polyamory redux: comments

Response to my post on polyamory the other day has been plentiful and rich. Here I am extracting some of your comments as they correct, clarify, and add to my post. Those I don’t quote here have been insightful as well, so check everyone’s comments under “Thoughts on Polyamory.”

In a comment, my friend Helen clarifies that in a polycule “there is no requirement for everyone… to form relationships with one another, but many see it as nice (and sometimes beneficial) if they do.” She goes on to identify various “flavors” of polyamory — different ways people in a polycule might relate to one another (or not).

She gently corrects my thinking that everyone in a polycule has to have a relationship with each other. To that point, Amanda doesn’t need to bring everyone into our polycule in a love relationship with one another (see below).

Thanks, Helen.

Friend Nora speaks of her situation having been married for twenty years, yet now both she and her husband are seeking, and finding, outside relationships. She makes an excellent point in saying that she loves her husband dearly AND she needs “new experiences and connections.” Both can be true.

This invokes the wordsmith in me. We tend to use “polyamory” and “monogamy” as opposites, antonyms. Yet “monogamy” is defined in the context of marriage — being married to one person. Its opposite is “polygamy” — being married to multiple people. “Polyamory” is something different, literally meaning “many loves” — in our usage referring to deep, intimate, sometimes sexual relationships with more than one person. Polyamory doesn’t technically refer to marriage. There should be a antonym to “polyamory” — perhaps “monoamory” — but there isn’t.

Word geekness aside, Nora says that she is happily married and monogamous, yet also that she and her husband have other relationships outside, which is polyamory.

For me that’s a useful understanding.

Amanda, speaking to me personally, weighed in on this post as well, indirectly confirming what Helen and Nora each said.

She clarifies that in her vision for us, she sees the two of us as central and primary (and, of course, domme/sub), with other outside relationships, submissive for me and “of interest” to her. Yet these others would not necessarily be relating to each other. Master McKenna is a good example of this, she says, as she would not presume to impose on him a relationship with another in our polycule. (This makes more practical sense than what I had thought, so I’m glad to be corrected by her and Helen.)

Amanda confirms that her polycule vision includes a “sister slave” in concept, as she is interested in the dom-and-sub dynamics of that with me. At the same time, she sees in me an ability to mentor other submissives, and a “sister slave” might be brought in for a kind of tutoring by me. If so, that may not be one submissive who stays permanently in our polycule, but a series of sister slaves that come and go. (She adds that if so, Master McKenna may also have interest in having the pair of us “sister slaves” together under his dominance.)

Further, Amanda clarified for me that someone she might seek for herself would not be a threat to me. In a way, she echoes Nora’s thoughts. In that, Amanda and I are a primary “monogamy,” a kind of marriage, with this other possible relationship of hers being more of a companionship of like-minded domme women. (In fact, there is someone in our current acquaintance who may become this very person. More to come…)

I guess the upshot of this from Amanda is that the polycule she seeks to create is more about people connecting to us than to each other. Which is more feasible than it sounded to me earlier.

(The other takeaway for me is that she is still talking about Master McKenna being a part of this long-term. That makes me happy.)

Perhaps as a fitting conclusion to this review, John observes that polyamory is becoming “more established in our culture” and that “society is going to have to learn to accept it.” I agree, and perhaps social media and the Internet have made the exploration and expression of this more open.

Still, I think that American culture is still very divided on all these issues of lifestyle, orientation, and sexuality, and there are strong forces pushing back open expression, desiring to return to traditional norms and closeted restraints.

I tend to think it will be a long time before alternative relationships and sexualities are widely accepted.

There’s something more to be said.

I grew up being taught there was only one life possible: marriage to one person in traditional, “god-ordained” sexuality. The models I had in my childhood and teens were not only my own parents but the marriages of others in a religious community. In all of it was the underlying belief that there was a vast, broad “normal” in the population, that most people pursued relationships in the “right” way, the “God-created” way. People who didn’t were aberrations, violations of God’s intentions, who’d made sinful choices.

