Just start.

My best friend sent this to me today after I sent him an email jam-packed with pain that I’ve been having a hard time articulating.

Start now.
Start where you are.
Start with fear.
Start with pain.
Start with doubt.
Start with hands shaking.
Start with voice trembling but start.
Start and don’t stop.
Start where you are, with what you have.
Just . . . start.

-Ijeoma Umebinyuo

When I first read it, paralysis side-swiped me. But I’ve surrendered to it, and marinated in it, and as I was cruising a website, I remembered something about someone I recently met. That they’re a photographer. And the description of how they shoot and how they regard their models was enough to make me at least reach out and inquire about what it would take to do a shoot. Because I made a promise to myself earlier this year to work for: 

Radical personal body acceptance including:

  • more photo shoots
  • more acceptance of the three parts of my body I have the most trouble loving
  • actively hone body self confidence and increase time spent with people who bolster that in me and themselves and others

Also, it made me look up Ijeoma Umebinyuo and holy fuck, she amazing and now I need to read her book.

And even though I updated the list that promise was part of in March, to include a resurgence of interest I had then in sex, that part didn’t change.

I realized, I’m also starting in other ways, recently, too. I’m pursuing some play opportunities with old and new friends, writing ISOs for events again, and I made arrangements to go a new(ish) kink event with a friend next weekend.

It might be time for a 3/4 year check in post for that bucket list, now that I think about it, because I’ve also discovered two things that weren’t on my radar when this year began that I now want to try. Also, I’m behind in reading and want to kick my own ass into gear for that.

Now I just also have to figure out how to take better care of my body. Been trying to take better care of my mind. Got a therapist, who’s awesome. Started writing more, including writing about my pronouns and struggle with gender. I want to write more even more frequently, and I’m trying to write more songs. Went to a song writers meet up a few months ago. Have to go back soon. Also sang in public on the boardwalk. Want to do that again soon. Have been trying to find different ways to communicate with people to get needs met. Trying to make my life better. It just hurts a lot and is really difficult right now. But.

I’m starting.

Advertisements

I am not a means to an end.

I am NOT a means to an end.

Brain: But…

No, brain. I am not a means to an end.

Heart: Are you sure…

Hey…heart. I am not a means to an end.

Body: Really…?

Really, body. Fuckin’ listen up: I am not a means to an end.

The phrase “you are not a means to an end” came up in therapy recently and I can’t get it out of my head. When my therapist first said it, the room felt very still and I had to remind myself to breathe as the tears formed. Suddenly, I felt the need to both protect myself and be vulnerable.

It keeps popping up at inconvenient times, and suddenly I’m crying on a bench next to a stranger while waiting for my car to be done getting an oil change.

Why is this so hard to believe?

When did I stop thinking I was worthy of attention and affection just…for myself? When did that become so hard to accept, yet something that I crave to the point of near desperation lately?

I know I’m primarily a submissive, but I also know enough, learned enough, was trained well enough to know that submissive does not equal doormat, in the paraphrased words of my best friend. That yes, I love to serve. And while I’m also a switch, my core is pure submissive. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have needs and desires.

A partner once wrote to me that “as much as it is your responsibility to serve me, it is my responsibility to make you feel loved and make sure you have what you need and sometimes what you want.”

When I first read it, I also cried.

There’s been a lot of crying lately.

There’s also this comic by the wonderful Sarah Andersen, making the rounds.

But this one really hit me as I stumbled across it on a friend’s FB feed. Caring for the animal within. 

And I have no problem telling other people, especially submissives, that they have to put their own oxygen mask on first.

As it came up in therapy, though, I’m so used to giving. Making sure the people I care about have what they want and need beyond my own natural warning signs of “Empty! Need refuel!” as a method of survival that it’s just…what I do. And there’s also the times when, I’ve tried repeatedly to communicate what I want and need to various partners and the many times it’s been misunderstood, delayed forever, or just completely ignored. Sometimes, I’ve stopped asking. I’m not proud of that. Sometimes, I keep trying and once finally asked a question that wound up setting off a domino effect of that particular relationship ending.

