email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
269 Amazing Sex GamesA History of MarriageA Pocket History of Sex in the Twentieth CenturyActionAll the WayAmerica UnzippedAmerica UnzippedAmerica's Sexual TransformationAmerican EugenicsAmerican GirlsAmerican HookupAn Interpretation of DesireAnarchism & SexualityAnatomy of a BoyfriendAnatomy of LoveAnthony GoicoleaAnticlimaxArt and HomosexualityArt/PornAssuming a BodyAutoportraitBachelors and BunniesBecoming OrgasmicBehind the Red DoorBest Sex Writing 2005Better Sex Through YogaBetter Sex Through YogaBetter Than EverBetween Mom and JoBeyond Diversity DayBeyond SexualityBeyond SpeechBeyond ToleranceBig Porn IncBill HensonBodies in DoubtBody ImagesBonkBoys Don't CryBreasts - A DocumentaryBrothelBuying SexCase Studies in Communication about SexCase Studies in Sexual DevianceCaught in the WebCelibaciesChildren and SexualityChildren and the Politics of SexualityChildren with Sexual Behavior ProblemsChildren, Sexuality and SexualizationChristy ReportClay's WayClinical Manual of Women's Mental HealthClose toYouClumsyCold HitCollege SexComing of Age in AmericaConfessions of the Other MotherCybersexCyborgasmDare... to Make Love with 2, 3, 4... or MoreDare... to Try BisexualityDating: Philosophy for EveryoneDeadly ButterflyDebating Same-Sex MarriageDeep GossipDeparting from DevianceDesire, Love, and IdentityDigital DiariesDilemmas of DesireDirty MindsDirty StoriesDisorders Of DesireDisorders of Sex Development:Doing ItDoing ItDoing It Down UnderDown and Dirty Sex SecretsDude, You're a FagEarly Embraces IIIEmerald City BluesEmotionally InvolvedEnjoying Guilty PleasuresErotic CapitalErotic InnocenceErotic PassionsEthics, Sexual Orientation, and Choices about ChildrenEveryday PornographyEvolution and Human Sexual BehaviorExploring TranssexualismFade to BlackFagbugFaking ItFamilies Like MineFast GirlsFinal JeopardyFinding H. F.Fire on the Mountain DVDFor Lesbian ParentsFor The Bible Tells Me SoForbiddenFrictionFrom Disgust to HumanityFrom Shame to SinFuckologyGay, Straight, and the Reason WhyGender in the MirrorGender OutlawsGeography ClubGetting RealGetting the Love You WantGirls & SexGirls Gone MildGirls Gone SkankGLBTQGoddess WorshipGoing DownGood GirlsGood PornGood Sex IllustratedGreat Answers to Difficult Questions About SexGuide To Getting It OnHandbook New Sexuality StudiesHandbook of Counseling and Psychotherapy with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual ClientsHard to GetHardcore from the HeartHear Us Out!HeterosyncraciesHit & MissHomosexualitiesHookedHooking UpHow Sex Became a Civil LibertyHow Sex ChangedHow Sex WorksHow To Be GayHow to Do Things with Pornography How to Give Her Absolute PleasureHow to Have Magnificent SexHow to Make Great Love to a ManHow to Make Great Love to a WomanHow to Make Love Like a Porn StarHow to Think More About SexHypnography for MenHypnography for WomenHysterical MenI'd Rather Eat ChocolateI'll Be Your MirrorIf Men Could TalkImpotenceIn a Queer VoiceIn Praise of the WhipIn the Mood, AgainInsatiable WivesIntense Games DVDInvestigating Young People's Sexual CulturesIt's Perfectly NormalIt's Perfectly NormalItís Your HourJane Sexes It UpJock SturgesJust Between UsKama-Sutra--The Secrets to the Art of LoveKids Gone WildLegalizing ProstitutionLegalizing ProstitutionLet's Get This StraightLets Talk about SexLetters to Penthouse Vol. 