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Paraphilic Infantalism: The Case of the Old Baby

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Autonepiophilia, or paraphilic infantalism, involves impersonating a baby to achieve sexual gratification. You may have encountered such pampered individuals on an old episode of Jerry Springer or some other tabloid venue that paraded them out on stage, but in fact these “Adult Babies,” as they refer to themselves, are not as uncommon as you might think. They’re common enough for some psychiatrists to recently attempt to formalize this sexual condition as “Adult Baby Syndrome.” There are also enough of them out there to inspire a small industry of products. Like those advertising patented torture accoutrements for BDSM enthusiasts, there are several commercial websites catering to the adult-baby aficionado. There, online, in clickable economics at, say, toddlerism.com, one can find a virtual marketplace brimming with clothes for newborns and feeding bibs scaled up to adult sizes, extra-large baby blankets, baby food, feeding bottles, shiny new pacifiers and, of course, diapers—diapers with plenty of room for man-sized erections. Over at ABDLMatch.com (Adult Baby Diaper Lovers), you might even come across your very own obliging “mommy,” “nanny,” or “wet nurse,” who will bounce you atop her knees while relieving you of something other than gas.

One of the most striking cases of autonepiophilia is a 1990 report by the psychiatrist Ranjani Pandita-Gunawardena, who describes an eighty-year-old Indian man who’d been living with his older sister for the past sixty years. “He apparently used to ‘regress’ to babyhood from time to time,” explains the author, “and his sister would then bottle-feed him or give him baby food, and dress him in nappies and take him out in a pram.” Trouble began to brew when the sister died and a neighbor woman began looking after the octogenarian. After dropping to all fours and crawling around while cooing, he eventually persuaded the startled woman to feed him and to change his diaper. Then he masturbated before her, as was his custom with his unusually accommodating late sister. We can only surmise from the psychiatric consultation that soon followed that this did not sit well with the neighbor woman. Here’s what the attending clinician, who’d never before come across a real live Adult Baby, reported seeing on entering the old man’s residence after getting the initial welfare call:

An adult-sized cot where he slept, with quilt and pillow of a baby design; many toys, teddy bears and rattles were scattered about. In another room there was a high-chair which was specially made for him and also a custom-made pram which was of adult size. He had nappies and bibs drying on a washing line, and there was baby food in Heinz containers in the fridge but no other food stuffs.

The psychiatrist reports that the old man had been kicked in the skull by a horse at the age of six and had spent several months comatose as a result, speculating that this tidbit could be tied to the gentleman’s paraphilic infantalism. (There’s some evidence that hypersexuality, and possibly pedophilia, may be connected to brain damage.) Curiously enough, however, this particular autonepiophile had a perfectly suitable level of grownup intelligence at his analysis and showed no signs of senile dementia. He was still meticulously balancing his own checkbook, for example, which was of course filled with his baby-related expenses.

I discuss paraphilias like this one, and much, much more, in my new book Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us, which will release on October 8, 2013. Follow me @jessebering (#DailyDeviant). For more on all things deviant, and to find out if I’ll be visiting a city near you for the Perv book tour, visit www.jessebering.com.

Jesse Bering About the Author: Jesse Bering is Associate Professor of Science Communication at the University of Otago in New Zealand. He is the author of The Belief Instinct (2011), Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That? (2012) and Perv (2013). To learn more about Jesse's work, visit www.jessebering.com or add him on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/jesse.bering). Follow on Twitter @JesseBering.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. jgrosay 5:02 pm 07/30/2013

