Friday, June 1, 2007

Term "Sugar Daddy" a misnomer

The term "sugar daddy" has always struck me as slightly off. While it seems to resonate for the relationship it describes—an older man giving material benefits to a younger woman in exchange for sexual intimacy—something still doesn't fit.

I think it's because "sugar daddy" suggests that it is the daddy who gives the "sugar." By linking the words together, we end up seeing the daddy as the source of "sugar."

But it is exactly the opposite. In such a relationship, it is the younger female who gives the sugar, the honey, the sweetness: sex.

Capetonians used to understand this quite explicitly. Before they were kicked out of their homes by the apartheid government, Cape Town's mostly-coloured dockside communities (District Six & the Docklands) boasted numerous little brothels called "suikerhuisies"—literally sugar houses in Afrikaans. They provided sexual recreation to passing sailors. And, of course, no one had any doubt as to what a "sugar house" was and who was giving the "sugar."

The women who worked in the suikerhuisies were called "strooimeisies"—meaning bridesmaids in Afrikaans (literally "strewn girls"). It's a playful allusion, gentler than the terms prostitute, whore or gentoo.

It's not clear when Capetonians started using the term "sugar daddy." I imagine it came in through American movies or TV programs. Of course, it is now a global term sharing basically the same connotation.

Yet I think it confuses who gives what in such a relationship. In Western society, sugar, sweetness and honey have long been associated with sex; what the female gives. The older man gives bread or dough, which we associate with money.

But even if the term "sugar daddy" lacks precision, we're sure to continue using it: the more precise alternatives "dough daddy" and "bread daddy" just don't have the same appeal.

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