Bottoms Up: Little Boi

L and I are trying some new roleplay. In these scenes, I’m a tomboy, I wrestle and yell with abandon, I ask for cuddles whenever I want them, I’m pampered and spoiled, and I’m 11 years old, rather than my actual 25. She plays Daddy, and I play me, but little.

When I’m little, I feel free. I experience little space as a more innocent state of being. It’s also a state of submission for me because it puts me in a place where I have immense trust in my daddy and that she is in control of adult matters. I get to think about the next time I want to go play outside, my new coloring book, or what color bubbles I want in my bath. For however long our scene lasts, I don’t think about rent or the election, because 11-year-olds don’t think about rent or the election. My world shrinks down to the world my daddy can control and make safe, and I feel safe enough to let my mind ignore the things that I usually have to think about for survival.

In that space of innocence, I’m comfortable enough to explore what being a boi feels like in my body. I can free myself from some forms of self-censorship. I don’t police myself the way that I’ve been taught; instead, I act on parts of myself that I have to keep quiet in my everyday life. In the everyday, I can’t be too loud or I’m just another angry black woman. I can’t be too much of a tomboy or I’m a man-hating dyke. I can’t be all of myself, because cisnormativity often violently coerces me into only part of it.

Acting under coercion for most of the day, for most of my life, is exhausting. Kink allows me to resist that coercion, if only during play — and because my little space isn’t always sexual, exploring it has given me tools for resistance that I can use when I exist in public from day to day.

Being little doesn’t feel like being a child again. It feels more freeing than my childhood ever was, and like something completely different. When L and I first talked about trying me being little and her being daddy, my real-life daddy issues stemming from an inconsistent childhood made me feel weird about it. I didn’t want to allow myself to re-enter that innocent mindset only to be disappointed again. I also felt afraid because I don’t do little space like those skinny, white littles on tumblr who use baby talk and wear all pink and frills, and who love being called baby girl or kitten. What those girls do is hot and exciting, but it isn’t what I want. I want to be little in a way I never got to be little, and I wasn’t sure if L wanted that, too. I wanted to wear Hulk pajamas, play Super Smash Brothers, jump on a trampoline in a skirt. I wanted to know that my laughter was welcomed, and not another headache.

But even though I was scared I was also not scared because I think I already knew a lot of those things to be true. I just needed someone to tell me them. I needed to hear someone I trusted wholeheartedly — and outside of little play, my relationship with L felt strong enough to trust — tell me truths about myself in order to feel like I had permission to act on them.

The light in my eyes in pictures of myself from childhood, the light that growing up has taken away, has started to come back. I look happier in pictures, more fulfilled, like I fit my body better and can more fully exist in the world. When I laugh when I’m little, I need to hear my daddy laugh alongside my laughter, or lift my legs up to help me do a handstand. I need my heart filled in innocent, playful ways that reminded me that my entire, whole self is my best self. I’ve opened doors I never knew were closed being little, and I’ve rediscovered things about myself that I forgot existed. I get these reminders with L when I’m big, but when I’m little, I can hear them wrapped in another layer of trust. Things are easier to hear and believe when your daddy has pinky-promised you that she won’t lie to you.

Now, when I laugh as an adult, I hear daddy laughing alongside me and keep laughing. I don’t feel shame about not shaving because my daddy thinks my leg hairs are cool and so do I. I am assertive without apology, because daddy says that it’s important for me to ask for what I want and need, and even though I already knew this to be true, I finally believe it.

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Ari is a 20-something artist and educator. They are a mom to two cats, they love domesticity, ritual, and porch time. They have studied, loved, and learned in CT, Greensboro, NC, and ATX.

Ari has written 330 articles for us.


  1. this is SO sweet, i’m so glad you have this positive time with L to relax and connect and find joy. thanks for sharing.

  2. I’ve been sending both your series and the dominant articles to my girlfriend. I think she’ll like this article perhaps the most, her little side has become almost like a personality and it’s so easy to bring out in her. It’s adorable.

