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.

A year of evolving love and kink

So. 2016 was fucking rough. If you’re one of the few people for whom it wasn’t rough, mazel tov and I’m incredibly happy for you. I hope for more good things for you in 2017. But for me? And many of the people I love and are close to? 2016 was massive What The Fucking Fuck year. It tore through with a staggering number of celebrity deaths, unprecedented change, massive amounts of life shifts, and some of the worst pain, confusion, and turmoil I’ve had to go through in years. I would like there to be less of those things, please, in the coming year. While I do understand the learning experience value of these things, and that the cycle of life also includes death, it would be nice to balance things out a little.

I will honor the bad things that happened as part of the journey. However, I want to focus on the good to direct my future journey. In that regard, most of the good things that happened in my life centered around poly and kink, so I’m going to celebrate those.

In my resolution post from last year, I set forth to rejoin the kink scene/community among other things. My overarching goal was to get back in the swing of things, so to speak. And I did almost everything on that list under the kink section, and then some.

  • Joined the (then local) scene in Memphis, became a member of the local dungeon, went to events, played, and learned. I also slowly started to rejoin the New Jersey scene.
  • Rediscovered my love for rose flogging and then proceeded to rose flog a bunch of people that I care about over the course of a few months, culminating, for me, in my first ever duel rose flogging scene at the close of the dungeon to “Bohemian Rhapsody” at GKE Classic. Which was a BLAST.
  • Even though it was scary as fuck, and some parts of the journey were bumpy as fuck, in February, I reached out to someone who would eventually become my Sir. We’ve spent almost a year building a relationship that works for us which is evolving, flexible, and a constant surprise to me. I look forward to seeing what the new year will bring for us.
  • I had some great (and some really shocking – in the good way) make out sessions and my ideas of what my sexuality is continue to morph. Demisexual doesn’t fit anymore and I’m not so sure about gray ace, either. What I do know is that I’m far more interested in sex than I used to be, but still with a fairly limited pool of people.
  • My husband and I embarked on shifting to becoming anarchical poly instead of hierarchical. There have been some challenges, but overall, it seems to be best for both of us. For me personally, it’s the only thing that makes sense anymore.
  • With help, I got over two fears regarding submission. One, and the scariest one in general, was the fear that I wouldn’t be able to submit anymore. And/or that I was no good and/or too old. And/or out of practice. That I wouldn’t be able to get to the head space I had been waiting to get to for years. Two, being afraid to submit in public at an event where I had a managerial role. With Sir’s help in both regards, I was able to, in the same scene, drop further than I have in nearly five years and find a pocket of off duty time to submit in public. Transcendent doesn’t even begin to cover that experience.
  • Experienced fire play for the first time.
  • Experienced sadistic fire play for the first time. Holy hell, I need more of both of those in my life.
  • Did needle play for the first time and then went on to set up a needle play play date, both of which were awesome.
  • Hit K&P on Fetlife for the first time ever for one of my poly writings. That was an amazing feeling.
  • Dealt with difficulties I had re: poly by talking and writing them out. Or I could say: Jealousy…now with a whole lot more helpful words and only minimal bottling and fear!
  • Rekindled a connection with a dear partner.
  • Rediscovered my complete and utter adoration of being punched in the back.
  • Rediscovered my complete and utter adoration of bruises from being punched in the back. One weekend, after a really good punching, every time someone hugged me at the event I was at, it was the most painfully delicious reminder.
  • Saw anarchical poly evolving amongst my partners and metamours and had moments of such compersion and sheer astonishment and gratitude that things were…working. Like, there was more than once where I found myself going, “holy shit…this can all work. People are getting time together, and having fun, and I’m getting time and having fun, and the compersion is building and we’re all handling our shit and talking things out. Hot DAMN.”
  • Tried to pull back from over-labeling everything and let each relationship I’m in seek it’s own level. Including meeting new people or getting to know people I already knew and discovering new feelings for, and eventually, gradually learning that they don’t have to fit into the boxes I’m used to people fitting into.
  • Made a concerted effort to get to know my metamours better. Haven’t gotten to know all of them yet, but in the process, I’ve made at least one great friend and discovered some really cool people who are fun to talk to and spend time with, and who have the potential to become friends. At least I hope so.
  • Started going to Leather events more. I really, really like Leather events from what I’ve seen and witnessed so far.
  • Asked for what I wanted more.

To me, this seems like a damn impressive list of good stuff and I’m hella grateful for these experiences and the people involved in them. My hope is to continue to learn, grow, and have more adventures in 2017. I’m working on a poly/kink bucket list for the new year but for right now, it felt important to get out some of these positive things and lead into the new year cultivating the good, carrying it forward, and building from it.

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.