50Likely to DieLittle ChicagoLoose GirlLosing Matt ShepardLoveLove and DesireLove and SexLove JunkieLove Lust DesireLove SickLustMad for FoucaultMagical ThinkingMaking American BoysMaking Babies the Hard WayMaking Chastity SexyMaking Peace with PornMaking ScenesMale SexualityMalefemaleMaster BreastsMating in CaptivityMedicalized MasculinitiesMelancholia and MoralismMenMental Health Issues in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Communities MiddlesexMoney ShotMoral Panics, Sex PanicsMy Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me UpMy HeartbeatMy Horizontal LifeName All the AnimalsNatural BeautyNerveNerveNew Sex Now DVDNightswimmingNone of the AboveNormalNormalNot GayNot The Marrying KindNot Under My RoofNothing PinkOedipus WreckedOn Being RapedOne Hot SecondOne Hour in ParisOpenOrgasmOrgasm Inc.OrgasmologyOrgasmsOver 100 Truly Astonishing Sex TipsOverexposedPeekPeriod PiecesPervPhilosophizing About Sex Philosophy of Love, Sex, and MarriagePin-up GrrrlsPINSPlease Don't Kill the FreshmanPolicing SexualityPolyamory in the 21st CenturyPornPorn NationPorn StudiesPorn UniversityPornifiedPornlandPornographyPornographyPornography, Sex, and FeminismPosition Of The Day PlaybookPray the Gay AwayPredatorsPremarital Sex in AmericaPrinciples and Practice of Sex TherapyPrivate Dicks - Men ExposedPrivate Practices DVDProblem GirlsPrudePsychopathia SexualisQueer PhilosophyRapeRape Is RapeRated X - A Journey Through PornRazmatazRecruiting Young LoveRedefining GirlyRedefining RapeRegulating SexRelax, It's Just SexRethinking Gender and Sexuality in ChildhoodRethinking RapeRunning with ScissorsSatan's Sex BookScreening SexSelling Sex ShortSexSex & Single GirlsSex (Ed)Sex and SpiritSex and the American TeenagerSex and the SoulSex and the Soul, Updated EditionSex and WarSex at DawnSex by NumbersSex DetoxSex Fiends, Perverts, and PedophilesSex in CrisisSex ObjectSex OffendersSex on the BrainSex PositionsSex Q & ASex, Family, and the Culture WarsSex, or the UnbearableSex, Therapy, and KidsSex, Time and PowerSextasySexting and Young PeopleSexual ArtSexual Boundary ViolationsSexual DevianceSexual DisordersSexual EcstasySexual EthicsSexual FluiditySexual IntelligenceSexual Orientation and Psychodynamic PsychotherapySexual Orientation and School PolicySexual PleasureSexual PredatorsSexual Teens, Sexual MediaSexuality in AdolescenceSexuationSexyBookShameShamelessShy GirlSlutWalkSmall FavorsSmutSocial Control of Sex OffendersSome Assembly RequiredSplit ScreenStir-FryStraight to JesusStrange BedfellowsStripped BareSurviving Sexual ViolenceSymptoms of Being HumanTalkTalk to Me FirstTechniques of PleasureTestosterone RexThe Anthropology of SexThe BabiesThe Better Sex Guide to the Kama SutraThe Big Book of PornThe Birth of the PillThe Blue Moon Erotic Reader IIIThe BodyThe Breast BookThe Breath of Tantric LoveThe Busy Couple's Guide to Great SexThe Case of the Female OrgasmThe Chemistry Between UsThe Clitoral TruthThe Education of SophieThe Emergence of SexualityThe End Of AliceThe End of SexThe Erotic EdgeThe Erotic Lives of WomenThe Essential KamasutraThe Fate of GenderThe First Man-Made ManThe First TimeThe Gay Baby BoomThe Good Vibrations Guide to SexThe Happy Hook-UpThe Hite ReportThe Humble Little CondomThe Illustrated Guide to Extended Massive OrgasmThe Illustrated Story of OThe Love CureThe Madness of WomenThe Men They Will BecomeThe