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SF’s baddest daddies: They’re mature, they’re masculine and they’re the new gay icons

Older men with swagger have never been so visible—but is being a daddy in LGBTQ+ culture just about appearance, or is there a deeper meaning? | Source: Jesse Rogala/The Standard

SF’s baddest daddies: They’re mature, they’re masculine and they’re the new gay icons

You know the type: a handsome, mature, masculine man. Probably bearded, and that beard probably has at least some silver in it. He’s furry and often fit, or maybe he’s rocking that dad bod. Maybe more importantly, he’s at ease with himself. His manhood is indisputable, and it has nothing explicitly to do with fatherhood. Parent or not, he’s a total DILF. (You know what that means.) Think George Clooney, Jeff Goldblum or Pedro Pascal.

Move over, Hot Rodent Boyfriend summer. This entire era belongs to daddy. 

As with so many other cultural trends, it started with the gay community, where the term “daddy” refers to a guy who attracts—and is attracted to—younger guys. It’s been in use for a long time, too. In a society as youth-obsessed as ours, it might seem like an anomaly, but daddies may have never been more prominent in queer life than they are now. 

In San Francisco, the place to find them is at the Eagle Tavern in the city’s South of Market neighborhood, where hundreds of gay men come together every Sunday afternoon on the patio, many of them paying $20 for a plastic cup that can be filled with all the Miller Lite they care to drink. It’s called the beer bust, and it’s like a boozy church social for daddies and their admirers.

Three shirtless men, two in leather harnesses, smile at the camera at a lively event. The background shows more people interacting and posters on a dark wall.
(L-R) Sir Thomas, Axiom and Robert Mikowka pose for a portrait at the Eagle Tavern, a longtime hangout for daddies, bears and their admirers in San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood. | Source: Aaron Levy-Wolins for The Standard
Two bearded men hug closely in a crowded area; one wears a blue cap, the other a black cap. Many other people are around them, creating a lively atmosphere.
Chris Mielke (left), 40, hugs Brenner Inacio, 36, at the Eagle beer bust, a Sunday afternoon party that draws hundreds of guys on warm days. | Source: Aaron Levy-Wolins for The Standard

In the LGBTQ+ community, where terminology proliferates without limit, ”daddy” might seem to be just one more phenotype out of dozens, like bear, twink or otter. But a daddy is more than just an aggregation of attributes. During this Pride Month—and just before Father’s Day—The Standard spoke with eight self-identified daddies about what it means to them, and nearly all agreed that it’s primarily about being a loving, protective figure to their partners. It’s a badge of honor. 

“Being a daddy means being available to men younger than I am, to nurture and mentor,” said Bob Goldfarb, who is 62 and the executive director of the city’s Leather & LGBTQ Cultural District—a professional daddy, essentially. “But age is irrelevant. It’s a lot more about the mindset.”

Daddy and boy

Growing up, the term “daddy” wasn’t in Robert Shively’s vocabulary. Now 59 and the store manager of South of Market’s world-famous store Mr. S Leather, he was always a natural leader who sensed his physical age didn’t match his position in the culture. “If you’re on a canoe trip, someone’s guiding where the canoe is going and everyone else is rowing,” he said. “I knew I wanted to be the one guiding where the canoe was going.”

Looked at that way, a daddy can be anyone of any age; he’s just the one in charge. But in practical terms—and in a queer context—patterns emerge. A daddy is probably older, bigger, and more experienced than his boy. Consequently, he probably earns more, although nearly every self-described daddy The Standard spoke to was careful to distance themselves from the term “sugar daddy”—which nearly all of them regarded with distaste. 

The Standard spoke with nine self-identified daddies to discuss their community, culture, and what the role of daddy means to them. | Jesse Rogala/The Standard

Daddies are eroticized versions of the father figure, authoritative and in control. Sexually, a daddy is usually the top. If the relationship is rooted in BDSM, as many are, he’s also the dom, or even a master. A community historically deprived of visibility tends to create its own rituals, and in daddy-boy culture, the most prominent of these is “collaring.” When relationships start to become serious, a daddy will often ceremonially padlock a chain around his boy’s neck to convey a sense of ownership, whether playful and sweet or with a rigor up to and including full-on servitude. 

Polyamory is another common thread. While some daddy-boy couples are monogamous, most are not, and some develop into sprawling, multi-partner families or “polycules,” each with its own dynamic. Disrupting social norms can feel liberating, but it can also invite armchair psychoanalysis and glib remarks about so-called daddy issues. Even within the LGBTQ+ community, practitioners of respectability politics may frown upon a relationship that might strike the casual observer as a violation of the incest taboo. But daddies are about much more than transgressive sex. 

