How to Be a Good Couple to Threesome With

I’ve had a LOT of threesomes. I love them. Due to my status of more-or-less-constantly-in-a-relationship-since-I-was-a-teenager, I’ve more often – not always, but often – been one of the members of the more established couple, rather than the third person coming in for playtime.

Three Maine Coon cats sitting down in a row and looking at the camera. The middle one is white with a ginger face and the other two are tabbies. For a post about being a good couple to threesome with.

Playing with an existing couple can be really daunting, even if you’re really into them both. like to think that Mr CK and I are a good couple to threesome with. We’ve been told so, anyway! So I thought I’d set down some things that I believe a couple can do in order to treat the third party in their threesome well, and make sure they have a good time.

1. No Pressure

Pressure is a massive libido killer. It’s a really bad idea to go into a threesome or potential threesome with a very rigid idea of how you want it to go. This puts undue pressure on everyone, and especially on the third party, who may feel that they have (or actually have) less negotiating power than the couple.

Don’t rush things. Don’t invite a potential playmate over To Have A Threesome And Anything Else Is A Failure. Spend time getting to know what makes them tick, what they’re into, what they’re hoping to get out of the experience, what kind of ongoing dynamic they’re interested in with the two of you (if any), and how they communicate.

And for fuck’s sake, when things do progress to a sexy place, don’t make it a rush to get around all the “bases” as quickly as possible! Making out, touching, groping, hand stuff, oral sex, kink play… all of these things can be amazing. Yes, intercourse can be on the table, but it doesn’t have to be… and rushing to get there will just result in a bad time for everyone.

2. Have your own house in order first.

Nothing is more awkward than being in the middle of a couple having a fight… except being in bed with a couple having a fight.

Discuss your feelings. Talk about any insecurities or jealousies you have that might come up. Plan for how you’ll handle it if they do come up – in a way that is kind and compassionate to everyone, including the third person. “Well we can just kick her out if one of us gets jealous” is neither a solid plan nor an ethical way to treat a human being.

Don’t attempt to bring anyone else in to your relationship, whether for casual sex or something more, unless your relationship is solid first. Note I said solid, not perfect – perfection does not exist. It is monumentally unfair to bring a third party into a dynamic that is crumbling or dysfunctional. It is even more unfair to expect that this person, or sex with them, will somehow fix your relationship issues.

“Relationship broken, add more people” is a cliche because so many couples try to do it… and it never, ever ends well.

3. Approach sex as a collaboration, not a service from them to you.

If you want to have a threesome with a third party where the focus is really on the two of you in the couple, and their pleasure is less of a priority, consider hiring a sex worker. Your threesome partner, even if the sex is casual, is not a life-size sex toy! They’re a person with their own wants, needs, desires and feelings.

Sex is a collaboration, a dance. Everyone should give and receive pleasure and the goal should be mutual satisfaction for all parties – not just the couple. Your threesome buddy may not be a fully fledged member of your ongoing relationship, but they are a fully fledged member of whatever dynamic the three of you are creating together. Collaborate to have a sexy time. Don’t use them.

4. Consent first, consent last, consent in all things.

Check in early and often. If you’re not absolutely 1000% sure you have consent for something, ASK. “Ruining the mood” is a myth – a good time will never be ruined by checking on consent for something, but it can easily be ruined by overstepping someone’s boundaries.

And of course it should go without saying that no means no, and you should never push someone to do something if they don’t want to.

Mr CK and I received an email from someone we played with recently, thanking us for how good we were at consent and boundaries, and it is honestly one of the best compliments I have ever received.

5. Openly discuss safer sex.

This is absolutely vital. Ideally, this discussion should happen while clothes are still on, long before any sex happens, but it can happen in the moment if necessary. Everyone should disclose their testing status, their safer-sex protocols, the method(s) of birth control they’re using, and any other relevant information – an allergy to latex, for example.

This is as much your responsibility as a couple as it is the third party’s responsibility! 

6. Have things you’re likely to need on hand.

Have a stash of condoms, lube, gloves and dams easily reachable. Think about, and discuss, what toys you’re likely to want and have them easily accessible too (and charged, if applicable)!

7. Have an aftercare plan.

Will your threesome buddy stay over, or would they prefer to go home afterwards? How will they get home safely? If they do stay, would they prefer to sleep with you both or in a separate bed? (I hereby promise that anyone who stays over at ours after sexy time will get pancakes and your favourite hot beverage in the morning. Just, you know, in case it tempts anyone…!)

Make sure there’s time afterwards to cuddle, debrief if necessary, and make sure everyone is okay and has everything they need. Offer, and ask for, reassurance and affection freely as needed. Check in with your sexy friend the next day to make sure all is well with them.

Aaaaand that’s it. Follow these tips and, while I can’t guarantee you’ll have an amazing threesome, you’ll be safe in the knowledge that you’re treating your Special Guest Star with the respect, compassion and consideration they deserve.

Image is from Pixabay. It’s what came up when I searched “three” and it amused me so it stays. If you enjoyed this post, you can buy me a coffee to say thanks or become one of my sexy Patrons, and access some exciting bonus content!

2017 “Top 5” Roundup

Apart from my 1 Year Anniversary post on New Years’ Eve (which is written and ready to go,) this will probably be my last post of 2017. In that vein, I wanted to end the year with a roundup post of sorts, some Top 5s from the year.

I hope you are all having a wonderful festive season and I can’t wait to keep the conversation about all things sex and kink going with you in 2018.

A fluffy tabby cat playing with a gold bauble handing from a Christmas tree. For a post about Top 5s of 2017.

Top 5 New Sex Toys

#1Doxy Number 3, simply one of the most perfect things to ever have graced my bits.
#2We-Vibe Tango, the only bullet I will ever need.
#3Satisfyer Pro 2 Next Generation, the toy that made me like suction toys.
#4Come Hither Rabbit, the only rabbit vibrator I’ve ever enjoyed.
#5The Ruby Glow, a revelation in ride-on fun.

Top 5 Sex Blogging Inspirations

#1Kayla Lords
#2Girl on the Net
#3Molly Moore
#4Kate Sloan
#5Emmeline Peaches

Top 5 Awesome Events

#1Eroticon 2017, the one that started it all.
#2 – Autumn CM/nf, where I get to be naked and ogle pretty men in suits.
#3Lube & a Laptop, a fun summer social with other sexy writers and creators.
#4 – BiCon 2017, where I got to teach my workshop on “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex Toys” for the first time.
#5 – Sex Blogger Christmas, a super fun (and boozy) event hosted by the wonderful EA and Livvy.

Top 5 Books About Sex

#1Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski
#2How a Bad Girl Fell in Love by Girl on the Net
#3Approaching the Swingularity by Cooper S Beckett
#4Enjoy Sex (How, When and IF You Want To) by Meg-John Barker & Justin Hancock
#5The Myth of Sex Addiction by Dr David Ley

Top 5 Podcasts

#1Loving BDSM, where Kayla and John bring their unique brand of humour, opinions and adorableness to speaking and educating on all aspects of the BDSM lifestyle. #CricketCrew4Lyf
#2The Dildorks, “dorky discourse on sex, dating and masturbating,” with the wonderful Kate Sloan and Bex Caputo.
#3The Guilty Feminist, which makes me cry with laughter and feel better about all the times my life choices don’t fully match my highest feminist ideals.
#4Polyamory Weekly, a very long-standing favourite about all aspects of unconventional love.
#5Life on the Swingset, the swinging and polyamory podcast.

Top 5 Blog Posts

#1The Tyranny of No Rules: In Defense of Polyamorous Heirarchy
#2I’m Looking for Baggage that Goes with Mine
#3“Pretty” is Not My Success – On Being a Swan
#4#SexNotStigma: Using My Sexuality to Manage my Mental Health
#5“Bring the Collar” – The True Story of a D/s Breakup

Top 5 Accomplishments

#1 – Winning the New Voices Award from Molly’s annual list of the best sex bloggers.
#2 – Placing as one of Kinkly’s Top 100 Sex Blogging Superheroes.
#3 – Starting to earn Actual Money from writing about sex.
#4 – Organising Smutathon 2017 and raising £2,000 for Backlash and Rape Crisis.
#5 – Doing #KinkMonth/3o Days of Ds and writing a post every single day for the month of October.

