Illustrated by Ji Lim

Who’s Your Daddy?: A Guide To The Internet’s Most Popular Word

Millennials love a daddy

Who's your daddy? More importantly, who is "daddy"? The popularity of the term "daddy" has skyrocketed over the past couple of years. A male-identifying public figure can't tweet or post anything without receiving replies like "daddy," "hi daddy," or "pls see me daddy." Even the Pope has had Twitter fans call him "daddy." [Link NSFW!]

The exponentially growing use of "daddy" amongst the youth is, at first, perplexing. Are they aware of its BDSM history? (That Pope fan sure seems to be.) Or its queer history? Does recent usage stem from a collective case of daddy issues we've all learned to silence? Or, are we all finally coming to terms with the fluidity of submissive and dominant roles in our lives? Have we collectively realized that power is subjective and daddy is merely a term of endearment meant to signify doing something well and with gusto? Can mommy... also be daddy?

Sheesh. Buzzwords! The fact is, daddy is here, sometimes queer, and is, in most cases, definitely not your real father. All of the millennials I spoke with for this story stressed that latter part. Daddy is not dad. Daddy is your best friend, a lover, a one-night stand, your celebrity crush, a hot guy reading a book on the subway, but never your actual blood family. Daddy is someone you're attracted to—platonically, romantically, or lustfully—whose confidence, whether it be shown in the moment or demonstrated over time, you respect. Daddy, in the millennial sense, is neither real nor fake; daddy, like most things filtered through the millennial mind, is ironic.

"It's funny to me when I'm talking to my friends about a hot guy or when we're joking around," Brittany tells me. "I would never use it in a real context or call someone I'm dating that, not even during sex." Most of the people I spoke with agree. A few, though, both men and women, date exclusively daddy-types because why not? The majority of the people I spoke with who consider the word a part of their daily vernacular identify as gay men, who use the word to identify a specific type of man (older and typically meatier) and also as a term of endearment. Straight women see it a little differently. "I'm open-minded about it," one tells me. "The word, however, immediately makes me think of lavish things, drinks and dinners, vacations, paid rent—sugar baby things." 

Daddy, therefore, signifies confidence, drive, and power, and it's not gender-exclusive. Faye Dunaway in the "this ain't my first time at the rodeo" scene of Mommie Dearest is more daddy than anything. She wields power and speaks with assurance. Daddy is about tenacity. The New Inquiry posits the popularity of daddy "marks an era of social and economic precarity that leaves young people righteously without faith in institutions, but more fluent in language with points of origin online." Daddy can be anyone who makes you feel safe; daddy never disappoints. And if you're having trouble finding a daddy who doesn't live in the Vatican? Consider being your own daddy. You can't get more millennial than that.