Here’s a fun fact: the phrase Who’s your daddy? didn’t originate with the Zombies song “Time of the Season”—“What’s your name, who’s your daddy?”—like many think, but instead was first documented in 1689, when prostitutes used the term as a way of asking other prostitutes the identity of their pimps or older male customers. Its link with sex work continued through 1909, with blues songs of the time using “daddy” as slang for “pimp.”

The Zombies, though, might be responsible for today’s broader, sexual interpretation of the phrase. While the song was literally asking about a potential partner’s father—and not making small talk among prostitutes—it inspired a sort of genius within the mind of DJ Doug “Greaseman” Tracht. He had male characters in his late-1980s and 1990s radio show ask the question during “zesty session[s],” he told the Washington Post.

Now the phrase is entirely mainstream, used in just about any situation to show the male concept of dominance over someone (or something). But though the phrase, like its meaning, has become tame and often stripped of all its sexual connotations, the fetish it personifies—called “Dominant Daddy, little girl,” or DDlg) is still going full force.

It’s not about the underage appeal, but the experienced leading the less knowledgeable.

It’s likely the fetish itself is older than the sordid usage of daddy, but it’s impossible to say for sure. For centuries, the concept of male dominance and control over women has played out in bed. DDlg is a bit more than just calling your male partner “Daddy,” though. Here, the daddies are nurturers and providers and more than just that authoritative figure. And for the littles, that means a chance to be taken care of, dominated and controlled in a meaningful way.

“I love having a daddy, and I am driven by pleasing Daddy,” says Sam, a 29-year-old little on the West Coast. “I love being nurtured and cared for by my partner. I also really enjoy that I get to be sweet and innocent. Pleasing Daddy is pretty much my favorite thing ever. I wear his collar with pride, even though we have 2,000 miles between us for now.”

And that makes the Daddies feel just as good. When Bob, Sam’s 44-year-old partner in the Midwest, was first called “Daddy,” he says he felt electrified. “I was thrilled that someone was able to not only recognize those traits in me, but also value them as something important for them to find in a partner,” he says. “It was then that I realized it wasn’t something I chose to be. It’s just who I am. So I embraced it, and I’ve been loving it ever since.”

Some subsets of DDlg involve regression and getting into the baby-theme play (basically, adult diapers and pacifiers). But the kink doesn’t always go there, nor should one assume that’s what DDlg is about. Bob and Sam agree that the focus is more on the adorable and innocent aspects of littles. For most, it’s not about the underage appeal, but rather the experienced leading the less knowledgeable. Holly, a late-20s little in the Midwest, says her interest in the kink spawns from “daddy issues.” That means she has to ask permission to masturbate, observes a bedtime and is responsible for chores. She and her Daddy use an app called ChoreMonster to track what she’s done; in exchange, she earns points that she can trade in for rewards like date nights or Amazon purchases.

“A lot of the rules are pretty in line with slave-submissive type stuff, but with a paternal flair,” she says. “There are a lot of rules that a parent would give to a child. It trends more innocent than your standard dom/sub rules. “No swearing” is a popular one, for example. I’ve started eyeing onesies and pacifiers and coloring books that get me into sexual and non-sexual ‘little space,’ as they call it.”

So does a Daddy ever age out? Is there some point where he becomes too fatherly—or too old?

But even though this is patriarchal role-play, DDlg kinksters are careful not to mix up the concepts of a Daddy and a father. A Daddy may be a strong, male figure in the little’s life—but it will never be the man that raised her nor take his place. “He’s my Daddy, not my father,” Sam says.

And for that reason, couples seem to be pretty ambivalent on how to celebrate Father’s Day, if they do at all. (Do you get why we’re covering daddy fetishes now?) Bob and Sam won’t do anything. Bob says it’s because “I have no children of my own, and my little girl’s father has passed away. I would feel uncomfortable trying to celebrate on a day when she will most likely be remembering her own father.” Holly is considering it, but neither her nor her Daddy are putting much emphasis on the idea. He’s not much for holidays, even his own birthday, she says, but she might bake something for him if she can “find the time.”

So does a Daddy ever age out? Is there some point where he becomes too fatherly—or old—to be a DD? It depends on who you ask. Holly and Sam both prefer men below either their biological father’s age, or younger than someone perceived as a grandfather. But that’s not the case for everyone.

“I don’t think the dynamic depends on a specific age,” Bob says. “My grandfather had a relationship with a woman the same age as his oldest daughter. I don’t know anything about the specifics, but it created quite a bit of gossip both within the family as well as the community he lived in. But in looking back on it, I can tell you that he truly loved her. He cared about her wellbeing. He wanted to make sure that she was happy.”