Top 5 Goals for 2018

#1 – Start a PhD programme.
#2 – Cut down to 4 days a week on my day job and make up the additional income from writing.
#3 – Place in the Top 50 of the Kinkly Sex Blogging Superheroes list.
#4 – Have a piece of erotic fiction published, either in an anthology or as a stand-alone.
#5 – Finish my sexy novella set at a BDSM convention.

So there you have it, friends! What were your Top 5s of 2017?

Affiliate links are used within this post. All opinions my own. Image is courtesy of Pixabay.

It IS [Mostly] All About the Sex

For today’s #KinkMonth post, it’s all about SEX! As you’ll have gathered (unless this is your first visit, in which case – welcome!) I’m doing posts inspired by Kayla Lords’ 30 Days of D/s. Today, Kayla asks:

Have you ever considered D/s without a sexual component? Would you be interested in something like it? How important is sex to your current or future D/s relationship?

A pair f black lace panties lying on the floor next to two condom packets, one torn open. For a post about people saying BDSM is not about sex

I do it because it gets me off.

For some reason, it seems to be a thing to deny that BDSM is mostly, or entirely, about sex. And for some people, this is probably true. But, if I’m completely honest, I’m a bit sick of it.

For me, kink and BDSM are, and always have been, overwhelmingly about sex. Yes, they’re means of connecting with people I love. They’re sometimes spiritual. But for fuck’s sake, the vast majority of the time, I do this stuff because it makes my cunt wet and gets me off.

People have tried to divorce BDSM entirely from sex. I am willing to entertain that there are some people – folks at the far end of the Ace spectrum, for example – for whom this is the case. But at its core, I do believe it’s fundamentally a sexual or sex-adjacent practice 99% of the time.

I don’t fuck everyone I scene with, but I do get turned on during pretty much any good kink interaction. It’s part of my pre-negotiation with new partners: “you don’t have to do anything about it, but you need to be okay with the fact that if we have a good scene, I WILL be aroused.”

What’s wrong with sex anyway?

We live in a world where it’s pretty hard to admit that something we do is mainly or entirely about sex. Sex is not seen as a good enough reason to do something – there has to be a higher purpose, a better reason.

Confession I’m seriously not proud of time: pre-20, I was really judgy about people who have casual sex. “I only have sex when I’m in LOVE,” I proclaimed loudly, as if it made me better than other people. Thankfully, I 1) grew the fuck up and stopped being a judgemental bitch, 2) learned the awesomeness that is good casual sex.

A lot of polyamorous people – and yes, I used to be one of them, much to my embarrassment – go around saying “it’s about LOVE, not SEX!” This often goes hand in hand with, “we’re not SWINGERS!” The problem with this is that it implies being a swinger is a bad thing, that love is inherently superior to sex, and it neglects the fact that sex is a hugely important part of romantic love for a lot of us. In this way, people who are ostensibly part of the sex-positive community fall into sex-negative and sex-shaming patterns.

It’s easy to do and I sympathise with it. We’re taught, more or less from birth, that sex is bad. Dirty. Gross. That sex is only “when mummy and daddy love each other very much and want to have a baby.” A huge part of sex-positivity and the sex-posi movement, in my view, is about unlearning these toxic narratives and trying to do better.

Real talk: I don’t have an IUD to control my period (though that’s a nice side effect.) I have it for sex.

For evidence of pervasive anti-sex sentiment, see also: “I use birth control for reasons that have nothing to do with sex, like controlling my painful periods.” Again, for a lot of people with uteruses (uteri?), this is entirely true and it’s completely valid.

However, lots of us DO use birth control for sex, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Saying that it should be freely available BECAUSE it has uses that aren’t sexual is really problematic. It should be freely available because it’s a normal part of healthcare, and lots of people like sex while also liking not being pregnant.

Let’s all just admit that some things ARE about sex

My challenge to you, and to myself: next time you find yourself wanting to defend a part of your life or identity with “it’s not about sex!” …Stop. Think about it. And resist the temptation to jump to this defense. Because sometimes, it is about sex. And there’s not a damn thing wrong with that.

I’ll leave you with my favourite quote from the great Oscar Wilde: “Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power.”

Kinky item of the day: Condoms! If you engage in penetrative sex or share toys in non fluid-bonded relationships, you need condoms to keep things sexy and safe. Buy 2 packs for 20% off.

Heads up: this post contains an affiliate link.

The image featured in this post was offered for use via Creative Commons Licensing.

Building Your House Together: Using Rules for Good

Hey, I’m pro-rules in relationships. (Related, I’m also pro-hierarchy in polyamory – yes, even when I’m not the one on top of the heap. Read this to find out why.)

A close up of a section of red brick wall, for a post about rules

Did you see that I’m celebrating #KinkMonth by writing posts inspired by Kayla Lords’ 30 Days of D/s project?

Join the discussion on Twitter or sign up for the project yourself – it’s FREE and can be used any way you like. Today’s prompt is all about rules. Kayla and John simply ask:

Do you know what kind of rules you may want or need?

A note about this post: it doesn’t contain much in the way of practical tips. I will do one soon with some more concrete advice on setting positive and useful relationship rules. This one is more a primer on my personal philosophy on the concept of rules/agreements in romantic relationships.

What’s wrong with rules?

A lot of non-monogamous people are against rules in relationships. The thinking goes: if you need rules to keep your partner from hurting you, the relationship is already doomed. I kind of agree with that sentiment, in so far as it goes. But I think it presents an unhelpfully pessimistic view on the role of rules in adult relationships.

Mr CK and I have rules in our relationship. They include things like always using condoms with lovers outside of our dyad, STI testing every 3 months, not having sex with someone new until the other has met the person, and not engaging in ongoing (i.e. longer than a scene) D/s dynamics with other people.

The rules don’t exist to keep either of us in line or prevent us from running amok over each other’s feelings. If we were going to do that, no rules would stop us, in the same way that the “rules” of traditional monogamy won’t stop somebody who is determined to cheat.

We have them because they keep us, and our relationship, happy and healthy.

A better framework

Used properly, rules aren’t a tool to bash your partner over the head with or keep them in line against your will. Used properly, they’re are the walls you build – collaboratively – to contain the house of your relationship.

You can use the word “agreements,” if you prefer, but in this framework they amount to the same thing. They’re limits, boundaries or modes of behaviour that you both (/all) agree to operate within, for the good of the relationship and everyone involved. Good rules should bring a sense of safety and security, like the solid, stable walls of your home. They’re not a prison.

If the agreements of your relationship are feeling like a cage, a conversation with your partner is in order. If your partner is arbitrarily imposing new ones without due discussion and buy-in from you, that’s a major red flag. (Incidentally, you obviously shouldn’t do this to your partner either!) To go back to the shared house metaphor, you wouldn’t just decide to build an extension or divide your living room in half without consulting your partner, would you? (If you would, umm, your relationship operates very differently from mine so please explain to me how this works for you!)

Build your house – together

I was once invited to move in by a partner and metamour. The further into “how will this work?” discussions we got, the more I came to realise a troubling fact. Namely, that their concept was that I would have little to no say in the running of the house. From the colour we’d paint the bathroom to the guests who were and weren’t allowed in the house, I would have very minimal input – while paying half the mortgage, naturally. I realise now, looking back, how fitting a metaphor this was for our relationship. They made the rules and I got no say, both in our trio and in my dyadic relationship with him. We weren’t building the metaphoric (or literal) house together – I was a permanent guest in theirs. I was caged.