    • I totally relate! My little side is super easy to bring out – if I’m already feeling sweet & relaxed & playful, being little is just a natural extension of that :)

  3. Alaina, when I read your article, the feelings you described about being allowed to feel, totally were exactly what I felt in my first loving and sexual relationship with a AFAB lesbian! She allowed me to feel the true feelings of being a girl….a pretty girl…..being loved by another girl…..cuddled and kissed and made love to as a girl…..talked to and treated like a girl. Acceptance as who I am truly inside, and loved for being that girl…..even though I had a male body. It was her, a cis lesbian, understanding who I am that allowed me the safety and freedom to actually express my female gender.

    And the feeling of being a girl loved by another girl filled me with the deepest contentment I have ever felt. She gave me the safety and freedom to live who I feel.

  4. This is the most perfect article that has ever been written. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    • I am so glad you were able to read this! My first thought when I read it was “WHY IS AINSLEY SO FAR AWAY RN”

  5. Interesting that this hasn’t attracted the same ire as Sinclair’s article about being called ‘daddy’ did. I’m not saying it should, and I don’t think Sinclair should have been berated in that way either, I’d just like to try and figure out why.

    • Because Sinclair is seen as enjoying masculinity and power. That intimidates people and triggers them. Alaina is seen as non-threatening. It’s still malarkey and unfair to people like Sinclair.

    • yes!!! even some of the same people who had strong negative reactions to Sinclair’s column are having strong positive reactions to this one, it’s so interesting to me.

    • Well Sue, in Alaina article I read it as Daddy giving permission to freely express feelings and activities that had been denied. I was not feeling an implication of sexual daddy/daughter activity that I felt in Sinclair’s scenario. I felt the situations were very different in my mind. Frowny Daddy vs Incestual Daddy.

  6. I have been thinking about commenting on this piece since I woke up to it on my twitter timeline this morning. Honestly, it shook me.

    This piece opens with the author openly admitting that her and her partner engage sexualizing her behaving as an 11-year-old. It’s not always sexy, the author acknowledges, and she goes on to spin it as some sort of explorative therapy. I don’t blame you, Alaina, or your partner for not knowing this, but no therapist with legitimate accreditation would condone pedophilia-play as a coping mechanism. I want you to know that. I want you to know that you deserve better than that, than what society and trauma have forced you to adopt as empowering.

    In our haste to be sex positive, it appears we have prioritized individual empowerment over dismantling the system. Adults who sexualize pedophilia (yes, that’s what “age play” and “daddy kink” are euphemisms for) do not exist in a vacuum. It was not created by two consenting individuals to empower them alone, without any social or political influences. It certainly does not exist “only in the bedroom,” since it’s here on a popular lesbian publication website, without disclaimer or critical analysis. It saturates porn websites, advertisements… you can even see it in the age of actors who are cast as high schoolers in TV sitcoms.

    I want us all to think honestly and critically about what this publication achieves.

    This summer I worked as a legal intern in a Philadelphia courtroom. I sat there every weekday for three months and listened to this: children, real children, who were abused and raped and utterly violated by parents, caregivers, friends, siblings, and strangers. I can remember the exact facts of a case where the victim was 11 and the defendant was 25. That relationship is sexualized here. Do we know this is actually happening? We are certainly afraid to acknowledge it, this darkest underbelly of our culture, the effects of our patriarchal society run rampant. These children do not exist in a vacuum. Their rapists certainly do not. They all continue to live and breathe a culture that affirms this “kink,” now more openly than ever before. And the thing that cut me about case after case was the apologia, that I see here in the article and the comments and that I heard from friends and family of victim after defendant. The same pedophilic rape apologia that the rapists themselves had certainly heard and internalized. There is no vacuum. There is no bedroom door.

    I do not blame the author personally for participating in this activity; I want to make that very clear. I absolutely blame Autostraddle for promoting this without reservation. I am so disappointed.