In this, my upbringing was conservatively religious, but I know for many others it was not. And yet I think this perspective colors much of the society we live in. There is one, singular, expected, normative, maybe American, way to live — so it is thought.

I have come to believe that, in fact, most people don’t fit that container. That what is perceived to be the normative way is in fact not the mainstream but the marginal. People who “don’t fit” are actually the vast majority.

Of course, I’m talking about myself. I never fit the “god-ordained” model. I foundered for the longest time, never marrying and not knowing why. In fact, before being able to name it within myself, I sensed that I was different, what later I realized was my bisexuality and my submissive orientation.

And I guess I’m saying that in this world of D/s and the emerging polyamory of my life with Amanda, I’m finding myself. I know there are challenges to the life of polyamory, and I don’t mean to glorify it as some sort of nirvana. I’m just saying that for me, as one who was miscast and outcast in another culture, I finally fit.

One last thing.

I’ve observed in the traditional model within the religious culture that the absoluteness of traditional marriage also becomes a distancing from other relationships. The conservative culture so wishes to protect the sanctity of marriage that it isolates husband and wife from other meaningful connections, and certainly any sort of deeper relationships with people on the outside.

Within the world I grew up, there were unspoken rules about how a husband or wife could/should be present with others of the opposite gender. One famous example of this is the “Billy Graham Rule,” a self-imposed policy that a professional married man should not meet or lunch alone with a woman in the business world. This is considered a noble effort to guard against adultery. (It’s been roundly criticized for discriminating against women in the workplace.)

More to my point: this and other unwritten commandments embedded in the culture wind up stigmatizing relationships in general, making connections with others suspect and fearful. It distances a married couple from others. I well realize this is some, not all, but this was the reality of my parents and other couples like them.

Of course, this is far short of the kind of open polyamory we’ve been talking about. But it says something pertinent — that in pursuit of the “mono-middle,” we distance ourselves from other people. We isolate ourselves from anyone not our husband or wife. We model the notion that one person is all we need. We perpetuate the misbelief that that one person will satisfy us completely.

That can’t be good. Or right.

how did you get into this?

I imagine every submissive has a different journey into the life, but I think it often involves a sequence of choices made over time and a series of experiences with other people who help bring one into it.

For me, it was this exactly: a series of choices over about four years in my late twenties and some relationships that helped me taste submissive life.

Long after my college years, I was still inexperienced sexually and still not fully aware of my submissive nature, though I was having some inklings of it. For those who are new to me, I grew up in a conservative, repressive church and childhood, and that mindset remained strong in me until I was twenty-four or so. The irony of my life now is that I am a sex slave, yet before this D/s life I was quite inexperienced sexually.

In my mid-twenties, I made a conscious choice to break away from my childhood fears about sex and immorality. This was hard for me, a kind of rebellion. Modest as it was, it was important to give myself permission to explore and be the kind of sexual woman I was.

Somewhat later I made another choice to explore my sexual nature more directly. I knew I had occasional attractions to women, though I also liked guys. I also knew I had feelings of an unusual desire sometimes. So I read books and articles and saw a counselor. The counselor identified the feelings of unusual desire as my submissive sexuality and helped me trace that back into my earlier life.

I’m not sure if it was a conscious choice or not, but at some point I just knew I needed to remain open, not closed, to experiences sexual and submissive when they came my way. I found myself in a couple of relationships, both with men, over the next two years. These ultimately became difficult and painful, but the first was a genuinely sexual relationship over more than a year, and the second introduced me, albeit mildly, to D/s experience. And I liked it. A lot.

Again, I think we submissives make incremental choices toward the submissive life. It’s a process. Some of the process is measuring how deep and substantial our submissive need is within. That takes time. I can’t imagine very many of us deciding from the get-go we need to be a full-time sex slave. In fact, at the early stages of my exploration, that thought would have been abhorrent to me. It’s a process of choices and experiences and relationships.