Earlier this year, I had some wonderful experiences with someone who wanted to…do things for/to me because they wanted to. And because I asked or made it clear that I wanted certain things. It was…difficult to relax into. My brain went into hyperdrive anxiety, wondering if I looked okay/attractive, if I smelled okay, if the noises I was making were okay, getting frustrated with myself for not coming “quick enough”, and I tried to keep all this under control and not go into a full on anxiety attack for experiences that were supposed to be, and largely were, good. Some times, I even succeeded. It was the closest I’ve come lately to enjoying the moment and savoring the hell out of those experiences, but I still…struggled.

To be very clear, these were all my own hang ups. None of it came from the other person. In fact, they were amazing beyond amazing with telling me that all the things were fine, good, appealing, and showing me that they actively wanted to be where they were and doing what they were doing. Which included waking up parts of me I didn’t even think were responsive (or, wait….how the hell did you do that?! That part of me never reacts like that!), introducing me to dropping into sub space briefly with someone who was not a Dominant or Master/Mistress to me (well, that was a cool brief dip into subspace with no melancholy for wishing things could be different with you or anyone else; how the fuck did that happen?), and showing me by example the joy of relishing the moment for what it is.

This wasn’t fueled by NRE, that I know of. We’d kind of ridden a lot of that out by starting to build a friendship. It wasn’t driven by a desire to get me back after a breakup. Nor was it done, to the best of my knowledge and belief about this person, as a means to an end. I wasn’t a means to an end. It was shared experiences. And I don’t think I realized until recently just how fucking hard it was for me.

I hate that.

I hate that it was so hard for me to follow good feelings, hard to be treated like I was desirable, hard to admit that I desired things, and accept those things once talked about and freely given. Sex in general can be difficult for me. I have strong cuckquean and con non-con fetishes that are actually fetishes…like I need to think about one of those two things to get off 95% of the time, both when I masturbate or when I’m with other people. Both of those are built around denial of my own needs and desires and other people using me, taking what they want. For the very (very) few people that I feel comfortable being sexual with, that’s where my mind goes. When I don’t have an established D/s connection with that person, or that person isn’t into either of those things…my brain apparently gets a little messed up. It doesn’t know how to process…”do this because it feels good. You said you wanted it, and this person wants to give it to you, and that’s okay.”

I don’t know if it’s tied to my difficulty practicing self care or if it’s something different, but it feels right now like it’s tied together somehow. Like maybe I eroticized difficult things that’ve happened in my life so that I could reclaim them. But if so, the pendulum has swung so wildly in the other direction and I’ve forgotten how to relax into feeling good.

There are, apparently, a lot of things I’ve forgotten or fallen out of practice with. Like practicing. Magic and music. Like writing. Like intense, regular exercise. Like eating well and drinking water.

Once upon a time, I didn’t drink enough water at an event I was working. I wound up having an episode and being taken to see the EMTs. They ordered me to rest and hydrate. At the end of the weekend, someone else ordered me to my knees, handed me a glass of water, and told me to stay that way for 10 minutes and that maybe that would help me remember the importance of staying hydrated.

For the next few months, I was the best hydrated I’d ever been in my life.

Last month, there was an event that I had to work and I knew it was going to be difficult for many reasons. So I set myself into self-care overdrive mode. I knew that I wouldn’t have my best friend & PA there to help make sure I ate and drank, so I arranged with a few different people to help me with that and made sure to get some fairly healthy snacks to also help. I reached out to my magic-minded friends (and the internets) to relearn how to set up a portable altar, because it’d been years since I’d done that. I made lists, brought extra things to nest my hotel room with, and as soon as I got there, set about putting it all into effect.

I set up a portable altar, nested beyond any nesting I’d ever done before for an event, and also since I knew the person who had once made me kneel with the water would be beyond hella busy, I took it upon myself to kneel every day holding a glass of water for five minutes, setting my intentions for the day, reminding myself that I was worthy of my own service.

No one told me to. That was really fucking difficult to do, but I did it. And I stayed hydrated. I also ate three meals a day during the event. Which never happens. I’m exceptionally lucky if I get two, and that’s with having a PA whose main purpose is to make sure I’m okay at events. So for this one event, I was able to throw much of my energy into self care enough to get through the event and serve the community. But afterward? It’s been really challenging to keep up that self care. To keep believing that I deserve my own service, to put on my own oxygen mask, to ask for the help I need, and the interactions I want. I’ve been building a lot of walls. It’s just…there’s been so much pain. So much confusion. So much fear and difficulty. So much longing.

