Kink in exile

Notes from a kinky nomad

Why am I seeing 6am?

I went on a date, and then another, and my date had a partner who was New To Poly.  But he didn’t feel new to poly, he felt monogamous, in love with someone who was poly, young, queer, and maybe just a little unsure of himself.  He felt not like “poly is awesome how do we do it” but like “I’m not sure about this, but my partner wants it/my community does this.” It felt like he was being coerced for my benefit. but it wasn’t my place to say so.  It felt wrong, and it happens a fuck ton more than poly queer kids* would like to say (because there was a power imbalance, but not the kind the radical left knows how to talk about). So those dates petered out it seems.

I thought this would be a post about polyamory, but I think it’s actually a post about power dynamics. There’s big ones that we all recognize – parent-child, teacher-student, senators-coke brothers – which I would call coercive and non-consensual and you can disagree but that’s not really the issue at hand…what I’m actually curious to dig a little deeper into is the power dynamics that shift a little bit more frequently or present themselves more subtly.

Relationships have power dynamics.  Egalitarian relationships either have power dynamics that are really closely watched and mindfully guarded against or they have power dynamics that are swept under the rug.  And I suppose my ideal relationship would have a power dynamic somewhat artificially constructed and mutually acted out.

But there is subtle shift, who has the power changes in context. One person may love the other more or be more invested in the relationship which gives the less invested person power…this is normal, often it shifts and balances over time.  Without balance it becomes a kind of coercive power imbalance or the relationship simply ends.  In my most recent relationships I had more access to some resources, namely money and things it could buy, but I had less flexibility and time and the affordances that allows (the exact opposite was true when I was in grad school).  There are different interplays with social capital as well: have you ever been poly or monogamous because that was the trend in your social circle?  How about been friends with or friendly with someone you didn’t care for because they were important to your partner? A metamour perhaps, or just a college best friend who seems to only talk about sports?  Information and how it is shared or not shared can create power imbalances too, sometimes intentional (stonewalling, lying, etc) sometimes not.

So yeah, anyway, today I am awake at 6am for no reason, thinking about how power imbalances are born, and also about how lifetime scale is really freaking cool cause there was this thing that I was sort of thinking about in 2011 that I just now have some (any) concrete and specific thoughts about, and I didn’t “work on it” in the interim, it just took time to percolate.


*That’s unkind actually, most groups don’t like to talk about the space between their ideals and their experience.

Written by kinkinexile

June 16, 2013 at 7:23 am

Posted in headspace

6 Responses

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  1. I think a pertinent issue is how to build and maintain desirable power imbalances in an egalitarian society while tearing down undesirable power imbalances. This requires a shift from simplistic thinking about power (imbalance bad/balance good) and building a paradigm that includes consideration of personal goals and some way to measure that distance between the ideal and reality.

    Tomio Hall-Black

    June 16, 2013 at 7:31 am

    • Oh huh, yeah, I don’t think I have strong opinions about intentional power imbalances right now…I think I have a lot of confusion about it, some worry about character bleed, but no conclusive thoughts. Historically, it’s been something I’ve actively wanted in my romantic relationships, but right now how I want to do relationships/sex/intimacy is up in the air enough that I’m actually not sure about that.


      June 16, 2013 at 10:51 pm

    • Oh, you know what, I don’t have to have conclusive thoughts on intentional power imbalance because others have written about it in thought provoking ways! This post along with Bitchy’s comments seems like a good start: and I’m adding this other one to my reading list:


      June 16, 2013 at 11:25 pm

  2. My Friend KinkInexile,
    I find this fascinating as I have just recently had an experience with power and control. Actually I’m considering writing a post on “Although I say Yes, I really Mean NO”. The 3 some that I was just involved in with my friends of over 30 years. My female friend initiated our “playtime’ with her common law husband. I specifically said your the “Alpha Bitch and You call the shots” as it was important for me to let her know as I’m a guest in their bed, and will not participate in any activity that she is not comfortable with. She and I had intimate relations, and he found this unfair. She said it was ok to perform oral sex on him and after a period of time, she began to become irritated as it was taking to long. This was the most unpleasant sexual encounter I have ever experienced, and not my first 3 some either. He made comments that I believe left her feeling insecure, and jealous. I will not participate in any sexual activities with them again. I have learned a valuable lesson, it was important for me to let her know I respect her and her boundries. Perhaps had kept his comments to himself, she might not have behaved the way she did. All is good with our friendship. Even when there was a mutual agreement of who did what, in the blink of an eye it changed. The only power I chose to have was to decline participating in any future sexual interactions. I was constantly left not knowing were I stood. Not a great feeling.


    July 3, 2013 at 5:33 pm

  3. […] I started seeing all sorts of little (and huge) ways that poly was not about autonomy, but rather about the partner with more power leveraging that power to direct the course of the […]

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