How Men Balance Being Dad and a “Daddy”

"When I hear it from [my kids], I feel parental and protective. When my girlfriend calls me daddy, well, let's just say that provokes a very different feeling.”

by Carrie Weisman
Originally Published: 

John’s girlfriend has a simple way of letting him know she’s in the mood for sex. It doesn’t have anything to do with what she is wearing or they way she moves, but it has everything to do with what she says. When John’s girlfriend wants sex, she nuzzles up to his ear, and whispers one word: Daddy.

For John, it’s not an unfamiliar term. “I’m a father and my kids called me daddy,” he tells us. “When I hear it from them, I feel parental and protective and I love them. When my girlfriend calls me daddy, well, let’s just say that provokes a very different feeling.”

When it comes to the heterosexual community, women seem to carry a particular penchant for using the term “daddy” in bed. According to PornHub’s analytics team, female users are 240 percent more likely to search for content involving the word than men. For some, it comes down to a power exchange. The “daddy” figure is meant to act as an authority, armed with the ability to reward – or to punish – their sexual partner. The dynamic is markedly similar to we see unfold between dominant and submissive members of the BDSM community.

In 1899, Sigmund Freud released The Interpretation of Dreams. There, he introduced what would eventually come to be known as the Oedipus complex. According to Freud, all children most overcome a desire to have sex with a parent of the opposite sex. If he were around today, chances are he’d have a psychoanalytic field day with the subject of the sexualizing of the term “daddy”. Certain members of the modern community seem a little less likely to do so.

Sex therapist Joe Kort agrees that the “daddy” dynamic largely comes down to the exchange of power. But he does feel it’s worth investigating how the relationships we have with our parents influence our desire to bring it into the bedroom. “Why ‘daddy?’” he asks. “There are lots of ways to entertain a power exchange during sex that don’t involve the term. There’s a reason why people are into ‘daddy,’ specifically.”

Kort admits that throwing the phrase around is one way to eroticize the neglect one may have experienced as a child. “I don’t think this is pathological. I don’t think this is about people wanting to have sex with their actual dads. But I do think most of what we entertain sexually is connected to our past.”

Kort, who specializes in gay affirmation therapy and sexual identity issues, says this is an especially pertinent point to address with respect to the gay community. “There are a lot of young gay men who are disconnected from their fathers,” he says. “Finding a daddy figure may give them the kind of access to an older male they never enjoyed as a child.” In the gay community, the word “daddy” is pretty common.

David started exploring that world few years back. For him, being a “daddy” is about dominating his partner in what could be considered a more nurturing way than the traditional style of whips and chains suggests.

“Rules are reminiscent of those you might make for a child, although everyone involved is fully aware that only adults are in the dynamic,” he tells us. “I view the term ‘daddy’ as an honorific within my relationship.”

David is also a father, though his kids are now grown. Like John, he’s had no issues reconciling the two. “There is absolutely no confusion or blurring of lines between my role as a daddy dom and as a father.” Besides, he says, his kids never really called him “daddy” growing up. “They usually just called me ‘Dad.’”

“I’ve never run across a woman who called her partner ‘daddy’ because she genuinely liked fantasizing that he was her father,” sex therapist Vanessa Marin explained during an interview with Broadly. “Yes, ‘daddy’ can mean ‘father,’ but we also use the word to indicate when someone is the boss, in charge, a protector, or doing a good job. That’s usually the meaning women are going for in the bedroom.”

And sure, it’s possible the “daddies” are getting something out of it, too. “It’s like getting a second chance…. They get to take care of someone in a way they were never taken care of as a child,” Kort explains.

Of course, there’s a little more to it than simply resolving the issues we may have been hit with as kids. “As we age, we get less sexually attractive to younger guys. If you get one calling you a hot daddy it’s like you’ve died and gone to heaven,” he quips.

But not everyone reacts with the same kind of enthusiasm. If you’re going to have a nickname for someone in bed, make sure they’re into it – especially if it’s tied to something they may have mixed emotions about, like the idea of getting older.

“I’ve had 30-year-old-guys walk into my office complaining about being called ‘daddy’ during sex,” says Kort. “They’re horrified.”

The good news is that most guys who get called “daddy” in bed seem to like it, and that goes for those who wear the title outside of the bedroom, as well.

“The fact is that my girlfriend and my kids have entirely different ideas in mind when they call me that word,” says John. “I’m not going to be confused and think there’s some sexual relationship between me and my kids just because of an overlap with one word. That’s a ridiculous thought.”

Of course, if you are at all uncomfortable with the intersection at hand, there are ways around it.

“I cheat,” says one anonymous dad. “Kid calls me Papa. Girlfriend calls me Daddy. Never shall the two meet.”

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