My body meters are at an all time low in regards to D/s, touch, sex, romance, sensation, making out, dancing, creativity, exercising, and snuggling/cuddling. I’m having problems with my teeth, my stomach, my uterus. My sleep patterns, which are normally already fucked because of childhood issues, have been beyond borked. Life is changing and I just keep thinking, “how do I change with it?” How do I move through all the transitions I feel coming?

I don’t know how to fight for myself and claim my own power let alone move into the next phase of my life. I barely know how to not treat myself as a means to an end of just getting through each day, so how do I even begin to stand up for myself and tell others that I am not a means to an end, if I don’t believe it myself?

The best starting place, I guess, is to keep reminding myself.

No, really, self.

I AM NOT A MEANS TO AN END.

One of these days, I’ll hopefully even believe it.

For Valentine’s Day, I’mma love myself.

Recently, I’ve been terrified I was failing everything in life. I’ve felt behind, buried beneath, and bassackwards.

Turns out, I have been failing spectacularly.

I’ve been failing myself.

I have been my own worst enemy, afraid of my body. I had a resurgence of sexiness last year, but it dwindled by the end of the year and vanished completely in the last two months or so. I’ve become afraid it would drive those I love away, as it felt like it had in the past. It doesn’t help that two partners in my life have told me that they were no longer sexually attracted to my body because of it’s size. The first time it happened was devastating. The combination of derision in that partners’ eyes, along with the words that shot from their mouth was something I’ve spent years battling. The second time it happened made my heart sink but I also was able to hold my head up and have a discussion about it. There were tears. A lot of tears. I went for a drive. Had a conversation with a dear friend who reminded me to love myself, first and foremost.

Then I also remembered a scene recently where I was petrified to take off my clothing. I was not ordered to. In fact, Sir told me to get down to the lowest form of undress that I felt comfortable with. But with another wonderful person’s help, I got to the point where I thought, “was I really going to protect myself by keeping my pants and bra on? And if my body was going to drive him away, wouldn’t I want to know that now? And why would I want to be with someone like that anyway?” Something stronger than my fear told me I could trust the situation, Sir, and the scene.

So, I stripped to my panties and got to my knees where I belonged.

The scene was amazing and brought me places I haven’t been in years. During aftercare, though, my brain kicked in again and I got scared. Sir made me talk through the shit my brain was telling me and the conversation we had went something like this:

Me: I’m not good enough.
Sir: Wrong.
Me: I’m not pretty enough.
Sir: Wrong.
Me: I’m not submissive enough.
Sir: Very wrong.
Me: I’m too fucked up for you.
Sir: *laughter* Nope.
Me: I’m too old.
Sir: Nope.

By the end of that conversation, I felt more centered and safe again. Later, though, it kept banging around in my head. Apparently, it didn’t fully resonate until I was able to internalize and believe the answers myself. It’s a daily fight to believe it. But I’m prepared to fight. I posted a pic about three weeks ago from a scene back in November at GKE: Classic. It’s taken me over two months to post it because of body image issues.

Also, I started writing this post three weeks ago when I posted that pic and it’s taken three revisions to finally not be afraid posting it.

For some reason, it’s easy for me to see that my friends and partners and metamours are gorgeous and glorious, regardless (or maybe because) of their color, size, gender presentation, hairness, religion or lack thereof, mental health issues, neural diversity, etc. I think variety is good, healthy, necessary. One of my favorite quotes is still from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves:

“Allah loves wondrous variety.”

If this is the case, why is it so fucking hard to apply this to myself? Especially since I’m poly and have multiple partners? One would think that that would be enough to correct my brain, like, “hey, you’ve got multiple partners of different types. Why you no think you pretty?”

Because it goes beyond beauty. Because it’s also sexiness. And sex. I mean, society in general still has a fucking hard time being okay with the fact that not just young, thin, straight, white cis people fuck. Old people do. Fat people do. People of all ethnicities and genders and all kinds of people do (except some ace spectrum people…I see you, too…technically am still one of you to a certain extent.).

And I’ve had a really, really hard time admitting that/when I want attention. That elusive feeling of being desired. When it starts coming up, I hide. Retreat. Say I don’t need anything. The few times makeout sessions happened recently in the last few months have been stupid fucking difficult for me because I don’t think that the other person really wanted it to happen, even with what seemed like enthusiastic consent. It kind of impedes things, especially that being desired thing, if I don’t believe or trust that the person on the other end actually desires me when they are actively showing me that they do.