I went through a fallow time in my late twenties without any significant romantic relationships and no further submissive experiences. However, even in this down time I continued to wrestle with my submissive nature and what I needed to be. This ultimately became another choice, which I verbalized in a church one dreary day. I wrote about this in a post titled “this is what I am.

I won’t drag this on much longer; I didn’t mean to write the story of my life…

So, in my real estate work a client came looking for a particular type of property. This man eventually asked me out, and I became involved with him. I didn’t know it at first, but he was a dominant and in fact was connected to a private D/s group of doms and subs. This man was named Michael, who became my first full-time master. All of this with Michael is a long story, one for another time.

I think the answer to the “how” question is much about making incremental choices in your life, learning everything you can about your submissive need, and making yourself open to people and experiences that come your way.

how I’ve changed

Somehow I got thinking on this. My visit with my mother maybe caused me to reflect on my submissive longings earlier in life, or perhaps my letter to Jayden triggered it, taking me back to my first days of live-in slavery.

I’ve been a sub-slave 24/7 for about three and a half years now, under two different owners, Master Michael and Mistress Amanda, with Master Kevin as a partner dominant over me for the better part of this year. Before my live-in slaveries there was another part of a year in which I knew I was heading into 24/7 and was preparing for it.

Four years in this life, and I feel I am still learning it. Some of that is me — ever the curious student — but much is the unfathomable depth of the D/s life and the nuanced psychology of such relationships that continue to fascinate me.

Four years in this life, however, and I do have some experience I didn’t have at the start, maybe a bit more wisdom about it, perhaps a slightly different perspective on a few things….

It was really important to me four years ago to know and assert that I was born submissive, that this wasn’t a preference or a chosen life but how I was genetically created.

I know why that was important to me then. It had to do with my religious upbringing and my view of God. Even after I had played in BDSM for a short, sporadic while, even as I was swooning my way toward full-time slavery, I was still believing that the God I grew up with judged my submissive need as sin.

My emphasis on this life being my born destiny was my sidestep with God. If God made me this way, it had to be OK. I needed to believe God had left me no choice but this kind of life.

Today I still think I was born this way. Yet I no longer view God as judging me or others for this life, and I don’t have such an intense need to assert my submissiveness as my born state.

Truth is, I don’t know how this happens, how some of us are submissive and dominant, some mildly so and others extremely so. I still believe that for some of us it is our born predisposition; for others it is how we grew up. I tend to believe that submission and dominance are wrapped up in our sexual orientations, and I really do believe my submissiveness is part of my own orientation.

But none of this can I prove. The difference between four years ago and now is that it’s not so important for me, before God, to prove it.

One difference between then and now is my understanding of my own sexual orientation.

Back then, I considered myself straight — with rare, random experiences with other women on the side.

Today I know myself to be bisexual, and gender equal in my preferences and attractions. I would never have imagined this of me some years ago, although I believe I have always been bi, and my memories of my earlier years as a girl and teenager surface evidences of that.

Today I think I have permission to be what I always have been.

Four years ago, I believed that the D/s lifestyle was very much about sex.

I think back then (a) that I believed it to be literally true about the lifestyle, (b) that it was true about my slave life and I naively took that to be the truth for everyone, and (c) that I wanted it to be a life of submissive sex.

Today, I understand better that, for many in the D/s lifestyle, sex is not the primary thing and in some cases not present at all. I understand now that the D/s dynamics of control and relinquishment are often played out in many other aspects of life and relationship, sometimes more profoundly.

In fact, I in my writing I have always focused on my experience outside of sex, the inner world of my submission to another’s dominance. I’ve tried to show the subtle dynamics of control and relinquishment in my daily life. I’ve never seen sex as the only aspect of my slavery.

But for me, sex is kind of the final frontier of submission. That was true four years ago, and it’s still true for me today. I can obey a service order, give my will to another to sit or stand, submit to any dominant’s requirement of me in daily life, but for me to submit myself sexually to another is my ultimate submission. It conquers me — body, mind, and spirit.

Even so, I realize that’s not true or in play for many in D/s. I no longer assert that so strongly. I respect that others have different journeys.

