Simply put, ABDL stands for Adult Baby, Diaper Lover. Adult babies, or Abs, enjoy infantilism. This involves dressing, acting, and being treated as infants or toddlers. Diaper lovers, or DLs, enjoy the wearing and use of diapers, with little to no need for the trappings of early childhood. The acronym is often written as “AB/DL.” Rather than denoting dominant or submissive status, the slash represents a separation between the two categories of interest.
Although, if you’ve been into any kink for more than two days, you’ll of course know there is much more to it than that. This subset of the larger kink of age play is often scene as two immutably disparate groups. There are the big babies on this side, and non-age playing diaper fetishists on that side. While many would happily describe themselves as either AB or DL, the strict binary does not represent the whole of the community. Many describe themselves as DL with AB tendencies, for example, and many others identify with both equally. In fact, many ABDLs have started phasing out the slash altogether.
ABDL appeals to participants for many reasons. Some practitioners derive erotic enjoyment from diaper-wearing and infantilism. Others find a sense of innocence, nurturance, and temporary relief from our competitive, taxing, stress-filled world. Still others are in it for the look and feel of the diaper itself. No two ABDLs will tell the same story of why they like what they like, but there are some threads of commonality. The appeal of ABDL is characterized by three distinct dimensions.
AB-leaning practitioners relish feeling small and cared for, and escaping some of the rigidity, seriousness, and emotional impassivity that adulthood often instills. Vulnerability is frequently dismissed as unproductive and “weak,” and ABDLs often struggle to overcome this. Many practitioners seek to return to a time when vulnerability engendered safety, joy, carefree play, and unconditional positive regard. Many other practitioners seek to counter a past in which vulnerability led to neglect, pain, exploitation or trauma. In either case, ABDL can serve as a heart-salve of sorts, and provide emotional restoration and healing.
DL-leaning practitioners enjoy diapers simply because they feel good to wear. To DL’s, the thick, soft crinkle of a diaper far surpasses the scant, plain minimalism of boxers, briefs or panties. For ABs, items such as bottles, pacifiers, blankets, stuffed animals and adult-sized baby clothes provide additional avenues of physical comfort. Many ABDLs describe coming home from a long day at work, stripping off stiff, itchy pantsuits and unforgiving high heels, and relaxing into diapers and fleece footed pajamas. In either case, ABDL acts as a self-care strategy, and a form of stress management.
The practice of ABDL is sexual for many, and non-sexual for many others. Erotic inclination toward diapers can involve several aspects. AB-leaning participants may fantasize of being treated like a toddler as a form of erotic humiliation. For DLs, the diaper serves as a fetish object in and of itself. Genital contact with the diaper’s inner folds, and the act of eliminating provides sexual stimulation. In either instance, the diaper acts as a masturbatory aid. Further, changing or being changed by a partner adds another layer of eroticism. The diaper, once solely a fetish object, becomes a tool to access or enhance intimacy.
The above items describe the appeal of ABDL. However, there are two additional features of the kink that define the experience for practitioners. These aspects act as barriers that impede self-acceptance, communication, and the ability of others to understand the appeal.
ABDL can be complicated, layered, and difficult to describe well. Its complexities are defined by how the kink is expressed. In short, the interest can encompass differing levels of sexuality, various other fetishes, myriad types of roleplay, and varying levels of power exchange. This creates a challenge when explaining general concepts to a non-ABDL partner, and can make communicating one’s specific needs an exercise of frustration and fear.
From the outside, ABDL can look strange, revolting, and downright impossible to understand. For the non-ABDL partner, grasping the appeal of voluntary diaper-wearing presents its own struggles. Miscomprehension of this kink is widespread, and due to several factors. Primarily, ABDL carries a certain lack of relatability with other hobbies and lifestyles, alternative or otherwise. More common kinks carry more points of reference. For example, explaining an erotic interest in pain can be started by referencing the widespread enjoyment of spicy food.
ABDLs do not have this luxury. Let’s put it this way. If 100 non-practitioners were asked what came to mind after the mere mention of diapers, it’s highly likely that nothing pleasant would come up. For those with no prior interest, diapers carry no positive associations, and points of reference and relatability simply don’t exist. Thoughts of squalling infants, toileting, hospitals and nursing homes fully block all ideas of comfort, warmth, release, nurturance and tender eroticism.
Consequently, at face value, enjoyment of diapers makes little sense. For those with no positive associations with them, the interest is rendered unrelatable and bizarre. For a vanilla partner, understanding desires they’ve never felt, experiences they’ve never thought about, and an erotic journey that contrasts so sharply with their own is not unlike trying to understand a language you’ve never learned. It’s hard, it takes patience, and it never happens overnight. Another reason ABDL is so easily misunderstood has to do with something I call the WTF factor, which I plan to describe in detail in a future article.
To conclude, ABDL is a multifaceted kink. It can be innocent, sensual, or sexual. It can be layered with other fetishes, and can involve varying levels of power play. Every ABDL expresses their kink differently, but most will agree that vulnerability and comfort feature prominently in their practice. ABDLs come in all genders, ethnicities, faiths, orientations, abilities and body-types, and can exist at all levels of socio-economic status or profession. The kink confuses many, but it doesn’t have to. When all is said and done, ABDLs are everyday humans.
Valentalae is a recent college graduate with interests in psychology, nonstandard sexualities and alternative relationship structures. She has appeared on multiple episodes of The Big Little Podcast, and enjoys blogging about topics related to age play, polyamory, and ability-aware kink.