Vetos are for assholes

Or, this one’s sure going to make me popular ūüėÄ

First, definitions. In this context a ‘veto’ agreement is when¬†polyamorous people (often a couple who’ve decided to open their relationship) agree¬†that if they are uncomfortable with their partner’s new relationship, they can¬†tell their partner to dump¬†the new partner, who gets no say in the matter.

Vetos are for assholes. Why? Because secondaries are people! It is not okay to break¬†some innocent person’s heart because you feel insecure. Isn’t the entire point of polyamory loving¬†more than one person? Hurting people so you don’t have to face your demons¬†is the opposite of loving. It’s cruel, and it’s cowardly. If you aren’t ready to work through jealousy and insecurity without treating people like they’re disposable, you’re not ready to explore polyamory. And there’s nothing wrong with not being ready!¬†But if you’re not, admit that you’re not and don’t hurt yourself and others by pretending you are ready.

Cruelty to secondaries alone is plenty of proof that vetos are for assholes, but wait, there’s more!

Using a veto is also cruel to your primary partner. You know, that person you supposedly love and trust? How are they going to feel about having to suddenly dump their other partner? Putting a partner through a breakup so you don’t have to work on your insecurities is basically saying that if someone has to be in pain you want it to be them, not you. Again, how exactly is that a loving thing to do?

And if that doesn’t suck enough, like Mistress Matisse says in her article Poly Power of Veto, actually using a veto is going to damage your partner’s trust in you. Here they were thinking you two were partners in this poly adventure, and now they discover that you’d rather force them to dump their other partner than work through the underlying issue. They’re going to ask themselves whether you’re really supportive of them having other partners or if you’re just grudgingly tolerating it. They’re going to wonder what’s going to happen the next time they get really excited about someone, and they may even start to wonder if they ended the right relationship.

So not only are vetos cruel to secondaries, they’re cruel to primaries too.

They’re also harmful to the relationship. If you don’t trust your partner to take it extremely seriously if you came to them with a concern about one of their other partners, you have a much bigger problem than whatever your partner’s other partner is doing that makes you so unhappy. If you trust your partner and respect their judgement, why on earth would you need a special rule allow¬†you¬†to unilaterally end their¬†relationship with someone else? I mean, would you ever in a million years consider making a rule that your partner¬†can’t invite people who are openly rude to you to your shared home? No,¬†anyone who would do that would undoubtedly be a terrible partner for a multitude of reasons, so there’s really no point making a special rule for someone you should just dump.

If you need to be able to end your partner’s other relationships to feel secure, you’re not ready for poly. Ending one relationship is just a bandaid on a larger problem, as Matisse also said in her article. Outside of situations where your partner’s other partner really is the problem – if that other partner¬†is trying to disrupt your partner’s relationship with you or¬†is constantly having crises that affect you and your partner’s lives, for example – the underlying problem is either your own insecurity or a weakness in your relationship. How is a veto going to fix that?

That’s a concept it took me a while to wrap my head around, so a non-poly example might help. Here is a quote from a ridiculous blog post titled My Husband Doesn’t Need to See Your Boobs:

When your bare shoulders and stretchmark-less bellies and tanned legs pop up, I not only worry if my husband will linger over your picture. I worry how he will compare me to you.

And then the insecurity monster comes back to bite at our relationship again…me, begging for affirmation, and him tiring from saying the same thing over and over.

Asking your partner for a little extra reassurance is absolutely fine, but asking complete strangers¬†to change their behaviour (by not posting revealing pictures of themselves, if you couldn’t make it through that post) so that you don’t have to face your own insecurities is completely unreasonable. It’s also a total¬†waste of time. Even if all conventionally attractive women did stop posting revealing photos, her insecurities would just find another target. Maybe she’d start worrying that her husband wishes she was a better cook,¬†maybe she would worry that she’s not pious enough or doesn’t work hard enough. If nothing else she would, without a shadow of a doubt, start worrying about getting wrinkles and her husband wishing for a partner who didn’t have crows feet or smile lines. Then what? Would¬†she start asking young women with smooth faces to cover those up too?

Just like a lack of boobs on social media wouldn’t do anything to fix this woman’s insecurities, kicking another partner out of your partner’s life won’t fix whatever you feel insecure about. The same problems will come up the next time your partner finds another partner, and the next, and the next, until you finally deal with the underlying problem or (more likely) the relationship crumbles under the strain. Even if the problem is that you’re just not poly (not everyone is!), it’s not the other partner who’s the problem, it’s you and your partner needing incompatible things.

So, vetos are cruel to secondaries, they’re cruel to primaries, and they don’t¬†solve underlying problems.¬†Like I said in the beginning, vetos are for assholes.

