Without making them sound trite and simple, I'd like to suggest that traditional, monogamous, hetero-normative relationships are cut and dry for the most part. If only for the fact that there are many templates, many road maps for what a committed monogamous, heterosexual relationship should look like. Everywhere we look we see couples, whether it be on TV, movies, the news, or to our neighbors, our society, culture and day and age has subscribed to a normal way of life: monogamous couplehood which quite often leads to marriage. And the majority of those are still heterosexual.
Now, I am not writing this article to suggest that the norm is bad in any way. But, what if there wasn't such a clear, cut and dried roadmap for relationships, then what? Well, I believe this is true for what is considered the kink or poly (polyamorous) communities, the alternative lifestyles so to speak, which are marginalized at best, with very little to speak of in terms of role models, guidance and what the heck should I do in this situation? Poly individuals cannot just turn on the TV and ask, well what would Kate Hudson's character do in "Something Borrowed?" LGBT identified kink individuals cannot simply pick up a book and assume it's going to be written in their specific language. This is a good thing though and I will tell you why. 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 make it all make sense for them. One must look a little harder to find like minded individuals and one must also be more conscientious, more communicative when it comes to relationships, because let's face it most people are assuming 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 which make up a community and because the communities are broader each individual has to be more specific as to which role they identify with. From straight, gay, bi or pan sexual to top, bottom and even more and more specific the deeper you go.
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The great thing about not identifying with the rest of society is you have to be crystal clear about what you want, need and how you see yourself in a relationship. And because this may be 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 are based on the doctrines of communication, consent and honesty. Poly individuals need to address things like jealousy and insecurity on a regular basis because it is something, which comes up all the time when you are actively seeking to engage in non-monogamous situations. An ethical polyamorous individual will not be afraid but will rather 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 in nature frame, which I will save for another article). Or the ins and outs of what sex and emotional intimacy means to them and then must address this with their partner(s).
Similarly an individual who believes him/herself to be part of a kink community must address things like trust and safety on a regular basis. Most monogamous, heterosexuals do not need to address these issues regularly and therefor don't worry their heads about them, but I think this leads to a lot of brushing issues under the rug, ignoring and avoiding and just assuming the relationship will work itself out. The sex will automatically get better because that's what happens in the movies, right? But I believe that if most did take the time to address issues as they come up from being attracted to others, to wanting to try new sex positions, instead of letting their relationship just run itself, instead of operating on assumptions about whether or not your partner is or isn't attracted to someone else. Whether they are cheating or not cheating, whether they like the same old sex positions or would like something new, whether they even want to be monogamous or not, then there would be a lot more conversations, a lot more communication, a lot more open honesty, a lot more understanding, a lot more vulnerability, a lot more risks and a lot more trust and faith. Which would mean people would be feeling more connected, more intimate not just with one another, but in tune with themselves as well. I mean, doesn't everyone want that, to know exactly what is going on with themselves and with their relationship(s)? Why then do so many people avoid having these conversations in their relationships?
Kink and Poly are these lifestyles dujour as of late, but still a great anomaly. I often hear, "That's just not for me." No, BDSM, Kink, and polyamorous relationships may not be your cup of tea, but these communities are not about that. In fact, being kinky or in an open relationship does not equate being 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 our culture with it's emphasis on couplehood, love and romance could really learn a lot about living authentically and from the heart from these communities as well.
Moushumi Ghose is a Los Angeles based sex therapist, and co-host of The Sex Talk webseries.
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