    • Thanks Dr. Phil. So glad you posted. It took your internet commentary as a legal intern from last summer to help us understand ourselves and our lives. Obviously, Alaina, nor anyone else here or in the BDSM community has ever spoken to a therapist or examined our own inner-selves or desires, but now that you posted, we’ve all become self-aware and seen the light. Praise be and hallelujah, mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lisa!

      Thank you, for explaining me and my life to me. I was previously in the dark and ignorant. Your little comment means so, so very much. It touched me, I want you to know that. Without people like you, where would the rest of us be? Probably wandering aimlessly in a field. You can sleep better tonight, o’ great Oracle. Oh, hang on a moment. I forgot to breath—there, that’s better. Next time, would you explain how my lungs work? I think your knowledge will be superior to my physiology classes.

    • Oh and for comparing consenting adults to pedophiles? Thanks for using the same Republican arguments against LGBT people and for learning absolutely nothing as a summer intern. If anyone is sick? It’s you. Comparing consenting adults at play to pedophiles? Goddamn you for that. Goddamn you for contributing to the confusion and arguing consent is the same thing as molestation and rape. Goddamn you for perpetuating that sort of dichotomy that encourages rapists. Goddamn you for perpetuating rape culture and blaming consenting adults for it.

      • Yikes! I’m not sure you really read my comment, since my main argument is that this type of play does not exist in a vacuum. One cannot claim to be ignorant or innocent of that fact. Calling me a Republican bigot is a remarkable example of the straw man fallacy, so I will take that as part of my legal education this summer ;)
        I am sorry to Alaina if my came across as condescending because that was not my intent. I meant to underline my critical focus on Autostraddle’s presentation of this rather than your specific thoughts or actions. I do find the defensive pushback against critical analysis of sexualizing childlike behavior frightening, and the unwillingness of this website to acknowledge that just sad.

        • Straw man? I did not call you a Republican bigot. I said you’re using the same argument. Your summer education should put an emphasis on reading comprehension.

          You are being far from critical. You are conflating the experience of consenting adults to child rape. As a survivor of child rape, I say goddamn you. YOU are the one confusing rapists by saying consenting kink between adults is the same thing as sexual violence against children.

          Your inability to come at this objectively and your arrogance are very sad, to be sure. But no, it is easier to get smarmy and suggest I didn’t read your comment. Surely if I had, I would have seen the infinite grace and wisdom you possess as a summer intern.

          • You distorted my argument by comparing it to theirs which essentially is .. a straw man. Anyway. Since you say you’ve read it and just won’t acknowledge it, here’s my issue again: kink and pedophilia-play do not exist in a vacuum. They are informed by the culture we live in and they in turn inform the culture we live in, whether we want them to be that way or not. I did not say that people who engage in this type of activity are rapists or rape victims. I did say and will say that presenting this sort of activity to a wide audience with no critical analysis is rape apologia. The proliferation of pedophilic culture does have real world impications. This type of writing should not be presented without comment. Autostraddle needs to recognize this. We as their audience should be pushing for better.

          • Because this post also does not exist in a vacuum, it exists in the context of a fairly extensive and very intentional body of work by Alaina, Sinclair & others, and curated by the NSFW editor Carolyn. All of those people are able to articulate the ways in which kink empowers them, and the ways in which kink dismantles the systems you refer to, and have done so thoughtfully and articulately on this site before.

          • No, the only distortion is yours. You also continue to make it, comparing consent to rape. That you see nothing wrong with that is horrifying.

          • Honestly I was stunned by the vehemence and cruelty of Joanna’s scornful response until I realized that both parties have been triggered. Joanna, Lisa carries around the heavy burden of bearing witness to trauma and abuse. Her burden can’t be compared to yours, but she is speaking from a place of enormous compassion for the victims of child rape. I think she desperately wants to do right by the victims and challenge rape culture, to be a helper. So maybe we could approach each other in good faith?

