First, before you play with one, you may be curious as to what a “little” is. I am going to give you the more widely accepted definition/explanation for what a little is. Although there are some that may define things differently. Some will define being a little as being completely separate from age-play, for example. I will do my best to explain it how I have come to understand it via friends that identify as such, as well as participate in groups dedicated to age play.
Age play is a term used to cover those that participate in a certain fetish for behaving and/or regressing in a way that is more typical of ages younger than they are chronologically.
>>Age play does NOT imply anything related to ACTUAL incest or pedophilia.<<
Under the umbrella of age play there are several identifiers. Adult baby, little, and middle. Adult baby typically refers to someone who identifies with age 0-2 approximately. Some may identify within a few years older but not beyond diaper wearing years. A little usually identifies between AB and 9 or 10 approximately. The term “little” can also be used as an umbrella term for all three of these categories. Much like “D/s” is a specific power exchange dynamic but is also used as a global reference to any power exchange. The third identifier is middle which usually refers to someone that associates their “little space” to an age that is still a child but a bit older – pre-teen thru adolescence.
So to make it a bit easier I will be using the term “little” for the remainder of this article as the more global, or umbrella, term. It will refer to those that identify as an AB, little or middle. The defining difference for a little (as opposed to a babygirl, babyboy, or any roleplay including a minor like molestation/incest play) is regression. Regression is when your mind has to go back to a different age, it physically reverts to a younger age, when this happens the little does not think like a grown up, only the age they revert to.
If you go to a “littles party”, for example – at least here in LA – you will probably see the main play space filled with blankets, stuffed animals, chutes & ladders type board games, etc. Participants might be dressed in diapers, onesies, and/or footed pajamas. There will probably be a lot of coloring books, crayons, markers, playdoh, and other craft items. IF the party allows kinky play you will most likely find separate rooms available for that – away from the main area.
This is the part you need to pay attention to if you are negotiating play with someone that identifies as a little. First, find out what their definition of little is for them. It may be that their definition for little is closer to my definition of babygirl/boy (look for an article soon where I compare them) or that they identify as a little simply because they have a few childlike traits in their personality. In these cases you may not have much issue in terms of integrating their “little side” with kink. However, if they define “little” closer to how I (and many others) define it, then that may be a different story. If someone does more of a regression to the age of a child then it is possible that kinky play and/or sexual acts can be abusive. It can trigger trauma for them or become a more traumatic scenario. This is why it’s important to have a very honest conversation about what being in “little space” means for them, what they enjoy doing during that time, and what is off limits. Also, discuss whether the scene will be completely in “little space”, “adult space”, or if it might be a combination. A combination may be a bit trickier and require very specific planning. For many, kink can be integrated into little space if it makes sense – such as disciplining the “child” with a spanking.
Overall, the topic of littles and age-play can get very complicated. I hope I’ve at least cleared up a few questions if you had any. The main take away here is to make sure the negotiation for a scene is very honest and clear – on both sides. Don’t shy away from playing with littles – it can be a very fun and unique experience!
Jennifer Masri is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, specializing in Alternative Lifestyles for individual and relationship issues. She also teaches the BDSM 101 class series at Sanctuary LAX in Los Angeles every Monday evening. Read more about Jennifer on her blog, A Kink Shrink.