Thursday, April 19, 2007

Why BDSM-Poly Community Customs Sometimes Conflict

A controversy arose over the last couple of days on a polyfidelity list about a new member who is a submissive in the BDSM lifestyle's introduction. In it she referred to herself in the third person and made other references that caused some of the non-kinky poly list members distress. They didn't exactly flame the woman, but a few did express their feelings in what I thought was a fairly respectful manner. (The list in question is described as for people interested in polyfidelity.)

I recall a time when a BDSM master joined a poly list I was on, and his manner of writing about himself felt to me very offputting. Though I didn't condemn him or even address the issue to my recollection, I do recall feeling offended that this man seemed to expect people not of his lifestyle to address him in terms that acknowledged his self-identified superiority.

It seems to me that there is a sensitive spot or nexus where these communities intersect, one of which both polyfolk and BDSMers might wish to take note. When in polyland, it's wise to keep in mind that much of the polyamory community heavily values egalitarianism and personal freedom. The majority of it doesn't have an interest in BDSM and has no real understanding of it. In turn, polyfolk should bear in mind that BDSM relationships, though not alway what many if any polyfolk would consider egalitarian, are consensual. And who are we, i.e. any of us, to point fingers at the other?

My conclusion is that we should all take the "when in Rome" approach when on another alternative lifestyle's turf and do our best to observe its customs and values, just as we would do in order to be welcome when visiting a foreign country. If we're not sure what those are, finding out is the polite and respectful thing to do.

4 comments:

Curvaceous Dee said...

An excellent post. Being both actively polyamorous as well as involved in the BDSM community, there are times when I've seen people on both sides are challenged by the lifestyle of the other. I feel that your thoughts on the matter will be a useful thing to point them towards.

xx Dee

Anonymous said...

I have been polyamorous for approximately the last 6 months. I feel as if I found who I am, and that I fit into this lifestyle perfectly. I'm able to give and take as we all involved want, and no one is harmed. At the same time, I am extremely submissive, and have found a man that I think fits what I need/ want in a Master precisely. Problem is, he doesn't want me to have intimate acts with other men at all! I'm having two troubles with that idea- I understand where He's coming from, but I can't give up my new found freedom of gifts in trade for my submissive side to be handled. I know I will grow resentful. And beside that, I really enjoy my lover! I value him as a person emensely, and I can see us having fun on a monthly basis for many years to come.
I'm so confused because I desperately want to release myself to this new Master, but I'm afraid a side of effect of one His requirements will be cutting myself in half again.

Anita Wagner said...

Anonymous, you will do well to listen to your intuition - I believe it is right on. Your dom cannot dominate your emotions - this is advice everyone I know who advises people in DS poly relationships gives. Nor can he justify injustice by cloaking it in dom language/behavior. If he persists, he will indeed be courting serious danger in your relationship.

The truth is that when it comes to emotions surrounding polyamory, the role play must be suspended and you two must for the time it takes to reach a compromise become simply two people who love each other and want what is best for each other. Love is not about denying those we love, but about giving them freedom to be who they are. Best of luck to you!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, two points to consider:

1) I'm sure you're familiar with the concept of soft and hard limits as they apply to BDSM scening. You should also develop soft and hard limits in regard to BDSM relationships. If you are poly, then monogamy would be a hard limit for you.

2) A Master is a person with whom you engage in a 24/7 long term relationship with, not someone you "have fun with on a monthly basis". Dominants that you scene with outside of a serious relationship are play partners, not Masters.

A man who is asking for monogamy and the title of Master based on monthly get togethers is more than likely inexperienced and/or has an abusively controlling personality. On the other hand, you may be misleading a legitimate Master into thinking that you want a serious relationship that will lead to more frequent encounters and more serious commitments over time.

You need to define what you are looking for, Master or play partner, then act and communicate accordingly.