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For information about why people engage in this activity, and the needs or wants which may be satisfied by this type of activity, see Motivations.
Age play is about BDSM interactions where the idea or concept of age is an important factor in what goes on. It can involve regression---where one of the people acts like or adopts one or more characteristics of someone significantly younger than they really are---or progression---where one of the people involved acts older or adopts the characteristics of someone older or more mature than they really are. Frequently it is a combination of the two.
Regression often appears in one of two ways:
- Acting the role of a child or baby,
- Adopting the characteristics of a young child, particularly with a partner who takes on the role of someone in authority---such as a teacher, babysitter, or parent.
Progression also often appears in one of two forms:
- Acting in the role of someone "older"---such as a parent or babysitter,
- Adopting the characteristics of someone typically in authority over youths or children---such as a teacher.
Complementing each other
Of course, the person in the regressive role complements the person in the progressive role and vice versa. Age play tends to fail if only one person is performing their role while their partner plays their relatively-normal self. Both must engage each other in terms of played age for it to work.
Like all BDSM, age play is an opportunity to explore and experiment with power disparity. This is where one person exerts authority or power over their partner. In some cases, even in age play, this can happen in ways you may not expect.
One common scenario in age play is where a "child" is punished by their "teacher". This is a common schoolroom scenario and has spawned many a love affair involving canes and wooden desks. In terms of power disparity this comes in the form of the teacher" exercising their right to discipline the "child". It can also involve an air of humiliation, particularly when acted out in a schoolroom-type environment where the naughty child is compelled to pull up her skirt or drop his trousers and bend over a desk for a few severe strokes of the cane. Humiliation can appear when a "child" is chastised by a "parent" or "teacher" for soiling their pants or diaper.
Perhaps less frequent are scenes where the "child" manipulates or controls their "parent" or "babysitter" partner by, for example, making a mess and compelling their partner to clean it up, or by having a tantrum and thereby compelling their partner to attend to them.
While sex may play a part in age play, for many people it is the interaction of "parent" and "child" which is satisfying. Sex can interfere with this, particularly where the "child" is actually attempting to regain childhood innocence or simplicity rather than merely to pretend to be a child to have a sexy effect on their partner.
Many of the common motivations for doing BDSM can also be a part of age play.