There are many templates for what a committed, monogamous, heterosexual relationship should look like. Everywhere we look, we see individuals engulfed in monogamous (generally heterosexual) couplehood which quite often leads to marriage.
I don’t wish to suggest that all these references to such relationships are bad in any way. But what about all of those relationship types that are not so cut and dry? Those belonging to the kink or poly (polyamorous) communities have very little to speak of in terms of role models and guidance.
Poly individuals cannot just turn on the TV and find examples of similar, healthy relationships in movies. LGBT-identified kink individuals can’t simply pick up a book and assume that the relationships within are going to be relevant to their own situations.
When your lifestyle does not fall within the range of what society deems normal, one must work a little harder to get the information needed to have it all make sense.
You have to look a little harder to find like-minded individuals. You have to be more conscientious and communicative when it comes to relationships because, let’s face it, most people assume that you rock and roll the way they do.
With that said, poly and kink individuals often seek out larger groups of like-minded people, forming a community. And, because communities are broader than normal, monogomous relationships, each individual has to be more specific as to which role they identify with: straight, gay, bi, pan sexual, and so on.
The great thing about not identifying with the rest of society is that you have to be crystal clear about what you want and need in a relationship. And because this is fluid and ever changing, you have no choice but to be on top of your feelings at all times, aware and not just that but you’ve got to be able to communicate it with your partner.
The kink and poly communities live under doctrines of communication, consent and honesty.
Poly individuals need to address things like jealousy and insecurity on a regular basis, because it comes up all the time when you’re actively seeking to engage in non-monogamous situations.
An ethical polyamorous individual should not be afraid, but should embrace the awkward and difficult conversations about being attracted to someone other than their primary partner (that is, if they even follow the dogma of “primary” and “secondary” partners, which is still based on a very monogamous frame).
Similarly, an individual who believes him/herself part of a kink community must address things like trust and safety on a regular basis. Most monogamous, heterosexuals don’t need to discuss these issues regularly, and I think this creates a habit of avoiding important potential problems.
Although community-focused relationships exist today, they are still a great anomaly. The most common dismissal of the poy and kink lifestyle takes the form of that common phrase, “That’s just not for me.”
My issue with this is that, sure, you may not enjoy BDSM, kinky sex or polyamorous relationships, but these communities are not just about that. In fact, being kinky or in an open relationship does not automatically lead to being a part of a community that believes in openness, honesty, communication and consent.
Being part of the community means incorporating these doctrines in your romantic and intimate practices whether you are gay or straight, monogamous or poly, kinky or vanilla. And the truth of the matter is that our culture, with its emphasis on couplehood, love and romance, could really learn a lot about living authentically from these communities as well.