Gay Sex Ed: Daddies
Theories attempting to explain our community’s penchant for daddies abound, the most prevalent suspects that gay men chase older men due to our collective “daddy issues.” After polling my audience on the subject a few months back, over 80 percent argue that since gay men don’t often have the best relationships with their fathers, they seek this crucial bond when dating.
“I wanted gay role models when I was younger, and the closest man to that was my father,” adult actor Jack Dixon tells Grindr. “I think the need for someone to be accepted by a man (even a straight man) runs strong in our culture so we carry that into our adult lives.”
Race Bannon, educator, activist and author of Learning The Ropes: A Basic Guide to Safe and Fun BDSM Lovemaking, agrees that the daddy archetype might have definitional origins with fathers, but has evolved to become its own categorical term for a “certain relational figure in a younger person's life that may take on some interpersonal father-like characteristics within a partnered or social relationship.”
In other words: our fondness is less about our fathers in a relational sense, and more about what they foundationally represent and offer our lives.
A daddy himself (though the word makes him cringe), Dixon speculates the appeal of daddies may also be that they represent what most gay men grew up thinking a man should be. Someone dominant, muscled, hairy, with a deep voice and other attributes traditionally associated with masculinity. Since many of us might not have been that man ourselves, we seek these qualities in other men.
This masculine ideal is heavily amplified by porn, which is a particularly influential medium for gay men since our desires are largely ignored most everywhere else. As a result, we turn to porn as education, not only for sex but what we find desirable.
The adult industry, like any business, is curated for profit, and “Daddy” is the third most-searched category on Pornhub, according to stats released in 2018. Scenes in the category often depict an older man in the dom top role with a much younger submissive co-star. Rarely do we witness a daddy-on-daddy scene or a daddy bottoming in studio porn, and why? Because it obscures the fantasy that has been spoon-fed to us since we first Googled “Gay porn” and "How to delete your search history."
As a result, many adult actors over 40, Dixon included, feel typecast. “I enjoy daddy/boy scenes, but I think many of the big-name studios and their directors/producers are so stuck in that,” adult actor Dallas Steele shared with me in a previous interview. “They can’t visualize using men over 40 in any other role than as a daddy.”
Daddies have never been more popular and their definition more inclusive. These days, a daddy can be of any age, gender and sexual orientation. According to the New York Times, they’d officially hit their peak in 2018.
The daddy designation has evolved to an umbrella term with different subcategories below it: leather daddies, sugar/Splenda daddies, femme daddies and zaddies, are just a few examples. However, in general, these all boil down to the same definition: a more dominant and experienced individual who can offer support and/or mentorship to a younger individual in some way.
Bannon speculates our current daddy obsession is due to society’s greater acceptance of a wider range of types as equally deserving of erotic notice. “We saw this with the growing popularity of the bear movement and more recently with men who present as feminine,” he says. “They are rightfully seeing their presentation acknowledged as sexually appealing when it might have been shunned in the past.”
Damon, 47, has been enjoying the fruits of his daddy status after cruising through his thirties feeling invisible. As soon as he turned 40, woofs and taps came rolling in like never before. After fucking countless 20-somethings, some of whom ceremoniously labelled him “daddy dick” on their phone, Damon theorized over why he, a middle-aged man, was suddenly so desirable.
“We (Gen-X gays) are the first generation of gay men who’ve had the privilege of living openly and aging openly in society,” he suspects. “I was a bit too young to be sexually active during the AIDS crisis, so I came of age after the worst carnage in our community. I had the benefit of growing up when society was starting to open up and discuss gay rights and issues.”
Damon’s point does have merit since, before the AIDS crisis (which began in 1981), it was illegal to be gay, until the Model Penal Code removed "consensual sodomy" from its criminal code, making it a crime to solicit for sodomy in 1962 in Illinois, almost a decade before any other state. It wasn't until 2002 that most other states had repealed their sodomy laws or their courts had overturned them.
This would make Gen X the first generation to have the social privileges of aging as openly gay men due to the countless sacrifices and activism of the generations before us. “We lost a generation of daddies to AIDS, so I think there was a gap where we didn't have nearly the mass of daddies we have today, which could be another reason they’re suddenly so popular,” Steele adds.
Sexual use of daddy dates at least as far back as 1691, which the Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang cited as the earliest use by prostitutes referring to pimps and older customers. It’s also been traced back to Freud's “The Oedipus Complex” in 1899 to describe sexual desires for an opposite-sex parent.
Daddies as we know them, however, are undeniably linked to the leather scene. Leather as a gay subculture is largely born from post-World War II biker culture in the 1940s and 50s. Biker culture was in full bloom at the time, as it represented a rejection of the white picket fence image that America was presenting since many men who served in the war had a difficult time adjusting to civilian life after the war. Similarly, the leather uniform and lifestyle rejected femininity, which was often associated with gay men at the time.
During the war, American soldiers experienced a European mentality and sexuality while forming an extremely close bond with other men. To continue that camaraderie (and perhaps some other relations, wink, wink), clubs were formed, usually around motorcycles since it was a common interest as soldiers rode them in the war.
When recruiting for the war, many gay men were given blue discharges from the United States meaning they could not serve in the army (this action was disproportionately used against gay and black people) and made it difficult to find work. This caused gay men to flee and seek employment in major cities like Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco, where a majority of these motorcycle clubs were established.
The first leather bar, the Gold Coast, opened in Chicago in 1958. Its owners, partners Chuck Renslow and Dom Orejudos, would later found the famous International Mr. Leather competition in 1979. Just four years later, the first competition celebrating daddies, Leather Daddy and Daddy’s Boy, was founded in 1983 by Alan Selby, otherwise known as the “Mayor of Folsom Street.”
The 70s and 80s are considered the “golden age” of the leather scene, as the lifestyle was something new, exciting and popular as ever. It was during this heyday that the daddy identity was formed and passed through media, mostly in pulp fiction magazines and personal ads.
During a time they needed it most, leather communities and bars became sanctuaries for gay and curious men to live and love authentically. For many, this community was their only family, where daddies, often the experienced mentor-type, would offer individuals the foundational need for place and belonging, along with a sense of tradition, heritage, and the passing along of something from generation to generation. It’s a relationship that could be whatever you wanted it to be: platonic, sexual, or somewhere in between. But it’s never incestual.
“There has always been a bit of reverence for older guys within gay men's leather culture,” Bannon says of the daddy designation. “It’s often due to the assumed greater level of sexual and community experience that can usher a younger or newer community member into the scene in a mentorship role.”
This could all mean that, yet again, a cultural phenomenon in our community is born from rejection and the loneliness we experience as a result. Or maybe it’s not that deep. Maybe gay men find older men attractive and that’s that. Unfortunately, much of queer history is speculative since we’ve been forced to exist in secret for so long. But on this we can all agree: daddies are and will always be in our hearts and holes.