Kady asks me some questions

So I met someone on Tinder recently. Well, one person I matched with. We’ve been talking for like three weeks now, and just last night for the first time the topic of sex came up. And based off of what he was saying, I said, “Are you a dom.” He said, “I’m a daddy dom,” which I had no response to because I didn’t know what that was. (In hindsight I should have asked him, and I probably still will to just see what his definition is.) I googled it, and well, let’s just say this is all new to me. New vocabulary, new ideas, just all new. But then I started getting in my head about it, and like, I am not cool with calling someone “Daddy.” I do have “father wounds,” none of which are sexual, thank God. But it brings up A LOT of emotions for me even thinking about this.

So I guess what I’m getting at is, like – once people find their sexual identity like that – is that just how it is for them? Will he need to express whatever it is that gets him off by being “daddy”? Because while my interest is piqued, I also feel like maybe it would be better to just avoid this one.

And also, like, how does one work through the disconnect between sexual pleasure (and/or fantasy, because the whole dom thing is interesting to me – ever since I met you), and core beliefs (lol because that shit just doesn’t sit right with me. Like at my core, I hate the idea of being controlled by a man, but why do I keep coming back to it…?) I know it’s about “trust,” but also I feel like there has to be other desires there. Right? Like a dom needs to have the need to control and a sub needs to have a need to be controlled, no?

Kady sent me this.

A few things I haven’t told you about Kady:

  1. She was raised religious.
  2. She uses alcohol to disinhibit her enough to have the sex she wants to have (as well, unfortunately, as some she might prefer not to have).
  3. She has experimented with letting me instruct her a bit. It’s challenging for her to comply, but it feels good to her to try.

Before I say anything in response to her specific questions, I have one very basic, very fundamental point: in my experience, although we humans use words to communicate an enormous amount – and 100 percent of what we communicate through apps – we often are confused about what words are. We often use words as if they were precise, as if the use of a particular word, or set of words, results in a perfect transmission of meaning from speaker to listener. But this is a fantasy: words don’t result in perfect transmission of meaning. EVER. The best they can do is point a listener in a direction. The listener can’t possibly know, for example, the history of a particular word for the speaker, all the associations that word carries in her mind, etc. Nor can she liberate herself from her own history of that particular word, and all its associations for her. (One obvious example: the word “Democrat” is a description of a member of a political party to some; it’s an epithet, to others; to some others, it’s an identity. Never mind all the nuances that lie behind those very basic differences in meaning.)

Add to that: we often use words to stop, or to avoid, thinking. This happens with diagnostic terms often: “addict,” for example. People often say “I’m an addict,” as if that had communicated a whole lot. When, in fact, every addict’s addiction is different – and many people who are not, technically, addicted to a substance, use the word to communicate a metaphorical situation. Thinking is hard. It features ambiguity, uncertainty, and discomfort. And words often exempt us from some of those negative consequences, at the expense of a conveyance of meaning.

At the same time, words are the best tool we have to convey meaning. So we’re stuck using them.

Kady’s question has all sorts of words in it that are used by some as if they were terms of art – rigidly defined, clearly defined, with shared meanings among all who use them. But this is, at best, somewhat off; more likely, it’s distractingly unhelpful.

I’ve written a number of times in this blog about the words “Dom” and “sub,” about how I don’t really identify as a “Dom,” and about how many who identify as “subs” have lamented that I’m not a Dom. And, at the same time, I’ve known a number of women who unabashedly, and with certainty, have referred to me as a Dom – as their Dom. That word, “Dom,” has whatever meaning the two people using it agree on, if they agree. But if they haven’t established, through thought and communication, that they agree? Well, then, the word just gets in the way of thought, meaning, communication.

