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Fifty Shades of Daddy

“Daddy” in the internet context can be anyone

One of the great joys of the internet is that when the pope tweets, teens respond by telling him they want to fuck.

“If the Pope wanted to fuck me and he would cleanse my soul for it, 100 percent I am down to fuck him,” a 22-year-old Catholic named Jennifer told Broadly. “There is literally no other human being I could fuck that would be as close to fucking God as the Pope.”

“Fuck me daddy” seems to have replaced “I love you” as the most passionate confession of admiration and respect. It isn’t just the Pope who gets this treatment. It’s Obama (“fuck me please daddy”), Harry Styles (“hump me fuck me daddy better make me choke”), and Piers Morgan (“fuck me wide open sugar daddy”). Essentially every public figure gets a “fuck me daddy” at some point.

In February, Max Read called out being rude and creepy to celebrities online as an “attention-getting strategy.” (He was referring to the infamous Cucumber Tweet, which has sadly since been deleted: “@kanyewest I just masturbated with a cucumber and put it in the fridge by accident my dad is eating it”.) “If you want people to see you, there’s no better way to do so than with creative obscenity adjacent to a celebrity tweet,” Read wrote on the New York mag blog Select All.

Yes, the use of “daddy” is a troll, but is that all it is? Why do people (teens!) go with “daddy” specifically? For decades, that patriarchal nickname — with its associated dirty talk and role play—has captured our cultural imagination by being at once hot and repulsive. In Boogie Nights, there’s a famous scene that gets to the heart of this dynamic, where a minor character named Jonathan Doe is getting a blowjob while he aims a handgun at the woman’s head. He asks her, “Who’s your daddy?,” the implication being that if she doesn’t do a good job he will kill her. As he cums, he screams, “You live!”

The best thing, though, about “daddy” in the internet context is that it can be anyone, regardless of gender, age or parental status.

Maybe “daddy” is your boyfriend or girlfriend or your latest Tinder match. Maybe it’s your boss or the dentist that just cleaned your teeth. I’ve never called my actual father “Daddy,” not even as a child, but I do think my best female friend is deserving when she does something particularly awesome.

The one thing all of these usages have in common is that “daddy” is never your actual father. It’s so much more than a name for the man who biologically created you. Daddy is a personality, a power dynamic, a way of life. Daddy is the Boss, the Provider, the Nurturer. Daddy is the goddamn President of the United States of America, in both job title and swagger. Saying someone is “daddy af” is the ultimate compliment.

The earliest usage of the slang term “daddy” is said to date as far back as 1681, when prostitutes would use it to refer to their pimps. From there, offshoots developed in different communities. There were — and still are — sugar daddies (money, money, money), jailhouse daddies (the opposite of a “bitch”), leather daddies (whips, chains, etc.), papis (Latino daddy), working daddies (suit, tie, briefcase) and daddis (lesbian edition).

It’s become a cliché, following prolific use during the golden age of porn in the 1970s and ‘80s, but has infiltrated popular culture in a way that other dirty talk has not. Case in point — the 1968 Zombie classic “Time of the Season”:

What’s your name?

Who’s your daddy?

Is he rich like me?

The Zombies touch upon the more traditional financial aspect of Daddyism, as does Notorious B.I.G.’s “Big Poppa”: “Believe me sweety I got enough to feed the needy.” But many male artists, from hip-hop to pop to rock to country, have their own interpretation. George Michael’s “Father Figure” is about emotional support: “I will be the one who loves you / until the end of time.” Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” portrays “daddy” as a kind of controlling protector: “Hey, little girl, is your daddy home, or did he go on and leave you all alone?” Toby Keith’s 2002 ballad “Who’s Your Daddy?” asks: “Who’s the one guy that you come runnin’ to / when your love life starts tumblin’?”

Such lyrics — like the daddy meme — are BDSM culture gone mainstream. It’s easy to forget that term, for all its ubiquity, is also an actual sexual fetish. “[Using the term Daddy] is like BDSM-lite, and gives you the right amount of semi-roleplay without having to go the leather route or engage in a full-on immersive roleplay,” an anonymous 28-year-old woman explained to me. In this context, “daddy” is a gateway to exploring the dominant/submissive dynamic, which doesn’t always need to be overtly sexual. It can be funny, playful or just weird.

Jose, 29, has really only explored “daddy” sexually with one girlfriend, where it played into a pre-existing emotional dynamic; he was older and more nurturing: “If I had more money, I probably would have been buying her a ton of shit.” But even outside of his relationship to this particular girlfriend, the resurgence in popularity of the “daddy” role makes him feel good about himself. “I have what’s closer to a dad bod, I look better with a beard and I’m kinda nerdy,” he says. “I feel I’m looking my best when I look like a dad.” The “daddy” meme gives him hope that more girls will be into him.

But for every self-identifying daddy, there are others who consider the nickname repulsive for its obvious pedophilia connotations. “I just find it kinda disturbing,” wrote one Twitter user of his disgust when a woman uses the term. He says it makes him think of her actual father and that “maybe she was abused in the past.” This assumption, which works in tandem with the idea that women who enjoy daddy dirty talk have “daddy issues,” is born from the work of Freud and Jung. The theoretical “Electra complex” — named after the matricidal Greek mythological character — suggests that women are in psychosexual competition with their mothers for possession of their fathers. Simply put: We want to fuck our dads.

Katrina, a 48-year-old woman who is into daddy role play, says that couldn’t be further from her truth: “My dad and I are super close, and he’s a wonderful man and human being.” Contemporary psychology rejects the notion that kinks have a direct correlation to the events of our actual lives. Much of Freud’s work, including the so-called Oedipus and Electra complexes, has been discredited.

Yet the psyche of “daddy,” of the erotic father figure, continues to permeate even our political culture. At a recent rally Trump supporters employed this chant: “Daddy’s going to win! Daddy’s going to win! Hooray!” Michael Cohen, who works for Trump, told the National Review that this nickname isn’t a shock: “to those of us who are close to Mr. Trump, he is more than our boss. He is our patriarch.”

Breitbart journalist Milo Yiannopoulos takes his Trump devotion a step further than a troll (although it’s definitely that, too). He often claims that Trump is his “daddy” and in an interview with The New York Times, addressed why:

You’re a Trump supporter, and you frequently refer to him as Daddy.
I do because that’s what he is.

I assume that’s not in a purely father-figure sense. Are you sexually attracted to Donald Trump?
Oh, yes. I call myself a Trump-sexual. I have a very anti-white bedroom policy, but Trump is kind of like the exception to that rule.

“Daddy” has its own storied history in gay culture, but its foundation is similar. It’s about an age dynamic, power and dominance. And who better — at least in theory — to demonstrate the economic, capitalist and patriarchal aspects of “daddy” than Trump? Being a “Trump-sexual” is less about Trump and more about the things he represents. In this case, and the case of all “daddies” really, the term is just a proxy to talk about qualities one finds worship-worthy, whether sexual or silly or something else.

In the end, maybe we all get the daddies we deserve.

Alana Levinson is a writer and editor in New York whose work has appeared in Matter, Talking Points Memo, Mother Jones and Esquire.

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