As any reader of this blog knows, I find polyamory and kink enormously rewarding. But managing poly and kink relationships takes just as much care and communication — possibly even more — than conventional, monogamous relationships. It adds other layers of needed care when the dynamics of your relationships are very different in their nature. The impact of the relationships and their participants on each other must be considered. In polyamory no relationships exists as an island unto itself.
Recently several incidents and discussions with poly friends and @jewelgen have brought up the idea of intersections of varying flavors of kinky relationships — and even non kinky relationships — with polyamory.
Anyone directly involved in a successful poly lifestyle is already aware of the need to balance the needs and desires of partners so that conflict is minimized. Sometimes, this can be as simple as time management.
But the other end of the intersection/conflict spectrum can be when a poly individual has relationships that are vastly different in the power dynamic. A not uncommon expression of this can be a long-term committed couple that has an equal power dynamic and one partner either seeks a power exchange dynamic with someone else, or has already established one.
It is often a natural extension of a power exchange relationship to extend into the daily lives of the participants, and this can be most visible in the activities of the partner giving up power, whether that be in a D/s or M/s relationship. A typical example is orgasm control, a basic tenet of many power exchange relationships. The dominant partner requires that permission for any orgasms be requested by the submissive partner. You kinky lot are already squirming at how hot that is, I know. But how does that work when another partner of the submissive type wishes to have sex, and often, and does not wish to participate in this dynamic?
Time can also be a factor in this sort of intersecting “V.” (A “V” is a relationship configuration in which two partners do not interact in a relationship with each other, as opposed to a triangle or triad. This makes the the two “leg” partners of the “V” metamours.)
The requirements of the dominant in regards to tasks or behaviors may be such that the other partner feels infringed upon. And this is not just the case of another non-kinky partner. It is often the case in long-term domestic partnerships that the balance required in co-parenting or other activities do not fit well with a power exchange relationship, even if both have what appear to be matching desires. This can lead to “Why are you interested in doing this activity with X, but not with me?” type of questions.
I have been on both sides of this equation. As a dominant type, I have in the past sought to have a power exchange relationship with @jewelgen, and while we have very hot D/s based play that is bracketed within a specific session, we have come to realize that our daily lives do not make this a dynamic that works for us as we navigate our day-to-day responsibilities (this is a subject I hope to address more in a future post). I am also the the dominant partner of a submissive partner who is in a long-term marriage. I am incredibly fortunate that @thekamamama has a husband who is supportive and encouraging of our relationship.
I have sought to provide her with the D/s dynamic she desires, as well as satisfy my own kinks without impinging on their relationship, or as minimally as possible. However, knowing that they both are willing to communicate to me if I have crossed that line empowers me to continually push the D/s dynamic to new and satisfying levels. This confidence comes from experience. They have both shown a willingness to provide this necessary communication. Some disasters I have seen with this dynamic have come about from partners being afraid that expressing their concerns or needs will somehow violate or damage the D/s relationship. Or, gasp, offend the dominant type. And in my opinion, dominants often create an environment that promotes these fears.
To this end, I believe it is the explicit responsibility of the the dominant partner to actively check in with their submissive to see if everyone is in a state of relationship comfort. And this can be with direct contact with the other partner (metamour), or indirectly through the shared partner.
I personally set rules such as a requirement that I give permission for any orgasm, unless it is in the course of sexual activity with or at the request of the other partner. Any dominant who finds such exceptions burdensome or conflicting is simply lacking confidence in their own dominance and power, in my rarely humble opinion. It is also the responsibility of the submissive partner to actively pursue a dialog with both partners regarding everyone’s needs and comfort. It is not enough to assume silence is consent. A good poly partner actively engages their partners to see how they are and if they are comfortable with current circumstance. It is especially beneficial in this type of dynamic.
In some cases, the metamour may even find certain participation in the D/s dynamic to be enjoyable. They may participate in punishment, or even enjoy the orgasm control. Fucking a partner who is not allowed to orgasm by order of another partner can be quite the turn on for some folks. But for others, the delivery of orgasms can be what they enjoy so much that denial of that is not acceptable. None of these are incorrect. It is the absolute right of any poly partner to not participate in another’s dynamic non-consensually.
I have also seen the difficulty of this intersection arise when one partner of a power balanced couple seeks out a new D/s or M/s relationship. The seeking submissive may feel like expressing the needs or desires of the other partner may be off-putting to a potential dominant. Or, the non-participating partner may feel like by expressing their needs and concerns, they are putting undue roadblocks on the seeking submissive. Both of these lead to poor communication and almost always to later conflict. And frankly, I think these concerns are founded. Sometimes the desire of a submissive to have a dominant partner can be so strong that it feels nearly overwhelming, and the fear of repelling potential dominants can lead to not communicating a full spectrum of limits and needs. Dominants can also perpetuate the idea that expressing limits and needs is somehow an initial violation of the D/s dynamic — this can impede communication.