    One reason that can make pedophilia incidence hard to reduce is the fact that pedophils many times were also sexually abused in their childhood, and when arriving to the age of sexual desire, they repeat the sole experience they’ve learned. As some types of Dementia, for example ‘Dementia with Lewy Bodies’ are linked to hypersexuality and lack of control of sexual drive, some of these demented persons may refuel a self-sustaining feedback loop that keeps pedophilia as a constantly present behavior in mankind. The movie ‘The Spider’s Stratagem’ by B Bertolucci, on a tale by J L Borges, gives a good example of this. There are some drugs that can reduce the frequency of uncontrolled sexual activity in demented people, but reducing this unwanted sexual activity to zero is extremely difficult. By the way: sometimes people receiving a punishment for molesting children are offered a time in jail reduction if they accept drugs that will reduce its sexual desire levels. From any point of view, the decision somebody can make of accepting such kind of treatment lacks any autonomy, thus any freedom, as the reward offered overcomes any resistance to accept the reduction of a desire so pleasant as sex. Only after having completely served the sentence, people can be offered that kind of treatments, in order to protect them from reincidence and coming back to jail, in this case, freedom of choice exists, but not while the pedophile is still imprisoned. It’s known also, that confronted with the dilemma of self-protection and sexual drive, most, if not all, would choose having sex and passing its genes to the generations following, even at the risk of death before, during, or after having sex, so, species preservation instinct is stronger than self-preservation. This kind of people are usually not very trustable when they declare wanting to get rid of its bizarre sexual drive, once upon a time, one of them having been sentenced, and offered a reduction of sentence by accepting a therapy to no longer wanting to have sex with children, was repeatedly seen trying to molest children while in the waiting room of the psychiatrist that was giving the subject a therapy to eliminate its unwanted sexual interests. Sex is the way death is outwitted, and thus, if we remove sex, we will eliminate us.

    Link to this
  2. 2. ferncanyon 6:44 pm 07/31/2013

    When I worked as a psychiatric counselor at a couple of hospitals in Silicon Valley in the 1980s, another counselor pointed out a newly arrived patient to me and said that the man, who was probably in his fifties, was an adult baby. As I recall, this man was an architect or something similar. Every day he’d go off to work and draw his blueprints or whatever, and in the evening he’d return home. His wife would put on his diapers and treat him as a baby. The next morning he change into his work clothes and go off to work again. He functioned perfectly well in society and I doubt his coworkers ever knew about what he did in his spare time.

    The other counselor told me that two or three times a year the patient refused to get out of bed, so his wife would call the police and they’d bring him to us. He’d stay in the hospital a few days until his medicine kicked in and then he’d return to work, and in the evening, his crib.

    Of course most people seem to find this behavior strange and the sexual aspect disturbing, but for the most part this man seemed to function normally in society. I don’t think he hurt anyone or even himself. It seems to be much more common than people realize. It’s just kept hidden from view.

    It makes me wonder how this is any different from other interests, such as an obsession with sports. But even more importantly, I wonder what leads a person to want to become an adult baby. What is it about this behavior that they enjoy so much?

    I suspect it has something to do with being released from the worries and pressures of society. Sort of a regression to a state where everything is taken care of for them. This is similar to what some submissives have told me as to why they enjoy being dominated. That they immediately switch into a state of bliss where they don’t have to think of what to do or say, they just automatically do as they’re told, but for this to work they need to have absolute trust that the dominant person will protect them and won’t try to make them do anything that would normally be against their wishes.

    Thanks for the interesting article, Jesse.

    Link to this
  3. 3. ToddlerDavy 10:41 pm 08/8/2013

    Cheers for the link, I’m always happy to get extra visitors to http://toddlerism.com. However, you, and your commenters seem to think that the plural of anecdote is data, and by doing so you misrepresent a large number of adult babies for whom it is not a sexual fetish at all. A lot of us, myself included, do not involve sex in any way with being an AB. In my relationship of 13 years we’ve never mixed sex with me being a little boy. This is true for a large number of people who want to be more childlike and sex is not at all like children.

    as far as your baseless insinuation that there is a link between adult babies and paedophilia goes that’s simply drivel. I know approximately 200 ABs and not one has been interested in children sexually. If you go to almost any adult baby website they will go to painful lengths to say infantilism has nothing to paedophillia, presumably to try and combat views spread by supposed serious bloggers who should know better than to bandy around accusations of horrible and illegal behaviour.