Richard Sprott, a professor of sexual identity development and another self-described daddy, called the daddy-boy relationship a consensual power exchange. To him, the term has a particular flavor. “In the context where I run, that flavor tends to be one of protector, guide, mentor.”

The push for marriage equality notwithstanding, relationship structures that differ from heterosexual norms have long been a part of gay life—age gaps, in particular. So why daddies, specifically? And why now? 

“For me, the daddy-boy relationship is an intergenerational relationship about love where both men are coming with more specific ideas about what they need,” Shively, who is also a former pastor with an LGBTQ-friendly church, said.

Although the daddies came from multiple different backgrounds, all acknowledged how central the role was to their identity. | Jesse Rogala/The Standard

Frequently, what such relationships provide is a sense of connection that’s otherwise lacking. Shively, along with other daddies, cited an abiding cultural sense of alienation, a grim realization that the internet’s promises of on-demand sexual freedom may leave people adrift and emotionally unfulfilled. Queer people and budding kinksters find community online, but real life remains bewildering and difficult, and many young (and even not-so-young) people benefit from the wisdom of someone who has been there. Even today, many LGBTQ+ people remain estranged from their biological families, or they live far away. In many cases, parents may be supportive yet struggle to offer their adult gay children concrete advice for how to navigate the world.

Sometimes, people become daddies seemingly overnight. “When I was a younger queer, coming up, I dated older men exclusively,” said Jay Harcourt, 54, a health-care compliance officer. “Until I was about 38, when there was, like, a cosmic flip.” 

All this, it should be noted, is hardly exclusive to male-male relationships. Dandy Buckley, a butch lesbian daddy who refers to her partner as her baby girl, describes her relationship as a kind of masculine nurturing.

“For me, it’s to be someone’s landing place. Someone’s warm hug, someone’s chivalrous butch, or somebody’s shoulder at the end of the day,” Buckley said. “It is, for me, a way of taking care of people.”

The “It” daddy of our times

Just about every daddy The Standard spoke to expressed their appreciation—if not their total delight—at remaining a sexually desirable part of the LGBTQ+ community after age 40. Something in the ether shifted, they agreed, even if they couldn’t necessarily pin down why, beyond a decreased social acceptability of ageism.

“I think it’s been a lot more of a desirable concept, if you will,” said Sprott, who’s 62. “And, I don’t really have a great idea of why this has changed. Maybe 15 years ago, it was not as big a thing.”

At the same time, daddy-ness has escaped the bounds of queerness and entered the cultural bloodstream. Witness Pedro Pascal, the “It” daddy of our times, a sad-eyed, roguishly handsome 49-year-old who plays a reluctant surrogate father in not one but two prestige TV series (to Grogu, fka Baby Yoda, in “The Mandalorian” and to Bella Ramsey’s Ellie in the zombie-infested thriller “The Last of Us”).

“I am your cool, slutty daddy,” Pascal said on a red carpet in 2023, reading the words of a superfan and embracing his status as an internet mega-crush. The phrase, superimposed over the Chilean American actor’s bare chest, has become a free-floating meme. It’s a mantra for our age. It’s also a coffee mug.

A muscular, hairy-armed person with a tattoo and leather wristband holds a phone and a beer bottle, wearing a fur vest amidst a crowd.
Brian Bramlett shows off his muscles and hairy arms at the Eagle. | Source: Aaron Levy-Wolins for The Standard
A person wears a colorful patterned shirt, blue jeans, and brown leather gloves, with hands resting on a large ornate silver belt buckle.
Luis Acoltzi shows off his belt buckle. | Source: Aaron Levy-Wolins for The Standard

To some of the muscly, cigar-smoking beer bust patrons at the Eagle, this might be a watered-down appropriation of queer culture, or just plain silliness. Anyone can go online and buy a shirt that says “Daddy” stylized like the logo for 2023’s “Barbie” movie, or like the 1990s sitcom “Friends,” with “I’ll Be There for You” below it. But fans of that show may remember that Monica dated a doctor who was 21 years her senior, played by none other than television’s mustachioed arch-daddy, Tom Selleck. 

“Any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a daddy,” reads a needlepoint message stitched on pillows. It’s practically impossible to determine if that’s a sincere message or a campy riff. Either way, it’s true. Daddies agree: Being a daddy is the merger of affection with responsibility. 

“My experience as a daddy in the queer community really was giving that stuff to younger people who needed that kind of support,” Harcourt said, “that kind of unconditional love.”

Astrid Kane can be reached at

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