            I feel like you are both fighting the same fight, we are all fighting it. Maybe as allies we don’t need to go for the jugular.
            Dr. Phil

          • Then as a witness wanting to help, she should listen, not dictate. I spent 15+ years in healthcare taking care of people, both abused and abusers. I do not think my professional experience makes me an expert or that I can lecture people on who they are.

            This “summer intern” seems to think themselves an authority and is overriding the voice of the victim. So, yes, I will go for their throat because I will not be silenced or dismissed in such a casually cruel way as Lisa has done.

    • Just gonna add that my very legitimate, accredited therapist knows all about my age play, and is perfectly comfortable talking through it with me. She totally condones it, not as a “coping method” as you described, but as a way of exploring all kinds of things about myself. We’ve had in depth conversations about what it brings to my life and how much I learn from it. This is not because she isn’t “legitimate,” but because she’s extremely kink aware. Exploring different cultural narratives through kink as consenting adults can be a really useful processing tool for those of us who connect with it.

    • Of course this kind of play does not exist in a vacuum. No aspect of sexual behavior exists in a vacuum. This kind of play, as with any sexual behavior, only makes sense in a world where roles like “daddy” have cultural meaning. However, I absolutely disagree that this is sexualizing, glamorizing, or somehow encouraging actual pedophilia. Consenting adults, fully able to make their own choices, are taking these roles and cultural markers (daddy, hulk pjs, coloring) and placing them in an entirely different context for fun, pleasure, and yes, maybe some healing. No one here is sexualizing or harming actual children, or promoting the idea that one should.

      It can totally be valuable to reflect on one’s own sexual practices in larger contexts and be self-critical, but maybe that means engaging thoughtfully, not shutting down out of hand. This piece shows the author putting a lot of careful thought into what this play means for them. And yes, the original comment was extremely condescending to Alaina, and to anyone else who engages in this type of play.

      I love this series. Personally, this is not my kink, but it doesn’t have to be. I think this piece was beautifully written, and it gave me an interesting new perspective on age play, for which I’m grateful.

  7. @queer girl; I admit I’ve only read a few pieces in this “Bottoms Up” series, and I’ve generally found them to be interesting. I can’t claim to have read the other names you mentioned AFAIK though. I would be interested to read a defense of age-play kink on Autostraddle or by one of the authors, but as I said I haven’t come across any. What I’m seeing instead is an uncritical account of sexualizing childlike behavior. I find that presentation in itself offensive given the culture we live in. As I said earlier, however, the empowerment of the individual cannot come at the expense of the collective in my view. Others clearly disagree.

    • I’m sorry you’re offended, but if you truly want to be an advocate, I suggest that you work to center the voices and experiences of the survivors in these comments, and think very carefully before you kinkshame without attempting to understand.

      • I’m actually so upset I can barely comment, but can I just say that “if you truly want to be an advocate, I suggest that you work to center the voices and experiences of the survivors” is pretty much the best thing Lisa or anyone else could take from this whole exchange.

        In fact it’s pretty golden advice for anyone who wants to work with or be an advocate for survivors at all. You will not be an effective advocate unless you can listen, deeply, to the truths of people’s lives. Sometimes you will find those truths difficult and disturbing and problematic. Sometimes they won’t make sense to you. Often they’ll be told as a story. A personal account of hurt and healing – not an argument, not in critical or analytical terms, not a ‘defense’. If a person doesn’t do that listening work before they speak, they’re not really an advocate, just someone who talks over the top of survivors.

  8. I may have accidentally started crying at the line “I wanted to know that my laughter was welcomed, and not another headache.” because right now I am a 500 miles away from my Daddy. I’m at home for summer from college and I miss my freedom so much. My laughs are shushed and my sounds are yelled at. I can’t roll in my chair without making someone yell at me. I can’t wait to be with my daddy again…

  9. One of the oddest trends I see in these comment sections is people shutting down any hint of hesitancy/concern from other members by demanding proof of BDSM cred and 20 year history of contributing to the wider discourse

    Autostraddle is not a ‘kink’ community, it is a general website for women into other women. THAT is the audience this writer and Sinclair are presenting to. So while many of you may be sick to death of having to rehash critical analysis of your sex lives, you can’t demand every reader to come in with that context from a single article on a general website of which they are the expected audience

    The visceral negative reaction to fantasies involving children and adults is a totally acceptable and necessary one, even if you disagree that the scenerio being described embodies that. Chill out

    • Every AS article is not all things to all people. Subjects and subcultures are diverse. This cannot be stressed enough.

