I’m standing in the middle of a dim hotel ballroom scanning the sights. Across the way, I notice a woman sitting cross-legged on the floor. From the pleather bag beside her she retrieves a disposable diaper, a pack of wet wipes and a shaker bottle of powder. She’s obviously preparing to change the baby lying on the carpeted floor in front of her.

“C’mon,” I say to my life partner, already turning on my heel. “Let’s go over there. I wanna see this.”

We stop a respectful distance away — 10, 15 feet — and watch intently. The woman, who my older female relatives would describe as “heavyset with a pretty face,” undoes the snaps between the baby’s legs and peels back a sky blue bodysuit to reveal an overstuffed diaper.

“Did you pee-pee?,” the woman asks sweetly. The baby grins and nods affirmatively. “Alright, did you boom-boom?” He shakes his head no. “Do you need to boom-boom now?” “Oh, shit!,” I think, without a trace of irony. The baby shakes his head again and relief washes over me.

After loosening a pair of tape tabs the woman strips off the soggy diaper. The baby is sporting a fully-engorged, cat-couldn’t-scratch-it erection. The scene has me completely transfixed, but the spell lasts mere moments because my attention is almost immediately wrested away when a topless woman rides by on a bipedal pony.

Okay, at this point I should probably pause to explain lest you think I’m a pedophile or a lunatic or, more likely, both.

The deal is this: I’m attending my first-ever leather/fetish gathering and it’s an eye-opener. The event is LeatherFET, a weekend-long convention held Dec. 3-5 in Fort Mill, S.C. The convention includes daytime workshops and demos and evening parties with multiple play spaces.

The aforementioned “baby” — 40-something, big-bellied and of Asian descent — is a fellow attendee at the Saturday night party and clearly a participant in the Adult Baby/Diaper Lover (AB/DL) scene. I don’t get it.

The “pony” is a pudgy, middle-aged white guy with a bridle over his head and a bit in his mouth. A faux mane cascades from his hair and a long tail is attached to his brown tights. A woman who might be his wife or girlfriend is helping others onto his shoulders for rides around the room. Again, I don’t get it.

All around me people are being whipped. Over in a corner one young woman is drizzling hot wax across the back of another like she’s glazing a bundt cake. On the far side of the room, past a table filled with snack crackers and peanuts, a half-dozen attendees are watching a sadist stick needles into the back of a masochist — which makes him look like a life-size chia pet, I notice.

After spending another half-hour gorging my eyes on the sights and my stomach on Wheat Thins, it’s time to go. As I walk away I realize that my “these people are crazy” judgments have dissipated. Not to say that I now understand the sexualization of wearing a soiled diaper or some of the other behaviors, because I don’t. But, I no longer feel like Phallus in Wonderland either. That’s growth, right? : :

David Stout

David Stout is the associate editor of QNotes. He can be reached at editor2@goqnotes.com.