Kink in exile

Notes from a kinky nomad

Autonomy above all else

So I’ve been doing this strange thing.  I’ve been explaining, with great relief, how I’m not poly, and then following it up with a hurried “oh but I’m not monogamous!” a few seconds later.  At first, I really was worried that my lovers coming across this in an idle tweet would get upset.  This change is internal to me, I have no interest in changing my relationships with my partners based on this and that was important.  But then I tried to communicate that, to people who needed to hear it, directly.  So…why am I still talking about it?

1) I am still testing the waters – I have several things I am not but I don’t have a fully grown story about what I am.  Frankly, this story grows organically around relationships and situations, so I believe it’s not fully grown because it’s ever changing.

2) The power of “I’m not poly” lies in the next sentence: “and I prefer X”

Words have power.  Words have the power to allow us to express ideas and communicate with others, but they also have the power of being cultural triggers.


Dilbert cubical


The 1950s

When I say these things you have an image in your mind, right?  You and I may have different images, but if we come from similar cultural contexts there are probably at least some similarities.  Both of our classrooms might have blackboards and desks.  The 1950s has, depending on who you ask, two-martini-lunches, poodle skirts, and civil rights riots.

We bring our past experience to the conversation, and what’s more, we probably assume shared experience and understanding for common words and then we act on these assumptions.  So, when I say poly, you probably have some idea of what I mean.  This might include how many people I’m dating, who they date, how I interact with those people, etc.  If we’re in Boston, you might ask if you’ll see me at the Diesel on Tuesday because poly community, like BDSM community, is a community of interest with it’s own 3rd places.  In fact, we even get our own jargon.

This is useful.  It allows me to take a conversational shortcut: I am poly and therefore we can start by assuming X, Y, and Z are true.  But it also means we assume X, Y, and Z are true, and I’m not really confidant right now that they are.  So, in one sense, “I’m not poly” is freedom from the poly rules.

Beyond poly rules, spoken and unspoken, I am also looking for freedom from what I’m calling the poly daisy chain.  Lets say you’re dating Bob and Bob is dating Sue, and Sue is married to Dilbert and Dilbert lost his job.  Dilbert’s job loss impacts Sue, which impacts Bob, which in-turn impacts you (like that Passover goat song, but hopefully with fewer sticks).  This is how community works.  However, I don’t want this daisy chain of emotional impact in my life (as a mandatory component of my relationships).  Or more importantly, I want the freedom to evaluate and select only those intimate and emotional relationships that I want to participate in for myself.  As a complete oversimplification, in picking Bob, I don’t want to get married to Dilbert too.

But then why not the simpler option of monogamy?  Many reasons.  The first and most emotional is that I am blessed with people I love with whom I share emotional and sometimes physical intimacy, they are far too important to me, and if you think I’d cast them aside for a new shiny or less complicated thing you don’t know me very well.  But there is a more structural reason that’s internal to me: I value autonomy above all else in this equation.  There is something that “not poly” and “not monogamous” have in common: both I and my partner have the freedom to select the types of intimacies that are most fulfilling and desirable to us. I have to prioritize autonomy because it’s what makes me feel safe in my relationships also.  And something fun happens here, if I set autonomy as a priority, in fact as my top priority, things click into place.  I really, really like priorities because it makes it possible for me to make difficult decisions in times of stress.  In this case, it allows me to select my intimate relationships based on my preferences and not my partners’, reminds me that my partner’s autonomy is more important to me than any one decision they make, and returns to me a sense of control over who I am intimate with that I lost in the daisy chain.

Of course this too has problems.  We are influenced by the people we love so who my partner chooses to interact with changes them, and my other intimacies, be they sexual or otherwise, change me.  I don’t know that I have a solution to this, this is not written in stone.  This is written on the internet, it’s written in a medium that came to life with a knowledge of ctrl+alt+z.  This feels true now, and I’m trying to live in the here and now, but I also know that being friendly with my partner’s other partners has been hugely important to me in the past. In fact, having no comfortable channels of communication would be undesirable still, and I know that at least recently “do I like who else you’re dating” was something I’d ask myself before getting close to someone.  So, it’s an evolution, maybe a new lens to try, or maybe just a case of making space in my heart and in my world for a plethora of diverse and complex experiences.

Written by kinkinexile

March 27, 2013 at 10:39 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. This sounds more like you are just sick of the random expectations that come with the relationship paradigms you list…and this is partially why I’ve never identified as poly because those expectations don’t fit my relationship structure. Though a friend of mine tells me that there really are people who use the word “poly” interchangeably with “non-monogamous”, in which case there really aren’t supposed to be any expectations of any particular structure or interactions.


    April 3, 2013 at 6:40 pm

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