarily be an ABDL scene, since either diapers or catheters could have been used interchangeably.

The ABDL triangle, restated

The corners can then be restated...

# Focus Role and Mindset Comparable to...
1 Objects No inherent change in role or mindset. Fetishism
2 Loss of status & control Change in role. Role and mindset don't match. Masochism
3 Change in role Role and mindset change and match. Transvestism

Which would look like...

A triangle relating a paraphilic infantilism, emphasizing change in role or loss of control, to a diaper fetish, emphasizing diapers as objects.  In some ways, the corners are similar to transvestism, masochism, and not surprisingly fetishism.

The first corner does not inherently involve a change in role. It emphasizes the objects, the diapers. This corner would look like fetishism with diapers. This corner is a typical, sexual fetish. Diapers are seen as an erotically charged item. This corner may or may not involve other items, roleplay, etc. Depending on individual tastes, the DL, his partner, or both would wear diapers.

The second corner would involve a change in role without a matching change in mindset. This would look like masochism, except that instead of being reduced to a slave, he would be reduced to the status of baby or small child. In contrast to the third corner, it does involve a sense of loss. The ABDL is aware that he is under another's control. He may have the mindset of an adult or older child, being treated as a baby. This may involve bondage and domination, but thresholds for headspace-age-inappropriateness vary and must be respected. If the ABDL is in a juvenile mindset or headspace, then the use of adult-themed restraints and punishments would seem inappropriate. A whip or cage might be disruptive to the headspace, while time-outs and playpens would not be. This is the first of two thresholds of headspace-age-inappropriateness that need to be respected in play. The second involves sexuality.

The third corner involves a matching change in role and mindset. This corner would look like transvestism, except the ABDL would be a baby instead of a woman. Diapers and sometimes other pieces of adult-sized baby clothing are used to express a change in the infantilists role and mindset: He is a baby. This is the corner that would typically involve parent/baby roleplay. Thresholds for headspace-age-inappropriateness are more of a factor for those in an infantile headspace than for those in juvenile or adult headspaces. Those in an infantile headspace might embrace the thought of being powerless, but not be receptive to being chained up. While a lot of control is given up when accepting a baby's role, this corner doesn't involve a sense of loss.

Alternate versions

Over its two-decade history of development and use, the ABDL triangle has proven to be serviceable. It has appeared in many forms, some better suited for a given audience than others. However, the core point of the illustration remains.

The 1995 abdl triangle The chalkboard abdl triangle Updated 2007 object/role/loss triangle The Spanking Art wiki version of the triangle. Penny Barber's vestism-fetishism-submission triangle A triangle depicting the range of ABDL emphasis.  The corners are diapers (as objects), blissful babyhood (as a role), and diaper humiliations (as loss).

- Updated:29 July 2015  1st:6 Oct 2007     

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