    If being demented is part of being an adult baby I seem to have done rather well for myself with four degrees, including a doctorate in epidemiology, from Oxford University plus a couple of advanced professional qualifications in my field of work: wine.

    Link to this
  4. 4. Mattie 10:54 am 08/9/2013

    I second ToddlerDavy’s view completely. Isn’t it amazing! The word “P[a]edophile” only has to appear once; in a spurious sentence which references an article written by you; which doesn’t even mention p[a]edophilia; to trigger a page long comment drivelling on about it as if that were the main subject of the article. Mr Bering, why did you feel the need to mention that word?

    The rest of your article is equally pathetic, my 3 year old alter-ego could do a better job. Honestly, you reference Jerry Springer from ~1993 and a psychology article from 1990. Couldn’t you have found some more contemporary literature, preferably this side of the 21st century, to cite? As for citing your own article, you may as well have written “There is some evidence, because I said so”.

    Your article insinuates that being an Adult Baby or a Diaper Lover (yes they are two very distinct terms) is a medical condition, something that needs to be treated or regarded as a threat to health. For most of us, being an AD/DL causes neither mental or physical harm or distress. There is nothing to treat as this is simply a lifestyle choice, one you clearly do not understand. It has nothing to do with p[a]edophilia, hypersexuality or brain damage. The hardest I’ve hit my own head is when I *facepalm* after reading tripe like this. Even a quick browse over Wikipedia’s article on the subject shows just how ignorant and lazy you have been in writing this article.

    You should hang you head in shame and go and sit on the naughty step for 10 minutes!

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  5. 5. richardlister81 11:49 am 08/17/2013

    Geez take a nap you two. Why so cranky ToddlerDavy and Mattie? It’d be nice if Jesse included more scientific meat in it but I liked this article as a case study and found the story of the old man very interesting. Doubtful there’s much science available anyway just clinical reports like these. And seriously ToddlerDavy I call bs on your saying that there’s no sexual component to your Adult Baby stuff and it’s all a hobby. If you run a website called “toddlerism.com” and like to wear diapers as a grown man with it touching your junk like that, and have women pampering and cooing over you, c’mon who you are you trying to kid (pun intended). As for the pedophilia thing I guess it’s fine to be defensive about that and the first commenter is indeed confused and missing the point, but Jesse never said that the two are in any way the same. btw ToddlerDavy good on you for the Oxford degrees but if you were really that smart you’d know that people with brain damage aren’t necessarily unintelligent and uneducated. the brain is a complex organ!

    Link to this
  6. 6. TimColes 3:07 pm 01/24/2014

    Both have a good point being cranky. I wholeheartedly agree!

    Although it’s not bad that some attention is brought to the lesser known fetishes, it’s a very bad thing this is being brought up together with paedophilia. Both have nothing to do with each other.

    As ToddlerDavy correctly said, adult baby and diaper lover can be two different things. Both can appear together but not necessarily. I myself am a ‘diaper lover’ but totally not into the baby stuff. I consider it a fetish as so many fetishes that exist. I have a university degree, got a successful career where I’m in charge of over 15 people, am happily married, … Unfortunately the brave people that come forward (eg Jerry Springer) with this fetish always seem like borderline individuals.

    I think many people would be amazed how many people (both men / women) are adult babies or diaper lovers. Fortunately the internet exists nowadays so one does no longer need to think he/she has some extremely rare condition :-) .

    I still hope that in like 10-20 year people will be much more open to all sorts of fetishes. I compare this to 20 years ago when gay people were in the closet. BTW richardlister81: would you also claim that gay people have brain damage? The brain works in mysterious ways, it’s pretty narrow minded to claim that people with this / that peculiarity have brain damage!

    Link to this

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