The Myth of the Underage Little

by Geneva Ballinger

There has been much discussion recently on numerous social media sights outlining the “pros” and “cons” regarding allowance or denial of “Underage Littles” into the online BDSM communities. Some people believe that underage Littles should be allowed within the community, many believe underage Littles should only be allowed in the “Safe for Work” spaces of the community, while others, such as myself, believe there is no such thing as an underage Little.

A Little is an adult submissive who finds joy in embracing his or her inner child which may present itself by exhibiting behaviors or presenting with vernacular deemed younger than their biological age; however, for the Little, it is imperative that this dynamic is about caregiving rather than age-play. This dynamic often involves behaving, speaking, or dressing in a child-like manner or engaging in typical child-appropriate activities, and may or may not involve sex or other adult-appropriate themes and activities. While most Littles and their Mommy or Daddy Doms find age play to be sexually stimulating, there are also many who do not associate being a Little with sex at all. The first sentence of this description is paramount to understanding why a person who is under the legal age of consent cannot participate in the Little community on any level.

Littles are a subcategory of submissives within the community known as BDSM (Bondage-Discipline/Dominance-Submission/Sadism-Masochism) and as such, a person is required to be of the legal age of consent before entering into any aspect of the community. Although I have given the above information to a multitude of people across the world, the message does not yet seem to have penetrated, so I will now outline a cornucopia of reasons why people under the age of consent cannot participate on any level within the BDSM scene, nor any sub-categories thereof including Little-space or the Caregiving Paradigm.

Lets first look at the laws surrounding age of consent – for the purpose of transparency I am making it clear that I will only be referring to Australian Laws as they are the laws that govern myself and my local BDSM/DDLG community. These are the laws I have worked with at the Magistrates Court and at a variety of sexual health education and awareness organizations, as well as the laws that I refer to in my psychosexual therapy practice while running psychoeducational groups or during private consultations.

The age of consent in Australia is 16 for oral or vaginal penetration (phallically (penis), digitally (fingers) or by use of an external object) and 18 for sodomy (same stipulations regarding penetration method) in Queensland, however, these ages vary from state to state;

  • ACT Crimes Act 1900 (Section 55)
    • The age of consent for sexual interactions is 16 years.
  • NSW Crimes Act 1900 (Section 66C)
    • The age of consent for sexual interactions is 16 years.
  • NT Criminal Code Act 1983 (Section 127)
    • The age of consent for sexual interactions is 16 years.
  • QLD Criminal Code Act 1899 (Sections 208 and 215)
    • The age of consent for anal sex (referred to as sodomy in legislation) is 18 years, and for all other sexual acts (referred to as carnal knowledge in legislation) is 16 years.
  • SA Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (Section 49)
    • The age of consent for sexual interactions is 17 years.
  • TAS Criminal Code Act 1924 (Section 124)
    • The age of consent for sexual interactions is 17 years.
  • VIC Crimes Act 1958 (Section 45)
    • The age of consent for sexual interactions is 16 years.
  • WA Criminal Code Act, Compilation Act 1913 (Section 321)
    • The age of consent for sexual interactions is 16 years.

In Australia there are categories regarding children and the participation of sexual conduct, whether they are willing or not. The following list is taken directly from the Victorian sex-Offenders list;

Class 1 offences
• Sexual penetration of a child

o Rape
o Incest
o Sexual penetration of a child under 16
o Sexual penetration of 16 or 17 year old
o Sexual penetration of a person with a cognitive impairment by providers of medical or therapeutic services
o Sexual penetration of person with a cognitive impairment by providers of special programs

• Compelling sexual penetration if the person who the offence is committed against is a child
• Persistent sexual abuse of a child under the age of 16
• Facilitating sexual offences against a child
• Aggravated sexual servitude
• Sexual intercourse or other sexual activity with a child outside Australia
• Persistent sexual abuse of a child outside Australia
• Sexual intercourse or other sexual activity with a young person outside Australia where the offender is in a position of trust or authority

Class 2 offences
• Sexual assault of a child
• Sexual assault by compelling sexual touching against a child
• Assault with intent to commit a sexual offence against a child
• Threat to commit a sexual offence against a child
• Indecent act with child under 16
• Indecent act with 16 or 17 year old child
• Grooming for sexual conduct with child under the age of 16
• Abduction or detention of a child
• Production of child pornography
• Procurement of a minor for child pornography
• Possession of child pornography
• Causing or inducing a child to take part in sex work

Please notice the language used by the government; it states a person under the age of 18 is a child. This is because they are, in fact a child. There is no gray area here, no loophole, no “what-ifs” or “maybe’s”. A person who is biologically under the age of consent is considered, by the government, a child, and to partake in any form of sexual conduct with a child is a criminal offense.

I now aim to address the notion some people hold regarding the law, the idea that it can be marginalizing, or victimize certain groups of people, in this case “Underage Littles.” I occasionally receive mail claiming that (direct quote) “children can sometimes be old enough to decide what is best for them, not all children are actually ‘children’ in their minds or hearts, some know more than adults do, and because they are more mature-minded (sic) than adults then it should be OK for those certain, special children, to be allowed to be involved in the bdsm community on tumblr or facebook or wherever they decide to join”.

