When I was a younger man, in the pre-internet era, there existed among single men what you might call “best practices”. These best practices were rules of the road for dating; nuggets of wisdom often repeated, and ignored only at peril.

Perhaps the most famous of these was “Never put your dick in crazy.” Since “crazy” typically shows best in the rear-view mirror, this was a rule observed most often in the breach. But men of experience tended to be more emphatic about it than younger horndogs, which was telling to the observant.

Another “best practice” had to do with the notion that young women of dating age frequently were known to have what were called “daddy issues”. This didn’t overlap with “crazy” exactly; “Be careful, she’s got daddy issues” was a warning, but not specifically an admonition to run far away. The notion was that girls with daddy issues needed special handling, but if that particular form of “high maintenance” didn’t scare you off, one might fruitfully proceed with due caution. Because “daddy issue” girls were often interested in, you guessed it, men old enough to be their fathers, a lot of older men in the dating game became quite expert in their care and handling, or in detecting them from a distance and steering clear if they found the daddy game too squicky.

One of the awesome things that the Internet does that it lets differently-wired people discover that they are not unique, it shows them models of how to behave in ways that other people like them have found useful to happiness, and at need, it provides access to communities both real and virtual within which to act out all manner of fantasies, preferences, and quirks. A 20th-century “daddy’s girl” woman might easily have had trouble finding a man who was relaxed about her daddy issues and willing to indulge them in her. A 21st-century daddy’s girl has no such difficulties; indeed she may even be cheerfully seduced into it by men whose daddy-issues radars are supersensitive, or by men who are perhaps themselves eager to play the Daddy role. Porn mega-star Stoya famously chronicled on her blog her intellectual journey to the place where she was calling her man “daddy”:

Before I entered the world of hardcore pornography, I’d had my fill of traditional BDSM in my personal life. I had called men sir and master, but never daddy. I thought it was kind of gross. It smacked of infantilism, which is one of the few things that never fail to kill my libido. Of course, the first time I kissed a boy I thought boys were really kind of gross, so my first instinct on the grossness of something is not necessarily my final opinion.

Eventually she gets to:

He’s my Daddy. No one else’s. Mine. Call it fucked up, call it daddy-issues, call it transgressively arousing… I quite obviously like it so I’m going to keep calling him Daddy.

Other women work it out on Tumblr. This picture of a woman with clothespins on her nipples and “I do what Daddy wants” neatly written on her breasts? Not even close to unique.

It’s a rum old world we live in, but stuff like this reinforces my conviction that the arc of the internet universe bends toward greater happiness. And if helping women with daddy issues connect with their not-their-actual-daddy Daddies is not the most important function of the internet, it’s still a magnificent example-in-miniature of one of the things the internet is best at.

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