Polynormativity

One of many highlights of Westcoast Bound 2014 was the opportunity to personally thank Andrea Zanin for her amazing blog post the problem with polynormativity. I don’t currently identify as polyamorous, but I did dabble in it for a little while and got pretty badly burned. Andrea Zanin’s post (and interview with Cunning Minx on Polyamory Weekly) were really helpful to me. Finally, someone was saying that the way I was treated was not okay, that even if someone is ‘just a secondary’¬†they have the right to be treated like a human being.

One particularly interesting thing about that post is that it took over 200 comments before a secondary partner spoke up in favour of the polynormative model of a primary couple having a girlfriend or boyfriend on the side. Over 200 comments! Unfortunately I can’t link directly to that comment, but if you search the post for “Jennifer Storm – April 3, 2013 at 7:01 pm” you’ll find it. Plenty of butthurt couples showed up to talk about what a big meany Andrea Zanin was for saying they should treat their secondaries like people, not toys who can be thrown out when they become inconvenient, but suspiciously¬†few secondaries defended that model. That alone seems like a pretty strong sign something is badly wrong.

Franklin Veaux wrote¬†an excellent post called A Proposed Secondary’s Bill of Rights, and Aggie¬†wrote another great post called Non-primary partners tell: How to treat us well.

On the one hand it’s great to see people saying “Hey, non-primary partners are in fact¬†people and actually do have feelings”, but on the other hand, to heavily rephrase a point Andrea Zanin already made in her post (which you read already, right? It’s awesome, go read it): what the fuck is wrong with us when we have to tell people to treat their non-primary partners with basic goddamn decency? Seriously, what kind of asshole has to be told that¬†“protecting the couple” is not a good enough reason to treat a secondary partner like they’re disposable?

While not all kinky people are polyamorous (although there does seem to be quite a bit of overlap), there are plenty of us who play with people besides our partners and it’s worth thinking about how we treat those people.¬†Not having sex with a play partner doesn’t mean it’s not still an intimate relationship, not so different from a secondary partner.

And if Andrea Zanin’s post makes you feel extremely defensive, then I hate to break it to you, but you just might be an asshole.

Cuckolding

Cuckolding, at least the way it’s usually presented, is one of those kinks that has just never made sense to me. Which is sad, because if it were just tweaked a little it could be super hot.

When I use the word cuckolding, I’m specifically talking about the fantasy of a cruel dominant woman cheating on her pathetic submissive husband with a Real Man (often a black man, because racism is totally not a huge turn off) who she submits to. In a word, ugh.

For starters, the racism that’s so often a part of that fantasy is just gross. Black guys are people, they don’t exist just to somehow degrade¬†your wife by having sex with her. I know, I know, you can’t help what you’re turned on by, but you can goddamn well help how you talk about it and how you treat actual people outside of your fantasies.

The part I take the most personally is the idea that all women are really submissive at heart and can only be truly sexually fulfilled by being dominated. Fuck that noise. Just because you’re too stupid to grasp the concept of sexually dominant women doesn’t mean they don’t exist. They just don’t hang around with you because you’re an asshole.

And finally, the idea that a submissive man can’t satisfy a woman is incredibly insulting. You may have eroticized being bad in bed, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to date a guy who can’t be bothered to get me off. It’s not even that hard, you just have to be able to follow simple directions! There’s no reason – besides being more interested in¬†his fantasy of how he should treat a dominant woman than in actually satisfying the dominant woman he’s with – that¬†a submissive guy wouldn’t be¬†able to sexually satisfy a woman.

So, given all those huge glaring problems with the usual cuckolding fantasy, how do we make it hot?

First, ditch the racism. Sort that shit out on your own time, don’t ask someone to be a prop in your fantasy.

Second, ditch the dominant guy.¬†That part just makes no sense whatsoever – being a dominant woman, submissive guys are my definition of hotness. Why on earth would I want to fuck someone who is inherently less attractive to me than the lovely¬†submissive man who presumably wants me (the whole cuckolding thing kind of falls apart if all the ‘cuckold’ just doesn’t care who the woman has sex with)?

Not that dominant men can’t be perfectly lovely people, but I’m sure they’d much rather have sex with someone who actually wants them, so leave the poor guys alone.

And finally, ditch the idea that submissive men can’t satisfy a woman. If you can’t get a woman off, the problem is between your ears, not between your legs.

Now that we’ve gotten rid of the gross parts of the fantasy, we’re left with the delicious melty core of heightened power dynamics, helplessness, and unfairness. Showing your partner that you get¬†to have sex¬†with whoever you like and he doesn’t? Hot. Tying him up and making him watch, desperately turned on and with no way to do anything about it? Hot. Having as many orgasms as you want while your partner isn’t even allowed to masturbate? Hot. For emotional sadists it’s probably hot to humiliate their partner by ‘cheating’ on him, but I’m not an emotional sadist so¬†I could be completely wrong there.

