non-monogamy and d/s: the warm and fuzzy and the cold and clammy

I’ve noticed that a lot of what draws me to power relationships is the same stuff that draws me to non-monogamy and vice versa. Let me lay out a few common points. Interestingly, all these points can be experienced as warm and fuzzy, but they can also be pretty darn hard. If you’ve experienced the hard version, take heart: warm and fuzzy is still an option, even if it hasn’t happened to you that way yet.

Personal growth. Have I ever mentioned my fetish for constant improvement? Well, I have one, and it comes into play in both non-monogamy and D/s relationships because both involve intense trust and deep communication. They often force us to face our demons and exorcise them (or at least learn to manage them well), deal with our insecurities, figure out how to love ourselves better, and do some serious fine-tuning of our communication skills. When this goes well, we grow. When it goes badly, we see a lot of our own ugly shit and run away from it or collapse in despair.

Intimacy. When you’re doing that much personal growth in the context of a relationship, and so are your partners, you’re on rich territory for the development of incredibly deep intimacy. That’s beautiful and amazing. It can also be terrifying, both because intimacy is often so vulnerable and because once you’ve experienced such depth, the idea of losing it can be really frightening.

Transgression. Both non-monogamous and power-based relationships fly in the face of all manner of social norms that tell us who and how to love. So in order to do either, you have to get comfortable with the idea that you’re now beyond the pale of mainstream acceptability. That can be thrilling and titillating, or you might simply feel a sense of relief at finally coming across a way of relating that works for you. On the flip side, there can be consequences to transgression. Society is not always kind to sexual deviants—and no matter how many times you might say “it’s not about sex,” the bigots don’t care. As soon as sex as involved, and sometimes even when it’s not, you’re still a freak in their eyes. And if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, that can lead to serious problems, including child custody loss, job loss and much more.

Specialization. While you can certainly be non-monogamous or engage in power dynamics without having any connection to poly community or the leather/kink/BDSM world, those communities do exist and are open to new members. And within those communities, we’ve got specialized subcultural language and codes, books, websites, events, and countless other resources that can be super useful, supportive and thought-provoking. On the down side, this can sometimes lead to insularity, groupthink, messy drama and politics, and the creation of oppressive hierarchies.

Spirituality. Many of us experience our non-monogamy and our D/s as being spiritual in nature, or as having great personal philosophical meaning. And the frameworks of non-monogamy and of D/s do lend themselves well to spiritual exploration and growth. The downside is that sometimes those frameworks can conflict with a pre-existing spiritual or religious path and cause great challenge as a result. Also, I’ve seen some people use the spiritual aspect dishonestly—as a flimsy excuse for exploitation or as a way to live in their heads and avoid the material or sexual aspects of relationships.

Now, I’m not saying that if you’re into D/s you must necessarily be into non-monogamy, or vice versa. But it does strike me as intriguing that so many of the same questions come up, and so many of the same skills—communication, listening, boundary-setting, self-knowledge—come into play.

Good luck getting fuzzy…


On another note entirely, here’s some brief news! Or should I say news briefs? (Hmm. Are news briefs cuter than news boxers? Sorry…)

I’ll be teaching in Ottawa on June 28 (about 24/7 D/s) and 29 (about bisexuality). Check out my Workshops page for details!

An Unholy Harvest is back for 2010—our fourth consecutive year! Harvest is Canada’s only annual leatherdyke event, and it’s a total extravaganza. Check out our updated website here. Make sure you glance at the call for presenters. We’re giving a Quick & Dirty Discount to anyone who sends in a workshop proposal by June 21 if the workshop is accepted. 20 bucks for the whole weekend! So don’t be shy to submit one!

My partners and I were featured last week on an episode of Sex Matters, a twice-weekly TV talk show with host Cynthia Loyst, who’s totally great. You can see it online here—just scroll down to the June 10 episode, which is posted in four parts.

Jon Pressick interviewed me for a new website, Read the interview here!

My two big projects this summer are 1) finish my master’s degree and 2) write a book. Yup. My first book. It’ll be about fisting. Look out for another survey link at some point soon… I want to get your stories on the topic!

You can still take my cunnilingus survey! It’s short, anonymous and entirely qualitative—now’s the time to tell your stories! Fill it out here.

I recently wrote a few newspaper pieces. Check them out:

And last but not least, if you want monthly-ish news and other fun stuff sent to you directly, sign up for my newsletter by sending an e-mail to!

2 thoughts on “non-monogamy and d/s: the warm and fuzzy and the cold and clammy

  1. A lot of people don’t understand that like traditional, monogamous relationships, non traditional relationships (swing, poly, D/s) have the same issues! It’s not about one night stands, or crazy anonymous sex, it’s about building a relationship, getting along, trusting, growing and evolving. There are the good exciting times of staring a ‘relationship’ together, and the harder times of ‘breaking up’, just like conventional vanilla couples.

    Great post 🙂

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