This example of a V that involves a power-equal and a power exchange relationship is just one of the intersections of polyamory. It is the one that I am most familiar with, but I think there are likely many other variations in the spectrum of human sexuality and relationships. But what I am most confident in is that a setting in which all partners feel that they can express their needs, concerns, and limits is necessary for successful polyamory. And it is the responsibility of all partners to actively foster this environment.
One of the new features of the relaunched blog will be guest posts. @Jewelgen will be a semi-regular contributor.
She posted this on Fetlife on the occasion of our twentieth wedding anniversary recently, and has asked that I re-post it here. It moves me deeply every time I read it.
I married my best friend, soft place to land, father of my two (eventually 3) kids, and my Daddy.
He dated hippy/natural girls or girls who were afraid of buttons (no lie). I was far from natural, fake hot pink nails, tons of make up, big club hair, club clothes and a Gucci watch to round it all out. I dated guys who had more product in their hair then I did, club guys wearing club clothes, who drove expensive cars that were lowed and tricked out but were not usually the sharpest tool in the shed.
He took a chance on a hard drinking high toned club girl that was unashamed of her sexuality, how many people she had sex with and considered males she dated accessories. I took a chance on a punk rock separated/not yet divorced father of a 3yr old crappy work truck drivin man, cause no one with all that was just a guy.
He was my best friends ex-boyfriends brother, I did not like nor get along with said bff’s ex-boyfriend. I wasn’t his type…. he wasn’t my type…..it was only suppose to be a night of sex, he had amazing thighs, the kind that looked like they could fuck you through a wall and I intended to find out if they could.
We went on a date and then end up in his bed. I was correct about those thighs, the sex was amazing. We fit, we could keep up with each other, we matched in ways I had never experienced with anyone. It was not to be only a one night stand or even a fuck buddy situation.
We were so different in many ways but our differences some how matched up like two gears, fitting inside each other, making the other work a little better.
I learned that a boyfriend could be mentally engaging as well as sexually engaging. He learned that there was much more to a plastic club girl then a large rack and a Gucci watch. After a week I knew that this was to be the man I would marry, the person I would spend the rest of my days with and after a time I learned he would be the father of my children.
It has been difficult at times and there was a very dark time when I thought our time to walk together had reached an end but we worked and made huge changes within ourselves. We relearned how to be happy together and fell back in love.
I am a pain in the ass, moody, quick of temper and sharp of tongue when pissed off, spoiled, and bratty. I can let things be, see how it plays out, I am passionate about those I love and fiercely protective of them as well. He is quick to anger, little things are big affronts, he has control issues and reactions that sometimes don’t fit the crime. He can find logic in the most confusing situation, he is protective of those he loves and cares about, he loves with out limits and is an amazing cuddler.
We are two bent and worn gears but we fit, we make the other work a little better.
Happy 20th Anniversary Daddy I love you more then words can say.
It is amazing how much we discuss consent and inversely rape in the world of kink and sex-positivity. Yet it is often the questions and observations of someone outside the usual discourse that bring up the deeper questions.
Safewords. To call it a confusing topic is an understatement. My core opinion is that they are incredibly important, and at the same time dangerous. I liken safewords to a motorcycle helmet. They are a fantastic addition to your arsenal of safety, but if you are blindly relying on them to always save you, you are foolish.
So, I am first going to tackle the debate of the use of safewords, and then address what I believe to be the best practice in using them.
One of the important components of initial negotiation I always have with a new play partner is the use of safe words. I insist on it, at least in concept. I go over the way that I use safewords (more on that later), why I use them, and why I do not overly rely on them. I go on to explain that they are not only a way to communicate the bottom’s perception of their physical and emotional state, but more importantly to create a platform for the concept that I believe separates ethical tops from those that no one should ever trust: REVOCABLE CONSENT!
That’s right, prior consent should not be considered a rock to stand in defense of your unethical procession forward when consent has been revoked. But how in the world can a bottom convey revocation of consent when both parties find verbal cues like “don’t” and “stop” to be components of their deep fantasies? That is where safewords come into play. Very specifically multi-tiered safewords, which I will explain further in.
Now, the great danger of using safewords is that they become a crutch for the top. “I don’t know why you are upset, you never used your safeword” is the kind of disconnect from the ultimate responsibility that unethical tops wrap themselves in like a cloak. It is the responsibility of every top to monitor the emotional and physical safety of their bottom at all times, during play, including the interval required for emotional and physical recovery. To rely only on safewords exclusively is a dangerous cop-out.
Now, there are perfectly intelligent and ethical tops and bottoms that choose to not play with safewords. I would not rule out playing with a bottom that chooses not to, and there are various reasons folks choose this route. I would however require a very detailed portion of negotiation be dedicated to communication of well being and consent.
