In the 21stcentury, all varieties of consensual nonmonogamy have become trendy.  From Cosmopolitanto The New York Timesto The Guardianarticles and exposés about polyamory abound.    Over and over, I read about the best ways and even the right way to do nonmonogamy and polyamorous relationships.

As a sex & intimacy coach and a psychologist therapist who works with individuals, couples and polyamorous groups, I have spent the past 30+ years helping people to find, construct, create and maintain all sorts of relationship combinations and structures including polyamorous relationships.   As I person who practices polyamory and has practiced ethical nonmonogamy in one form or another since I was 17 and on occasion, unethical nonmonogamy (otherwise known as cheating), I have an insiders view of nonmonogamy as well and I can tell you unequivocally: There is no one true way to practice polyamory or nonmonogamy of any kind.    Each relationship is as individual as a lip print because each individual is unique.

When I was 17, I had no language to talk about polyamorous relationships.  My first polycule (all the people in relationship with one or more members of the group), was made up of 3 permanent members and a fourth rotating membership depending upon who I was dating at the time.    We didn’t know we were creating a polycule.  We didn’t even know we were practicing consensual nonmonogamy. Initially, we reluctantly formed a triad because the both women did not wish to give up their relationships with the solo man.   The relationship between the women grew strong though not often sexual.  We formed a polyfidelitous triad at first and then, I was encouraged to bring in a second male to the polycule.  The other woman in the relationship was more comfortable when I had another man to relate to besides her live-in partner.  I was the person allowed to be involved sexually with others and encouraged to bring appropriate dates/partners home.  

polyamorous relationships

If D had been asked to describe the structure of our relationship, she would have said that she was J’s primary partner and I was his secondary partner.    Chances are, J and I would have agreed.  To her, it was important that it was clear that she was the person to whom J gave priority.  Her needs and wants came before mine.   We all accepted that this was necessary in order for the triad to function well.    At that time, I would have described my relationship with the two of them as my primary relationship and any other polyamorous relationships as secondary as I prioritise time with them over dating others.

Later in life, I took the role of the secondary a number of times and found this difficult at times and wholly fulfilling at others.  For me, having a hierarchy highlighted how time and responsibilities were prioritised. It had nothing to do with how much love and commitment existed in my relationships.  

polyamorous relationships

The other factor in how my polyamorous relationships were structured, was and remains my involvement in power exchange/ authority transfer relationships.  These are by nature hierarchical.  In all power exchange dynamics, someone is leading and someone is following.  Someone commands and the other obeys.  Someone holds the authority and/or power and the other surrenders authority and/or power. 

You cannot take the hierarchy out of power exchange dynamics.  When people are in power exchange dynamics and also in polyamorous relationships, there will always be hierarchy.    The amount and strength of the hierarchy may vary but it will always be there.  For some people, this is not a problem at all.  For others, hierarchy is seen as inherently either problematic or even bad.

It is currently popular in polyamorous circles to criticise anyone who sees their relationships as hierarchical or who organises their relationships in a hierarchical manner. People frequently say things like ‘Love has no hierarchy’ and ‘All polyamorous relationships should be equal.’    Many polyamorous people become vexed at the mention of prioritising one relationship over another.  Using the terms ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ can get a person excluded from some polyamorous groups.

Yet almost all relationships are organised in hierarchies.  We may not openly admit it but we all prioritise our relationships and our time.  We cannot help but do this.  I may love equally but I cannot honestly say that I would give equal weight to the needs of the partner I see four times a year and the husband who shares my bills, my home and looks after me when I am ill even if both relationships involve a lifetime commitment.  The responsibilities in each relationship are different.  If my husband and my lover both expressed a need for me to be with them on a particular day, it is likely that I would prioritise my husband as long as the needs were equivalent.     

Let’s consider an example:

My husband is having surgery on 4thDecember.

My lover is moving house on 4thDecember and would like my help.

My priority would be my husband.

If it were my husband who was moving house (assuming I was not) and my lover who was having surgery, I would negotiate to be with my lover if possible as having surgery is a weightier need.  

