In my town, we have a Snoezelen room, a sensory room designed for neurodiverse people to use for self-regulation. Or rather, it’s designed for neurodiverse children. Although they are happy to allow me, an adult, to use the Snoezelen room, the building is a children’s center, full of children’s art, with a lock on the top of the toilet door, and usually a lot of children playing in the playrooms next to the Snoezelen room. Even within the room, they have one thing that adults can’t use – a swing rated for 120 pounds or less.
Stimming blogs on Tumblr often vehemently reject age regressors, arguing that by associating themselves with stimming, they’re saying stimming is a children’s activity. (In reality, it’s more likely because many age regressors are neurodiverse themselves, and because stimming can help people with trauma issues.)
Ironically, at the same time, stimming blogs also frequently reject the most adult-coded type of stimming – kink. Whether sexual or not (and yes, kink can be non-sexual!), one major component in a lot of kinky activities is sensation. Pain, heat, tickling, sensory deprivation, all are part of how many people do kink. And yes, neurodiverse people can be kinky. Many are kinky in large part because they’re neurodiverse.
In everyone needs a chance to be small, an Avengers fanfic in which Clint and Bucky both age regress with Steve as their caregiver, Bucky’s character plays with the association between neurodiverse and childlike. Bucky has brain injuries from his time as the Winter Soldier, and he mentally associates his neurological disabilities as making him feel childlike, to the point where it’s tough for him to shift out of his little headspace. He has to consciously reclaim stimming and incontinence as ‘adult’ things in order to start shifting between ‘big’ and ‘little’ as Clint does.
I, too, have struggled with not being able to feel like a real adult, even though age regression holds no appeal to me. Being aroace is part of it, since so many markers of adulthood are sexual or romantic or both. Being disabled takes away many of the other outlets for feeling and presenting as an adult, such as being employed, living on my own, and generally handling life without needing my parents’ help.
When I turned 18, I had a panic attack over the idea that it was now legal for me to have sex. My mom had to talk me down by pointing out that non-consensual sex with me was still illegal, no matter what my age. But part of me mourned the end of childhood, especially the lack of sexual expectations.
LGBTQIA people have a slogan ‘my identity isn’t NSFW’. As a child, I was exposed, non-consensually, to activities that very much were NSFW, and from a mix of trauma and well-intentioned protection, I internalized the idea that NSFW=bad and shameful. It’s something that I’m still struggling to unpack. As a kinky person, I feel strongly that my identity, too, is not NSFW, no matter how much people insist on making it all about sex. But admittedly, some parts of it are, and the same is true of many LGBTQIA identities. Even in AVEN chats, featuring only asexual people, sexual acts come up as discussion topics.
I’m still trying to figure out how this all fits together, and how to unpack the overlapping views that society has forced on me, treating me as simultaneously a child and overly adult. How do I just be myself?