*Disclaimer: The following are true stories. Names have been changed to protect participants’ privacy.
Dasha was only 15 when she met her 31-year-old abuser online. This online relationship eventually transferred to an in-person setting where his abuse continued to escalate. By the time Dasha turned 18, the abuse had become so severe that his friends were beginning to abuse her as well. When she begged them to stop, her abuser threatened to beat her or shoot her if she told anyone.
Dasha’s story is not rare.
Carrie was also introduced to kink at age 15 “under the guise of ‘age regression.’” After leaving a toxic relationship with another minor in the community, she was approached twice by adults who knew she was underage. “One of them told me they liked it that way, that made it more special,” Carrie recounts.
Carrie was given “strict sexual rules” and forced to send photos and videos as proof of her submission. Even as she expressed increasing discomfort with the demands, including those involving other people and performing acts in public, Carrie was told to “accept it because they were the [D]om.”
Amber was also 15 when targeted and had a decent number of followers – “about a thousand” – including one man who tried to contact her constantly even though he had “18+” listed in his bio. However, her grooming came from a 21-year-old woman in the agere community who pressured her into revealing intimate details about her relationship with her boyfriend, encouraged her to participate in kink activities, and then posted about her activities online. The groomer’s followers harassed Amber for being a “minor in kink” instead of unfollowing the groomer who was interacting with her.
As part of the “agere” or age regressor community, Dasha, Carrie, and Amber were surrounded by both minors and adults who were engaging in activities that fall under the definition of “age play.” Unlike age regression, which is typically involuntary, caused by trauma, and/ or part of formal therapy, age play is voluntary, aesthetic, can be sexual or nonsexual, and places the player in an older headspace that allows them to organize photoshoots, use technology, or hold conversations.
You may be wondering what this has to do with you. Afterall, you don’t follow minors; you’re not a part of the agere community; you don’t even crosstag*! But how closely do you look at the shops that you follow? How often are you scrolling through “suggested” posts and like a paci that pops up in your feed without investigating the shop who shared it? Do you really know who the shops you like and follow are selling to?
As part of the agere community, Carrie and Amber remember following a number of shops that sold to minors. Some people have argued that there’s no problem with these shops because children should be able to use pacifiers, which they see as non-sexual items. Wherever you fall in this debate however, it wholly misses the point that Amber, Dasha, and Carrie’s stories illustrate, which is that spaces where adults and minors are allowed to mingle online are hunting grounds for predators.
This means that if you follow or like posts from an agere shop, noncom (non community) shop, or shop with unclear policies, you are helping predators find victims like Dasha, Amber, Carrie, and many others I interviewed who had all too similar stories.
Let’s look at the various types of problematic shops, why they are problematic, and how you can better vet the shops you choose to like, follow, and purchase from.
The Honest but Dangerous Shop
The first type is the easiest to spot. This shop admits right in their bio that they sell to minors. Note the “13+” in the bio of the shop, indicating their page is 13+. While this should be the easiest shop to avoid, I still often stumble across shops that openly sell to minors with many mutual followers, all of whom claim they do not support minors in kink.
While I do give these shops some credit for at least being honest, they are still dangerous, still put minors at risk, and still need to be avoided by adults in kink spaces. Interacting with these shops in any way is condoning minors in kink.
The Sus Shady AF Shop
Most of these shops hide their info in their highlights and/ or define a minor as something other than the legal definition of a minor. They may have different ages for purchasing different products, or they may define “minors in kink” as a separate category than minors they deem to be age regressors. These shops often list themselves as “non-com” (non-community) or “agere” (age regression) shops.
Note in this example that the shop requires you to be 14 to follow, 16 to purchase, and 18 to purchase not safe for work themes.
The first problem with this is that no paci is safe for work. I have never seen anyone stroll into a non-kink job with an adult pacifier, rattle, diaper, and sit down with their vanilla colleagues. Whether I worked for J.P. Morgan, Taco Bell, or the Humane Society, doing this would be highly unethical and put my job at risk. So, a “sfw” paci does not exist. What they mean is that the paci does not have overtly sexual themes or drug/ alcohol images.