Now, let’s move forward with the assumption that you are going to play with safewords, for the remainder of this discussion. A not uncommon line of thinking is that your safeword should be something unusual and complicated, so that in a moment of passion you will not utter it accidentally. I find several problems with this.
First, if your safeword is unusual and complicated it is very unlikely that you will get your brain to follow the path to remember and verbally expel said word in a moment of distress. Second, if you use your magic word, does it mean “This is not really working for me at this moment” or “I am immediately revoking all granted consent! Discontinue immediately!” And the third problem: If I have duct taped your panties into your mouth, and have a pillowcase tied over your neck with a rope around your throat, how do you utter your safeword.
I will tell you the solutions I employ that while not my original ideas, I believe are the best practices for the use of safewords.
I use a two-tiered system that employs a thought path that has been drilled into our brains in the western world since we first put crayon to paper.
Yellow & Red. Yellow means, slow down. This is not working for me right now, we might be able to revisit this play later, but at this moment I am headed into territory that is either physically or emotionally dangerous for me, or both.
What does Red mean? That’s right. S-T-O-P. All consent is immediately revoked! Stop play immediately. Nothing else will occur until very serious discussion has been had. I would also like to add that many dungeons and play parties employ the word “Safeword” as the ultimate safeword, and when deployed in some environments it will generate intervention by dungeon monitors.
Now, there is the non-verbal safeword. When I have eliminated the bottom’s ability to verbalize a safeword, I will place something in their hand, a ball, or handkerchief, or something similar. Dropping this item indicates an immediate yellow, that requires the removal of whatever is preventing the bottom to speak, which then can be followed by a verbalized yellow or red.
Let me reiterate though that even when playing with a bottom who understands and has agreed to use my safeword system, I consider the responsibility for my bottom’s well being to be ultimately mine, in a partnership of communication and mutually held responsibility.
I hope this gives a broader understanding of the implications of using safewords. I hold no judgement, positive or negative, towards those who choose to use or not use them. They are but another tool in the arsenal of RACK (Risk Aware Consensual Kink).
And please remember, uninformed consent is as risky as impaired consent. Neither is consent at all.
JewelGen having a bit of a test run with the choking collar
I have always loved choking partners. Whether it be to full unconsciousness or simply the instilling of fear and exerting control. And while it is one of the most controversial forms of edge play I believe that it can a beautiful form of play between informed partners, And while I have linked here to one of the most vocal detractors of “breath play,” I simply do not agree with his global condemnation of it.
When I refer to choking in this essay, I am actually referring to control of a partner by hands or arm holds on the throat, and the actual process of causing a partner to become unconscious by temporarily restricting blood flow to the brain. Also known as a “Blood Choke.” I will not instruct on how to perform such acts here.
Choking was one of my very earliest expressions of kink. In my early teens, I put my hands on the throat of a girl that I was fucking and squeezed. I had no instruction as to prior consent for such acts, only consent for sex itself. I am quite fortunate in that the girl enjoyed this and did in fact consent. This desire to choke is something I have carried and often struggled with for now over 30 years.
I have in the last few years added in using my belt for this play, and even more recently acquired a choking collar that has an additional leather flap that eliminates the pesky problem of skin being pulled into the buckle.
I have wondered what it was like for the other partner. What they feel. Some show fear. But recently I have started playing with a partner that shows no fear. I have referred to her as “Cat Allergy Girl” on Twitter because her allergies and my pet ownership were an initial partnership. But her Fetlife name is Purple_Platypus. PP recently wrote a short essay on how it feels to be choked out, after a play session in which I choked her unconscious six times in less than two hours.
Choking, I like it. I like to see the world dim, feel the humming in my ears, the tingle of my fingers. I like to watch him, look him in the eyes as he chokes the light out of mine. I don’t fight it, I welcome it. I think I smile, but it’s hard to tell. I’m busy feeling. I don’t struggle, I just let it come. The darkness. It slips in from the corners, you don’t notice it at first, but then it’s like looking through a tunnel. I focus on his eyes, he’s a little fuzzy now. I hear the hum starting, I feel it in my head. Now my hands tingle, it won’t be long now it’s like looking through a pinhole, the darkness is swallowing me up. I’m not afraid. I let it swallow me whole and all the lights went out.
The second act;
I hear something, what is it? And why do my arms tingle? I like it, I’m still in the dark, I can’t see, but I can feel. It feels like the hum in my ears is running electricity through my body. No pain, just tingles. Gently I begin to remember, I come out of the dark and what I feel is joy. No fear, no worry, no stress, no pain, no thought, just joy. I can see his eyes now, he’s been watching the light come back in my eyes. I smile or maybe I was already smiling.
I know it not the last time I’ll watch the lights go out.
I hope you enjoy this peek from the other side as much as I did.
Please do not participate in any play that both or all partners are not well aware of, and consenting to the risks associated. I have been successfully choking people for years, and PP has been participating in Judo for years, she has been choked out many times in her Judo practice.