The other night I had a deliciously dream of debauchery. I’m sure it means my subconscious is telling me that I have needs or wants or desires that are unfulfilled, which makes since considering I’ve spent the last 18 months recovering from one medical emergency or another. This dream, however, was the most vivid a dream I think I’ve ever had. I could not only see everything, but also taste and smell and feel everything, which is perhaps the best way to have a dream that includes wanton submission to all things hedonistic. Come along for the ride, won’t you?
As I mentioned in my 6-month Anniversary post the other day, I took a brief sabbatical from the blog due to a continuous 11 days of work and the need to recuperate afterward. I’m noticing this is a growing trend among many of my fellow bloggers; if I work from the top down through my blogroll I can find at least 3 examples before I hit the midway point of people who are taking a break in one form or another. Between burnouts, changes in lifestyle, work requirements, or what have you’s these fine people need to step back, catch a breath, and recover. Recognizing when to do so is, I think, one of the keys to living a long and happy life.
Here in the United States, taking a break is not encouraged. It is not mandatory. To some of my international readers, this may come as a shock, but there is no mandatory vacation/holiday time in the United States. Employers have no requirement to provide paid time off, for any reason. For recent parents, the Family Medical Leave Act assures that a mother may take up to 12 weeks off from work to care for her newborn child, but those 12 weeks are not required to be paid time off. Yes, you read that correctly; a mother may take unpaid time off from work for up to 12 weeks to care for her newborn before she must return to work or lose her job. In my current job I am offered no paid time off for any reason; not sickness, not for a death in the family, and certainly not for a vacation/holiday.
Like many other of the other wonderful bloggers I know — take a moment to check my blogroll to the right for some fine examples — I get a sense of amusement from some of the various search terms that result in somebody new stumbling across my little corner of the internet. One that stands out as particularly amusing was “husband says absinthe makes his dick hard”. What’s not to love about that? This morning, however, I saw a search term appear that got me thinking about just how much people can manage to hold themselves back — or not — on the spectrum that encompasses the swinger and polyamorous couples. This search term was “fall in love swinger become exclusive poly with one couple”.
There are many ways to read this term, in large part due to the lack of punctuation. Was the person searching attempting to find a swinger with whom to fall in love and then, with that person, become polyfidelitous with another swinging couple? Was this person perhaps already a swinger and was looking to find information on the ways to or likelihood of entering into a poly relationship with another couple? Could this person perhaps be a single swinger and is looking to join a poly couple in a triad?
Thinking on these possibilities made me realize something that’s hovered around the edges of my consciousness for sometime; something with which I have, at times, struggled. This something is a prevalent trend among those who write from within the swinger community, and one that I suspect has arisen from some improper assumptions. I suspect this because I have been guilty of it, and because of it I inadvertently derailed what could have become a very good thing. This something, this “it”, is the fear of oneself or one’s partner falling in love with somebody else.
We’ve all been there at one point in our live or another; the date that doesn’t work out, the job interview that pans, the attempted hookup with another couple that ends with everybody frustrated. Okay, maybe we haven’t all had that last experience, but you get my point already, right? Sometimes, despite the best laid plans, despite the best intentions, and despite the best effort… things don’t work out. How we deal with these times determines how we bounce back from them. Moving forward isn’t an option, after all; we must, or we get left behind. So how, then, do we recover from something that leaves us embarrassed, confused, hurt, crushed, or destroyed?
Everybody has a different coping mechanism, and not everybody applies the same mechanism to every scenario. Life is filled with disappointment in all forms after all, and I know I react much differently to a favorite sports team losing than I do to a date going badly. I expect most reasonable people behave in similar fashions, although I cannot guarantee this applies to the die-hard baseball or football fans I’ve seen sink into depressions because the team lost one lousy game.
When it comes to being Single, Poly, or a Swinger the bad date brings with it the added element of a missed (or botched) sexual opportunity. It may not be the first date, second date, or even tenth date, but at some point in the dating process the comes the expectation of mutual sexual congress. The anticipation grows, the expectations rise, and eventually the clothing falls. With this heightened element comes the heightened perception of risk, reward, and failure. We come away from a successful encounter feeling like we have accomplished something incredible and worthwhile. There is potential for More, in whatever form that may take. Conversely, an unsuccessful encounter leaves us lost, bewildered, or worse. We question ourselves, our choice in potential Other, the venue, the timing, the conversation, etc. Success breeds success, they say, and every time we miss that mark the self-doubt kicks in and establishes yet another foot-hold. Both cycles become self-fulfilling prophecies. The trick, then, is to actively focus on creating the cycle we want while avoiding that which we do not desire.