But what if we are looking at simply choosing who to spend holidays with:

Both my husband and my lover want to spend my birthday with me.  If they don’t agree to do it all of us together, I would see my husband as having priority – even if we were not in a power exchange dynamic – because my responsibility to him is higher.  This gets even more complicated when we have more than one or two polyamorous relationships.

Part of the reason that it has become de rigueur to insist that all relationships should be equal is that jealousy can be such an intense issue around perceived inequality.    Quite a few of my clients have brought in problems with managing the division of holidays, time, activities and often social media posting because one or more partners are unhappy unless everything is ‘completely equal’.    In reality, it is often not only impossible to divide things completely equally but not desirable either.  Partners who do not live with each other don’t often want an equal share of the dull stuff.  They don’t want to split household chores, or other monotonous tasks like budgeting, car maintenance, errands for work.  They want an equal share of the fun stuff – holidays, nights out, attending work ‘do’s, date nights and weekends, birthdays, Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year’s/Easters, summertime, winter breaks etc.   

How does the person who is doing the errands, caretaking and the other mundane stuff feel about equally splitting the fun time but not the responsibilities and the other things that often form the day to day pattern of a committed long term relationship? Usually not so happy, in my experience. I frequently hear ‘Why should I give up half of my holiday time with my wife/husband/significant other to their other lover when that lover isn’t paying part of the bills or sharing taking my person to medical appointments or looking after the dog?’

When a dominant/submissive or power exchange dynamic is added into the mix, this becomes even more complex.  By its nature, a power exchange dynamic is hierarchal.  Therefore the person who is in the dominant position is the one who ultimately has the control over all the relationships the person in the submissive position forms if the power exchange/ authority transfer relationship is a full time (24/7) relationship.  In this case, the only person with agency is the one in the dominant position.  

I have written about this model of non-monogamy and polyamorous relationships before and called it the loaner model or in my case, the time share model of non-monogamy.  I am in a 24/7 power exchange /authority transfer relationship with my husband who is my owner.  As my owner, he is the one who has the agency and authority to control any other sexual, BDSM, or romantic relationship that I have because I have surrendered authority for all aspects of my life to him.  I am in two other relationships at the present time.   My husband says I am a time share because each of my other partners have a number of weeks per year with me.  They are literally granted a share of my time based on their desires and my husband’s agreement to grant these desires.  Should it no longer suit my husband for me to have a relationship with someone or for me to spend that amount of time per year with someone, he has the right to change or end any agreement.

Some people who practice polyamory have been horrified by my description of the non-monogamy that we practice because the hierarchy is extremely clear.  There is very definitely inequality between my relationships. There is no inequality in how I feel about my other partners.  I love all of them.  There is inequality in how much time I spend, whose needs get priority, and where my responsibilities lie.      All parties consent to this arrangement and on that basis, why should anyone be judgemental? 

In addition, when I break down how they divide their time, decide who gets what priority in any given situation, hierarchies are illuminated even in the relationships of the people I have met who are most adamant that there should be no hierarchies in polyamory.    Though this surprises them, it doesn’t surprise me in the least.  It is nigh on impossible to divide time equally between a number of people even with the best will in the world.  Life doesn’t present us with equal challenges.    We have a wide variety of blessings and challenges and though our love is infinite our time and energy are finite.  Ultimately, we have to make choices.  If we are hell bent on creating total equality, we will end up spending an inordinate amount of time working to do this.   And we spend an inordinate amount of energy judging people for having hierarchies in their non-monogamous relationships.  

In my experience, a better way to expend the energy and spend the time is on creating rich loving relationships that meet as many needs as possible, looking at where needs intersect and how we can balance our relationships in ways that responsibilities, needs and wants are as in balance in each individual relationship.  The less time we spend comparing within our relationships, the better.   Increasing our communication skills, including our negotiation skills is a better use of our time.    Learning how to identify our own needs and differentiate them from wants is paramount as well to creating balanced relationships.  

polyamorous relationships
handsome young muscular man with two women in bedroom

Why is it fashionable to trash hierarchies where ever they are found?  Perhaps looking to larger mainstream culture and politics may give us answers.    Hierarchies are often seen as binary: Rich/poor, good/bad though they actually run primary, secondary, tertiary.  There are many levels not just two.  If we are able to keep this in mind and also recognise that there are multiple hierarchies in any given set of relationships – different priorities at different times for different events, activities, contexts, then maybe the reality of the hierarchies in our lives will no longer be seen as negative.      Instead we can look at them as simple structures that enable us to order our lives and relationships so that it is easier to find and maintain balance.

