¡hola papi!

‘Daddy Kinks Make Me Uncomfortable. Am I Missing Something?’

Illustration: Pedro Nekoi

This column first ran in John Paul Brammer’s Hola Papi newsletter, which you can subscribe to on Substack.

¡Hola Papi!

I’m a young gay in his mid-20s, and I was wondering: What is it with the kink some gay guys have for daddies?

I’ve encountered this in a few online erotic stories I’ve read recently. I looked into it further, and apparently, some young gay men get off on the idea of an older boyfriend who acts as a mentor and father figure.

It seems to me like this is a toxic power dynamic that can lead to abuse or sexual exploitation. At the same time, I know it’s probably more nuanced than that, and there must be a way to go about doing it consensually.

Personally, I like to think of a potential boyfriend as being someone around my age who, romantic feelings aside, is like my best friend or brother, not my father. Furthermore, I’d like to think we’re equals and that I’m not an authority figure to him or vice versa.

So when I see father-son style bonding between men being fetishized, for me it comes off as weird and uncomfortable. 

For what it’s worth, of the erotic stories I mentioned earlier, they seem to involve a relationship between a teenager or early 20-something and a man who’s at least in his late 30s, if not 40s. Maybe it’s not always like that and those are just bad examples in which a line is crossed.

What are your two cents on this? Am I being prejudiced against relationships with large age gaps? 

Confused But Open Minded

Hey there, Confused!

I’m sorry, but given the context of your letter, I have to begin with the assertion that being in your mid-20s makes you a “young gay.” It’s certainly not ripe old age, but my brother in Christ, you can walk to Enterprise and rent a Subaru. Let’s relax.

Had to get that off my chest! Moving on.

I suppose I’m not sure what you want me to do here. I could explain what a kink is or do some psychosexual analysis on why some men are into “daddies,” but I think all that would accomplish is bringing us both five minutes closer to our last breaths on earth. If it’s not something you’re into, and it’s between two consenting adults, then I don’t see why it’s your business.

I’m also unsure how, as someone who is reading erotic stories in their spare time, “daddies” is the subject that compelled you to write a letter to your local advice columnist. I have read things in the realm of smut that would make the common “daddy fetish” story look like Goodnight Moon. Come back to me when you reach the cold hard bottom of the slash fic iceberg.

You also seem to be conflating real-world relationships with erotica. These are not the same. Sure, there can be overlap, but to go from “this fictional character crossed a line in a fictional story” to “and that’s why I’m uncomfortable with people who remind me of that character” suggests, to me, that you took a wrong turn or two navigating this ethical corn maze.

It’s not even a script limited to gays. I mean, mainstream pop culture is littered with what I would consider “daddy trope” dynamics. There’s a whole genre of beauties falling for beasts. There’s a popular children’s movie about it with a singing teapot and a fruity candelabra. What is a beast if not a daddy by another name? You be the judge.

I’m certainly in no place to dictate what makes you uncomfortable. I can see how you might look at, say, a large age gap between two adults in a sexual dynamic and think, Weird! I’ve had thoughts like that as well. But I think discomfort in and of itself is not always a surefire sign that something immoral is afoot. Discomfort can be caused by any number of factors — personal experiences, biases, preferences, and so on.

I, for example, squirmed when you described your potential partner as “like a brother.” That was weird. So what now? Will you apologize? Will you feel shame? Will you repent? Should we call Pope Francis?

None of this is to say that we shouldn’t have moral quandaries with the fictional stories we read or that abuse doesn’t happen within real relationships that resemble them.

Sadly, it’s all too common to see people exploit power dynamics — experience, money, fame, access, etc. — for personal gain. But this isn’t exclusive to age. All three times that I’ve been violated by men, the men have been around my age. Abuse can happen in any dynamic, and while I, too, find comfort in the notion that abuse can be easily sniffed out ahead of time, that there will reliably be telltale red flags, that’s just not how things typically work.

I’m also reluctant to abide by the increasingly popular belief that “power dynamics” are inherently manipulative. The reality is there are power dynamics in every relationship. If you are involved with another person, then you have entered an uneven playing field or two. No two people will be exactly the same age, same economic class, same appearance (I hope????), and so on and so forth.

This is not violence. This is dating. These are things that have to be worked through and navigated with mutual respect. There is risk involved, yes, but risk cannot be entirely avoided in life.

I hope I’m not coming across as harsh, Confused! I think, or at least hope, that you’re coming from a place of genuine concern for others and, to be sure, I’d never want to outright dismiss anyone on a subject as serious and prevalent as abuse.

But on the other hand, I find myself a member of a community presently under attack by accusations of “grooming” and predation. It’s made me particularly sensitive to insinuations from any political stripe that the gays are sex monsters trolling for their next victim or that we’re all just victims in waiting, idling around until one of those nasty older gays creeps up and takes advantage of our vulnerabilities.

I’m not saying that’s what you’re doing here, but again, what two consenting adults (ADULTS) do is not my business. I can make my own judgments, but I don’t have to give my rubber stamp of approval on it. I don’t have to formally condone or condemn it. If harm hasn’t been explicitly stated, then I won’t read harm into it just because I’m uncomfortable. I am not entitled to a perpetual state of comfort.

I hope you find erotica that speaks to you better!

Con mucho amor,

Originally published on April 29, 2022.

This column first ran in John Paul Brammer’s Hola Papi newsletter, which you can subscribe to on Substack. Purchase JP Brammer’s book Hola Papi: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessonshere.

‘Daddy Kinks Make Me Uncomfortable. What Am I Missing?’