Human beings are constructed to be social animals. We saw it in the tribes of old during the early years of Homo Erectus and Homo Sapiens, we saw it in the construction of ancient and medieval towns and cities, and we see it today in the increasing focus of population within large metropolitan areas. As socially constructed animals, we long to be not only near other people but also to be perceived as fitting within the socially accepted norm of those people. There are, as with any rule, exceptions to this rule, but even among those who run counter to accepted norms there is typically a theme of independence present — those with large amounts of sustainable wealth or those who support themselves via artistic talent maintain the ability to create a self-norm that is eventually accepted by the public at large as normal for that person, to the point where deviating from that created norm to the conventional public norm is then deemed impermissible. But what of us in the middle of the spectrum, who work 40 hour work weeks earning middle class incomes who don’t fit the traditionally assigned normative roles? What behavior patterns do we assume so as to not expose ourselves to inordinate risk?
Community. The word generates a multitude of images, different for each person. For some it’s the large, bustling neighborhoods of the city. Elsewhere, it’s the sprawling lands of the loosely populated rural areas where everybody knows not only their own neighbor but everyone else’s as well. Still other images are those of closed religious communities, huddled inside their compounds isolated from the western world. There’s the Amish, or the Native American, or the Hispanic communities as well; anybody in Pennsylvania, the Great Plains, or Miami can attest to the feeling of unity and togetherness found within those groups. In all examples, the people can easily gather and rally to support and improve their community. But what about us on the fringe, who are connected not by physical proximity but by interest and lifestyle? How do we go about cultivating, growing, and maintaining our communities?
In Tampa, all three of the Lifestyle communities — Swinger, Fetish/BDSM, and Polyamory — have relatively large and active populations. In many instances there is overlap between two of three of these communities, although I believe that overlap exists more greatly between Fetish and Poly than between any other combination. In part, I think, this is attributable to the fact that both Fetish/BDSM and Poly are more intrinsically built around developing longer relationships and exploring the boundaries of those relationships, which takes time. This is not to say that Swinger and Fet or Swinger and Poly cannot or do not overlap; there is certainly a fair amount of partner swapping among BDSM play partners, and several Poly people visit Swinger events. I simply have not seen the evidence of as wide a crossover in those categories, at least not here. In other places it may be different. Which brings us back to the question, how do we explore and improve these communities?
As I have mentioned several times before, I am a member on FetLife. For those not in “The Know”, FetLife is a social networking site that caters specifically to Kinksters, Fetishists, and the BDSM Lifestyle. It is NOT a dating site, although people have met and do meet new partners through the site. The intent behind FetLife is to encourage communication among members, share information about local events, and to help everybody within the BDSM Lifestyle grow. In this vein, any member can register to start a new Group, similar to the Groups on Facebook. The theme of the group can be anything; for example, one very large Group is Kinky and Geeky. Another is “Swingers” is not a bad word! There are groups for those who enjoy strap-on play; groups for those who are or like women who squirt. Groups for people under 35, or stay up late, are Polyamorous, or live in particular areas are also prevalent.
Through joining these groups and participating in the very active discussion threads — these groups operate more like the early 2000’s message boards, wherein multiple topics are used for beginning discussion threads — members can expand their social network, learn things about nearly every subject imaginable, and generally become better partners both in and out of the Kink and Fetish scenes. And, as with every other social network of note out there, members can write Journal Entries (think Facebook’s Notes) to share something outside one of the Groups. Journal Entries and pictures have a “Love This?” button similar to Facebook’s “Like” feature. Where Fetlife differs, however, is that pictures, videos, and journal entries that receive a great amount of love within a short period of time end up in the Kinky and Popular feed.
The Kinky and Popular feed is a page dedicated to the items of the day (or even time of day on a busy day) that has been clicked on the most for the “Love This” button. As expected of a site geared toward adult members, the majority of the pictures, videos, and articles are of an adult nature, and in theme with the site often have an element of Kink, Fetish, or BDSM to them. Some exquisite Shibari rope bondage work has been featured, including one woman suspended with multiple ropes stretched out to resemble angels wings. Some of the artists and models are truly majestic in their presentations. However, mixed in with all the imagery are the journal articles, and lately there has been a theme. A theme of utmost importance within not only the Fetish/BDSM Lifestyle but also among the Swinger and Poly Lifestyle. This theme is consent.