I share this anecdote just to illustrate how a framework of rules can be really badly misappropriated. Contrast this with Mr CK and me, who thoroughly negotiate every agreement we make as equals. We leave them all open to discussion of renegotiation at any time, and always consider them with the best possible outcome for everyone involved in mind. Saying all rules (/agreements/boundaries) are inherently bad is like saying walls or doors or windows or grey tiling are inherently bad. They’re not. They’re elements you can pick and choose for your house – your relationship – to make sure it’s designed exactly the way you want it.

Keeping the house clean

You don’t build a house, move in, and expect to never do any work on it again. That’d be ridiculous. You have to sweep, do the dishes, repaint the odd wall and occasionally rip a piece out completely and spend loads of time fixing it. Maintaining the ‘house’ of your relationship is exactly the same. You don’t set the rules once and then you’re done. No. You have to tinker, negotiate

Build your perfect relationship the way you’d build your perfect house, with walls – agreements – to keep you cozy inside. That way, you can prevent the leaking roof of drama, and always have a safe home to retreat to and invite your loved ones into.

Kinky item of the day: Nipple clamps, for squeezy, pinchy fun! I looove clamps so much, both on my nipples and labia. (Pro tip: leave them on for more than 5-10 minutes, and they hurt like hell when they come off!)

This post contains an affiliate link. If you buy through it, I may make a small commission. Opinions are, and will always be, my own.

The image in this post was offered for use via Creative Commons Licensing.

On the Same Team? Some Thoughts on Conflict.

It’s #KinkMonth, so I’m celebrating by writing a post a day inspired by the prompts in Kayla Lords’ brilliant 30 Days of D/s, a completely free project that invites you to consider all different angles of kinky relationships. Today’s prompt is all about one of my least favourite things in the world (ranked below “cheating” but definitely above “instant coffee” on the Things Amy Hates scale): conflict.

How do you handle conflict now? How do you imagine handling it in D/s? What do you think you’ll need to do differently in a D/s relationship?

I’m a very conflict averse person. Very very. Having someone angry with me is often really frightening to me and falling out with a loved one can be devastating. Unfortunately, conflict is a necessary part of human relationships – whether romantic or platonic, vanilla or kinky, conflict will rear its ugly head sooner or later.

I’ve learned a lot of things about conflict management over the years, in particular the truism that the ideal goal isn’t to have no conflict, but to process conflict in a healthy and positive way to move towards a resolution.

Today, though, I want to tell you about the one thing that I believe is at the heart of whether conflict resolution ultimately succeeds or fails. Namely:

Are you ultimately on the same side?

I don’t mean “do you agree right now?” because clearly you don’t or the conflict wouldn’t exist. What I mean is, in the grand scheme of things, in the bigger picture, are you on the same team? Do you want the same thing? Are you both seeking, in good faith, a mutually beneficial outcome?

If not, you’re fucked. If yes, you might have a good chance at resolving things and moving forward positively.

Mr CK and I had some pretty major conflicts when we first began living together, as it was – unsurprisingly – a period of major upheaval for both of us and for our relationship. Similarly, we had some doozies as we worked through how we would go about opening our relationship. Apart from a fucking incredible therapist, there’s one thing more than anything else that I believe got us through those tough times:

The knowledge and repeated assertions that we wanted the same thing, were on the same team, were merely seeking the same result from different angles – not after diametrically opposed outcomes that could never be reconciled.

I’ve been in relationships where what we wanted was ultimately completely incompatible. The conflicts were endless and circular because we could never come to a place of resolution… because that resolution didn’t exist. There are some conflicts where the desired outcomes are so completely mutually exclusive that there is just no way for both parties to get what they want. It’s really sad when it happens. But it’s better to realise it than to spend the next however many years of your life locked in a never-ending battle to be right.

This isn’t about small annoyances. This isn’t about the fact that he’s perpetually late while you’re very punctual, or the fact that she always leaves the kitchen cupboards open and it drives you crazy. (Unless those things are legitimate dealbreakers for you, in which case, Godspeed.) What I’m talking about here is big picture incompatibilities, those things that you argue about over and over and over and you never come to a resolution because making both of you happy is impossible.

Take this question, which I’ve seen in various permutations in a million advice columns over the years:

“He’s desperate for us to have a baby now. I don’t know if I want children ever, and even if I do, I’m too focused on my career to want to think about it for at least ten years. How do we both get what we want?”

Answer: you can’t. You literally can’t. You can’t at once have a baby and not have one for ten years or possibly ever. The possibilities here are that one of you drastically changes your desires or perspective (possible but unlikely,) one of you is perpetually dissatisfied, unhappy and possibly resentful (possible but not desirable,) you have this circular argument several times a year into forever (likely, but also not desirable,) or you break up.

Replace this question with literally any massive incompatibility (“she wants to open our relationship but I’m staunchly monogamous,” “they insist I convert to their religion if we’re going to be together, but I’m a happy atheist,” “he’s a right-winger with neo-Nazi sympathies, and I’m a feminist,”) and the answer is the same. If there is a way for two people with such opposing core values or needs to be together happily… well, I don’t know what it is.

Contrast these with something like this: “we’re really frustrating each other because we’re having to adjust to each other’s way of living. But we both really want a happy, harmonious household where we both feel at home.” Or “we both definitely want an open relationship, but we keep getting smacked in the face with insecurities and fears we didn’t know we had.”

The specifics will be different in each case, of course. But what it boils down to, for me, is whether or not you’re ultimately, when push comes to shove, on the same side. Because your partner should be your teammate, not your enemy, even in situations of conflict.

Kinky item of the day: Under-bed restraints, which are currently 30% off at Lovehoney. Perfect for that classic “spread-eagle” position – and, since they fasten only with velcro, they’re quick release and great for beginners.

Note: this post was not sponsored. An affiliate link is included above and if you buy from it, I may make a small commission. Opinions are, and will always be, my own.

 

Competitive Submission, or: A Journey Through Labels

For those just joining now, I’m celebrating #KinkMonth by writing posts inspired by Kayla Lords’ 30 Days of D/s project.

Day 3 is about labels. Today’s post is quite vulnerable and also heavily based on a stream of consciousness I splurged onto Fetlife last year. Kayla & John ask:

Beyond the basic title of Dominant or submissive, are there other titles you prefer or are interested in exploring? Are there any that turn you off or don’t seem like a good fit for you?

Some titles for Dominants may be Master, Sir, Daddy, Mistress, Lady, etc. Titles for submissives can be pet, babygirl, little one, boy, girl, etc.

A name badge style label with "submissive" crossed out and "Switch" next to it. For a post on competitive submission.

On Fetlife, you have to pick a “role” to list on your profile. There’s the usual Dominant, submissive, Master, Mistress, slave. Then there’s the slightly more specific babygirl/babyboy, Daddy, Mommy, pet, Primal. And then there’s the nondescript and vague Kinkster, Unsure, Evolving.

I’ve flip-flopped between labels over the years. For a very long time, I considered myself the most subby of the submissives. Topping was just not something I could ever see myself doing. So I listed my role as submissive.

Then, at twenty, I found myself pinning a willing submissive man to a bed and fucking him, telling him that he was Mine. And I liked it. Gradually, I explored my Dominant energy and realised I could get off on that rush of power, on reducing someone to a puddle of lust with just my hands and voice. I changed my label to Switch.

Then I realised that being young, hot and listed as a Switch brought out the worst of all kinds of men on Fetlife. The Doms were convinced their Domly dick was all I would ever need to shove myself firmly back into the box labelled “submissive”. The submissives wanted to crawl at my feet and serve me (for the value of “serve” which means “have me fulfill their every sexual fantasy”). I couldn’t be arsed with it. I switched to the vague Kinkster. Something about that nondescript label – possibly along with aging out of the coveted “18-24” age bracket – hugely diminished the number of unsolicited gunk in my inbox. But it didn’t feel like me.

