Little Lessons: Kink and Psychology

Kate EmeryPsychotherapyLeave a Comment

In the kink community, individuals may use different labels to describe what type of activities they engage in or how they identify. In this blog I am discussing the label/identifier of little.

A little is an individual who identifies as having a child-like attitude and/or behaviour. Many littles will identify as a specific age – with ages ranging from infant to toddler to pre-pubescent to teen. Individuals who identify as an older age may call themselves middles instead of littles.

Some, but not all littles, engage in power exchange relationships or kink dynamics with individuals who identify as Bigs. A Big is an individual who is nurturing and can sometimes take a quasi-parenting role. Other titles for Bigs can include Daddy, Mommy, a variant of the two, or more temporary caregiver roles – such as baby sitter.

A relationship between a little and a Big may or may not have a sexual component. Oftentimes it involves a Big providing rules, structure, and punishment to the little. Some relationships/dynamics may have a little give control of their choices, finances, etc. to a Big.

Play refers to the kink activities that individuals engage in either on their own or with partners. Much of the play done by littles and Bigs is referred to as Age Play – which involves consenting adults role playing different ages and caregiver roles.

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I spoke recently to a friend about their little side and their kink dynamic/relationship. They, like me, don’t often get labeled as littles or find others are surprised that they identify as a little. We discussed how being a little is about connecting to and sharing something deeply vulnerable – and that the ability to feel little happens rarely and only when there is a sense of safety.

They rarely played as their little publicly. Their dynamic with their Big and the play between them was private.  They did not feel safe to come out, even in the kink community, and share this part of themselves.

This prompted me to think of my parts work or an Internal Family Systems model (IFS). The IFS model provides a way to work with individuals who have experienced attachment trauma or trauma in their childhood will have a part of self that is very young. Young or child-like exiles are described as parts that are isolated from the rest of the system because their experiences of pain are overwhelming. This can mean that a person feels cut off from this younger or exiled part, they may have difficulties accessing that part or may not even know that part exists.  Using the IFS model and inner child work, an individual does work to heal their childhood emotions and experiences.

It seems that my friend who identifies as a little has found a way to connect with that exiled/young part of self. They have found ways and people who help this part of self feel safe. The safety allows my friend to experience the positive aspect of this part – which enhances their connection to the part and helps the part no longer feel exiled.

I spoke with a different friend who felt they were not a little, but the more I got to know them the more I felt they had a little inside.  When I mentioned it, they seemed surprised! I was curious if their little was hiding because it was hurt and didn’t feel safe. This clicked for my friend; their little had indeed been hurt by ex partners and abusers. They realized that they didn’t allow that part out – it felt too vulnerable. They didn’t connect with their little because they didn’t feel safe.

Being able to express oneself whether through kink or some other practice should be celebrated. These expressions allow individuals to feel safe and whole. This is one of the little lessons I’ve received so far from the kink community.

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