Polyamorous relationships come in an infinite number of configurations. For more about how different open relationships might look including an owner loaner relationship, you can find one of my articles hereand a seriesof podcastshere.

D/s relationships are ones in which dominance and submission are the primary feature.  D/s relationships are authority transfer based relationships because the submissive gives authority over part or all of their lives to the dominant.  Full time authority transfer based relationships are Master (Mistress)/slave or Owner/property or Daddy/boi/girl or Mommy/boi/girl.  

Some D/s relationships involve bondage and discipline or sadism and masochism but others do not.  The feature of the relationship which turns both parties on is the power exchange (authority transfer). One person is in charge and the other agrees to submit to their rule.  Submission can be part time, sexually only for example, or it can be full time (e.g. in all aspects of the relationship).  D/s relationships often have clear structures, with rituals, rules and expectations all spelled out.  Many people who engage in them gain pleasure from all of these aspects.  The submissives enjoy giving up control and being led by someone else.  The dominants enjoy the control over their partners, having someone do as they desire. This is a simplistic description of what both parties might get out of the relationship.  For more on these relationships, listen to this seriesof podcastsfrom Sex SpokenHereand D is for Dominant from the A to Z of Sex ®podcast.

owner loaner

D/s relationships can be very straightforward or very complex.  Some include significant role play as well as the exchange of power.  There are marriages that work on these principles as well as long term living together relationships.  However, it can be difficult to maintain these roles when living with someone full time especially if the person who is in the submissive role is dominant in the outside world (at work, within the household, the main bread winner).   As a result, in some relationships, the D/s aspects become watered down which often leads to dissatisfaction on the part of both parties.   

A solution to managing this dissatisfaction is to make sure that there is specific time set aside for D/s.  As long as this is a substantial enough amount of time and it is ringfenced so that the rest of life does not intrude, this will work for many relationships.

Owner Loaner

One solution to this situation is to consider opening up the relationship. A couple can agree to engage in D/s play with other partners and not each other or with other partners and still engage with each other.  Deciding who will do what with whom can require some intricate negotiation.  When done properly, this is a great solution that increases everybody’s enjoyment and fulfilment.  

One issue that arises is the need for a person to have agency and autonomy to create and manage multiple relationships.  When one is in a hierarchical relationship, the person who is in the dominant role is the one who is in charge.  If that person is giving authority over what relationships their partner can form, then the submissive does not have the agency to form additional relationships or continue them.   Non-monogamous relationships for people in hierarchical relationships can look different depending up on if their hierarchical relationship is full time or part time. Non-monogamy in part-time D/s relationships can run the gamut from simple dating through to relationship anarchy to polyamorous arrangements.  

Myra and Robin were involved in a D/s relationship for 10 years before they moved in together.  Both are high powered business women, running their own companies for over a decade each. They met at a Women in Business event and the connection was instant.   They quickly discovered that they lived in the same state.  Their first date highlighted their desires.  Myra quickly took control and Robin revelled in her submission.  They talk each day and meet each weekend to spend time together.  Their relationship grows and deepens and finally they decide to move in together.  

At first things work well.  Weekends are the time that they set aside for the D/s side of their relationship. During the week they look like any other couple living together.    Robin sometimes finds it difficult giving up control on the weekend, especially on weeks where she is travelling for work.   But things are still working and they are both still happy together. After 6 months living together, Myra decides to take a sabbatical.  She is working on a book and needs the time to write.  They agree that Robin will be the main bread winner for those 6 months.   This is when the D/s relationship truly begins to break down.

