[This is the text of the book reviews from episode 26 of the podcast.]
The books this episode are the Toybag Guide to Playing with Taboo by Mollena Williams and The Toybag Guide to Age Play by Lee ‘Bridgett’ Harrington. Two episodes ago I said I wasn’t going to review these so soon, as I had just read another book by Lee, but this was the review that was ready, so this is what you get. It’s how life works out some times. Whoopsie doodle.
I’ve previously reviewed a book by both authors called Playing Well with Others: Your Field Guide to Discovering, Exploring and Navigating the Kink, Leather and BDSM Communities in episode 2, which I loved and subsequently purchased in physical form for future reference. Both authors also had short stories in Leather Ever After: An Anthology of Kinky Fairy Tales, which I reviewed in episode 3. You know what? That’s not my fault. They work too much. I hope they’re getting enough rest.
The version of Taboo is digital, which was perfectly adequate. I chose the physical form of The Toybag Guide to Age Play and that was equally reader-friendly, so go with whichever format you prefer. It is easier to read a digital book in public without anyone knowing what you’re up to. So there’s that.
I chose to read The Toybag Guide to Playing with Taboo because when I first learned of this type of play I wondered what on Earth people could get out of it but didn’t want to dismiss something simply because I didn’t understand it.
Conversely, I chose to read Age Play because I very much got it and was looking for more ideas.
Both books are pocket sized or the size to throw in a toybag. They’d fit in a hoodie pocket perfectly. Age Play is 102 pages, Taboo is 128 pages. The font is…16? 18 weight. You may not need your glasses is what I’m saying.
Though they’re really not the sort of book you’d chuck in your toybag in order to consult just before play. This is fairly advanced stuff, though also covers information for beginners.
For the books’ size, the authors cover an enormous amount of information. In both cases I felt like I came away with far more than I should have done considering the size of the volumes.
I definitely got what I came for—Taboo helped me understand what practitioners get from their play and Age Play gave me beaucoup ideas, oh boy, oh my. It also helped me be a little more comfortable with that side of myself. Because, let’s face it, some people get their judgment on when it comes to the age players.
Both books covered how to do each type of play as safely as possible, as both age play and taboo play can be dangerous territory for everyone involved. Both go over everything from exploring why you’d like to do a particular activity to what to do if a scene goes sideways.
Now for specific information on each book.
Starting with The Toybag Guide to Playing with Taboo.
Williams said something most people coming into kink can probably identify with on some level:
I quickly learned that the BDSM “community” was a microcosm, not a utopia. All of the prejudices, fears, biases and issues we trudge through in the outside world are tracked into dungeon and discourse, making for a Byzantine labyrinth of hot-button emotional issues. Imagine the blow when you finally suss out your lusts and realize that, once again, you are an outsider. The age-player who realizes that the darkly sexual incestuous undertones of his preferred game is “too much” and shouldn’t be practiced.
Up until that last line, many of us probably think, ‘Yay! People like meeee!’ Then you get five feet through the dungeon or chatroom door and someone is shaming your kink like they’re being paid to do so.
Well excuse me, Judgerpants.
Williams goes on to say:
the emotional decriminalization of your impulses, desires and feelings is an important key to letting your mind frolic in those swampy places.
I like the phrase ’emotional decriminalization’. What you feel is what you feel. And how you feel is never wrong—it just is what it is. How you respond to that feeling is what’s important. And as long as you’re acting on those impulses in a healthy way—meaning everyone involved is self-aware and consenting—then the Judgerpantses of the world need to find a fjord and jump off it.
Before I list off this next bit of what taboo play can include I want to stress that we’re talking about fully grown, consenting, negotiating, very much alive adults. Okay? Okay.
Taboo play can include themes and activities related to: genocide, degradation, warfare, hate, scat, piss, blood, religion, sexual taboos like incest and rape, bestiality, necrophilia, and race. No actual animals, children or dead people. Real pee, blood and poo, though. Williams had some interesting things to say about poop in an episode of Tina Horn’s podcast Why Are People into That she was on and in the book.
[Williams was on a two-part episode of that show, which was episode two entitled Mollena Williams: Role Play–I cannot find a link for it, but it’s on iTunes and I highly recommend it.]
Fun factoid—Tina Horn dislikes the word poop. If you’re listening to or reading this, Tina, sorry.
Mostly what Mollena has to say about it is that people put scat play on the same level as illegal activities like necrophilia and pedophilia when it’s not illegal—it’s just smelly and germy if you’re not careful. That’s how deeply ingrained the idea of poop being disgusting is. Little kids paint with the stuff, but parents teach that it’s the mankiest thing ever and next thing you know—no kids, no dogs and no scat.
I hadn’t thought of it that way.
You know what, though? I’m not even into kissing because of the germ factor so the poop isn’t for me. Porn is ruined when someone starts rimming someone else, man. The e. coli is partying it up in your mouth now! But people are into the butt now. So much butt.
However, I support the scatters…or poopers or whatevers in doing your thing. You don’t do it in public, which is more than I can say for people kissing. People do that in films and tv shows. All I think is germy, germy mouth sluuuuugs.