See, as a submissive, I’ve always loved to please those I care for, both in nonsexual and sexual service (for those with whom I have that type of relationship). It means I tend to initiate things in established relationships. Or used to. And back when I identified as a lesbian a million years ago, I thought I was a stone butch. I’m currently pansexual, and realizing that it wasn’t so much that I solely preferred to please my partner and not have it reciprocated so much as, at some point, I got scared to accept attention, especially in the sexual sphere. I have a hard time believing and trusting anyone could be attracted to me. I tend to need to be hit with a clue by four before I’ll even consider that someone could be sexually interested in me.

That one partners’ eyes come back to me and I’m thrown back, suddenly thinking, feeling this new person is going to wind up looking at me the same way, if they weren’t already. That my body is too big, my breasts are too weirdly small, and my double chin was eventually, if not right now, going to make them sneer at me. And even when I get past all this self-berating talk and difficulty from the past, I may or may not spend awhile asking if it’s real. And even then I may or may not spend a little longer thinking, “sure, okay. You like me now. But when is the other shoe gonna drop? When is the love in your eyes going to turn to disgust?” Might as well beat them to the punch, right? Tear myself down before anyone else can?

What? That’s served me ever so well.

*sigh*

Yeah, I don’t believe me either.

What I’m realizing is that I’ve spent so much time drawing my sense of value, worth, and sexiness based on what other people thought of me. In the relationship with the partner who chose an incredibly hurtful way to tell me they weren’t attracted to me anymore and why, sex had been falling off gradually and I felt like I had to beg (not in the good way) for any attention or interaction. That takes a toll. I think I kind of gave up. Decided I wasn’t worth it.

It took reading a post on Fet to make me understand how desperately I’d wanted someone(s) to be demonstratively, publicly proud of me so I could use it to try to constantly fight the feeling that anyone with me must be secretly ashamed of me and eventually going to leave me for someone younger and thinner and better.  That I’ve craved public displays of affection and dominance because my own self esteem says if it’s not happening, they don’t want it to happen because there’s something wrong with me. That I have a hard time talking about sex because I’m certain if it’s not happening or hasn’t happened in a long time, my body must be what’s wrong. And if it hasn’t happened yet, it’s clearly because they don’t want me. Not any number of other reasons, including, as I’ve recently been hit over the head with, hey…other people have fears and insecurities, too, and they may not want to push me or be sure that I’m attracted to them. These are not easy things to admit. But it’s not fair to try to use someone else to be a buffer or balm to things I have to deal with in myself.

So! I’ve recently tossed all those negative fucks out the window. I’mma love myself first.  I’m not going to draw my self worth from what someone else thinks of me. Or, I’m gonna endeavor not to. It is still a journey. My plan is to seek out people who want to explore and have fun with me and we’ll figure out what that means and what we do as we go along by talking directly to each other. It’ll be different with each person because we’re all unique people. I’m going to stop being my own worst goddamned enemy and running scared before I even get close to someone so they can’t hurt me first. I will hold my head up and rediscover my own fucking fuckableness.

Happy Valentine’s Day, y’all. No matter who you’re with or not with or what kind of relationship style you’re in, may you find a center of love in yourself for yourself. As for me, life is kind enough to line up with these epiphanies I’ve been having and I’m spending Valentine’s Day night having dinner with a dear friend and picking up a vanity she’s giving me. If that’s not a message, I don’t know what is.

Kink Bucket List 2017: Keep On Kinking On

This year has been rough so far and it’s not even February yet. But I refuse to be quiet. I refuse to not build on the momentum I gathered learning about myself and others last year. I refuse to not be here to help myself and my friends and partners and others and joyfully keep exploring and adventuring. As such, I’ve compiled a Kink Bucket List for 2017. It goes something like this:

Scene: First flight*

Get D/s notebook and start writing in it (already started doing that!)

Scene: Being hit with a belt*

Read at least 4 books on kink this year

Scene: Artistic edgeplay

Learn/look into fire rose flogging

Dear god, moar rope pls

Explore Tantric sex

Radical personal body acceptance including:

  • more photo shoots
  • more acceptance of the three parts of my body I have the most trouble loving
  • actively hone body self confidence and increase time spent with people who bolster that in me and themselves and others

Discover something new I want to try that’s not on my radar yet

Try out new dynamics that I’ve been curious about

Continue to adventure through anarchical poly

Explore dance kink

Scene: Interrogation

Scene: Whip play

***

If you have an interest in trying any of these things with me, private message me and let’s talk!

