Is Polyamory a Kink?
In orist, I realize that many people may see that as a contradiction in terms. Of course, swarming around this question are many issues of definition, including what is “polyamory”? What is a kink? A fetish? Vanilla? And many others. I’m sure I’ll bump into all of these definitional dilemmas sooner or later, but for now, I find myself thinking of my self-styled moniker and how to justify it.
I recently joined FetLife, the Facebook of kink, after consulting a few kinky/poly friends over whether I was simply too vanilla to join. Their consensus pointed toward two arguments in favor of my joining. First, FetLife caters to all fetishes, big and small, and so even if the traditional canon of kinks (e.g. BDSM, DOM/sub, foot fetish, etc.) did not apply to me, any minor proclivities (e.g. my 80’s rooted affinity for long-haired men) were covered. Secondly, Fetlife is used by many people within the overlapping kink and poly “scenes” in order simply to keep in touch with one another, Facebook-style.
A FetLife member brought up the fact that he was asked by a non-polyamorous friend how he could possibly love more than one woman
Indeed, upon joining Fetlife, I discovered two mildly surprising aspects of the site that confirmed this information. One, that “vanilla” (alongside DOM, sub, Master, slave, kinkster, fetishist, etc., etc.) is offered as a standard designation upon sign-up, and two, that the search mechanism is extremely limited. By this I mean that one cannot search FetLife users in the way of a dating site where, for example, one could search by age range or gender. One can search for keywords or location (e.g. city or state), but otherwise the best way to bump into interesting people on FetLife is through the same channels as on Facebook, friends of friends, groups, discussion, and so on. And so, as promised, FetLife proves to be a classic social networking site for the kinky, many of whom identify as part of ever-branching polyamorous relationship networks.
In the process of exploring the various arenas for networking and discussion on FetLife, I ran into a fairly typical discussion on the subject of polyamory. The discussion that ensued was very poly-sided, of course, but what struck me was a comment from one respondent reporting to have had the same conversation with “vanilla” friends many times. In this context, “vanilla” was used as a synonym for “non-polyamorous.”
Looking back at my profile wherein I am listed as “31F Vanilla,” I could not help but contemplate the contradiction. FetLife encourages me to define myself as “vanilla,” and yet this very term is being used in contrast to the non-monogamous lifestyle that prompted me to join in the first place.
If I practice non-monogamy and yet claim to be “vanilla,” am I contradicting myself? Does vanilla refer to the absence of kink, or to the lack of significant kink? Either way, is non-monogamy in itself a significant enough kink to rule out being “vanilla”? Or is non-monogamy a sexual orientation akin to being gay, straight or bisexual, within which one can identify oneself on a scale from vanilla to hardcore kinkster?
I tend to think that polyamory is a lifestyle, sharing properties with kink and with sexual orientation, but being neither one nor the other, and hence I feel confident in calling myself vanilla despite a devotion to non-monogamy. Of course, this all leads to the greater question of whether polyamory is a lifestyle with wider mainstream appeal, or whether it will always be relegated to the dungeon darkness of fetishists. But these are not issues to be resolved by one woman alone. Read along as I tackle many of these questions while I chronicle my adventures in polyamory.
Now, again, I’m sure there are some polyamorists who would ideally love to show up at a business dinner or family picnic with all of their significant relationships as dates on their arms. But I would venture to say that these polyamorists are in the minority. e. dates meet each other and become friends, or at least amicable acquaintances), it’s easy enough to associate among all such members at a public event without having to explain to every non-poly person what’s going on. Most people do have groups of friends and enjoy their company all together out in public with varying degrees of affection expressed among the members. As long as there isn’t random and unexpected PDA among the group, such as making out or grabbing body parts (which isn’t a classy thing to do, even for monogamists), there’s no need for the private to intersect with the public.
Once again, we run into the question of whether polyamory is advice a public sexual orientation or a private kink. Once again, I contend that we cannot assign it to one or the other category. It is selectively public and selectively private. Depending on the circumstances and the people practicing it, any certain instance of polyamory may have a different balance of both.