Cuckolding¬†is never going to be everyone’s kink,¬†but¬†think how much easier it would be to get dominant women to try it if you¬†didn’t ask them to be racist, submissive, and to tolerate you being a bad lover.

What’s so bad about casual d/s?

I like to think most people have a handle on the idea that you’re still a real kinky person if all you like is a gentle spanking now and then, but we still seem to have a lot of trouble with the idea of casual d/s. I’m as guilty of it as anyone else, I’ve done my share of ragging on people for having ‘velcro collars’ (for those who haven’t heard the term, it’s basically the¬†kink version of serial monogamy, but probably with more of an implication that the person with the ‘velcro collar’ will take it off shortly and move on to the next top/dom/master), and privately shaking my head at people who talk excitedly about their new Master when they’ve known the guy for maybe a week.

But then one day I read a short post on tumblr (at least, I think it was tumblr. If this sounds familiar let me know in the comments) asking what was so bad about casual d/s and you know, I didn’t have a good answer. If casual relationships are okay and casual play is okay, then exactly what is so bad about casual d/s?

For me a¬†collar means a serious long term commitment but doesn’t mean someone else can’t enjoy giving or taking a collar for a week, a weekend, or just a few hours. If everyone involved understands that it’s temporary, what’s the harm? If I did have a collared submissive, someone else’s temporary collar wouldn’t harm that relationship any more than gay marriage harms heterosexual marriage. The worst case scenario there is a bit of confusion when I’m talking with someone and run into mismatched ideas about what a d/s relationship means, and let’s be honest, practically¬†none of the words we use in kink have precise definitions.¬†If they did, negotiation would be so much simpler.

D/s certainly lends itself to strong feelings, and plenty of people have fallen in love with the dynamic and mistaken that for falling in love with the other person in the dynamic, but sex does the same thing for many people and plenty of us¬†have casual sex and keep it casual with no problems. If casual sex or casual d/s doesn’t work for you that’s absolutely fine, but don’t go pretending it doesn’t work for anyone.

Now, I’m not saying nobody ever jumps into a relationship without thinking it through, or replaces partner after partner with the next shiny new thing, but unless you’re really, really sure that’s what someone is doing, can we just give people a break?¬†If you’ve never had a short term relationship (or even a crush) that you felt very strongly about, go ahead and throw the first stone – right after I finish calling you a liar.

No safeword, really?

First, a definition: by a no-safeword scene or playing without a safeword I mean a scene or situation where the participants have agreed that the bottom will not have a safeword to stop the scene and will have to rely on the top knowing when they have really and truly had enough. This is very different from another kind of technically safewordless scene where the participants agree to use plain English, making special code words that really mean no unnecessary.

Lots of people, myself included, are really attracted to¬†the idea of doing a no-safeword scene. I would never want to physically or emotionally damage someone, but¬†having it be my choice when to stop would make me feel more¬†powerful. My understanding of the s-type’s end (please comment and correct me if I’m wrong) is that giving up their safeword makes them feel even less in control in a way they enjoy,¬†and that masochists who want to push their limits sometimes¬†give up their safewords to see if they can go past their self-imposed boundaries.

Playing without a safeword certainly isn’t for everyone, but it can be awesome for the people it does work for. What I’m curious about, though, is whether it’s even possible to really play without a safeword. Using myself as an example, I’m not sure there is any amount of prior negotiation that would make me feel comfortable keeping a scene going while my bottom yelled ‘RED RED I NEED TO STOP RIGHT NOW’, or ‘STOP OR I’LL CALL THE POLICE’, or ‘THIS RELATIONSHIP IS OVER.’ It’s certainly possible that I might slowly and carefully work my way up to understanding that ‘RED OH FUCK IT HURTS’ doesn’t mean ‘stop right now or you’ll be paying for a lot of therapy’, but I can’t see that happening for ‘THIS RELATIONSHIP IS OVER.’ This may mean I’d be an extremely frustrating person to try to do a no-safeword scene with.

However, I don’t think it’s an unusual problem that a top would be more concerned about their ongoing relationship with their bottom than with continuing a scene the bottom might not want anymore. If that’s true, then I think it’s worth talking about¬†how a no-safeword scene can make safewords harder to access but acting as if there really is no safeword is just an act. The same way I think it’s important to remember that a partner can leave you at any time no matter what kind of slave contract they’ve signed, I think it’s important to be realistic about the potential for even the most carefully negotiated no-safeword scene to be ended early by the equivalent of a safeword. Kidding yourself about that is just going to make you unhappy.

Readers, have any of you done no-safeword scenes? If you haven’t, would you? If you have, how did they work out?