Points of note, though:

1. Anything with an asterisk (*) is already ear-marked for specific people, so please don’t message about that. Let me get past the first time first and see how that goes.

2. Although I no longer identify as a demisexual, I still take a while to explore sexual connections.

3. Also, I want to seek out more opportunities to play with skills I already have. So if you’re interested in rose flogging, edge play, and sensation play, message me and let’s talk!

On guideposts, intentions, and manifesting the life I want.

My mission, should I choose to accept it, is to find peace with exactly who and what I am. To take pride in my thoughts, my appearance, my talents, my flaws and to stop this incessant worrying that I can’t be loved as I am.
-Anais Nin

Working on my List of Intentions for 2017. This quote is going to be a guidepost for me. It doesn’t, to me, mean there isn’t room for growth and change. But it reminds me to focus my energy on positive things, like growth and change, instead of “this incessant worrying that I can’t be loved as I am”, where ever I am on that journey.

I also want to try to worry less about fitting everything and everyone into specific boxes.

Specific list coming later, but currently the List of Intentions looks a lot like cultivating more love, kink, joy, growth, spirituality, creativity, understanding, learning, reaching out to help others, purging that which no longer serves me, figuring out what does serve me, how to better serve others, exploring my ever-evolving sexuality, deepening my switchiness while honoring and exercising my submissive core, and following the positive energy.

If you’d like to join me for any part of this in 2017, message me. Let’s see what we can discover together.

And yet: A poly/kink meditation

Driving home from a partner’s house recently, I relished the ability my brain has to work through things while I’m traveling. At the time, one of the things I was dealing with was remnants of jealousy and insecurity regarding a metamour. My brain kept eating me alive and I did everything I could think of to deal with it up until that point: smile through it, put it aside, pack it up, ignore it, poke it gently with a stick, kick it in the neck. Y’know, the usual.

But when I get in a car or on a train and there’s a long trip or, at the very least, 30 minutes or more on a highway, I go into parsing mode. Meeting things head on, feeling my way through them, exploring ways to actually deal with them rather than constantly pushing myself into survival mode.

And a nifty thing happened while I was letting my brain ramble and unwind. It went something like this:

Anxious, scared brain: This metamour is younger and into things you’re not.

Suddenly, another voice joins in, soft but solid, of a new friend with whom I had been marveling recently about all the good/interesting things that were happening in our lives that we never expected to. The phrase they used was “and yet.” Two simple words to ground you and bring you back to the fact that those good things were happening.

So my anxious, scared brain goes: This metamour is younger and into things you’re not.

Soft, solid voice answers: And yet, your partner still wants you, too.

Anxious, scared brain goes into tizzy and tries to hurl something scarier at this new voice: Yeah, well, that metamour is closer geographically than I am.

Soft, solid voice replies again: And yet, your partner still wants you.

Anxious, scared voice is freaking the fuck out, thinking it’s about to be put out of a job and goes for broke: This metamour is thinner, and more attractive, sees your partner more and your partner wants said metamour more than you.

Soft, solid voice bitch-slaps back with a simple: And yet. It doesn’t matter, ultimately, about “more” or “less”. Bottom line. No getting around it. It may’ve taken some time but there is a part of you that knows this to be true now. Your partner finds you attractive and still wants you.

Anxious, scared brain will not be defeated and decides to go for completely batshit low blow and shouts: YOUR PARTNER IS GOING TO LEAVE YOU FOR METAMOUR. YEAH! “AND YET” THAT, MOTHERFUCKER.

Soft, solid voice smiles and says completely calmly: And yet. My partner has not left me yet. Our relationship isn’t based on a relationship escalator, and while I would love for it to go on for a long time, the success of it is not measured in longevity. It’s measured in, to quote Rent, love. You know poly means that your partner can care about, play with, date, have sex with, love, be with, whatever-the-fuck-you-wanna-call-it with other people and it does not mean you’re getting left behind. They are NOT mutually exclusive. They coexist. You coexist. You wrote a fucking piece about it here and everything! Your partners care about you for you and their other partners for who they are and the wondrous variety of it all is what makes it so goddamned beautiful and awesome now shut the fuck up and let’s sing some showtunes!!!

