Many subcultures, or “groups that have beliefs and behaviors that are different from the main groups within a culture or society,” exist all over the world (Merriam Webster). Digital media has made discovering these unique, and often times private, subcultures much easier.
DIGITAL ETHNOGRAPHY TO LEARN MORE ABOUT SUBCULTURES
Digital ethnography, the “method of representing real-life cultures through storytelling in digital media,” is an important tool in giving others a glimpse into the many different cultures that exist in society (Underberg & Zorn). Through digital ethnography, researchers are able to learn more in depth about cultures that they would have never had the chance to before. The point of ethnography in general is to capture people in their natural settings. Digital ethnography takes general concept of ethnography one step further by utilizing digital media for their findings. Research is performed through online emails and questionnaires, digital video, social networks, and blogs.
Through the tools that digital media provides us with, learning about the subculture of Paraphilic infantilism has become increasingly easier. Through the digital ethnography of paraphilic infantilism, those who do not know much about this subculture are given the ability to discover and observe members who fall into the category of this subculture, and subsequently are exposed in a much clearer sense as to what their subculture is all about.
Paraphilic infantilism, also known as adult baby syndrome, is “a paraphilia characterized by the desire to wear diapers and be treated as an infant or toddler” (Baby Irish). Adult men and women prefer to act, dress and be treated as infant or toddlers. There are blogs, online videos, Wikipedia pages and forums with information regarding this subculture.
LITTLE RESEARCH CONDUCTED
Unfortunately, there has not been a lot of formal medical literature published with information regarding paraphilic infantilism. In fact, “[U]p until 1980, there were only three published case studies on infantilism all in the American Journal of Psychiatry between 1964 and 1967” (Griffiths). Luckily, digital media makes learning about this mysterious subculture an accessible option. The reason that not much research has been conducted regarding this subculture is the fact that,
“adult babies do not want to cease engaging in their behavior. For most adult babies, their behavior doesn’t constitute a medical condition that requires treatment or cause any functional impairment, personal distress or distress to others. Those who do end up seeking psychological or psychiatric help may do so because another individual (such as their sexual partner) encourages or forces them to seek help” (Griffiths).
Due to this, little is known about the true prevalence of paraphilic infantilism.
COMMON MANIFESTATION OF PARAPHILIC INFANTILISM
“One of the few surveys (from an unpublished PhD thesis on the topic by Dr. Thomas Speaker) reported that infantilists are typically male, employed, in their late thirties, well educated, and in stable sexual relationships” (Griffiths). It is believed that about 95% of those who are partake in infantilism are men. As mentioned previously, due to the obscurity of the subculture, it is noted that this representation may not be completely accurate.
SEXUAL AND NON-SEXUAL PURPOSES
Paraphilic infantilism has been connected to both sexual and non-sexual desires. Some research has determined that paraphilic infantilism is a sexually related desire in which those who identify themselves with adult baby syndrome are aroused by acting and being treated like babies. This individual “would focus on diapers as fetish items, sexually charged objects” (Baby Irish).However, it has been found that some who fall into the subculture of paraphilic infantilism are drawn to the way of life for strictly non-sexual reasons. This individual desires to be “adorable, sexually innocent, and powerless” (Baby Irish). It is also possible for the infantilist to fall into both the sexual and asexual categories One blogger by the name of Diaper Dummy sums up this aspect of sexual vs. non-sexual, saying:
“one who engages only in the erotic or sexual aspect of diaper wearing without experiencing any accompanying regression fantasies is known as a diaper lover (or DL). An adult who only engages in the infantilistic play aspect is known as an adult baby (or AB). An adult who may experience both of these things is referred to as an AB/DL.”
TYPICAL BEHAVIORS AND DESIRES OF PARAPHILIC IFANTILISM
From what has been discovered about those who identify as paraphilic infantilisms, they tend to share common behaviors and desires. According to a blog published by an “adult baby” under the username of “Baby Irish,” desires typically include coercion, identification, permanent regression, exhibitionism, control removal, and cross-dressing. Additionally, “infantilists often wear nappies, may drink from a baby bottle and/or be wet-nursed (sometimes simulated), crawl about the floor, have baby baths, eat baby foods, play with baby toys, be spanked, and may role-play and regress to an infant-like state” (Griffiths).
ORIGINS OF PARAPHILIC INFANTILISM BEHAVIORS
There is not one specific origin causing adults to engage in paraphilic infantilism behaviors. Some adults have felt the desire to act in such a way their entire life, whereas others discover the desire at an older age. The first suggested origin of infantilism that has been found is the longing for a relief from stress. They turn to infantilism as a source of removing themselves from their everyday adult responsibilities. The second suggested origin is that it is a result of sexual abuse. Baby Irish claims, “Specific incidents may have occurred during childhood or adolescence that have caused nappies to get a sexual association, or that caused the developing child to feel safer when still in nappies.” The final suggested origin is that it serves as an outlet for men to express their femininity. They may feel a desire to express an inner femininity, and infantilism offers a way for them to do that, much like transvestism does. Stanley, a 29 year old infantilist featured on National Geographic explains that he partakes in paraphilic infantilism “to get the love and affection (and) safeness” that’s lost when we leave our infancy” (Dahl). Although the causes may vary, all who partake in infantilism seem to find comfort in the activity.
DIGITAL MEDIA IN UNRAVELING THE SUBCULTURE OF PARAPHILIC INFANTILISM
Given that formal medical literature lacks research and publications regarding paraphilic infantilism, digital media is a huge source for understanding the phenomenon. Through online videos, forums, social media activity, and blogs, Internet users are able to gain a glimpse into the subculture of paraphilic infantilism.