In the age play community, quite a number of guys refer to themselves as having Peter Pan Syndrome (PPS). It’s common to see it on FetLife profiles, and it’s often used in the way of saying “age play is not fake to me, I really have this inside me”.
The name, of course, refers to J.M. Barrie’s eternal boy. He’s firmly rooted in Jungian psychology, and even earlier in Greek and Roman mythology as puer aeternus. There’s a brief writeup on the history of puer aeternus on Wikipedia.
Most recently it’s probably had an unfortunate association with Michael Jackson, who named his ranch Neverland, but it became part of pop psychology in 1983 when Dr Dan Riley published his book “The Peter Pan Syndrome: Men Who Have Never Grown Up“. It’s not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and it’s not recognised by the American Psychiatrist Association.
That’s certainly not to say that it’s not real, or at the very least not descriptive.
Age play is rarely about dissociative identities (multiple personalities). Here’s a snippet from a profile on FetLife:
im 35 yrs oldgay male who has had Peter Pan Syndrome (PPS) my hole life and … im into is very heavy age roleplay that is to say i live most of my sex life as a 11yr old boy … i love to be around other men (Daddys ) that will treat me the rite wey i love to be played with i wear young boys styled clothes, when i have to ( most of the time im nude !!) i love swimming gowing to Mc donoldsfor burgers and frys and playin at the scate park with other young guys.
What’s obvious in that profile is that the writer is fully aware of his identity (35 year old gay male). There’s no disassociation involved. As he says in his profile, it’s a roleplay. By saying that he has Peter Pan Syndrome, what he’s saying is that this little/middle that he becomes (or is) is a part of his personality, not a separate personality and certainly not a disorder.
Interestingly, he also says something else that probably rings true to a lot of age players. There’s a sexual aspect (“most of the time I’m nude”), but it’s about a much wider return to innocence. In his case it’s swimming, McDonalds burgers, skating and boy clothes.
The thing is, J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan was afraid to grow up. He feared going to school and winding up in an office as “a man”.
Pop psychology now uses PPS to mean social impotence, lack of responsibility and “childish” men who should be avoided in relationships. That’s not what’s going on in age play. A little/middle gives over his/her responsibility for a while to Daddy or Mommy and enjoys freedom from the pressures of adulthood. It’s a creative, exciting and (for many people) sexy way to escape from the pressure-cooker of daily life and decision making, experience innocence and show love.
After all, if there’s anything that reading J.M. Barrie and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry can teach us, it’s that we all have an inner-child who can teach us a lot about ourselves.
WHAT’S YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH AGEPLAY?
Is saying you have Peter Pan Syndrome actually giving you a reputation you don’t deserve? Or do you identify as someone who wants to reject adult responsibility?
• Lisa Van Arsdale – More Than Just Faith, Trust and Pixie Dust