October 26, 2006 4:51 AM   Subscribe

What's with "Who's your daddy?"

I have never understood this one. Why would anyone think that "Who's your daddy?" would be something that a man would want to cry out in the throes of passion? When I am with the woman I choose, the last thing that I want her to be thinking about is her daddy. So what gives?
posted by megatherium to Society & Culture (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Pop psychology says that women will base all their future adult male relationships on their image of (and relationship with) their father that was forged early in life and during adolescense. I think Freud had something to say about this with the Electra complex and penis envy. If you follow these theories then a man saying "Who's your daddy" during sex (even if taken as a joke on the surface) would tend to reinforce the ideas at the root of these theories.

Me, I have no real knowledge of psychology or of being female so I don't know if this holds any water, but it could explain the origin of the phrase.
posted by Rhomboid at 5:10 AM on October 26, 2006

"What's your name?
Who's your daddy?
Is he rich like me?

Has he taken
Any time
To show you what you need to live?
Tell it to me slowly
I really want to know
It's the time of the season for loving..."

--The Zombies
posted by hermitosis at 5:10 AM on October 26, 2006

Best answer: I don't know how reliable their sources are, but this page traces it much farther back:
who's your daddy?/who's yer daddy?/who's ya daddy? - (effectively) I control you - the Who's Your Daddy? expression has many subtle variations. Opinions are divided, and usage varies, between two main meanings, whose roots can be traced back to mid-late 1800's, although the full expression seems to have evolved in the 1900's. The full 'Who's Your daddy? expression is likely to have originated in USA underworld and street cultures. The main variations are:

* I've looked/I'm looking after you, or taken/taking care of you, possibly in a sexually suggestive or sexually ironic way. This alludes to the 'sugar-daddy' term from late 19th century USA, which is based on the image of an older man giving (candy) reward in return for intimacy, either to a younger woman/mistress or younger gay male lover.
* I've beaten you/I'm beating you, at something, and you are defenceless. This alludes to parental dominance and authority, and at its extreme, to intimacy with the victim's/opponent's mother.

The use of the expression as a straight insult, where the meaning is to question a person's parentage, is found, but this would not have been the origin, and is a more recent retrospectively applied meaning.

The sexual undertow and sordid nature of the expression has made this an appealing expression in the underworld, prison etc.

In much of the expression's common usage the meanings seem to converge, in which the hybrid 'feel' is one of (sexual) domination/control/intimacy in return for payment/material reward/safety/protection.

Daddy has many other slang uses which would have contributed to the dominant/paternalistic/authoritative/sexual-contract feel of the expression, for example:

* the best/biggest/strongest one of anything (the daddy of them all)
* a prostitute's pimp or boyfriend
* a leading prisoner (through intimidation) at a borstal
posted by pracowity at 5:35 AM on October 26, 2006 [2 favorites]

I've always believed it to have some connotation towards a Sugar daddy
posted by fvox13 at 6:11 AM on October 26, 2006

I agree with the sugar daddy origin, but a twisted david lynch side of my brain thinks without any basis whatsoever that sexual abuse by fathers of their daughters was so prevalent among the poor and underclasses in America in the early to mid 1900s that it would have given rise not only to the term sugar "daddy", but was also so generally known and accepted that it would have been something guys would say when they sleep with these girls when they get older as a way of asserting dominion.

Again I have no basis for thinking any of that other than a general non-specific misanthropy.
posted by Pastabagel at 6:48 AM on October 26, 2006

a general non-specific misanthropy

You too eh? I'm glad there's more of us out there.

Anyway, I suspect that it's just a vocalization of male power-play in a sexual relationship. It's meant to humiliate and therefore to show that the man holds the power. In other words it's perhaps not the most loving thing to shout out whilst gettin' it ahwn.
posted by ob at 7:34 AM on October 26, 2006

In Latino cultures it is common for women to call their man "papi" and for a man to call his woman "mami." I find this deeply creepy, although I imagine the implication is that they are starting a family (thus being a mother or father) rather than role-playing incest with their own respective parents. It seems like it might be related in some way, though perhaps not.
posted by kindall at 8:15 AM on October 26, 2006

People call each other "baby" all the time.
posted by pracowity at 8:25 AM on October 26, 2006

Aw, but it's ironic.
posted by crabintheocean at 8:25 AM on October 26, 2006

Oh, the question and answers here are SO white! You gotta break out of your cultural cocoon here a little bit to understand where this expression is coming from.

Hermitosis has the general idea.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 8:31 AM on October 26, 2006

"Who's the man who is powerful enough to remove you from your father's care and take you as his own, thus replacing said biological daddy as the central male figure in your life?" just doesn't have the same ring to it.
posted by headspace at 8:40 AM on October 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

(I hate to break it to you, Mr. Gunn, but The Zombies were white.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:47 AM on October 26, 2006

In the UK, the phrase is most closely associated with Scum, a brutal film about borstal in the late '70s, which features lashings of ultraviolence, and a rather disturbing rape scene which leads to the victim topping himself, plus another teenage suicide for good measure. (Weirdly, Ray Winstone who starred in the film was in a beer advert recently using the phrase - quite why they thought reminding people of juvenile prison rape would make viewers want to buy that brand of lager, I don't know.)

So when American man asks a women 'Who's the daddy?', they seem to my ears to be asking whether she thinks he's the hardest junior criminal in the borstal, and therefore the person best able to take the penetrative role in any male rape opportunities in said institution. Which is a really weird thing to be asking your girlfriend.
posted by jack_mo at 9:36 AM on October 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

Seconding the verry well-articulated response made by pracowity.

FYI Pastabagel: Perverts come from every race, creed, and socioeconomic class. Please don't insult everyone here by insinuating the only poor people are morally reprobate.

And questioning Mr. Gunn's assertion that an intelligent or comprehensive linguistic dialogue is somehow "SO white." You're probably trying to sound hip but the underlying assumption is that if it's not articulate, then it's not "white" speech.

Sorry if I derailed a bit, but if we're going to discuss a sociolinguistic element, we need to first consider the implications of how we phrase the discussion.
posted by mynameismandab at 9:46 AM on October 26, 2006

I'm female - and I honestly think its just a way of saying "who's your man ?" - in much the same way people like their lover to say their name - it acknowledges them on a personal, separate from a sexual, level.
posted by AuntLisa at 10:26 AM on October 26, 2006

"Tell him who his daddy is, D'argo."
"He's your daddy."

I actually have heard this used 'seriously' to convey dominance. In a sexual connotation I have only ever heard it used humorously/ironically.
posted by phearlez at 10:35 AM on October 26, 2006

nebulawindphone: "(I hate to break it to you, Mr. Gunn, but The Zombies were white.)"

I know, and I wasn't talking about that, just trying to help set a proper frame of reference.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 10:41 AM on October 26, 2006

Also, Miss Cates has a request ...
posted by rob511 at 3:22 PM on October 26, 2006

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