In the midst of my relationship with my ex-Master, I switched (heh) back to submissive. I filled my profile with variations on, “I AM OWNED, LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE”. It worked, sort of, but it still only described a fraction of the rich and complex tapestry of the Amy.

Me and Mr CK switch with each other. This has been the case since the beginning, and will most continue to be the case for as long as our lives run in parallel. We both enjoy both sides of the slash (him more “D,” me more “). So I changed my role once again to Switch, and that was that.

And then… well. There’s no way to make myself look good here. I got competitive. Jealous. Scared.

My partner started dating someone, you see, who we’ll call The Doctor. She listed herself as 100% submissive. (Having been on the receiving end of her hand spanking my ass, I respectfully disagree with that label, but people have the right to self-identify.) It was this, more than the sex or the romance or anything else, that freaked me the fuck out. My headweasels took over and convinced me absolutely, in the space of a couple of weeks, that:

One: Identifying as a submissive, instead of a Switch, made this person inherently better at submitting than me purely on the basis that they never swapped roles.

Two: Therefore, my partner would prefer playing with her to playing with me.

Three: Therefore, my partner would use all his kinky/sexy/Dominant energy on her, leaving none left for me, start taking her to all our favourite kinky events instead of me, and collar her as his 24/7 submissive despite emphatically telling me he doesn’t want that dynamic with anybody.

Four: Therefore, my relationship would be over if I couldn’t show him beyond all doubt that I was at least as good a submissive, if not better, than this other person.

The thing is, this was all in my head. Neither of them did anything to indicate to me that there was any validity to these fears whatsoever. In desperation, not knowing what else to do to fight the battle against my own mind, I changed my status back to submissive. It took a very long and tearful conversation with my partner, in which all my fears fell out of my mouth and into his lap, for me to articulate what was really going on and say “I’m scared as fuck that you’ll leave me for someone else who’s more submissive than I am.”

That was when I learned that my Switchyness, and the Switching dynamic we share, is a feature, not a bug. It’s one of the things he loves about me. It was also when I began to internalise that:

One: Submission is not a contest.

Two: Being a Switch doesn’t make my submission, when I give it, less real or authentic or beautiful.

There’s a stigma against Switches in a lot of the kink world. Much like bisexuals, we’re told that we’re greedy, that we’re confused. That we need to get off the fence and make up our damn minds.

I tend to date either Top-leaning Switches, or exclusive Tops/Doms. It’s getting much better (thanks, in part, to fabulous partners who embrace ALL of me as I am!) but on some levels I still struggle with the insecurity whispering that, as a Switch, I’m a poor second choice and a Top/Dom would always choose a 100% submissive over me and like a 100% submissive more than me. I also worry, because Mr and I hang out at a lot of fem-sub/M-Dom events, that I’ll be judged poorly or thought less of due to being a Switch.

On the flip side, sometimes I feel like a fraud for identifying as Switch because my interests are so unbalanced. It’s really hard to put a number on it and it fluctuates. At the moment my desires are probably 90% sub/bottom and 10% Dom/Top. On the occasions when I do Top, I worry that my submissive partner is just going to say, “you’re shit at this, I’m gonna go do it with a real Dom.”

So where the fuck does that leave me?

Sadly, there isn’t a role option on Fetlife for “Basically submissive at heart but still gets a huge rush from Topping once in a while because I like the feeling of power and the reactions and the knowledge that I’m giving so much pleasure.”

So… yeah.

Switch.

Remember: a label is the beginning of a conversation, not the end.

Kinky item of the day: Collars by Kabunza. I’m not affiliated with this company in any way, but I could talk them up forever because 1) Aemilia Hawk is the most wonderful human being and I adore her. 2) their stuff is so beautiful it makes my heart sing. 3) their customer service is brilliant. 4) we should all support our friendly neighbourhood kinky businesses.

I hope you enjoyed this post! If you’d like to support me, please consider becoming a sexy Patron, buying me a virtual coffee, or shopping with my affiliates in the right hand sidebar.

The image featured in this post was sourced from Pixabay and edited by me. Please don’t steal my edit without express permission.

Sex Educator Interview #6: Dr Liz Powell

Today’s interview is with Dr Liz Powell, who co-hosts Life on the Swingset the podcast as well as doing tonnes of other awesome work. Let’s dive in to what she had to say…

Tell us a little bit about you and the work you do?

I’m Dr. Liz from sexpositivepsych.com. I’m a sex educator, speaker, co-host of the Life on the Swingset podcast, and regular guest on several other podcasts as part of my mission to help people have more meaningful, pleasurable relationships in life and work, as well as the bedroom. I’m also a coach and licensed psychologist (CA 27871)  that works with thruples, couples, and singles to help folks be more of who they really are and communicate more effectively with their partners. Because being confident in who you are is the gateway to great relationships and great sex – and great sex can change the world.

Can you tell us (in brief) your “sex educator origin story?”

I’ve been out as queer since I was 17, had my first non-monogamous relationship at 17 (dating quad), and have been involved in kink since I was in college. I was always the person my friends came to for questions about sex or to take them shopping at the adult store. Once I was getting ready to leave the Army in 2015, I decided to transition to full time work with my favorite populations – sexual and gender minorities (SGM) – and issues – sexual problems, relationship issues, trauma. I then started presenting at different conferences and from there went into teaching at venues like sex shops and the Armory here in San Francisco. I love the work I do and I feel really lucky that I get to devote my time to topics I’m passionate about!

What came first: sex education or psychotherapy? How do they inform each other?

I’ve wanted to be a therapist since middle school because I loved figuring out how people work and helping people grow and heal and thrive, so I guess in some ways the therapy part came first. However, I did my first informal sex education work in college when I was president of my school Gay Straight Alliance, long before I ever saw any therapy clients, so maybe it’s that therapy was first in my heart, but education was first in practice. Regardless, I love them both and I think they go hand in hand really nicely.

Why do you think it’s so important for psychs and other medical professionals to be sex positive, and how would you like to see the medical community change in this regard?

In graduate school, the entirety of my training in sexuality was a one weekend class. 10 hours. That’s it. When I worked in multidisciplinary teams in the Army as a psychologist, I saw first hand how little education in sexuality and non-mainstream relationship/sexual practices most medical professionals have. In the field of therapy, most therapists never ask their clients about sex, even though most psychiatric conditions impact a person’s sex life. Medical professionals have often balked at the STI testing I request from them, and some of them haven’t had current information about STIs at all. When we, as those holding a position of power in a provider-client relationship, don’t address sex, we reinforce that sex is shameful and not welcome in our room. We prevent our clients and patients from sharing important information with us that is impacting their lives in deep ways.

I think most professionals shy away from sex because they’re worried that a client will view questions about sex as a come on or something inappropriate, but research shows again and again that our clients follow our lead when determining what they can and cannot talk about. If you bring your own shame or judgments about sexuality into your practice, you are harming your clients and patients.

For instance, I recently saw a Facebook post by a psychologist I knew in the Army outright stating that they would never approve someone’s request for gender confirmation surgery because they think trans people are mentally ill. The American Psychological Association has clearly stated that the research indicates that gender dysphoria is a medical concern, not a mental illness, and that the harm is in denying treatment, but this person, because of his own judgments, is comfortable publicly stating his intention to shame and harm any trans clients he works with.

Without sex positivity in our practices, we violate the first principle of almost every code of ethics in our fields – that we do no harm, and maximize benefit. We as providers must unpack our own issues so that we can serve those who entrust us with their well being.

What’s the best thing about being a sex educator, in your opinion? The worst?

I’ll start with the worst because I like to end on high notes. The worst part of being a sex educator, for me, has been how hard you have to hustle to just start getting paid. I did a panel last year with Dirty Lola of sexedagogo.com and Rebecca Hiles, The Frisky Fairy, of friskyfairy.com, called Sex Positive and Poor where we all talked about how broke most sex educators are. Most of my friends who do sex education for their main income are constantly worried about paying their bills. Being a therapist helps with this some, as I can make a decent income from individual client sessions, but building up a private practice is slow and I went into a lot of credit card debt to get my business going. It looks way more glamorous on the outside than it feels on the inside.