What were we talking about? Right. Incestuous Nazis with a thing for dog-fucking nuns. Now there’s a scene you want to see at your local dungeon.
many people assume that the complexities of taboo play involve re-enacting and therefore strengthening that cycle of abuse. Not necessarily: Imagine the scenario of a cornered hounded bottom turning the tables on an overbearing menacing top. Sound fun? Now add to the mix the idea of the fag-basher becoming the bashee… or the beleaguered victim of racial profiling by a member of Homeland Security gaining the upper hand during that back-room pat-down and cavity check.
In a chapter entitled General Principles, Williams discusses motivations and intentions.
Why bother? Why take the risk of being ostracized, or of going down a destructive pathway? What the hell do you have to gain from such awful explorations? I hope that you do ask these questions of yourself, and can answer them well. If you cannot, this might be a good sign that you don’t have a solid “jumping off point.”
I consider intent to be absolutely pivotal in the planning, negotiation and execution of taboo scenes. In the same way that “intent” is the main feature that separates BDSM from abuse, intent can salvage a relationship even if a scene takes a turn for the worse. Knowing my partner engaged with me with the intention of a good scene leaves room for us to recover if the scene goes off track. If you are at all doubtful of someone’s intentions, you don’t really want to uncover that mess in the aftermath of a problematic scene.
Then she talks about what she gets from engaging in these sorts of scenes. She says:
For me, edgy, taboo scenes push me in ways that move me closer to my core. I’ve a new respect for my own resilience.
The concept of moving towards your core is an interesting way of looking at it. Of being stripped bare by whatever sort of play you think will make it easiest and safest. Most people aren’t brave enough or curious enough to know themselves that well. Perhaps they’re frightened to find out what they’d learn. I don’t mean specifically about playing with taboo—I mean kink in general.
In the chapter on how to do everything from negotiate the very beginning to deal with the unexpected she says:
If, at any point, anyone involved in a taboo scene has misgivings, hesitancy, doubts, or just the jeebies, halt. Stop. Check in. If you have to, cancel the scene. I don’t give a shit if you flew in authentic Booted Goats from the lush rolling foothills of eastern Switzerland for that very special “German prisoner escaping the Third Reich” scene. Just drop it. Nothing is more important than a clear and open mindset when you are doing these scenes. The goats will wait.
Soooo… in the chapter about animal play and bestiality I learned that twenty states in the US haven’t outlawed sex with animals. TWENTY. It wasn’t surprising that it wasn’t illegal in every country. There are a lot of countries and, you know, some are sort of remote. Or maybe they don’t think they need to outlaw it… That could be it.
Still, the chapter in this book is how to negotiate to do animal play with consenting humans.
There are specific chapters on play involving religion, sexual taboos like incest of many varieties, rape, animal play, necrophilia, race and identity, bodily fluids hilariously called Your Body is a Wonderland. Then other chapters on communication, things to consider and other useful information. Like many indie press books, there are a few typos. But I’m a grumpy person about that sort of thing.
The Toybag Guide to Age Play by Lee Harrington
[Brief note about the cover above–the cover to my book has ‘Bridgett’ as the middle name in quotes. Your version may vary.]
The intro points out that age play is not a precursor to pedophilia. Everything I have yet read concerning age play has some sort of disclaimer saying it has nothing whatsoever to do with pedophilia. I don’t get out much so no one has said this to my face, but the first time a kinky person does so I’m going to say, ‘I guess that means your kink has to do with domestic abuse, then. We should get a group discount for the therapist.’
The Judgerpants family is legion, apparently. Don’t mess with me. My rants are hella fun. I’ll hella fun your face off.
In Chapter One: What is Age Play, Lee says:
Age play is any interaction or roleplay between consenting adults (or enjoyed by a solo adult) involving the concept of age as a dynamic. This can include, but is not limited to:
–age regression back to being a ‘kid’ (pretending to be 7 and playing video games or masturbating for the first time)
–fetishizing one’s current age (the power of being a twenty-year-old woman)
–age forwarding towards being a different age bracket (a thirty-year-old dressing up to be Santa Claus)
–or any roleplay interacting with any of these concepts.
Age play incorporates a sensual or sexual element, but many ‘age players,’ ‘kidz,’ ‘babiez,’ or ‘littles’ enjoy ‘pure’ age play that is just about the role and not about any hanky panky.
Like Taboo, the book talks about what people get out of age play, in this case, the people who go younger often do so in order to re-experience the joy and freedom of youth or to be a kid for the first time. Those who take on the adult role do so to be trusted or to ‘corrupt’ someone or act as a teacher or guardian. There’s a list in the book of quite a few reasons why people do the age play thing.
There’s discussion of how to go about actually doing age play once you’ve decided you’d like to.
Lee says his first question is always:
How much investment do you want to put into this?
Investments can range from a three minute role play when you’re fooling around in bed, to a scene/evening investment to a repeat role where a scene or character makes a return performance on more than one occasion.
