I first saw Markus years ago on the train from London. I was on my way to a week-long mens Tantra retreat. Markus was impossible to miss. A thirty year old Nordic god. Blond hair, light blue eyes. His body layered with slabs of muscle. As powerfully as he was built, he had the face of an angel, sweet and seemingly innocent. So obviously and impossibly handsome I actually looked past him at first.
When he got on the shuttle to the retreat center, my eyes continually wandered over the outlines of his jaw and across the broad spread of his shoulders. He was like the sun, too bright to look at directly. When he caught me, his eyes hooked into me. I half smiled. He turned fully to face me, his smile breaking open his face like the sun parting clouds.
I assumed he lived in an alternate reality. One that held him beyond my earthly reach. Within a few hours, I learned that I was wrong. Markus and I had a destiny together. We were to orbit one another for many years. He was to be my first boy and I was to become the Daddy that he needed.
There were 25 gay men together for the week in this quaint retreat center west of London. We passed Stonehenge on our way and the smell of farm animals hung in the air as we stepped off the bus. Looking around the opening circle I could feel myself being drawn toward some men more than others. And there in the middle was Markus, standing like a unicorn among stallions. He was so angelic, it was hard to believe he was real.
On that first day, I observed him. Markus was very open and engaging with all the men. When he spoke, he was controlled and intelligent. I innocently walked up to him to introduce myself and in an instant he was in my arms, his thick tongue in my mouth.
It felt like being hit with a really wonderful hammer. It also seemed that our connection went very deep very quickly. We stood and kissed in that spot for an impossibly long time. I remember the sun fully setting as our kiss carried us into the evening hours.
Later on, we sat down to dinner and he called me Daddy for the first time. Oh, I thought. Is that what this is about?
“Do you want me to be your Daddy,” I asked.
“Yes, Daddy. Please, Daddy.”
“Why do you need a Daddy?” I asked. The edges of my lips lifting into a curious smile.
“My father was very busy. I always had crushes on my friends fathers. It makes me very excited to have a Daddy.” His deep voice rumbled out through his clipped Scandinavian accent.
“Ok, I’ll be your Daddy,” I said without really considering exactly what I was agreeing to.
I laughed with the fun game I thought we were playing. Feeling my excitement that this beautiful man wanted to engage with me in this way. And in that instant, my journey as Markus’s Daddy began. It didn’t take long for me to realize that for Markus this was not a game. He wanted to be my boy in a way that reached to something deeper.
“I am your boy, Daddy.”
In the gay community, being called Daddy is mostly a joke. One that has a variety of meanings. Most obviously, being a Daddy conjures up an overly scripted pornographic movie where a top dad and a bottom boy get it on.
Being called Daddy is also sometimes a request for generosity. Daddy is expected to pay for drinks and sun-filled vacations while the boy pays with access to his smooth, young body.
But for many aging gay men, being called Daddy is unwelcome. Daddy can feel like being told that you are old and less attractive. The inference being that a Daddy is a man on the way out.
But since I met Markus, I have had to reclaim Daddy if only for myself. Like a once vital part of a city that has fallen into neglect, Daddy was in serious need of his Renaissance. I now believe that Daddy jokes are the unconscious desires for a rite of passage that has gone missing. One that calls out from the bodies, minds and spirits of every emerging generation. Daddy is an ancient call for sexual mentorship from a culture that has lost that tradition.
When I was a young man, I know that I myself wanted a Daddy. I only wanted to have sex with older men. I was attracted to their thick beards and hairy chests but more than that, I wanted these men to teach me. They knew things about my body that I did not. I could feel that knowledge in the way they moved and the relaxed confidence that they carried. I longed to be let into that adult sex club and I knew that my education was lacking.
As I pursued these older men, I tried to piece together the education that I needed from those interactions but often what I encountered were men who didn’t know how to help me. They themselves were more like older boys. I didn’t know that I needed something more.
Historically, ancient cultures understood the importance of this rite of passage. The Greeks most famously embodied the role of an elder taking a younger male student under his wing. But this societal initiation has existed within many other cultures throughout history.
Looked at with modern eyes, the idea of a sexual mentor is highly suspect. For younger men coming into their sexual adulthood in their teens, a relationship with an older man is seen solely as abuse. It has been outlawed, removed from modern life. As the generations pass without this cultural sharing, we have lost our ability to mentor because we have not been mentored ourselves.
Before Markus, I’d been called Daddy a couple of times over the years. At first, I also performed the role like a porn daddy and it certainly can have that aspect to it. But once I stepped into that space with Markus, I felt the responsibility immediately. Being Daddy is to have love and power entrusted to you. And if you don’t know how to navigate power, it can easily feel like a burden or be ripe for abuse.
I was lucky with the first man I had sex. Kent was a beautiful, masculine man with thick, dark curly hair, a full brush of a mustache, hairy chest. I didn’t call him Daddy but he took on the role of sexual mentor for me.
The first time I visited him at his place, we sat on his couch in the afternoon sun. He was 40. I was 18. I was extremely nervous. Really horny. Thankfully, Kent took control of the moment by asking me some key questions.
Do you want to have sex with me? Is this the first time you’ve had sex with a man? What have you done with your childhood friends? Have you had oral sex? Do you want to have oral sex? Have you explored your butt? Do you know about STDs? Are you looking for a boyfriend?
My answers to most of these questions were simple yes, no or I don’t know. I remember being somewhat slapped awake by the directness of his approach. I felt a little embarrassed, partly because I didn’t have more elaborate answers but also because Kent's questions brought me a step closer to the reality of the sex I was about to have.
Although Daddy/son relationships can express themselves in an infinite number of ways, Markus and I fell into our dom/sub, top/bottom roles quickly and naturally. I was a little self-conscious to be called Daddy so publicly so often. Being with a group of strangers made it somehow easier to take on this experiment. I would not have chosen to be Daddy on my own but it seemed that being Daddy was the lesson for this week.
Every time Markus called me Daddy, whether we were having dinner or having sex, it pushed something inside me. It asked me to be in a more evolved part of myself. To be a conscious, loving Daddy is not always easy. It is to hold many points of view simultaneously. It is to be a flawed human and yet maintain an erotic relationship with an imbalanced power structure, while at the same time remaining vulnerable within it.