“Jew” is a word like this. Some Jews think other Jews aren’t real Jews, for example. While some non-Jews think “Jew” is an epithet. Not to mention its usage, by some, as a verb. It’s far more meaningful, but more complicated, for me to say “I have a strong identification with Jewish culture and history, and a somewhat less strong identification with the beliefs, practices, and traditions of those who have thought themselves Jewish over the generations. At the same time, I come from a family both sides of which have – as far as I know – been constituted exclusively by people who considered themselves Jewish as far back as records exist, in some cases, at least as far back as the 1700s.”

So too with “Dom.” Some people think “Dom” has a very specific meaning, conveying a very specific combination of facts about the person so described. Others think of it almost as atmospheric – conveying something very general about how someone conducts themself in very specific, usually sexual, situations.

So all of that is at play when someone says, as Kady’s prospective date did, “I’m a Daddy Dom.”

Who the fuck knows what that means, other than Mr. Daddy Dom himself?

Of course, that term emerges from traditions and cultures, and so there are some things it likely means: he probably enjoys being called “Daddy.” He probably enjoys participating in sexual relationships in which he assumes a position of authority and power over a partner. He likely enjoys using at least a little discipline in the bedroom – and maybe, outside of it. But there’s simply no way to know what he means with those two words without asking him.

Kady asked a bunch of questions, though:

  1. Once people find their sexual identity like that – is that just how it is for them?

    “Like that” seems to be doing a lot of work in this question. I would distinguish between “identity,” “desires,” and… “sexuality?” I think of an identity as a particular vision of oneself which one finds both descriptive of oneself and to which one feels an attachment. So. If I identify as a “Dom,” I’m making certain claims about how I am, about how I want to be, and about how I want to be seen. I think of identity as quite mutable: I never thought of myself as “dominant” until a little more than a decade ago, and while I think it unlikely, I certainly could change that. So I think identity can change – but the stronger one’s attachment to one’s “identity,” the less likely they are to change. “Desires” and “sexuality” feel to me less changeable. The heart (and cock, and cunt) wants what the heart (and cock, and cunt) wants, as they say. Sure, that evolves over time. But not so much, I think – at least not for me. What has changed over time is how I relate to my desires. Similarly: I thought myself bi until well into my 20s. But this, in retrospect, was more aspirational than descriptive. I don’t know if my sexuality actually changed. I just think my relationship to and understanding of it did. [I’m making no claims re: others; just using myself to explore the questions in a way that I think is mostly generalize-able.]
  2. Will he need to express whatever it is that gets him off by being “daddy”?

    Well that’s a question for him, not for me.
  3. How does one work through the disconnect between sexual pleasure (and/or fantasy, because the whole dom thing is interesting to me – ever since I met you), and core beliefs (lol because that shit just doesn’t sit right with me.

    This was much of the psychic and sexual work I did until well into my 40s: how did I reconcile the fact that it turns me on to dominate, direct, control a woman (on the one hand) and that doing so is (was) fundamentally inconsistent with my political, social identity as a pro-feminist, enlightened, sensitive, non-objectifying man? The answer was shockingly simple, for me, even if it was really slow and difficult to implement: to distinguish between what I want (sexually, but also, other things), what I do (in and outside of the bedroom), and who I am. Playing out a sexual fantasy with a woman who wants to do that with me is a sexual activity (for me). I choose not to relate to it as a political activity. Or rather, to the extent I do, I seek to situate it in my pro-feminist politics thoughtfully, rather than mindlessly.
  4. Like at my core, I hate the idea of being controlled by a man, but why do I keep coming back to it…?

    This is a question about you, not so much for me. But I would guess…. If a man controls you, then you aren’t responsible for what you do, for what happens, while under his control. Which I imagine might be helpful with respect to sexual shame and guilt you might be saddled with.
  5. I know it’s about “trust,” but also I feel like there has to be other desires there. Right?