Then there’s one step further, which is Personal Investment, something Lee describes as, ‘When your hobby starts spending your money.’ On props and those sorts of things. Mmmm prooooops. And finally, Full-Time Identity.
It bears saying—it’s in the book, but I’d say it here, too: ‘There is no ‘better’ type of investment.’ If you’re happy being a naughty little boy for about fourteen minutes every six months, it doesn’t make you any better or worse than the guy, gal, other or both who dons a school boy outfit the second they get home from work every day.
Chapter Two covers all of the ages people role play as kids. It feels weird to call it role play, though. For me, it’s a very definite age and the phrase ‘role play’ sounds like pretend. It’s more like accessing a certain part of myself that I don’t typically allow myself access to.
For lack of a better term I’ll use role play, though. The ages listed for the younger set are:
Pre-verbal, Toddler, School Kid, Teen, Post-Teen/Adult.
They’re defined in the book, but most of those are pretty self-explanatory, except for the final one, which includes college or university themes.
This section reminded me of a story Sex Nerd Sandra told on Perverted Podcast when she went to an age play party. The friend she dragged along taught pre-schoolers, I believe and she said, ‘This isn’t how kids act at all! That kid wouldn’t have any friends and would be sat in a corner!’
I loved that this woman was critiquing the acting abilities of the ‘kids’ at this party. That entire story was…terrible. The story was great. The party was terrible.
The roles for Adultz listed are:
Mommy/Momma/Mom (I’d add any version of Mum for the English or Mam for the Irish) and Daddy/Poppa/Dad; All other blood relatives, basically—aunts/uncles/cousins/grandparents, you name it; Daily roles like teacher, bus driver, coach, next door neighbour, babysitter; Special Time Roles like dentist, doctor, camp counselor, ice cream vendor; Then, of course. There’s the Stranger. What if the Stranger really needs to be looking out for little Sally?
Because of the possible emotional and psychological land mines inherent in this sort of play—particularly with the Mother/Father option, the suggestion is made to use a name not used with the person’s actual parents.
Something that comes up in this chapter is the nonsexual aspect of age play. People often focus on that part because it freaks them out, but I think age play appeals to those who are drawn to it for myriad reasons that have nothing to do with sex.
And I had no idea how many nonsexual ways there were to do this! One of the suggestions was Single Adult, Assorted Kidz. Which involved one Grown up type say, taking a bunch of kids to a museum or something. Another was Single Adult, Family Tie Kidz. ‘Dad’ in the middle with one ‘kid’ on one side and that person’s ‘step-sister’ on the other, curled up watching a movie. What?! That’s great. I found that hugely appealing and didn’t know it existed before. There was much in this book I felt that way about, though.
There’s a chapter on all the different types of scenes (hint: probably more than you think—I have so many ideas now).
Then we’re onto gender in age play (you don’t have to remain your own) and aging up. There are people who enjoy playing the geriatric set. They’re called ‘gerries’ or ‘elder players’. I thought about how much I enjoyed old age make up for the theatre and what a curmudgeon I am. I identify heartily with Stephanie Cole in Waiting for God. Even at 10 I loved Bea Arthur on Golden Girls.
I’d just wind up role playing as a grouchy old woman playing mahjong with her grouchy old woman friends. Then again, I do really love that show Grace and Frankie. Oh God. Hi. I’m a gerrie. My name’s Edith. Get off my lawn and your music all sounds alike.
Of course a book on age play would not be complete without a conversation about the appeal of diapers.
There’s a bit about negotiation versus organic evolution. In my, completely non-scientific, utterly anecdotal experience, age play has often started between people in bed for the first time without prior discussion and it’s worked out well then discussed and developed later.
I suppose we don’t hear from the people whose partner responds badly to the suggestion & never brings it up again. And I wonder if it’s only brought up in the dark perhaps when one is tired or after sex—when one is already vulnerable—because it’s so taboo. Even within BDSM, in general, it’s not something people say, ‘want to do this thing?’ or, ‘I really want to dry nurse while we watch TV’ during a negotiation. It’s one of those kinks-within-kink that can bring some heavy judgment.
That chapter also discusses how to handle impromptu scenes in terms of check-ins afterward, which speaks to how common impromptu scenes are with this type of play.
All the different types of discipline and punishment are covered and a reminder that age play affects outsiders. Yes indeedy doo.
Finally there’s a chapter on when things go badly. Relationships end, triggers are tripped and so on and how to deal with those things. Forewarned is forearmed and all that.
This one had several resources in the back.
Though my overall inclination is toward a Victorian-style power exchange I had unconsciously incorporated many elements of a Mommy/girl relationship but didn’t see it or call it that. Maybe I didn’t want to because of my own internalised discomfort, but I can hardly ignore it now. Oh well.
If you’re looking to expand your repertoire when playing with taboo or age play or would like to get your feet—or something else—wet, definitely give these a look. Likewise, if something just confuses the hell out of you—the Toybag Guides are written by articulate people with a wealth of experience. It’s easy to judge—it takes a little effort to understand other people’s kinks, and you may learn something about yourself.
5/5 for both and now I want to read all of the books in the series.