Wow. That soft, solid voice apparently grabbed a megaphone and some spirit somewhere along the highway because, daaaaammmmn. Anxious, scared brain walked away in a huff, promising to come back with better ammunition. I turned on Hamilton and sang along to “That Would Be Enough”.

***

About a half an hour later, anxious, scared brain gets back online and wants to go again.

ASB: You know that new person you like? There’s no way they could like you, too.

SSV: And yet. Have you talked to them about it? Have you asked how they felt? Do you know that for certain?

ASB: No…but…screams and stomps off I WILL FIND SOMETHING!

SSV: And yet. I will likely refute it.

***

I sing more Hamilton. Put on some Fleetwood Mac because I’m suddenly feeling more mellow and relaxed. Replay some of the happier moments from my time with my partner. Just about then, that jackass ASB struts up.

ASB: You’re a terrible submissive. You can’t be a director and a /s and a switch. They don’t go together. What’s wrong with you?

(Wow. What a smug asshole my brain can be sometimes. What the fuck? C’mon, SSV, don’t fail me now…)

SSV: And yet. I am all those things. At different times. With different people and situations.

ASB: You’re not submissive enough for your Sir. You’re not good enough. You’re too old and out of practice.

SSV: And yet. Sir says he is pleased by me more often than not and when he’s not, corrects and/or punishes me to his liking accordingly. It is not my job to second guess what he says he is pleased by. It is my job to trust his word and actions.

ASB: People won’t respect you for being a switch, especially in public.

SSV: And yet. I played in public on the right side of the slash in a place where I was in charge of a portion of the event recently and have so far seen no diminishing respect from colleagues, friends, partners, or anyone else. If anything, I’ve gotten many compliments on how happy I was that day as I went (what felt like) fairly seamlessly from the right side of the slash to the left as appropriate to the scenes I was having.

ASB, muttering under its breath: Fuck you and the “and yet” you rode in on…

SSV: And yet…that sounds like fun.

ASB explodes in a POOF

***

So. For the rest of the car ride, I just kept throwing “and yet” at all the insecurities that popped up and lo and behold, it’s been slamming them down right and left. I’ve even done some kneeling meditations on it and it’s held up strong. I don’t expect it to combat everything…

And yet I’m glad for what it’s doing right now.

Two great tastes that taste great together…

(Book review #7 – original post @ Cannonball Read 8)powercircuits-ravenkaldera

Warning: This book and review deal with power dynamics being carried out in real life adults that some might not be comfortable with, and may also contain some triggering words that have a very different meaning in the kink scene. Please note that everyone involved has agreed to be so; this book is about consensual power dynamics and conscious relationship style choices, not coercion. As the author states in the synopsis on the back of the book:

“Power Circuits is an alliance between two alternative lifestyles: polyamory, or multiple open and honest romantic relationships; and power dynamics, relationships that choose to be consciously and deliberately unequal in power.”

So I’ve been in the kink scene for just over eighteen years. Of those eighteen years, I’ve been polyamorous or involved in open relationships for about fifteen years. In the course of those fifteen years, I’ve read and written a lot about polyamory. I’ve also read and written (albeit less than poly) about kink stuff. Thing is, up until I found this book a few months ago on an Amazon search, I had never seen the two put together. Sure, some poly books touch on the overlap between the poly community and the kink scene, but never anything in depth that I remember. And yeah, some kink books go into threesome and multiple partners, but the subject of love seems to be mostly avoided. But this book…THIS book puts the two great tastes together in ONE book! And really well, I might add. It’s been a while since I brought a pencil with me as diligently while reading as I did with this book. It’s full of underlined passages, notes in the margin, and I even spent a few weeks using it for a series of writing prompts while exploring more about D/s & M/s relationships this summer.