The best part of being a sex educator, at least in my experience, is the amazing community of people I get to be a part of. I’ve got people in my life who I can send a message to about the crazy sex I had and they’re there to cheer me on. Or I can message them to talk about the grief I’ve been working through about my lover who died. The folks I’m lucky to call friends are some of the most kind, loving, smart, perverted, funny people I’ve ever met and I am thankful every day to have them in my life.

What’s your favourite project that you’ve done/been involved with?

My favorite is one I’m currently working on! Cooper Beckett, one of my Life on the Swingset co-hosts, and I are writing a book called Building Open Relationships. It’s a practical, hands on, nuts and bolts guide for how to actually DO non-monogamy. There are so many great theory-based resources out there (More Than Two by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert, Opening Up by Tristan Taormino, The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy), but both he and I felt like some of the nitty gritty was missing. We’re creating worksheets, conversation starters, checklists, all kinds of nerdy goodness to help people learn from our mistakes and success.

Tell us about a book that completely changed your life/perspective?

I think this would have to be something by Brené Brown, probably Daring Greatly. Something most folks don’t know about therapists in general, and me in particular, is that we can seem super open and vulnerable, but most of us (or especially me) often suck at being really vulnerable. It’s like I’ve got this great facade of openness that keeps folks outside of the REAL walls. In the last couple of years, I’ve been working really hard on moving past perfectionism and self-judgment and developing my skills at vulnerability and honesty. It’s been a really really REALLY hard journey, but I feel like a much better human, leader, therapist, educator, friend, and partner because of it.

What’s something you used to believe about sex/relationships but don’t believe any more, and what changed your mind?

I used to believe that you could use rules in a relationship in a way that could be healthy. Before I go further, I want to clarify that I’ll be using the terms Boundaries, Agreements, and Rules the way they are defined in More Than Two – boundaries are about myself, agreements are renegotiable by any involved party, rules affect parties that do not have renegotiation power.

Back when I first did some non-monogamy, I almost always had rules with my partners about what I would “allow” them to do with others or what I was “allowed” to do. Many of these rules involved sex acts, time spent together, or levels of emotional involvement. I think that most of the time these rules came from a place of feeling afraid or insecure and wanting to create an external structure to prevent those feelings from happening. What changed this for me was lots of failing in relationships to live up to rules I had agreed to or failing of partners to live up to rules they had agreed to. I also think that reading More Than Two and their clear ethically rooted explanations about rules made it really clear why using rules wasn’t within my values.

What’s the one thing that you wish everyone in the world could understand about sex/relationships?  

There is no “right” way to do anything in the sex or relationship realm, only ways that work better or worse for you and those you’re doing it with. Trying to do things by someone else’s rules or standards will only make you miserable. You have to do things the way that fits for you.

What do you think is the most toxic myth that our society perpetuates about sex/relationships?

There are so many! I think the most toxic myth is that there’s one right way to do things, and you know you’ve found it when your relationship lasts until death. By that standard, I recently had the perfect relationship – we never fought, we were smitten with each other, and after dating for 10 days he died. We lived out ’til death do us part thanks to his sudden, unexpected heart attack. We need to find the success and lessons in relationships that don’t end in death (and those that do) and stop saying a relationship “failed” because it ended or because it was different.

What’s the best sex advice anyone ever gave you?

Never fake it, tell them what to do to help you actually cum.

What’s one question that you wish people would stop asking you?

“Are you analyzing me right now?” As soon as folks find out I’m a therapist, I get this one or its companion “Oh, well I’m not going to talk anymore.” People think they’re being funny, but really, this is just silly. 1) Analyzing folks takes work and you’re not paying me. If you want to shell out some money then I’ll be happy to tell you about yourself, but otherwise, unless it’s flagrant, I’m just trying to be a regular human in the world. 2) Your discomfort around a therapist says WAY MORE than anything else that would’ve come out of your mouth. 3) These are probably the least original things you could say to a therapist. They tell me you’re paranoid, boring, and prone to subtle attempts at manipulation. So if you don’t want me to know things about you, don’t say these things.

And just for fun, because it is “Coffee and Kink”: do you like coffee and how do you take it?

I’m generally more into tea, but I do like coffee on occasion, generally either sweet and light or a nice blended butter coffee (I know, I know, super hipster).

Thanks so much to Dr Liz for her time and expertise. Don’t forget to check out Life on the Swingset podcast and her business, Sex Positive Psych.

Four Times Three

I love threesomes. (I also love foursomes, moresomes and any combination of group sex you can think of – in fact, I’ve just pitched an article about why foursomes are the superior configuration in my experience.) The threesome, though… it’s often viewed as the pinnacle of sexual experience, and I’ve probably had hundreds of them. (#Explanabrag?) This post is just a few stand-out stories from a near-decade of menage et trois exploration.

Coffee beans on a surface with three hearts cut out by cookie cutters. For a post about threesome

The First

I wrap my arms around her warm body and snuggle into her shoulder. She’s littler than me, only 5’1″, but I feel so protected with her. She’s older, more experienced… and my first. I’m only eighteen and I’ve just made love to a woman for the first time.

‘Do you want to go and ask [my Boyfriend] to join us?’ she asks.

‘Are you sure?’ The question takes me aback, and not just because I’m still catching my breath.

‘Yeah, go on.’

So I throw on some clothing, still bashful, and skip downstairs with my sex hair to ask my boyfriend, happily waiting for us to finish and prepared to sleep on the couch if necessary, to come have a threesome with me and my new girlfriend.

He slides his fingers into her cunt, still wet from my earlier ministrations, and watches in awe as she comes once, twice, three times… we lose count. Then they both go to town on me, holding, fingering, kissing, caressing. I’m struggling to come, so she pulls out a vibrator and offers it to me. I use it on myself while they run their hands over my body, these two people I adore. I still don’t come – I’m too nervous – but it’s a good experience.

The Worst

I don’t know quite how it comes about that I’m going home with New Crush and his fiancee after the party. My boyfriend has pulled and is thoroughly occupied, so waves me off with a ‘have a good time.’ On the way back, they warn me that their flat is tiny. I correctly interpret this as, ‘we don’t have a guest bed, you’re sleeping with us.’

I fancy New Crush for sure. I’m pretty sure I don’t fancy his fiancee, but I like her just fine, so co-sleeping isn’t a problem for me. We’re all in bed together, at least partially clothed, and he’s kissing me and I’m into it. Then she’s kissing me and I’m not into it. He guides her hands to my wrists and instructs her to pin me down while he fingers me. I feel really uncomfortable and unsure how to gracefully extricate myself. I’m suddenly ‘very tired’ and I pretend to drift off to sleep while they fuck next to me. In the morning, I slip out quietly.

The Best

Mr CK has been seeing this girl, who we’ll call The Doctor, for a while. It’s taken me some time to get comfortable with the whole situation but I can’t deny I’m warming to her and my feelings have slipped beyond metamour friendship and into the realm of attraction.

She comes over to our place. We make food, we chat, we cuddle. It’s so easy. So chilled and genuinely affectionate. Mr CK suggests we move the cuddle to the bedroom – no pressure – and we both agree. They’re kissing. He’s kissing me. My eyes meet hers, and I dare to ask for permission to kiss her. She happily consents and her soft, soft lips meet mine. We all three tangle together, three bodies, kissing and nibbling and touching and stroking and stripping.

We introduce her to the Doxy wand. She’s scared. We offer to let her try it on a low setting, which she does – through her jeans. She comes in less than a minute, breathlessly declares ‘I’M BUYING ONE,’ and we all collapse into laughter.

The night is by turns passionate and giggly, intense and casual, sizzling hot and just plain fun. The Doctor leaves sometime after two in the morning. For the next three days, I can’t think of anything but her and him and me and this.