      This fantasy involves two adults. It is not one I am personally comfortable with, but this is not a space to kinkshame. If you want to listen and understand, to come with a soft approach, that is entirely different and reasonable.

      • It is disingenuous to ask someone to come with a “soft approach” and when they try to engage, lash out at them. We are not all in the same place experience wise. AS comment sections are probably the safest places on the internet. If someone can’t have good discourse here about uncomfortable topics, it is probably not happening anywhere.

        • If they’d actually use said approach, Sam, I would not be lashing in the first place. I agree, the comments should be a safe place. People coming here and shaming, berating, and condemning people for kink is actually quite a hostile place. However, I am the aggressor and the bullies are the victims.

        • Samantha / CPJ: But it’s not good discourse when someone comes in and says more or less “this thing you do in the bedroom, this kink you have, it is glorifying pedophilia and rape and you can’t convince me otherwise.” That has happened a few times with various commentators. A statement such as the one made my Lisa that no accredited therapist would condone behavior such as Alaina describes is, frankly, ignorant and laughably so, for those of us with kink-friendly and competent therapists.

          It’s one thing to say, hey, this isn’t for me but I’d like to understand it while upholding the rights of adults to play with whatever weird shit they want in their consenting relationship (as Joanna has said here repeatedly) and another to come in and say, “ew, the way you play is disgusting, it’s never okay”. You can choose not to read it. If it makes you uncomfortable, you can explore that with your own therapist instead of assuming anyone owes you an explanation.

          I don’t think the “expected audience” for the View from the Top and Bottoms Up are non-kinky folks (and I 100% support anyone’s right to be as non-kinky or as kinky as they want, if that gets them off.) I think that’s a bizarre statement to make. I don’t read stories on Autostraddle about TV shows I don’t watch and expect to go into the comments not understanding anything about it but insist that the show is morally corrupt and that people who like it are perpetuating rape culture.

          The thing that really frustrates me is that Alaina and Sinclair are literally writing every single week with critical analysis of their kink and yet there’s always a call for us to just think more critically and do more explaining for the benefit of people who hurl accusations such as rapist or pedophiliac. Why is there no acknowledgement that the authors are already doing that? Why is it not obvious that on these two NSFW columns that there’s an expectation that people who engage in BDSM/kink are the audience and that you can choose not to read if that doesn’t apply to you?

          This is a site for queer folks. It’s hard for me to understand that fellow queer people can’t imagine how frustrating it is to explain your identity over and over again to outsiders. Just as we don’t expect to have to explain Queer Theory/Feminism/Intersectionality/Racism 101 on articles intended for that audience, I strongly disagree that we need to do that here. Maybe those of us who see ourselves in Alaina and Sinclair’s writing want to come and feel community. There’s absolutely a place here to discuss things that make us uncomfortable or baffle us when it’s coming from a place of respect for the autonomy of other adults to decide what we want to consent to.

      • Joanna, I feel as though your words would hold more water if I had not seen you throw down and berate literal minors, sexual assault, and csa victims who have expressed even the most tentative discomfort at the wording of some of these pieces.

        There are times when you can believe you are totally in the right and someone else is in the wrong, while also understanding that it is not your place to confront them. that there are times for listening, times for teaching, and times for letting stuff tf go. that getting into arguments with teenagers about whether or not the words of adults can make them feel unsafe is crossing the line.

        So again, chill out maybe?