One of the things I love about this book is how it’s organized. There’re about 100 pages of Part One: “Background and Basics” that I breezed through because the author’s style is so accessible and smooth. This section covers some basic definitions, why he decided to write this book (basically because, as I said above, no one ever had before), some common pitfalls, a rough outline of various intensity levels to power dynamics, a chapter on queer templates called “Polyamory and Power Dynamics in Nonheterosexual Communities”, and, of course, the ever present poly mantra of “communicate, communicate, communicate.” I was especially grateful that during all this explanation of terms, Kaldera had a very open perspective on power dynamics and throughout the book, in fact, is guided by the principle that the people in each relationship should work out what they want and not subscribe blindly to being a Dominant or submissive in a certain way. He write on page 19 that “there is also great variety in the levels of power dynamic between relationships with any given partner…many ongoing polyamorous families end up looking more like constellations than simple geometric forms.” But my favorite part is when he elaborated on it on page 54:

We don’t believe in saying that subs or slaves or masters or mistresses “ought” to have certain rights or limits. These are all negotiated in intensely personal ways between the people involved, and the only way to judge is if everyone involved says that they’re completely happy with the situation. Beyond that, it’s up to them. There is no one “right” way to do this. There’s only the ways that work to make everyone content with their choices, and the ways that make someone in the relationship miserable. That will be different for everyone.

Part Two: Essays from The Ones in Charge and that was where my pencil really had a field day. There was so much information in there! And different perspectives and relationship constructs…it made me so happy. One of the Masters talks about how he focuses on a “personal angle of self-improvement and overcoming internal conflict” and holds these guiding themes as his ideal:

…make the girl the best that she can be, along the lines of self-actualization described by psychologists Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers. To that end, preserving elements of the girl’s ego is not only important, but core to what I wish to accomplish.

AND

My artistic urges revolve around the collaborative fusion of audience and artist, so the final creation is a gestalt of my will and the will of my slave or submissive, each one different.

That Master sums up his section by urging readers to “set out to find what is right and then build your own terms around it. Never let the words dictate the realities.” That’s what I strive for.

Another author in this section talks similarly about he views polyamory/non-monogamy:

My concept of non-monogamy is based on the firm conviction that we can’t control love, and so we’re much better off learning how to navigate our lack of control than investing in futile measures to clamp down. In other words: there is no such thing as forever, because you can’t possibly know today how you will feel in twenty years. There is no such thing as “the one” because we are all evolving and changing at every moment, and we all have infinite potential to meet others with whom we could share a few steps or many leagues on our journey.

Part Three: Essays from the Ones Who Surrender also saw a lot of my pencil, especially since it had a whole chapter based on being a cuckquean, which is not something that’s often written about – especially from a kink perspective. There are six different essays in this section (two more than the “Ones in Charge” section, which I find interesting in a good way) and besides the cuckquean one, my favorite was the one that talked about (and was titled) Being in a Leather Family. For a long time, I’ve been peripherally tied to the leather community through friends and work, but have never really explored it myself. This one essay made me want to dive in headfirst once I move back to the East coast this fall and to my home kink scene.

My favorite parts were the ones that said “the role of Master and slave was more important than sex in its own way” and that “there are many, many kinds of love.” Because YES. This! But the best part, I think, and the part that really made me want to learn more about the leather community was this:

It’s part of the queerness that created the leather family – the part that says, “They’ll never accept me out there, because they don’t understand me, so I will create my own family designed around affirming my sexuality and my lifestyle.” That’s queerness, even when it’s a leather family full of straight people. That, not sex, is what binds us together.

The last section is called Families Speak and touches on parenting within this dynamic and contains an interview with a poly/power dynamic family and the Kaldera. This section contains probably my favorite anecdote. The family is talking about one of their contracts, because in these types of relationships, sometimes there are contracts that spell out what type of power is involved and what is expected of all parties. These can get very wordy, very over-the-top, and, in my opinion, a little dramatic. Sometimes. But this family has an ageplay dynamic that led them to do one of their contracts with much more levity and I think it’s perfect:

Our contract very much reflects who we are as people, because part of our dynamic and part of our personalities is that both of us are “littles”. So if you read our contract, that would shine through loud and clear. The title of the contract is “Da Rulz” and it says things like, “The dominant, he can haz the power.”

This pretty much encapsulates what I love about this book so much. It helps and encourages people to find what works for them, to be honest with their partners about what they want, and to always communicate, communicate, communicate. The author spends about a third of the book giving his experiences and input, but then opens the rest of it to people who are doing it and how. Also, none of the people shy away from talking about how many mistakes they made getting to where they are now and saying that these relationship styles are not for everyone. It’s not a proselytizing book in the slightest, but it is worth it’s weight in gold for people who are navigating these waters because it is part of who they are.