However, the pacis themselves are not what put minors in danger. As previously established, age regression online does not exist, so minors buying pacis and posing for cute pictures are engaging in age play. The fact that the shop lets 14 year olds and adults interact in the same age play community is what puts minors at risk. Predators can easily find and groom minors who are engaged in kink. While the shop claims to block minors in kink, they sell to minors in kink, so we know this is not true. They also cannot do anything about predators and have no clue who these adults are messaging. However this shop is still being somewhat honest about what they are doing, even if they redefine terms and bury their policies in highlights few will take the time to read.
The Liar Liar Diaper’s on Fire Shop
These shops are the most deceptive shops, and they often have tens of thousands of followers due to the way they can appeal to all (or no) community. These shops will often not list any information in the bio or highlights, will say “open to all,” or, worse, will list “NMIK” (no minors in kink) without also listing “18+.” Like the Sus Shady AF Shop above, this allows them to claim that they are not selling to minors in kink, while selling to minors in kink, because they deem these minors to be part of the agere community and therefore fair game. However, unlike the shops above, they do not disclose the ages they sell to, so adults in kink may see the “NMIK” tag we often use and erroneously believe that the shop’s values line up with their own. They may perceive “NMIK” to also mean “18+,” even when not explicitly stated. If you try to message these shops for clarification, they will most often not answer, but in extreme circumstances they will answer and they will lie to try to make a sale.
What Can You Do?
With just a few quick steps, you can make sure that you are not supporting problematic shops, staying away from minors, and helping to keep the community safe. The image below shows what a bio for a safe kink shop might look like.
Check for “18+” and “NMIK” in the bio.
- Look at the shop’s highlights for extra information or to see the shop’s definition of a minor.
- Look at their hashtags for common agere hashtags or for crosstagging.
- Search their followers for:
- “17” or below (16, 15, 14, etc.)
- Email the shop and ask if their policies are not clear.
Who you support and interact with and where you spend your money matters.
Amber, Carrie, and Dasha all deal with lasting issues due to the abuse they suffered. Dasha eventually got help from the police and found that her abuser was a known sex offender. She bravely stood up in court and testified against him, though she reports, “it was very hard to say what happened in the court.” Luckily, they found him guilty. Many other victims never had this closure. Even still, Dasha suffers a number of issues related to her abuse including PTSD, flashbacks, and panic attacks.
Lexie, who was groomed from age 12 and survived an attempted rape at 15 struggles with PTSD, binge eating disorder, and borderline personality disorder. Melanie was 13 when her grooming began and she suffers from sexual dysfunction, low libido, PTSD, depression, and has body image issues. She began regressing from trauma at 17. She recounts her heartbreaking reality, “I allowed myself to be in many abusive relationships and got molested and raped because I didn’t realize what real love was.” Annie whose abuse started at 16 has trouble forming friendships, attending kink events, or entering dynamics or head spaces. She has had trouble getting into littlespace since her trauma because she doesn’t feel safe. “I felt like I was always one step away from sexual assault at all times,” she explains.
These stories are ubiquitous and connected to the way we interact online. While shops are profiting, minors are suffering. We have a responsibility to do better as a community.
Dasha hopes that people “understand the dangers of the [agere] community.” She explains, “if [minors] are regressing for medical reasons they should do it with a therapist not online” because people with bad intentions “use the trauma against you.” Amber echoes these thoughts, adding her fear for minors in the agere community “because they don’t understand how dangerous it really is.”
Before you like that cute pacifier that pops up in your feed, pop over to the shop’s page and see who they are selling to. It is quite literally the least you can do.
* Crosstagging is using kink and non-kink hashtags together. This is dangerous because it allows people who are not in kink to stumble into kink spaces accidentally. This includes minors. Common age regression tags, or tags used by age regressors, include, but are not limited to:
#ageregression #agere #sfwlittlespace #cglre #ageregressor #sfwageregression #ageregressioncommunity #ageregressionsfw #sfw #sfwagere #babycore #sfwlittle #little #kidcore #agerecommunity #babyre #sfwcglre #toddlercore #petre #cglrecommunity #petregression #tbdl
Special thanks to all the people who volunteered to be interviewed for this piece. You are all truly remarkable survivors, and you deserve to be heard.