Four years ago I thought of D/s sub-slavery as the non-traditional relationship. I really didn’t know there were others. There was traditional, conventional marriage and then there was my D/s alternative relationship. I was so naive.

I’ve learned since, largely because of this online community, that there are many different kinds of alternative relationships, D/s being one. And D/s itself has many different variations. I have also learned there are alternative relationships explored in the context of marriage, i.e. a husband and wife having a sex slave, or a wife having a husband and a man on the outside who is her master, all parties fully aware and approving, or open marriages of many kinds.

I have of late come to appreciate the value of alternative relationships in general, my own with Amanda being my primary case in point. In many cases, alternative relationships are intentionally not based on the normal conventions society imposes, but create their own truth. I think that often yields more authenticity.

That said, I still appreciate conventional relationships for what they can be. Four years ago, I was more judgmental and dismissive of traditional marriage. Now I see the beauty of married couples who have made it work and marvel sometimes at how two married people have grown old together.

The point I come to is that society tends to force us into conventional relationships, which sometimes work but many times don’t. They impose rules and expectations on people to be who they’re not. I think many, though not all, alternative relationships are about what people are. IMHO.

One thing I may have gotten right four years ago is my emphasis on being versus doing in the sub-slave life.

I think it’s natural when entering into a submissive relationship to be focused on the rules of it, the behaviors required, the obediences and forms that one needs to follow, But ultimately none of that is what its about.

It’s about who you are. I think I understood that back when, and I all the more believe that now. My submissiveness is a deep and fundamental part of me. It’s who I am. It’s my being. My life is in pursuit of discovering and serving that.

What I do, my formal submissions that others see, do not make me a sub-slave. They are simply evidences of my inner truth, the sub-slave I am inside.

What you are versus what you do is important in the D/s life. I dare say it’s pretty good advice for everyone in whatever life they have.

slavery, an alternative life

I’m sure this is not a new concept to most people, nor is it really new to me, although I’m putting it together for myself in a fresh way.

I feel I spend much of my time — at least my communication time when I’m in the vanilla world — explaining my life to others. Maybe it’s to my colleagues from Amanda’s work or email friends or Casey at the cafe. I don’t mind explaining, or trying to — in fact, I enjoy it, especially if people are refraining from judgment, which at this point most are thankfully avoiding.

But the always challenging question is, “Why do you do this?”

And my fall-back answer, the truth, is that I am extremely, hopelessly submissive, made this way, and I crave and need to be dominated. Of course that’s the answer no one outside the lifestyle can really understand because they are not like me, and cannot know what it means to be hopelessly submissive.

And so, maybe another approach is for me to answer the same question in another way. I might say that not everyone is satisfied with the traditional models (constructs) of relationship in normal society. This isn’t to criticize conventional relationships or traditional male-female marriage. But it is to say that for many people those are not satisfying or meaningful constructs to live in.

I think many people in vanilla life relate to some of that. Conventional relationships can be disappointing; traditional marriage can be boring. And, fact is, even vanilla relationships privately explore alternatives at times.

I might then go on: There are others in the population for whom gender is not defining, or for whom monogamy is not defining, or for whom, in my case, equality and control are not defining, We seek alternative lives, other relational constructs, and that can lead, say, to gay or lesbian relationships or a trans life or polyamory or… D/s relationships. Or maybe something yet other.

Sub-slavery, then, is a construct for alternative relationship. It basically says there are all kinds of ways of doing human connection differently from what is traditional. Sometimes those different ways are more meaningful and substantive. And so slavery is a customized life by definition — doms and subs create their own lifestyle practices because it’s more satisfying to them. There’s a wide variety of approaches to it and different ways of customizing the lifestyle.

So I am different in this way. My lifestyle is alternative. I was not satisfied with conventional relationships in my life. My submission, eventually slavery, became my personally satisfying way to do life.

I don’t expect a person to understand my submissiveness, but maybe they can more easily respect my pursuit of an alternative life that is meaningful to me.