It happens two more times before it all ends too suddenly and it still immediately stands out whenever I think of the hottest sexual experiences of my life.

The Most Recent

This might *technically* be a cheat. There were other people in the room having sex beyond the three of us, so I’m not sure it can be classed as a threesome – but damnit, this particular part only involved us three, so I’m counting it.

I met him yesterday in a game of naked Twister (organised by – who else? – my girlfriend TwisterGirl.) The spark of attraction I felt was immediate and I tried not to glance at his sizeable cock while we were all naked and entangled on the game mat.

Tonight, this hot almost-stranger is next to us on the bed, watching as I suck Mr CK’s cock. I reach a hand out and play with his, asking first with my eyes and then out loud if it’s okay. The moan I receive tells me all I need to know.

Mr CK positions me on my knees. Tells me to suck our new friend’s cock. Slides his into me from behind and fucks me hard and deep. New Friend tells me to look at him, and our eyes lock while I come hard from the blissful sensation of being filled in two of my holes at once.

Afterwards, he kisses me. I want to do this again.

The image featured in this post was offered for usa via Creative Commons Licensing.

Sex Educator Interview #5: Cooper S Beckett

You may have heard of this little project started by Jenny Guerin and myself, the Sexy Summer Book Club. It’s an online read-along where we share questions, invite discussion and encourage people to use the books as jumping off points for their own writings.

The cover of Approaching the Swingularity by Cooper S Beckett

August’s book is Approaching The Swingularity by Cooper S Beckett, which I actually reviewed a while back. Very fittingly, therefore, today’s interview is with Cooper himself. Without further ado, let’s hear what the sexy-voiced podcaster, author and progressive swinger extraordinaire had to tell us.

Tell us a little bit about you and the work you do?

I write sexy books, and books about sex, which are sometimes the same thing, sometimes not. I’m also a coach and educator about sex positivity, safer sex, and focus on non-monogamy. I’ve been host of Life on the Swingset, The Swinging & Polyamory Podcast for the last 7 years, and we’re about to record our 300th episode! My goal is always to get people to think about their conceptions of their sexuality and how that relates to their partner(s) and the world, and take the opportunity to color outside the lines a bit, and learn about themselves.

What first made you want to write and podcast about sex and non-monogamy?

Hubris. I’d been swinging for a grand total of like 10 months and I thought, “You know what, I understand this pretty well, I should teach other people about it!” I corralled Dylan Thomas into co-hosting and the podcast was born. The writing has a little more sense behind it, but still not much. Before opening up I was a writer and indie filmmaker, so once I opened up and found the time to get back into it, writing about this all was a natural progression.
 

Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to becoming a podcaster, sex educator and published author? How does one ‘make it’ in this field? 

 
If anyone tells you they’re “making it” in podcasting they’re the incredibly rare and lucky breed. Honestly, podcasters don’t really make it. It’s all about reach, isn’t it? So podcasting is a vehicle for reach. The more I podcast, the larger my audience, the more opportunity to share my speaking gigs and educating and books with the world. But podcasting itself…it’s nice if it pays for itself. I guess that’s when you know you’ve made it, when the podcast isn’t as valuable as a drain in your bank account.


What does “a day in the life of You” look like? 

 I sleep way later than I should before I go to my (still unfortunately necessary) day job. In my free time I try to focus on projects and writing, while balancing with time with my lovely partner & binary star Ophilia Tesla, and still finding time to keep up on current media like Doctor Who and Legend of Zelda. 


What’s the best thing about being a sex educator, in your opinion? The worst?

The best thing about being a sex educator is the same as the best thing about being any type of educator, that moment when you see the person you’re talking to “gets it” and something changes in them. Since sex is such a major part of people’s lives, and the things I teach have the possibility of changing them fundamentally, it can be a really amazing moment. The downside is that sex is really really looked down upon as something worth educating yourself about. So there’s tremendous stigma surrounding it.

Which of your 3 books is your favourite, and why? Also what’s your favourite episode of the podcast, and why?

Approaching the Swingularity is my favorite, maybe because it’s the newest, but I also think it’s my best work. It allowed me to go deepest into my passions and take characters to new and unexpected places. Also to be really mean to them, cuz that’s kinda my thing. My favorite episode of the podcast was our 200th episode where we were lucky enough to get Dan Savage on as our guest. That was a real feeling of having “made it” – so I guess that also answers a bit of the question above!
 

Will there be a third book in the “Swingularity” series? 

There will, and at the moment it’s a shorter book like A Life Less Monogamous and will follow Jenn and Ryan’s early issues with true polyamory. The working title is Polywogs. But, for the moment, I’ve become distracted with a supernatural series featuring a pansexual poly woman named Osgood as the lead.

Which of your characters do you most identify with and why?

Depends on the day. All my characters are ultimately me, even if their personality isn’t. I split up my traits among them and give them my hangups. Ryan is probably the most ME, but in Swingularity, I’d have to say between Crista and Raymond for the most intense identification.

Who inspires you, professionally and personally?

Tristan Taoramino and Dan Savage are my two big favorite sex educators. I love his acerbic wit, and I aspire to the variety and depth of the work Tristan produces. For fiction my big inspiration is Stephen King, because nobody does character as well as him. I also adore the work of Richard Matheson and Ray Bradbury. 

If you were stuck on a desert island (sorry, sorry, I HAD to do a ‘desert island’ question) and could take three toys and one sexy book, what would you pick and why? 

Hmmm. If I’m by myself, a Tenga Egg, the nJoy Pure Wand, and can I bring a bottle of lube instead of a third toy? I feel like the heat would make lube essential. If I’m with someone else, definitely the nJoy Eleven. A sexy book….so many options.

What’s something you used to believe about sex/relationships but are glad you don’t believe any more?

That sex equals PIV/PIA (Penis in Vagina/Penis in Anus) penetration. And if I didn’t have that I wasn’t having sex. It’s tremendously pressuring, especially in group sex situations. Making everything sexual, including heavy making out, sex means that I no longer feel pressure to take things to an obvious conclusion, and can simply enjoy the smorgasbord of sexy in front of me.

What’s the best sex advice you ever got? 

 
It’s okay for sex to be silly. It always looks so dramatic and intense in movies. My best sex involves conversations, mistakes, and laughter.


What do you think is the most toxic myth that our society perpetuates about sex/relationships?

 

That there’s a right way to do it. That gives us all complexes that we’re not doing it right, and we stress out and make foolish decisions because of it.

What’s one question that you wish people would stop asking you? 

“You REALLY use condoms for blowjobs?” Yes I do. I’m happy to keep talking about it, though, until oral barriers are a thing.

And just for fun, because it is “Coffee and Kink”: Do you like coffee and, if so, how do you take it?

Oh god. My Starbucks coffee order is insane and will make people throw up from sweetness. I do a Venti double shot with 5 total shots of espresso and vanilla and caramel syrup. Otherwise, I don’t much go in for coffee.
Thanks Cooper for your time and always-fabulous insights, as well as the sexy books. Next up in a day or two is one of the cohosts of Life on the Swingset, Dr Liz… stay tuned for that!
The image featured in this post is the cover of Approaching the Swingularity and is the property of Cooper S Beckett.

The Tyranny of ‘No Rules:’ in Defence of Polyamorous Hierarchy

Buckle in, folks. This has been a long time coming and it’s gonna be a long one.

Three red hearts arranged diagonally across a tic tac toe board. For a post on polyamory and hierarchy

Hierarchy is the subject du jour in current polyamorous discourse – mainly how it’s evil and we should avoid it. Polyamory educators I deeply respect and admire have spoken out as being largely against hierarchical structures. And that’s fine – as with any information providers, I draw from the many pieces of their work I find useful and don’t worry too much about the rest.