The women came to see me when Robin found it too difficult to submit to Myra. They were both upset by this change and were motivated to look at how they could make sure their relationship would survive and thrive.  After 4 coaching sessions, Robin raised the issue of opening the relationship.  She proposed that they both seek to create a D/s relationship with someone else.  At first Myra was resistant to this idea, concerned that they would lose one of the best facets of their relationship.  After some negotiation, they decided to choose partners for each other and were clear about the limitations.  They decided to restrict the relationship to D/s in the bedroom. After a few false starts, they found situations which suited both of them.   After a month of exploring new D/s relationships, they told me the spark had come back between them and they left coaching.  In this situation, they were each involved in negotiation and setting the limits of other relationships.

In relationship anarchy, relationships are not bound by rules set by society or culture but are only bound by rules set by the people involved. In relationship anarchy, hierarchy between relationships is avoided.  This can cause issues when a relationship is hierarchical depending upon whether that relationship includes control over other relationships.     However, if this is not the case, then relationship anarchy starts with putting yourself first and then being very deliberate about your relationships – making conscious choices about them at all time.

In full time D/s relationships, the person in charge is also often in charge of whether there are other relationships as well.    Because of this, the person who is in the submissive role does not have the agency to begin, continue, or end relationships with others.  All relationships are had with the permission of the dominant.  One dominant woman I know talks of being an owner and therefore loaning out property rather than her slaves having separate autonomous relationships with others.    

In the ‘Owner Loaner’ Model, the owner sets the rules for the other relationships that their property might have.  The owner may do all of the negotiation, be an integral part of the negotiation or give the property the details about what is acceptable and allow them to do the negotiation.    No matter how the negotiation is organised, the owner is the one who is giving permission, not the property.    Morloki describes this as a ‘Time Share Model’ where the other interested parties can ‘request regular rental weeks during the year.  Chosen family rentals can be had with special terms’.  

If other relationships are not included in the hierarchal relationship, then the other relationships are negotiated directly and terms are agreed between the participants only.  Each relationship has rules about other relationships, whether it is hierarchical or not.  

For some this raises issues about consent.  In this type of relationship organisation, the owner gains the consent of the property to loan them to others and the parameters of any loan (and therefore any other relationship), are negotiated between owner and property.  The owner then restricts the terms of any loan to those the property has consented to as part of their relationship agreement (owner loaner model). Property can still withdraw consent at any time and this is made clear to any other playmate or partner during negotiations.  Property cannot agree to extend the terms of a loan relationship.  This is negotiated with the owner.

Jeff and Cindy are in a full time Owner/property relationship.  At the beginning of their relationship, they negotiated the possibility of other partners – intimate partners, emotionally intimate partners, play only partners – as part of their long term relationship.  A few years into their relationship, Cindy met Larissa.  Jeff negotiated with Larissa to loan Cindy to her for a full BDSM relationship including sexual contact.  Jeff prefers an owner loaner model and that relationship worked well for two years until Cindy felt that Larissa was no longer meeting her needs as agreed to at the beginning of the relationship. She spoke with Jeff about this in detail and Jeff ended the relationship as he felt that this was simply causing stress for Cindy (his property).  In this case, Cindy spoke with Larissa first and said that she wanted to end the relationship.  When Larissa didn’t take this well, Jeff stepped in to make sure it was ended properly and with as little rancour as possible.  Three years later, Cindy’s first love got in touch with her.  She asked Jeff if she could see Bob and also if she could see where a relationship with Bob might go.  Jeff agreed to the date and when it went well, he agreed to loan Cindy to Bob for an emotionally and sexually intimate relationship for an indefinite period of time.  Two years later, the relationship continues.  

In some M/s or O/p relationships, the dominant partner will introduce other people into the relationship on specific occasions.  When this is the case, it will have been agreed between the parties when they set out the terms of their relationship.  Josh likes to bring people home to have sex with Jeremy, his long term slave.  The people he brings home are really clear as to who is in charge and what the rule are.