    I’m not sure what the antecedent to “it’s” is. Or what the antecedent to “there” is, either. After reading three great books – Arousal, by Michael Bader; The Erotic Mind, by Jack Morin; and Sexual Excitement, by Robert Stoller – I came to find it useful to think of my sexual desires and fantasies as coded expressions of my greatest fears. I use my dominance – my recurrent fantasies and scenes – to protect me from all sorts of dangers. So for me, to the extent that “it” is “the sexual ideas to which I return,” “it” is about safety. And sure, trust is part of that. But the safety part transcends individual relationships. Trust simply is a necessary aspect of any relationship. For me.
  6. Like a dom needs to have the need to control and a sub needs to have a need to be controlled, no?

    See my answer to 5, as well as the first bit of this post. I don’t really know what a “dom” is or what a “sub” is. I’m not being coy. I just think there are infinite variations of each – and for the needs and motivations of each. The one thing I understand to be something like universal is the sexual quest for psychic safety. So maybe a dom needs to control. Or maybe, the need is for something different (a feeling of power? of relative power? of humiliation, degradation, cruelty? or who knows?), and “control” is just a strategy. I think it really depends. Ditto re: subs. Maybe one sub “needs” to be used; another, to be degraded; another, to live out certain fantasies without feeling responsible for those fantasies taking place. In each case, control manifests, but it isn’t the “need.”

Make some sense? And, would you send me a photo of yourself that you’re comfortable with my using to accompany this post? Please?


  1. Okay….um I dunno why or what the point of this post really is. It originally felt like a conversation but I’m not sure? Is this advice or sharing of ideas? I feel like some things that need to be said in order to help Kady have not been said.

    As someone who has more of an open eye in BDSM I can maybe help a little with the trajectory of this conversation. Yes, words can be helpful as well as useless within the context used. And sometimes I find that words can fall flat when trying to make the effort of decribing the human experience. As a writer, despite the difficulty, I will always strive to find the best words because it’s all we’ve got to pass on some of our knowledge generationally. We are storytellers afterall. The same challenge goes for labels such as the ones used in the BDSM/sexual lifestyle communities. This I feel (in so many words) explains the whole “debate” of what is a Sub or a Dom. I use quotation marks because it feels rather unnecessary to try and find universal definitions for labels meant only as a guide towards very diverse categories and ways of being, of ways we enjoy sex.

    First, I have to start by saying welcome Kady! Yes this is all new and can be quite overwhelming at first not only because of trying to navigate these sexualities in relation to others but also in relation to ourselves and our own innate views of sex and sexuality. It feels like a mess because sometimes the conflict of our desires not aligning with our actions create a kind of cognitive dissonance. In this case the entire idea of “feminist…except in the bedroom” is very intresting, (and frankly to me very fun) but can also be very frustrating.

    There is so much I can say about it all but I have 2 concepts that will help answer your questions. One is consent, the other is negotiation. The idea of consent while I’m sure you know it, helps immensely when thinking about it on a deeper level because it breaks the idea that your core beliefs and your deeper sexual desires are not in cahoots. Honestly, when done correctly both parties whether Dom or Sub identifying SHOULD consent to what is happening. Meaning if both are consenting then both have an equal opportunity to stop what is happening. If this isn’t the core of a feminist sexual practice I don’t know what is. Submission…..amongst so many definitions..is the act of giving, emphasis on giving, control. The power lies in that you control who you want to give it to and you can take it back at any time in the middle of any act should you feel the need to. The best Dom or sexual partner is one who makes you feel safe enough that you can speak freely about what you can or cannot do. It’s more fun to give to someone who recognizes it’s value and is appreciative and kind.

    This leads to negotiation. In order for both parties to aim towards never violating one another there has to be many initial conversations about what you both agree to. I agree here with the author that you have to ask him what Daddy means to him and if within your interactions if the specifics of the term doesn’t sit well with you if he could deal with not being addressed in this way because you don’t like it. This also goes with asking him what he means when he says he is a “Dom”. When ppl find these labels to be able to use it in context to their sexuality it can either help or hinder them depending but with the right approach you migh find someone you can have a lot of fun with. <3

    1. Thanks for such a thoughtful response! I don’t disagree with any of what you say. I just think, in general, words often get in the way when we don’t expand on their meaning….

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