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Not That Kind of Adult Toy: A Post-Adolescent Predilection for Plastic Playthings


This project is an exploratory study of the practice of toy collecting by adults. It examines the way they conceptualize their use of toys, what attracts them to these objects, the organization of communities of toy collectors, how they use the toys, and ultimately, what the toys provide for them. Using first-hand accounts collected at two pop culture conventions, information gathered from fan websites, respondent accounts featured in several recent documentaries, and panel presentations at three separate conventions, this study seeks to complicate the expectations of who toy consumers are (they’re not just children), as well as demonstrate the way these fans combine both adult and childlike aspects of play into their activities. While the conception of the adult toy enthusiast is taking hold in popular culture, adult toy fans must still contest with a characterization of their hobby as odd and immature. To combat this tension and provide rationalization for their interest, toy enthusiasts employ a number of strategies involving the use of legitimizing language and activities. Ultimately, the following demonstrates that adult and child toy play do not encompass discrete categories, rather existing on a continuum of play throughout the life course.

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