By Lauren Sams
July 31, 2017 | 11:00am
“The first time it happened, I was even surprised by it. The word just came out – I wasn’t really even thinking about it. But then I said it again and again, and he didn’t seem to mind. Actually, he seemed pretty turned on by the whole thing.”
Meet Greta*. She’s a 28-year-old law student and in a long-term relationship with Mark*. They live together in Adelaide, Australia, where they often go on long weekend cycling trips. They love watching “Veep” and “House of Cards.” Mark is the cook in their relationship (Greta tends to their herb garden). They’ve been together for four and a half years; they’re completely in love.
They have a great sex life, Greta tells me. So great, in fact, that Greta feels completely comfortable calling Mark “daddy” in bed.
“Does it sound weird?” she asks me. “I mean … to us, it’s not weird. But does it sound weird to you?”
Um. Kind of, I tell her. I think about what it might feel like to say it to my husband. Not great. It doesn’t exactly float my boat.
But Greta’s not alone. I also spoke with Brie*, a 32-year-old stay-at-home mom, who also enjoys calling her husband “daddy.” “I asked him if I could do it,” she says. “We were dating at the time and it was a bit of a fantasy of mine. Not to sleep with my Dad, of course, but to call someone daddy. Ben* said yes and here we are.”
I’m intrigued. Doesn’t it get a little awkward? Does calling your boyfriend or husband “Daddy” mean that you have serious daddy issues yourself? Does it mean you want to sleep with … well, you know? I call Jacqueline Hellyer, a sex therapist and relationship coach, and ask her all of the above questions.
“No, no and no,” she answers. Calling your partner “daddy,” she says, is just another type of sexual (or non-sexual) role play. Within the boundaries of a safe, consensual, loving adult relationship, it’s perfectly fine — and normal, she says.
“Role plays — and in particular, power exchange role plays — are a very safe way for people with strong personalities to let go. You often find that women who like to be ‘submissive’ in relationships — like the kind of women who’d call their partner ‘daddy’ in bed — are actually pretty high-powered in their day-to-day lives. Engaging in this role play is their way of letting go and giving in to vulnerability.”
Hellyer adds that the fantasy has nothing to do with wanting to sleep with anyone but your partner. “It’s symbolic,” she says. “Fathers are caring, supportive, assertive. Calling your partner ‘daddy’ is about them embracing those qualities in the relationship.” The role play is similar to a dominant-submissive relationship, where one person “dominates” and the other “submits.” But, says Hellyer, the real power is with the person who submits. “It might not look like it from the outside, but the submissive person holds all the cards. They decide what is OK and what’s not. The person in the dominant position gets their pleasure from the person in the permissive position telling them what they want and don’t want.” In order to have this kind of relationship, she adds, you need to start from a base of open communication and total trust.
For Greta, this rings true. “I haven’t really thought about it much, but I guess, yeah, it makes sense. When we have sex, I want to receive a lot of attention. So I suppose I am the submissive, but only because I’ve made it that way!” Brie is hesitant to put a label on her relationship. “It’s just something we like doing,” she says. “I’m not sure if I need to analyze it or quantify it.”
Role play — whatever kind you’re into — is often a safe way to test the boundaries of a relationship, says Hellyer. In this instance, the role play is about making the woman feel safe and loved and you can’t really argue there’s a problem with that. “There are so many taboos and so much shame around sex, which means we need to manage our desires on our own,” says Hellyer. “We tend to come up with things that make us safe. The father figure is a very safe person, so it’s an ideal way to express your sexuality and experience pleasure.”
I ask Hellyer whether this kind of relationship could ever become problematic … and she bursts into laughter. “All relationships can become problematic!” she says. Mmm. Noted. “But seriously,” she continues, “these relationships — where sexual fantasies are explored safely, where there are clear boundaries, where there’s a lot of communication and trust — are actually often the healthiest. So many women feel that they can’t speak up and ask for what they want in bed, so I really applaud women who are able to do that freely.”
*Names changed out of privacy concerns