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Bering in Mind

Bering in Mind

A research psychologist's curious look at human behavior

Paraphilic Infantalism: The Case of the Old Baby

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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.

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

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