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The Femme Daddy: Disidentification and Queer Semiotics

BY PARKER PENN AKA THE VILLAINELLE

Daddy is a dirty word, a two-syllable slap. Daddy is a size-queen’s 8-inch silicone strap.


I’ll qualify this piece now to get it out of the way: these interpretations of what Daddy energy is, or what being a Daddy means, are my own and unabashedly reflect my bias as a queer, nonbinary femme sex worker. It should also be recognized that the “Daddy” archetype exists with varying symbolisms in different subcultures like gay leather communities—referring to communities of gay men and leatherdykes—and sex workers engaging in sugaring dynamics as well as to a plethora of individuals.1 These subcultures have influenced my own definitions by means of inspiration and through selective rejection of principles. For example, the gay leather community adopted and honed the identity of the D/s Daddy many decades before I even had my first underage drink in 2001 at the iconic SF lesbian bar The Lexington (RIP) and before The Straights(TM) appropriated it into contemporary kink.


Although I revere and celebrate the gay and queer history of Daddies, Zaddies, and their counterparts, I have very little respect for, and leave only a slim margin of possibility in my definition of “Daddyhood” for the inclusion of cishet men and their so-called erotic cannon that further reenacts the flourishes of patriarchal misogyny. That is not to say that it is impossible for cishet men to be ethical Daddies, but in order to avoid exercising power in harmful ways, it demands a self-awareness and awareness of the oppressive systems that indoctrinate and empower Men, alongside careful and thoughtful self-work to exorcize harmful thought and behavior that I have yet to see in a cishet man who claims to be a Daddy. More often than not, I find that the types of cishet men attracted to the role are seduced by the access to yet another outlet for expressing their patriarchal and misogynistic impulses under the mask of a consented-to power dynamic. I’d also like to be clear that LGBTQAI+ Daddies are not exempt from enacting the pitfalls of problematic behaviors rooted in the same systems of oppression, but as a whole, because they are folx who have traditionally been marginalized from these power structures in the world to varying degrees, they have been positioned to have a better understanding for the mechanics of those structures and how to revise, rebel against, or subvert them. All positions of power demand analysis and awareness of the power structure(s) at play and of the self in relation to them, in order to minimize possibilities of harm.


I am in love with Daddyhood insofar as it inverts, subverts, and queers what otherwise in the world is an oppressive force. It is an alchemy.


Daddy is Meret Oppenheim’s fur-wrapped teacup.

Daddy is the semiotics of the cigarette in films noir.


The archetype of “the Daddy” elicits sprawling imagery of traditional markers of masculinity: strength, prowess, dominance, protectiveness — and situates them in a kind of drag at the crossroads of gender and desire. Daddy is tenderness and violence made sexy and, for me, feminine. In the kinky sense, the Daddy concept takes the trappings, the aesthetics, the shell of the identity of Manhood, and hollows it out, reorganizes it, does it better and with panache.


Daddy is the blade of Grace Jones’ cheekbones.

Daddy is Prince’s silk ruffle blouse.

Daddy is Courtney Love’s vocal-fry.


The Femme Daddy energy, conceptually, provided a home and an aesthetic language for my non-binary sense of self. It was a “yes, and.” Think Gillian Anderson in the silk blouse and power suit, Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth in her stately armor and her moral code, Cate Blanchett in literally anything, Gina Gershon in a leather jacket and crooked smirk in Bound, the intermix of power and purchase, ferocity and femininity, stoicism and softness. I recognized in them these seemingly incongruous facets of myself, at least in the traditional binary terms that I had grown up indoctrinated in. Seeing them on TV, I experienced what queer theorist José Esteban Muñoz referred to as a “disidentification,” for which he advanced this lush definition:


"Disidentification is about recycling and rethinking encoded meaning. The process of disidentification scrambles and reconstructs the encoded message of a cultural text in a fashion that both exposes the encoded message’s universalizing and exclusionary machinations and recircuits its workings to account for, include, and empower minority identities and identifications. Thus, disidentification is a step further than cracking open the code of the majority; it proceeds to use this code as raw material for representing a disempowered politics or positionality that has been rendered unthinkable by the dominant culture."