While some children may seem more mature than others, the body doesn’t stop developing until, approximately, the age of 25. While a person is under this age they are still growing, still learning, still developing physically, psychologically, and emotionally. Children who are still developing do not yet have the mental capacity, life experience, knowledge, ability, or the legal right to make a decision regarding consensual participation in sexual activities. The frontal and prefrontal cortex are the parts of the brain that assist us in perceiving future consequences, and these parts of the brain are not fully developed in teenagers; this is one reason teenagers exhibit risk-taking behavior, because they literally cannot understand that actions they perform now will have repercussions in the future. This is another reason I disbelieve in the idea of “Underage Littles.” To be a Little you need to be an adult, you need to have experienced the difference between childhood, teenage years, and adulthood to be able to regress back to a state of inner-childishness. Not only can it be unsafe for these children to be involved in a community which already has a minority of perpetrators, it can actually cloud their judgement on adulthood and may prevent them from continuing within the normal stages of human development.

Although some people disagree with this particular aspect of my opinion, I am sharing it because it is a very valid concern. By allowing children to view the activities that adults indulge in it can offer them a false sense of what it truly means to be a Little; I have seen teenagers on Tumblr and other social media platforms claiming that they are “Littles For Life” because they believe that being Little means having zero responsibility, zero consequences, zero interaction with adults outside of their immediate family or relationships, and finding a partner to do absolutely everything their parents currently do. Not only is this warping the views these children have on adulthood, it may impair their decision making, prevent proper development, make them incapable of completing mundane adult activities, and it may also actually harm the caregiving paradigm in the future.

Imagine a new wave of young BDSM practitioners who integrate into the community thinking that the protocols, rituals and boundaries are only “guidelines” rather than a set procedure upheld by the majority of the community. Imagine a new wave of young BDSM practitioners who ignore procedures and act like indulgent children with no regard for what it means to truly be a Little. Imagine an influx of ill-informed young adults who cannot actively engage in adult conversation or understand things such as Safe-Sane-Consensual (SSC) or Risk-Aware-Consensual-Kink (RACK) because they are so emotionally and psychologically stunted. This is most definitely a pathway I wish to see our community avoid walking down.

Whenever I express my opinion in regards to “Underage Littles” staying out of this adult community until they are of legal age I am met with at least a quarter of responses claiming that “Underage Littles” should be allowed in the “Safe for Work” areas of the community. No. Littleness is part of the BDSM lifestyle which is an active community for adult participation. Furthermore, “Safe For Work” represents the non-sexualised side of kink – and kink is something a person needs to be of age to engage in legally. If I were to sit at my office with non-sexualised Little images I would still be engaging in kink-viewing; the vanillas in my workplace would see 40-year-old men in diapers, or adults sucking pacifiers, or grown women dressed as infants sitting in cribs; these scenes have no sexual imagery, however, they are practices outside of the normal paradigm, they are encouraging age-play (another kink/BDSM practice), and the majority have an element of power exchange – remember that power exchange is the core of BDSM. So although there may no nudity, no penetration, no overt sexualization of these Little-scene depictions, they are still categorized as kink images.

The next piece of mail I generally receive is “What about blogs that don’t actually have any age-play or cos-play or power play? What about Little-spaces online that are genuinely just about cute animals, Disney, and the color purple?” My response is that these blogs are not defined as Little blogs, because Little is a subset of BDSM incorporating powerplay. Rather than SFW Kink blogs, these are “Interest Blogs.” These specific blogs are created for the purpose of enjoying cute objects and characters aimed at children, so of course children are welcome to enjoy child themed blogs; however, I would suggest that they are found on sites other than Tumblr, as within Tumblr the lines are very blurry between interest blogs and SFW kink blogs – simply being because of the way certain photographs are tagged.

To summarise, a person under the legal age of consent cannot be a Little because:

  • To be involved in any aspect of the BDSM lifestyle a person must be over the legal age of consent.
  • To be involved in any type of sexual relationship a person must meet the legal age requirements for consent.
  • A person under the age of consent does not yet have the biological tools necessary to make decisions regarding consent.
  • A person under the age of consent does not yet have the psychological or emotional tools required to make decisions regarding consent.
  • Allowing children into the Caregiving paradigm can offer them a false understanding of what it truly means to be a Little, and may actually psychologically harm them by preventing their emotional and psychological development into adulthood and cause emotional arrested development.
  • A person under the age of consent is legally considered a child, and including children – in any form – in the BDSM community or subsequent dynamics thereof including the caregiving paradigm, is not only amoral but an illegal offense.
  • Involving anyone under the legal age of consent within the BDSM or Caregiving Paradigm, rather than being ‘supportive and all-encompassing’ is actually pedophilia as the Caregiving Paradigm is a subset of a community based upon the sexual and romantic relationships of adults.
  • The apparent “Safe for Work’ Little-spaces online are majoritively kink-themed, and to be involved in any form of kink community, you must be of the legal age of consent.
  • A Little, by definition, is an adult regressing to a safe emotional space wherein they can play out childlike scenarios and engage in either sexual or nonsexual relationships with another person, or enjoy their Little-space in solitude, therefore to fit into this category a person must be of age.

There is no such thing as an underage Little; the term for an underage person who enjoys child-like activities and exhibits child-like behaviors, who has child-like thoughts and expresses themselves in a child-like manner already has a term, child.

///

Geneva Ballinger is an educator living in Australia. She identifies as a little, having spent the last five years in the DD/lg community.

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