A few weeks ago, a friend of mine asked me ‘are you mono or poly?’ and I didn’t have a simple response. The Mono/Poly inquiry seems to be a common one in this corner of the universe… it’s as common, in my experience, as the questions ‘do you top or bottom’ and ‘are you a dominant or submissive’…
I think binary distinctions are dangerous. I also think that the world, especially when it comes to identity, is far more grey than either/or. If it’s possible to have a fluid gender identity, then isn’t it possible to have fluidity around monogamy and polyamory? Heck. Even if the identity is fixed, isn’t it likely that the meaning of the word may be different depending on who says it?
Someone may say “I’m poly” and think: [because I have one amorous partner with whom I share my life, money, resources, and home… and there are many others with whom I share intimacy through play]
Someone else may say ‘’I’m monogamous” and think: [because I have one amorous partner with whom I share my life, money, resources, and home… and there are many others with whom I share intimacy through play.]
Which statement is right? And who gets to make that decision? I suggest that both are right, and the person who gets to make the decision is the person making the declaration.
Either/or questions, just like Yes/No do little to open a conversation. They are termination points. Furthermore, what is dangerous and limiting, in my point of view, is taking someone at face value and assuming that you share their definition of the identity.
I have been personally guilty of this so many times, I can’t even begin to count.
Someone says “I’m a Democrat” – and you and I know what that means Someone says “I’m a Teacher” – and we know what it means
Only we don’t. Not even a little bit. Not really.
When someone asks you ‘what do you do?’ how often do you respond with ‘I am [my work]’? What does that tell the other person about you? Not all that much.
What if, instead of asking what are you, we start asking ‘what makes you feel happy?’ or ‘how do you like to spend your time when you aren’t working?’ or ‘what’s the best thing that happened in the last week?’
‘How do you feel supported in your BDSM relationships?’ or ‘When you commit to a relationship, do you find that you step back from other people you’re dating?’ or ‘What excites you about play?’
I know that the above questions are personal. So is asking someone how they are oriented/how they identify.
So if you and I are going to go there, and believe you me, I go there - we might as well do so with some substance and in a way that opens dialogue, rather than shuts it down.
In the writing, Innermind puts forward a concept that I have seen many times, and that is the idea that “D/s is a relationship among equals”.
I will admit that I have said these very words in the past, and I have strongly believed in them. This is no longer the case for me.
Yes – you read that accurately. I do NOT believe that D/s relationships are among equals. In fact, I believe that no relationship exists among equals. This is because; we are not equal to being with.
Equality has to do with sameness – sameness in resources, sameness in ideas, sameness in power, sameness in capacity, sameness in potential…..
Think about your life for a moment – is there anyone with whom you are truly equal? Someone who exactly matches you in strength, intelligence, intellect, talents, resources, influence, etc???? My guess would be that even the identical twins amongst us would be challenged to find such a person.
No, friends. I do not believe that D/s occurs via equality. It is my belief that D/s relationships are best co-created viaparity, and this distinction is the nuance between what is quantifiable (equality) and what is qualitative (parity). In the context of parity, any and all inequalities are put aside in favor of the greater container of ‘we are coming into this conversation with sameness in decision making’.
How this shows up for me, is in this way: I may have a submissive response to a person – desire their guidance and strength. I may be smaller, more of a follower, and desiring a strong Hand. This other person may have resources, strength, knowledge, and skills that outweigh mine, AND for the purpose of co-creating and making choices about the Relationship, we do so from a place in which we each have the same level of choice.
This requires stepping out of any existing or potential authority dynamic and coming to the table with autonomy.
THEN, once in the relationship (and this can be as simple as the conversation ending), I can return to my place of growth from underneath His (for it is almost always a he) Hand. I can be huge in my life, because I am small at His feet. I can teach and work and grow and shine big and bright, because I am very much NOT His Equal.
What I am is in balance, and this is what I seek in D/s relationships. This is a measure of success, over equality each and every time. When I speak of Balance, I’m referencing something very specific – and it is most certainly NOT about equality.
Think of making a pot of chili. If you were to make it based on a core concept of equality, you would put in the same amount of tomato, salt, pepper, beans, meat, tomato sauce, hot pepper, onion, sugar, etc….
and what you would get from your equality-based cooking method would very likely be a really crappy dish.
Now think of making that same pot based on a core concept of balance. You might add a relatively large amount of hot pepper in comparison to someone else, and because you like your chili hotter, your recipe would be balanced to you. Maybe you like things sweet, so you add in a relatively large amount of sugar. This tastes good to you.
Innermind suggests that people are equally responsible for the success/failure of the relationship… that the people involved are “equally responsible for the overall wellbeing of themselves… irrespective of who they’re in relationship with or what role they are assuming”
In this sense, I agree. AND – one’s responsibly to one’s self exists whether or not one is relating to someone else. In fact, it is precisely the cultivation of this responsibility, in my belief, that makes it possible to consider a power/authority dynamic in the first place.
There’s a performance piece that brilliantly demonstrates the concept of balance among unequals. I recall, when this first hit the interwebs, talking with a Dominant friend of mine. My response was “I want to be her”. His response was “and I want to take her home”.