But I’ve been feeling for quite a while that a major piece of the picture is missing from the conversation around hierarchy in polyamory and that it has become somewhere between unfashionable and downright shun-worthy to tell enlightened polyamorous folks that you practice a hierarchical structure. The voices of people who have been hurt by hierarchy or power structures carelessly wielded have been amplified – and this is a Good Thing without a doubt. But what is largely absent or drowned out or shouted down, now, is the perspective of people who are very happy within a hierarchical structure. I am here to provide one small piece of that perspective.

Firstly, what do we mean by hierarchy?

The dictionary defines hierarchy as ‘a system in which members of an organization or society are ranked according to relative status or authority.’ In polyamory, though, it’s more specific –  polyamorous hierarchy refers to a structure in which one relationship, or one partner, is ‘Primary’ and other relationships are ‘secondary,’ ‘tertiary,’ ‘non-primary,’ or other similar terms. Exactly what these words mean will vary between people who use them. Sometimes it’s as simple as “my Primary is the person I own property and raise children with,” and sometimes there are elaborate systems of rules with pages-long documents outlining them all.

My own structure falls somewhere between the two. Mr CK and I are Primary partners and we do have a written relationship agreement, although it’s quite short and in practice hardly ever needs to be referred to. We have a system of guidelines for acceptable behaviour and some hard-and-fast rules. Every rule or guideline we agree to abide by is thoroughly negotiated, everything applies absolutely equally to both of us (read more about why that’s important to us here) and is open for renegotiation if necessary.

Why is hierarchy supposedly bad?

Like so many things, it’s bad when it’s misused and it can be wielded to cause great harm. Some Primary couples certainly have a habit of running roughshod over secondary/non-Primary partners’ feelings, needs and boundaries and asserting power in inappropriate ways. We’ll tackle the specifics later in ‘Towards Ethical Hierarchy.’

There are many examples of this – veto (also discussed later,) one partner in the Primary couple unilaterally closing down the relationship, messing secondaries around with plans and so on. These things happen. They’re shitty and they’re totally not okay. They’re examples of power imbalances used to deliberately cause harm or to get what one person wants at the expense of hurting someone (or someones) else. This is not ethical hierarchical polyamory.

The things is, non-hierarchical systems can also be abused. Relationship Anarchy (which I am not well qualified to talk about but you can read a basic definition here) is fine in and of itself, but just think about the following phrases (I’ve heard all of these):

“I’m a relationship anarchist which means I do what I want, when I want. If my partners are upset because I broke my commitments to them, that’s their fault for expecting me to keep my commitments.”

“I don’t have to consider your sexual health because I’m RA, that means no rules. By insisting on knowing my sexual health status you’re oppressing me.”

“Lies and cheating don’t exist in relationship anarchy.”

Suddenly, those statements make RA look super unhealthy and scary, don’t they? But it’s not, in and of itself. It’s just a relationship philosophy that can be used for good, evil or indifference. The same goes for hierarchical polyamory.

I think the question of whether someone’s acting unethically is also often approached in a really problematic way. A major problem I have with so much of the current discourse around hierarchy is it seems to forget this one fundamental truth:

Not Getting What You Want Does Not Necessarily Mean Someone Else Did Something Wrong.

Say it again for those in the back: not getting what you want does not necessarily mean someone else did something wrong.

I’m sorry*, but take this hypothetical scenario: you got into a non-primary relationship with a married man, knowing he’d never leave his wife for you or offer you a nesting relationship… then, two years down the line, you decide you want to live with him (either with or without his wife.) If he repeats what he said earlier, “my wife and I do not want anyone else living with us, now or ever, and I have no interest in leaving my wife,” he’s not doing something wrong (and neither, it bears stating, is the wife in this hypothetical.) He’s stating their boundaries. What would be wrong is if he’d said “you can probably live with us in a couple of years” at the beginning of your relationship, knowing full well this was never going to happen or was tremendously unlikely. Lying or omitting important information to get someone hooked in (also known as the “bait and switch”) is never okay.

Defending your boundaries, reasserting your position, and not giving somebody something you never promised to give (even if they really really want it) is always okay.

Take another scenario I’ve actually been in from all three positions, at various times in my life: A might want to do sexual acts with their partner B, that is currently a boundary or limit for B’s Primary partner C. This does not mean that C is doing something wrong in having that boundary. Nor does it mean B is doing something wrong in taking C’s boundaries into consideration and placing limits on what sexual activities they will and won’t engage in. What would be wrong is if C changed the rules on a whim, didn’t communicate the agreements clearly to A, or were totally unwilling to enter any kind of dialogue about it at any stage. What would also be wrong is if, at the beginning of that relationship, A was told “we don’t really have any rules” only to have the bait-and-switch pulled on them once they were invested. See the difference?

Boundaries and Choice

This is what it boils down to, really. Primaries (particularly wives or female nesting partners, I’ve found, which probably carries a hefty dose of unexamined misogyny) are vilified again and again and again for daring to have, set and maintain boundaries.

Mr CK and I agreed a long time ago that nobody else will move into our shared home. This was a condition of moving in with him for me, and one that worked well for him too as he prefers to live with only one person. This is a boundary we get to set around this shared space that we alone own and inhabit, and we’re not harming anyone by having it. Someone might really really really want to live with us, and in that instance I am sorry that this is going to be hard for them to hear, but… the answer is no.

Yes, it’s a rule. It’s a rule that if either of us broke it, our relationship would almost certainly end.

We have also agreed since the beginning that we will not engage in sexual activities with a new person until the other has had a chance to meet that person (a Skype meeting is acceptable if there’s distance involved.) This is because we both have baggage around being lied to, kept in the dark, or deliberately kept from meeting a metamour in order that direct metamour-to-metamour communication be rendered impossible. This a boundary we get to set around our relationship and our bodies. If someone doesn’t want to date me because they don’t want to meet my partner, that’s their choice, but the answer is that they don’t get to date me.

Yes, it’s a rule. It’s a rule that if either of us broke it, it would be considered cheating.

Yes. We have rules and we expect of each other that they will be kept. Anyone who tries to make us break them will receive a firm and resounding “no.” I can’t believe any of this is up for debate, but the number of times I’ve been told that if a secondary wants me to break a rule/agreement made with my Primary that I should do it, is frankly ridiculous.

Crucially, non-Primary partners get to set boundaries and expect them to be respected too! In all the relationships I’m in where I am a secondary partner, for example, I have been crystal clear from the beginning that none of those partners will exert any kind of control over what I do with my body outside of our relationship.  (More about this under ‘Towards Ethical Hierarchy.’) I have set boundaries around my time, my availability and the sexual acts that are and are not available. All of my partners get to set similar boundaries for themselves too, and those boundaries are as valid and important as mine or my Primary partner’s and must be respected.

At the end of the day, my Primary partner is my Primary partner because he chooses to be, just as I am his because I choose to be. He does not control me and I do not control him. We make mutual agreements that work for both of us, and we both stick to them out of choice every day because we love each other, prioritise each other’s happiness, and value our relationship. If you want to view making and keeping agreements as controlling each other then I think we have very different definitions of what control is.

“No Rules” is a rule.

A rule to not make or follow rules… is still a rule. An expectation to be able to do whatever you want without any responsibility to your partners… is still an expectation. An agreement to have no agreements is… still an agreement and still one that you get to opt in or out of.

I simply could not live this way. Because:

Structurelessness is a special kind of hell.

Some people value fluidity, ever-changing situations and no certainty. That’s beautiful and valid. I am not one of those people. I am a person who – while a certain degree of flexibility is essential – values structure, a level of predictability, and Knowing Where The Fuck I Stand. That includes knowing where I am in the hierarchy with each person I’m involved with.

I need to know that the person I share my home with will prioritise me consistently. I need to know whom I can rely upon in a crisis (all my partners, I hope, but it is right and expected that a Primary will put more time and effort in than a non-Primary.) I need to know to what degree my relationship with someone can grow and the point at which it can go no further. I need to know exactly what’s allowed and what isn’t in order to be sure I’m not trampling on any boundaries or breaking any consent.

