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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Kink beware

Lately I have noticed a very big influx of kink into the poly community. I'm not against kink, but I feel that people are who aren't into kink might be turned off to becoming part of the poly community if that's what's presented. How does one keep it separate? What advice would you have for a vanilla person who thinks that poly people = kinky bdsm/swingers/chandelier hangers?
- Gotta Keep 'em Separated


Wow, chandelier hangers, huh? Does that mean they sparkle like the vampires in Twilight?

So here's the thing about community - anytime you get a bunch of people together, you're going to find that a lot of them are freaky in different ways. You could go to gathering of trial lawyers and find a fair number of kinksters. The difference is that in the poly and sex-positive communities, people feel more free to be open about their bedroom preferences, so kinky people are more visible. And, of course, kinky people have a natural affinity for poly since they might have fetishes that their primary partner isn't into, leading them to seek out a play partner or other relationship.

My advice for vanillas who are curious about the poly scene but wary about kinky people is to do your homework about an event before you attend. Some events are billed as poly events, but they might actually be BDSM play parties or swinger events that are trying to cast a wide net by saying they are for poly people. All of Open Love NY's events, for example, are non-play events, and we enforce a strict consent rule on touching, i.e. asking for hugs or anything more than a handshake (for the very reason to make it more comfortable for newbies).

Finally, any newbie who wants to become part of the poly community needs to have an open mind. There's no requirement that you have to like or endorse everyone's personal proclivities in the community, but you can hardly be judgmental about someone's private bedroom behavior while at the same time advocating for open relationships. And frankly, once you get to know some people who turn out to be kinky, that might be an area you wind up exploring as well.

What do you think Leon?

Remember those Venn Diagrams of which I'm so fond? If you have a poly circle, a kink circle, a swing circle, and a few others, there's a heck of a lot of overlap, ranging from people who are in all to those who are in only one. To me, the key to this question is the perception of people on the outside of all these circles, those who are "vanilla" or who simply haven't had enough exposure to poly, kink, or any of the others to understand what the non-vanilla world entails, or to decide whether or not it's something they'd like to explore.

I think the answer is education! Too many people don't even KNOW there are workable alternatives to traditional monogamy, perhaps outside of the movies or third-hand gossip, and don't know where they can learn more in a healthy way. To them, anything out of the ordinary respecting relationships or sex might trigger any of a host of feelings, both positive and negative - and it's easy for someone who doesn't understand the non-vanilla world to confuse poly with kink, or make assumptions that might be inaccurate. It's therefore up to us, those within one or more of those circles, to help educate people on the outside in open and honest ways. This also applies to people who describe themselves as part of one of these communities, but don't know that much about others, or have mis- or preconceptions.

Once everyone knows and understands what kink and poly (and any other non-vanilla lifestyle) are and aren't, then we will have fewer misunderstandings - and we'll likely have a lot more people who comfortably know how to include themselves in one or more of our circles. :)

2 comments:

  1. Cool advice!

    Although, Leon, I'm not sure the questioner is lacking in education so much as comfort. What happens when more education doesn't help the sense that you're just surrounded by people who have kinks you don't share?

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  2. Leon sez: That's not so unusual, given the broad umbrella many of us see polyamory covering (check the link I just posted here: http://www.obsidianfields.com/lj/nonmonogamy2.5.1.gif for a dizzying example). Not everyone will fit everyone else's idea of a good time or a good relationship - hence, people need to keep an open mind about what others want, and be good at self-exploration to figure out what they themselves want. If someone walks into a scene they expect to be poly and it turns out to be BDSM or swing, they need to be educated enough to understand that if what they're getting is not what they expected they can look elsewhere (or turn to someone they trust for guidance), rather than assume it's all wrong for them. If people don't know the differences, and have a bad experience, they'll likely assume the fault is with either them or the scene, rather than simply not having found the right people or group or event.

    Sorry if it's a little wordy, but I think that explains my viewpoint better.

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