        • You know what makes me uncomfortable? Age play. “Daddy” play. It creeps me out to consider involving myself in it. Do you see me coming here and telling people they’re glorifying rape or pedophilia?

          I’m not going to chill out. If this subject matter is too triggering, don’t read the article and don’t come here and compare other members of this community to monsters because you don’t understand their kink!’

          People can’t start a calm conversation by saying you’re glorifying rape and pedophilia. That’s not calm or objective. That’s not reasonable. That’s full-tilt hostility and aggression.

          So, that’s what I respond to… because it’s bullshit that Alaina should be accused of those things. If anyone was serious about being reasonable, mature, calm, or understanding? They would have acted like it from the outset. Instead all we see is preconceived notions, already made beliefs, and vile personal attacks in the form of “righteous condemnation”.

          If a religious conservative comes up to the queer community and starts off by calling us predators, it kinda ENDS any meaningful conversation, doesn’t it? All you can do is live your life and hope those people don’t hurt you.

          So this is a space for being queer and kink. If anyone else has issues, they can unpack them with their therapist like the rest of us, or come here from a place of legitimate humility with a sincere desire to understand.

          Like, I would like to understand what Alaina wrote about more. I don’t get it. I’m not even given that chance, I just see age play and the daddy concept get ripped to shreds along with the people who partake in it.

          That makes me mad. I’m a protective person. I always advocated for and protected my patients… and I do that for anyone I see getting bullied. I don’t like bullies.

          Have I berated minors? No. I suggested this site and this article wasn’t a space for a minor. Have I berated sexual assault survivors? Only if they attacked other people. Again, work out your issues with your therapist and don’t go calling other victims the same kind of monsters that hurt everyone in the first place.

          I’m going to continue not liking bullies and I’m going to continue getting pissed off at all the libel and abuse being flung out by people against the queer BDSM community.

          I didn’t cross the line. I just drew one in the sand.

    • Yeah, I’m with you. I got shot down for suggesting that there might be something problematic about claiming someone as your slave in a previous post by Sinclair, which doesn’t seem like an especially controversial statement.

      I liked this peice and I don’t feel like the situation described by Alaina resembles actual child sexual abuse in any way – not only in that it involves consenting adults, but in that it involves creating a safe space for self-exploration, while sexual abuse often takes a space that once felt same and makes it a space full of fear and pain.

      That said, it’s in no way obvious or intuitive that pretending you’re a child sleeping with an adult or pretending that you own your partner are safe, healthy, behaviors. Consent is extremely important, but it isn’t magic. Is it OK for a women to do all the household chores for her male partner, if she consents? Is it OK for a man to make frequent sexually explicit remarks to his female collegue, is she says it’s no big deal? In some instances, maybe – but one would need to critically examine the specific context before making that determination.

      I think that anyone who has something critical to say about someone else’s sex life should approach the topic carefully, be polite and respectful, and be willing to listen. But we need to stop acting like being LGBTQAI positive and sex positive means that anything even slightly related to a sexual kink is totally immune from criticism.

  10. In the same way that some people (particularly Black people) can have visceral reactions to the words slave and master and feel free to post about that, there should be space for those with experience interacting with child victims of sexual assault/molestation/physical abuse to feel some type of way about this kink and not be shot down by fellow AS members.

    • Yeah, these subjects are difficult to discuss because they trigger such strong emotions. Many survivors, or people who work with survivors, are going to have strong feelings on both sides. That’s understandable and reasonable, but we have got to try to be a little kinder to each other, even when we disagree. Most people who are actually a part of the Autostraddle community have their hearts in the right place.

  11. It seems strange that one has to be a “boi” in order to be or feel allowed to be loud and wild, to wear Hulk pyjamas, to play Super Smash Brothers etc. Girls can do these things just as well, as do adult women.

  12. This was beautiful. I don’t know much about littles and I can’t say that I completely understand it, but i love how freely you wrote. It helped convey your own feelings of freedom.

  13. I hope one day I’ll find someone I can trust that way.
    Thank you for writing this column, Alaina.

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