I would go mad in a system with no rules. I could not function in a system where I am not allowed to admit that there is a single person who, when it all comes down to brass tacks, I am likely to prioritise over all else.

Towards Ethical Hierarchy

Despite what some people would like to believe, hierarchical relationships aren’t going anywhere because they work too well for so many of us. So instead of shaming people out of having hierarchical structures (or worse, shaming them into pretending not to have hierarchy while still practising it, which tends to lead to head-fuckery all around,) let’s look at how we can make our hierarchical relationships happy, considerate and ethical.

Don’t restrict your non-primary’s freedom. The only person apart from myself who gets a say in whether I go to sex parties, have lots of casual sex or start new relationships is my Primary. (I was once in a situation where my secondary forbade me from going to sex parties with my Primary. Yeah no.) If a non-Primary partner has concerns about these things, of course I will listen to their concerns and talk things over with them, reassure them where I can and consider if their reservations have merit. But putting their foot down and saying “no?” Not a chance. And I wouldn’t expect to have that power over them either.

You do not get to forbid your secondary from having their own Primary. Ever. I can’t believe this needs stating, but this was a reality I lived with for four years before I realised how fucked up it was. If your secondary doesn’t have a Primary and is happy with the situation (maybe their job, child, pet or hobby is their Primary partner, maybe they just like a lot of their own space,) then obviously this isn’t a problem, but if they don’t have a Primary and want one (which includes not wanting one previously but changing their mind and deciding that now they do,) you have no business being anything but supportive.  “You’re my secondary but you don’t get to have a Primary of your own” is some bullshit that will not fly with me.

Don’t use veto. One example of hierarchy being used to the detriment of the people involved is through an agreement commonly called ‘veto power,’ wherein one member of the Primary couple has the power to order the other to end an outside relationship with the reasonable expectation that they will obey. Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert put it well in More Than Two when they state that [paraphrased slightly] ‘the problem with veto isn’t that it can be used inappropriately but that it tends to cause major problems however it’s used.’ Which it certainly does. If you veto someone your partner loves, you’ll hurt them both but it will also bite you in the ass when they resent you for it down the line.

Use your words, not a kill switch. Talk about what you’re feeling and why. Listen to each other. But please don’t do this, it won’t go well.

I’m actually in favour of the ‘screening veto’ at least in theory. We don’t practice it in an “I forbid you to date this person case closed” sort of way, but Mr CK and I certainly give an awful lot of weight to each other’s opinions on the people we’re looking at getting involved with. If he’s interested in someone who would make me utterly miserable for whatever reason, it’s better to raise it at the beginning before anyone is invested. My metamour The Minstrel and I had a discussion about veto not long after I got together with The Artist, our shared partner, and I was worried I might fall in love and then find myself suddenly vetoed. They said this:

“I think I had the veto the first time you and I met? Like, if I had had an, “erk” reaction then, I’d have said, “I’m sorry, love, I can’t with her” to The Artist. But once I’d given my consent for the two of you to be together? That’s it. No veto from then on. Your relationship may not be a [Primary] relationship but it is a real and valid thing in itself, and I neither want nor should have the power to make it end at my whim.”

Preach. (Did I mention my metamour is pretty great? They are.)

Be upfront about the rules, agreements, boundaries and what you can offer. As discussed above, it’s really not okay to pull a bait-and-switch, where you hide the truth about yourself/your relationships/what you can offer until after someone is already emotionally invested.

Anyone who wants to date me will know right at the beginning that I have a Primary partner I’m very happy with and will not leave for anyone, that living with me or having kids with me is permanently and non-negotiably off the table, and what I can and cannot offer in terms of time commitments.  If that doesn’t work for them, that’s their right. It’s also their right to be told the truth and make an informed choice. (And if you think no-one will date me with these stipulations, you’re so wrong – I’ve found multiple wonderful people it works really well for, many of whom are in similar situations with their own Primary relationships.)

Be flexible. Mr CK and I were once both out on a date on the same night and had agreed to both be home by 11pm. When he phoned me and said his partner had had a medical emergency and may need to go to the hospital, meaning he might be home later than planned, I didn’t say “you said 11pm so you have to stick to that.”  I said “take as long as you need and I hope she’s okay.” This is flexibility. This is kindness where it’s needed. This is also not the same as rocking up at 3am when you agreed 11pm and going “oh sorry we were so busy having sex we lost track of time.” Keep your commitments wherever humanly possible, and give flexibility when it’s warranted. Yes, you can have both.

Don’t wield rules capriciously. Just because you could demand your Primary partner cancel a date at a moment’s notice (Note: me and Mr CK actually have an agreement that we CAN’T do this unless there’s an emergency, because it’s dickish) does not mean that you should. “Because I’m your Primary and I said so” is not good enough. Make agreements that work for you and stick to them. Don’t pull rank in a situation that really doesn’t call for it just because you can.

If your Primary fucks up, it’s (probably) not their secondary’s fault. If your husband stayed out until 2am when he agreed to be back by midnight because he lost track of time, that’s on HIM. It’s not on the partner he was with and it’s not her fault (unless she knew the agreement and deliberately and willingly flouted it with him – then you’re totally okay to go ahead and be pissed at them both because they’ve both behaved like assholes.) Similarly, if your wife lies to her hot co-worker and says that you’re cool with their fling when actually you know nothing about it, that’s HER fault – it’s not on the dude who was being lied to as well. I know it’s tempting to blame a third party when your partner fucks up and hurts you, but they’re an adult and responsible for themselves.

The bottom line to consider when making rules: does this agreement infringe upon anyone’s reasonably-assumed rights in this relationship?

Dating me does not give you a right to live with me, to meet my biological family, or to do every sex act you can possibly think of with me (three things I do not and will never offer to non-Primary partners.)

What it does give you is the right to open and honest communication from me, kindness and support and respect, to be told the truth, to get a place at the negotiating table on things that affect you directly, to know what the deal is from the beginning and all the way along.

Therefore, “I will never allow you to move in with me” is a valid boundary to hold in a secondary relationship. “I will lie to you randomly and switch the rules at a moment’s notice because my Primary said so” is not.

“Oh, but Amy! You’re only defending hierarchy because you’re top of the heap!”

Right, except in all the instances where I’m not. Yes, I come first with Mr CK, as he does with me. But my metamour The Minstrel comes first with my partner The Artist. Fondlebeast and Twistergirl prioritise each other over me. Evil Genius’s wife, other serious partners and children are way higher in the hierarchy than I am. ALL OF THESE ARE GOOD THINGS and it would be absurdity of the highest order to try to pretend these relationships were all equal. I don’t feel oppressed or diminished in any way in these relationships. I went into them all with eyes open, knowing what the scenario was, and I’m happy with the way things are. If that ever changes, I am allowed to leave the relationships. I am not allowed to trample all over their Primary partner(s) to get what I want.

Say it again: I am happy being a secondary and I would much, much rather this was openly acknowledged than that we lived some kind of lie where no-one is more important than anyone else in a romantic relationship. We’re so saturated with stories of abused unicorns, that we forget:

Being secondary is not necessarily a miserable place.

I created the hashtag #HappySecondary on Twitter and asked people to weigh in with their experiences of being a happy non-Primary in a hierarchical arrangement, because I couldn’t believe the experience was unique to me. I got some amazing quotes and I’d like to share just some of them.

“I’m a #HappySecondary in an LDR. Solopoly with no desire to build a home with anyone, don’t want what his wife has. Every visit is vacation!”

“Being R’s #HappySecondary is great! I get to plot with their Primary and things.”

“Very #HappySecondary in 2 relationships here.”

“Being a #HappySecondary gives me space when I need it but contact when I do. Helps that our schedules let us get together 2-3x per week.”

Stop assuming we’re all miserable if we’re secondaries. Stop assuming we’re all treating our partners badly if we’re in a Primary couple and practice hierarchy. Lots of us are very happy where we are, and our experiences are valid too.

[*No I’m not.]

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