daddy issues

Rise of the ‘Daddies’: A New (and Sexy) Gay Niche

I remember the first time I was called Daddy. I was 38, dating a 26-year-old, and gray was appearing in my beard. We stood there in my apartment, kissing. “You’re my daddy,” he said. My dentures fell out. Daddy? Me? It seems as if just yesterday I had my hair in Björk buns and was called a club kid. I wasn’t sure how to react, yet stood there trying to suddenly fit the role.

Daddy was an older guy who had a strong personality, wouldn’t take no for an answer, and got on top of you. Daddy never showed doubt or vacillation. For instance, a Daddy would never say, “Does this contain wheat? I have a gluten allergy.” Above all, a daddy always paid for things (even when he was a ranch hand), which, I thought, ruled me out. But this young man I was dating didn’t need me to fulfill all these stereotypes. I was a Daddy, like it or not.

The daddy — or more specifically, the leather daddy — has been around for a while in gay eroticism (where, let’s face it, all sexual fetishes and flexibilities are begat). It’s had a long sadomasochistic fantasy history. For a schooling, check out Joe Gage’s classic “working man trilogy” porn movies from the late seventies, or, also from that decade, Larry Townsend’s novels and Drummer magazine stories that explore leather subculture. If you’re wondering, the old gay hanky code color is hunter green.

And then, of course, there have always been sugar daddies, regardless of sexual orientation or single-gender couplings. There’s even a for women seeking rich men. “Where the classy, attractive and affluent meet,” it explains. “The first and original Sugar Daddie site. We started it all!”

But like everything else in our culture, where even grumpy cats become memes and multiply, it seems the gay daddies are moving beyond leather land, especially for a new generation of twentysomething gays. An informal poll of men reveals that there seems to be an uptick of younger men who are interested in guys of my “seasoned” age bracket. “Guys my age could care less about me. At all,” says one friend in his forties. “Which is fine. We all seem to be occupied with the interests of much younger guys lately.”

To meet the demand, a daddy industry is developing. There are now tons of non-leather daddy porn sites, a hookup app, Daddyhunt, for “Gay Daddies, Silver Daddies, Muscle Daddies, Bears, Leather Daddies, Big Daddies, and Daddy-Lovers.” There is an increasing number of gay porn actors and escorts, who, despite the decimation of the gay adult film industry thanks to Internet, have extended their careers into middle age with equal, if not greater, popularity (Chase Hunter, Allen Silver, and Cole Maverick, to name a few); according to one male escort friend, getting good “reviews” from satisfied customers on the website Daddy’s Reviews has become crucial for business.

Many of our most famous gays right now — Andy Cohen, Anderson Cooper, Alan Cumming, Tom Ford, and so on — are all also daddies. Even if they don’t get naked or call each other that on Twitter.

In turn, daddy has gone from being a porn thing to defining a broader range of men. “If you’re hearing daddy more and more, I think that it’s because more gay men are allowing themselves to be attracted to different types of people,” says Conner Habib, a writer, lecturer, and adult-film star.  “Rather than a uniform experience of beauty, people want a personalized experience of it. What could be more personalized than a daddy? It expresses character, relationship, experience.”

Though it’s meant to suggest a difference — aesthetic and age wise — the opposite of daddy isn’t necessarily young. (On mainstream hookup sites like Grindr or Tinder, you will see someone describe themselves as a “young daddy.” Usually he has facial hair and meat on his bones.) In the ongoing effort of gay taxonomy, daddy has broadened rather than become more specific, unlike bear and its sub-phylums of otter, seal, wolf, and so on. “There’s not a ‘daddy community’ in the same way that there’s a bear community,” observes Habib. Maybe the best way to describe what a daddy is is by saying what it isn’t: One Direction. “Honestly, it’s not about age,” says one 22-year-old when asked why older men appeal to him. “It’s a simple question of whether I find them attractive, really. Age is a thing of the past, right?”

“The term ‘daddy’ alone seems very loose to me, but it usually is used as a sexually charged compliment,” says Sean Van Sant, director of the male escort website “People hire other people to act out stereotypes, but also [you can] invert the stereotypes. That’s the great thing about being gay, is daddy can flip at any time. Daddy is definitely not always a top in the [escorting] world.”

To that end, there is such a thing as a femme daddy. Look at Elton John. Nathan Lane in The Nance. Or watch Michael Douglas as Liberace (somewhere in gay heaven, that glorious gay icon is giddy that he got to have sex with Matt Damon). These are men who own their queeny side but are, somehow, unquestionably daddy. Sure, they are all rich, but they are also confident and powerful. Daddy Warbucks in a caftan.

Of course, now more and more, there are actual gay dads who are daddies. “Sometimes we even use it between us as playful banter or even with other gay fathers,” says one friend who, with his partner, has a young kid. He often gets looks from younger guys. “It is funny to get cruised on the street when I’m out walking with my son.”

Perhaps the mainstreaming of the daddy trend could be because of statistics: Guys my age — men in our forties — are the largest demographic of gay-identified males to grow old. (The few out and older men I know, now in their late fifties and sixties, are definitely daddy types, because they’re tough, wise, brave guys who survived the harrowing early days of the AIDS crisis.)

“Everyone has a dad, so everyone has daddy issues or relationships; same as straights have mommy issues,” observes Van Sant. “I guess it’s all relative and not so kinky.” Indeed, in our porn-at-your-fingertips era, when every guy has a photo of their boner saved on their smartphone, you are sexually viable at nearly every age, whether you like it or not. Even the words mom and dad are sexual now. The other day, a friend of mine was trying to describe a woman he works with. “She’s blonde, late forties, sort of MILF-y,” he said, in an offhand way, as if he forgot the “ILF” part of the acronym and just meant she was attractive.

So, as we celebrate another Father’s Day, let’s embrace daddy in all its ramifications. Daddy has become a root word that can be enhanced with an adjective, sort of like queen. (Sweater queen, circuit queen, size queen). So now is the time to create them: sport daddy, nerd daddy, recycling daddy. Let’s start the list! I don’t know what I would be: Malbec daddy? Yoga daddy? Accidental daddy? I better figure it out soon, because I’m sure in a couple of years I will already be considered a granddaddy. Or GILF, if I’m lucky.

Rise of the Daddies: A New (and Sexy) Gay Niche