What did YOU bring ME?

Recently, I was getting to know a guy on Fetlife. He approached me respectfully and when I asked what brought him to my inbox, he said he liked my pics and my profile.

Okay. Cool.

I asked what he liked about my profile. He gave me a few items that were from my profile (and weren’t right next to each other, so there’s no c/p action going on) so it felt like knew he’d actually read it.

It was going fairly well, if not a little slowly.

Then this happened:

“What do you do for work? For fun? I know it probably says in your profile but I’m asking anyway lol.”

Duuuuude. Why? Why would you waste a message asking me something you admit to knowing you might could find the answer to and then throw an “lol” after it? Like, a lack of effort is funny to you? What the hell?

I’m tired of a lack of effort. I’m a service-oriented submissive to my core, part of which means I adore and feel personally fulfilled putting effort into the people I care about. But I’m also a switch. I know both sides of the slash, and I know damn well that both sides take effort.

Any relationship, whether we’re talking blood, friendly, romantic, sexual, kinky, aro, ace, or professional takes consistent effort from both sides. And effort is attractive as hell. There’s something intoxicating in knowing that someone chose to take time from their life to invest in yours. That they want to make time to let you know you’re important, attractive, intelligent, awesome, witty, etc.

And let me tell ya, I have less and less patience with people who don’t make some kind of effort. Because why should I stick around if I’m the only one doing the heavy lifting? Or, not even heavy lifting. If I’m the only one bringing something to the table at all, or 99% of the time? That’s too much for me. I want to know I matter. It’s taken me too damn long to get even close to thinking that I do matter, and now that I have…it’s not so easy to shut that off. And why the fuck should I?

Maybe people will tell me I’m a bad submissive or switch or I just don’t understand how to be Dominant. I probably won’t play well with those people because, damnit, after nearly 20 years in the scene, I have learned some things. At the very least, I’ve learned a fuckton about myself.

I spent way too much time living on crumbs. I need more than that. I need vibrant, evolving relationships that all parties are invested in. I welcome change and growth and learning from my partners, friends, family, colleagues. I crave to be challenged, surprised, delighted. I ask for constructive criticism in both my professional and my personal life.

In turn, I try to give do and give these things to the people I love and be responsive and attentive to the things they’re looking for. One of the best things in the world is when someone mentions something that they like or want and then, sometime in the future, doing or giving them that thing. I’ve seen people’s eyes light up because they can’t believe I remembered what they consider a throw away comment they made months ago. But it’s all…information that I store about people I care about. I mean, we do it if someone is allergic to something.

It’s hella important to remember that Jane will, y’know, die if she has shellfish so I’m not going to serve her shellfish. And to me, it’s a natural extension to think that if Jane mentioned one day that orange gatorade is the best aftercare drink for her, that if Jane and I play, I’m gonna do my best to have some orange gatorade at the ready. Things like that matter and they mean a lot to the person receiving them. I’ve been on both the giving and receiving end of that and it just…builds good things. I don’t understand why it’s difficult to pay attention and act accordingly to someone you’re interested in or someone you care about.

Another part of this, in my mind, comes up in the book that Jeff Mach wrote. There’s a section in Give: some explorations on submission called “What did you bring me?” which asks many questions of the theoretical submissive. The crux of this section is to challenge the submissive to think about what qualities they bring to the relationship beyond a body and their own fantasies. There are questions like:

  • What skills do you bring?
  • What knowledge?
  • What are you prepared to teach me?
  • Have you brought me a mind, the ability to make choices and judge circumstances?

For some people, this is revolutionary. Like, you mean a submissive or slave doesn’t exist to solely obey? In fact, Jeff wrote about that misconception yesterday in his post on Fetlife called “‘I ain’t payin’ you to think’: a fallacy of slavery”. And I’m glad for this type of post. I’m glad he asked the questions he did in his book. Hell, I’m glad he wrote the book.

But I’ve always had another thought when reading this section…

What will the Dom/Top/Master/other person bring to the relationship? I’ve spent years trying to understand, embrace, hone, expand, and articulate the skills, knowledge, interests, etc that I bring to a relationship and this email from this new guy hit me like a bucket of cold water. Like, not only did he say he likely knew where to find answers, but he couldn’t be bothered to check. Oh, and let’s throw an “lol” after.

No, I don’t find it funny that you don’t want to put the effort in to make real conversation. I don’t think it bodes well that you’re not going to pay attention to things that are already in front of you. And I sure as hell am not going to waste my time repeating what I’ve already taken time to say when you’re dismissing it with an “lol”. I’ve already listed some of the things I bring. What exactly are YOU bringing to ME in this regard, especially since you’re the one who approached me?

So far, not nearly enough.

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.