Mirror of LoveThe Miseducation of Cameron PostThe Moral Panics of SexualityThe Naked Truth About SexThe Nature of Sexual DesireThe New Erotic PhotographyThe New Gay TeenagerThe Notebook GirlsThe Only Girl in the CarThe Order of the Poison OakThe Origins of SexThe Other HollywoodThe Other PlaceThe Other Side of DesireThe Perils of MasculinityThe Perversion of YouthThe Philosophy of PornographyThe Philosophy of Sex: Contemporary ReadingsThe Pleasure's All MineThe Politics Of LustThe Porn TrapThe Pornographer's GriefThe Pornography IndustryThe Praeger Handbook of TranssexualityThe Psychodynamics of Gender and Gender RoleThe Purity MythThe Real Truth About Teens and SexThe Right to Be ParentsThe Secret Lives of GirlsThe Sex Addiction WorkbookThe Sex Lives of TeenagersThe Sex MythThe Shared HeartThe Sleep of ReasonThe Smart Girl's Guide to PornThe State of AffairsThe Story of SexThe SurrenderThe Ten Minute Sexual SolutionThe Tenth CircleThe Transformations of GwenThe Transformations of GwenThe Trauma MythThe Ultimate Guide to Sex and DisabilityThe Vagina MonologuesThe ValleyThe Violence of CareThe Virgin BlueThe Virginity ClubThings Tom LikesThinking KinkThinking XXXToo Hot to HandleTransTransTransgender Children and YouthUltimate JudgementUltimate SexUndoing GenderUnlikelyUntangling the WebVirginVirgin NationVirgin Sex for GirlsVirgin Sex for GuysVirginity LostWhat Women WantWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for BoysWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for GirlsWhat's Happening to Tom?What's Wrong with Homosexuality?When Jeff Comes HomeWhen Sex Goes to SchoolWhen the Piano StopsWhere Do We Fall When We Fall in Love?Who Has What?Who's Been Sleeping in Your HeadWilhelm ReichWired for IntimacyWomen and Child Sexual AbuseWomen and MadnessWritten in the FleshYou Know Me WellZen Sex
There are some books that I want to review, and I pester and plead
with publishers to send review copies. Then there are other books
that I get sent, which stay on my shelves for months because I
do not have the time or inclination to read them and I cannot
find anyone else to review them either. This book falls in the
latter category. Indeed, I might not have reviewed this book at
all if it were not for the fact that Susan Sontag wrote an introductory
essay and it is published by powerHouse books,
an interesting publisher that has many great books in its catalog.
I'm not usually put off by sexually-themed books - indeed, I plan
to review a wide range of photography books in the next few months
that many readers will consider beyond the pail. But The Babies
is a collection of photographs of adult men who derive sexual
pleasure from dressing and acting as babies. I'm not sure if they
get pleasure from viewing photographs of other men dressed as
babies -- I imagine some do. But this is not a work of pornography;
rather it is more journalism or documenting. But this is neither
a scientific recording of perversion, nor an exposé of
the shocking truth of what goes on in the suburbs. Rather, it
is an inquisitive and magnanimous look at these men, very open
in its attitude towards them.
Polly Borland explains at the end of the book that after doing
a feature story for a British newspaper on Adult Babies, she decided
to "embark on a photographic journey" to explore the
topic more. She soon realized that it is an international phenomenon.
