Pet names are pretty common among people who fuck each other. Baby, honey, lil' puddin', tater. One pet name, however, has proven to be more controversial than others: daddy. Why do some women call their dudes "daddy" during sex?
"I've heard from a fair amount of men who were turned off by it, and were worried that it was an indicator of 'daddy issues,'" says sex therapist Vanessa Marin. "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. It's a bit of a 70s porn cliche. I've never run across a woman who called her partner 'daddy' because she genuinely liked fantasizing that he was her father."
Freud is the originator of the theory that we all want to bone down with our parents. He also came up with penis envy—the idea that all women are crippled with an obsessive need to have a dong—which is one of the many reasons most of his work has been sidelined by modern psychology. However, his presence still looms over popular discussion of mental health. Online, even the people who deny that daddy issues have anything to do with calling their partner "daddy" during sex have an air of doth-protesting-too-much. "Umm, I don't know. I enjoyed calling my ex-so daddy because I thought it sounded hot," says one redditor. "I don't have a father, and I don't have 'daddy issues.'"
The general consensus on Reddit was that women call their partners "daddy" because they are into submitting to male authority figures. "Sir/Master just doesn't have that same affectionate tone to it, know what I mean?" says one redditor. "Some girls want to call their man daddy in a way that has nothing to do with their father but as a way that communicates she is submissive to your masculinity," says another. The most extreme version of this mindset is the DDlg kink community. DDlg stands for Daddy Dom/little girl, usually with only the Daddy getting capitalization. With this kink, men take care of their "littles," providing toys and discipline. The littles, in turn, bring a joyful innocence to the relationship. The DDlg community thrives on Tumblr, where different blogs are set up for DDlg secrets, personals, and blogs for women who describe themselves as being "Mentally age 3-6, physically all grown up."
This grosses me out more than if they wanted to fuck their dad. But that's probably just because my personal fetish is being respected as an adult. It also feeds into a problem society has with sexualizing children and rendering grown women childlike. What does it say about our society if we fetishize helplessness and submitting to someone else's will? And is it a coincidence that DDlg looks like a texting abbreviation of the word "diddling"?
While researching this story, I could tell my personal biases were getting in the way. So I did what any adult who wanted to be taken seriously would do. I talked to my mommy.
Dr. Margaret Squires has been doing couples therapy for over 35 years and working with survivors of childhood sexual abuse for over 30. She doesn't believe there's anything particularly pedophiliac about daddy-talk. "I think that when that language comes up, it's just as likely to be in a healthy relationship. You're getting back to very early warm attachments." She also didn't necessarily have a problem with the DDlg dynamic. "Sometimes people are merely recognizing a pattern in their relationship. That's why we have relationships, so we can rely on each other. It's not necessary for everyone to be equally strong in all things."
There is a risk in letting these patterns become rigid in the relationship: My mother calls it de-selfing. "[People in these relationships] erase any part of themselves that bothers the other person. They fail to recognize that they have rights." She recognized that daddies could possibly de-self, erasing the childlike part of themselves that needs to be nurtured, but "one tends to see the women de-selfing, because in this society that's what women do. Women are trained from a very early age to put other people's needs before their own, and to erase themselves from situations."
"Your grandfather used to call his wife Slug," my mom continued. "It's not particularly important to worry about what people call each other. It's important to recognize our own individuality and find a partner who supports that."
This article originally appeared on VICE US.