Judith Butler is Daddy. Eve Sedgewick is Daddy.

Daddy is a disidentification, in the sense that Muñoz meant it.

Daddy is Brando on his motorcycle.

Daddy mocks The Man.


I get to transform and tailor the role to suit me and who I want to be. I can be playful and caring, which may involve pain but seeks to avoid harm, or I can be a powerhouse of discipline if/when necessary. When I invoke the moniker of Daddy, it refers conceptually to a dynamic that involves devotion. “Daddy” implies relationality; the role is part of a system of care. I apply it to a kinky D/s dynamic because I want to protect and nurture my submissives towards being their best selves, and I also want to lavish them sadistically. I personally really enjoy playing with consensual non-consent, ageplay, and incestuous roleplays, so playing with a familial-esque title is naturally up my alley. This topic alone could be a whole article unto it’s own, so I’ll simply clarify here that I understand that because these topics of play are taboo and can bring up a lot for many people, that they are engaged in by consenting adults in a safe environment that involves a lot of communication and no one is being harmed; it is not the same thing as actual incest/rape/ violence/pedophilia because the crux of actual harm occurs because consent is not or cannot be given by the person who is the victim of violence.4 By queering our idea of who “Daddy” is and the roles that we play with one another, we can subvert the violences of these acts and open up space for joy, for free sexual expression, and even healing, in some cases.


Daddy is no one’s father but Daddy is oedipal and knows what you like.

Daddy tells you when to cum.

...Daddy is a patient man.


This kind of Daddy, the Femme Daddy, is in direct opposition with the dynamics of the sugar daddy, though money may or may not find expression in the Daddy role for many people. The sugar daddy is part of a dynamic where the daddy, usually a cis man, gives money or gifts or resources to a sugar baby, who can be any gender, in exchange for erotic and/or GFE services. Money is inherent to the power dynamic, and the sugar daddy holds the power.


I have zero interest in giving a man power over me, whether that be for money or any other resource or reason. Men already hold that power in the rest of the world. They do not get to have it here. My clients call me “Daddy” and they pay me. Zara Barrie illustrates a sexy definition of the Femme Daddy in queer lifestyle dynamic as:


“...a badass woman who will take care of you. She has her shit together. She knows how to do grownup shit, like make reservations. She’s good in bed. She has sophisticated taste in restaurants. She’ll order you a car home. She’s the opposite of a fuckboy.”


I enjoy being the femme who has her shit together.6 I love to take my friends and lovers out on dates. I will ensure they get home safely. If I pick them up on my motorcycle, I will outfit them in appropriate gear because their bodies and wellbeing are precious and should be cared for.


Because I work as a professional dominatrix and identify as a Femme Daddy, I don’t generally attract the sort of client who wants to wield money as a form of power over me. They come to me to give up power. In the instances where clients have tried to wrest measures of power through manipulative behavior around money, I have either confronted them about it and reset expectations or ended the relationship. Clients who want to play out traditional binary-gendered patriarchal power games generally aren’t drawn to someone like me, because I intentionally don’t fit into that mold.


One of my favorite things about the Femme Daddy archetype is that it is a concept that invites genderplay, of which I am a huge fan. It is unendingly joy-bringing to play with other queers, trans folx , and people across the gender spectrum who are no stranger to the archetype. Home has already been built there and it is a sanctuary. Dominating cishet men and provoking a sweet mixture of discomfort and desire—hearing the words “Oh, Daddy,” “Yes, Daddy,” and “Thank you, Daddy” come tumbling out of their mouths...is also simply irresistible. More often than not, they begin to participate in the genderplay as well, even if they don’t fully understand it or have language for it. When that sweet spot is struck, when the veil of gender performativity is lifted a little and they get a glimpse at a way of being that is more expansive than the bland, binary one they grew up socialized to think was the only option, I think there is some ineffable knowledge that occurs inside them around the fallacy of their 100-percent-unpenetrable cis-“straightness,” and that is joy-bringing too.


Daddy is the period that ends the sentence.

WORDS BY PARKER PENN AKA THE VILLAINELLE

PHOTOS BY PENELOPE DARIO

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