Some men chose to dress as boy babies, some as girl babies; some
are into bondage and punishment; some prefer to be newborn babies,
while others prefer one, two or three years old. Not all of them
are into wetting themselves or defecating. Most of the men say
they felt unloved as children, and because of the isolation they
felt in their Adult Babyhood activities, they continued to feel
neglected. But with the Internet, Adult Babies around the world
are able to communicate with each other. (Of course, the same
is true for many other people with unusual ways of expressing
It is of course interesting to speculate what leads adult men
to behave in this way - certainly just feeling neglected as a
child is not a sufficient explanation. But these pictures do not
aim to explain the behavior, simply to show it. Borland managed
to win the trust of her subjects so that they felt comfortable
enough to let her photograph them in their Babyhood. I wonder
how it felt for her taking these pictures; if my discomfort in
viewing them is any indication, it must have been a difficult
There is something profoundly strange in seeing grown men dress
up in romper suits, sit in strollers, sucking on pacifiers, wearing
large diapers, and silky night-dresses with pink bows. Without
wishing to be needlessly judgmental, I have to say I find it far
more grotesque than pictures of bondage gear and shiny leather.
How bizarre that a rather simple regression to the age of talcum
powder and diaper rashes is more disturbing than the excitement
of domination and pain, but my guess is that my reaction will
be shared by most of those who open these pages. I wonder whether
there is a gender difference here - maybe women will experience
less discomfort in seeing these images, and maybe there is something
about them that threatens deeply held notions of masculinity.
But then again, I suspect that I'd have similar reactions on seeing
middle-aged women dressed up as babies in adult diapers, pacifiers,
and pink or blue bonnets.
I imagine that most people experience some pleasures of regression;
I know I do occasionally. Rediscovering old toys, old comics,
food that one enjoyed as a child can be fun; sometimes playing
with children, one can experience the fun and playfulness one
had as a child, pulling faces, making silly sounds, chasing and
even wrestling can be enjoyable too. (I'll personally admit to
recently enjoying reading and reviewing many children's books.)
In a different form of regression, it's a common observation that
adult couples newly in love can sometimes have that kind of playfulness,
even if it can be obnoxious if they engage in it in public.
Doubtless one of the reasons that Adult Babies may be disturbing
is the fact that they get some sexual pleasure from their activities,
and maybe some would worry about having these men playing with
their babies, so it is worth stressing that nothing in this book
even hints that there is any connection between infantilism and
pedophilia. They seem to be entirely distinct phenomena. Although
we genitalia in some of these images, and in a couple of them
the men are sexually aroused, the focus here is not on sexuality,
but rather on dressing up and playing. In fact, one of the most
disturbing pictures for me is entirely non-sexual; "Snuggles
in Mummy Hazel's garden" is set in a back yard of someone's
house in Britain; a large man, dressed up in pink and white, wearing
a bonnet, mittens, a large nightdress, white socks and pink sandals
is on a rocking horse, presumably specially constructed to be
large enough for an adult. Maybe what is especially striking here
is that he is willing to be seen not just by the photographer,
but also by people in adjoining houses who have an open view of
him. I would die of embarrassment if it were me.
In these pictures by Borland, we know very little about the men
apart from the names they take as babies and what country they
live in; pictures were taken in Britain, Australia, and California.
So there's little context to these images, and presumably this
was a deliberate choice. It would have been possible to accompany
the pictures with interviews with Adult Babies, explanations by
them of their preferences, or even discussions by psychiatrists
of this sort activity. Instead, the short texts that precede and
follow the pictures are short pieces by Susan Sontag, editor Mark
Holborn, and Borland herself. Sontag wonders whether the babies
are "really unattractive" and points out that there's
a great difference between these subjects and those in Roger Ballen's
which shows whites in rural South Africa; the implication here
is that "adult babies" are not evil, even if they are
rather sad or pathetic.
It's hard to know how to assess these pictures; they certainly
provoke a variety of emotional reactions, including curiosity,
discomfort, and amusement. Some may be disgusted, others may
be aroused. Ultimately, I'm not convinced that these images provide
much insight into the world of infantalism, but they do at least
remind us, if we needed reminding, of the wide range of different
sorts of sexuality.
Links: (warning - these are to adult sites and can lead a profusion
of unwanted pop-up ads)
© 2002 Christian Perring. First Serial Rights.
Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College,
Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review.
His main research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry.
He is especially interested in exploring how philosophers can
play a greater role in public life, and he is keen to help foster
communication between philosophers, mental health professionals,
and the general public.