Some people become polyamorous because they discover an interest in dominance and submission and want to enter authority transfer or D/s relationships but their partners have little interest in exploring with them.  They choose to open their relationships.  In my experience many of these relationships are poly monogamous relationships.  For more on poly monogamy see my article here.  These relationships can work well however couples need to communicate well and negotiate extremely well in order for them to do so.  Coaching helps couples learn the communication and negotiation skills needed to create exciting and well-functioning poly monogamous relationships.

It is currently trendy to avoid hierarchy when it comes to relationships, particularly in the non-monogamous community.  Hierarchical relationships can be extremely exciting and satisfying whether they are part time (D/s) or full time (M/s, O/p).  For people who have multiple relationships that include one or more hierarchical relationships, the relationships can look like ordinary polyamorous relationships where all relationships are separately agreed and negotiated and maybe even equal when it comes to time and attention or they can be owner loaner relationships where the Master/Owner/Dominant is loaning out the slave/property/submissive to the people with whom they have other relationships. Consent and negotiating boundaries is more complex when D/s and non-monogamy are mixed and more time may be needed to get relationships off the ground, but these relationships can be very exciting and fulfilling in the short and long term.

Want to learn more about the DS in BDSM, non-monogamy and combining the two? Sign up for a discovery session with me hereor email loribeth@drloribethbisbey.com

Welcome to my virtual therapy room!  I am Dr Lori Beth Bisbey and this is Sex Spoken Here. Remember that this podcast deals with adult themes so if you don’t have privacy you might wish to put on your headphones.   This week I am interviewing Mason deRou.  This is part one of a two part interview.

Master Mason deRou is a primal Master who began his walk into the public kink scene in 2009.

He has dominion over Miss Kimi deRou and together they form La Maison deRou.  Mason deRou is also the commander of La Meute de Rougaroux (the Rougarou Pack).  He is a uniform fetishist, pony trainer, erotic photographer and also loves the littles.  Mason leverages his relative y9outh to build bridges among several kinky tribes and subcultures, allowing the voices of both past and current generations of kinksters to be heard.  Mason has presented at BESS, Black Rose, CLUE, Weekend Reunion and several MaST chapters.  Mason is the president of the Master-Dominant Consortium and is one of the founding members of the Leather Houses of Color Coalition.  He is a member of MAsT DC Pan and MAsT Washington and is also an alumnus of the MTTA Academy (Master Training XX).  Mason resides in southern Maryland.

Mason deRou starts  talking about education by talking about structure and we spend some time talking about the military and what structure looks like in the military.

He goes on to  say that he follows the power.

He looks for the people who are in authority.  He spoke about the fact that someone was telling him that when people had to start from the bottom to be a Master if you have that policy you never run out of bottoms. He spoke of always wanting to know the why.  We talk about the end result but not what started it. We need discernment skills to not take stuff at face value and the critical thinking.  Mason  deRou says that in the military they think between the boxes not outside the box.  He wishes that people would think that way so we would not have the petty arguments that don’t matter.   He says military people know how to act – they have a code that will get them through the day.  Step 1 learn to critical think and step 2 is to learn discernment – to choose to use this.

Mason deRou asks do we really want accountability?

He says that the problem with a call out culture around consent violations and perceived bad behaviour is that people can’t discern – was it a mistake, was it a bad decision, was it someone just not caring, was it someone being an ass?   Responses generally come from your own experience and lots is not put out in public.  People often don’t discern they respond to personality instead – or cliques.  People respond the best way they know how but they don’t have enough information.  There is always some crucial piece that doesn’t make it online.  Given that – we don’t want to call people out because discernment is a problem – we cannot decide as a group – there is not enough discernment to say as a group – this person made a mistake and have apologised and made amends versus this person is an asshole and just does it all the time.

We moved from here to talk about risk management and risk assessment.

We talk about SSC (safe sane consensual) but a lot of stuff I do ain’t safe or sane and if we take this view we will risk manage better.  A lot of us are adrenalin junkies – all this stuff is risky.  It is not that someone is purposely doing something.  We have to be able to take responsibility and risk assess and risk manage.   Mason deRou and I talked further about consent and the fact that we can’t even talk about proper informed medical consent.

We moved to talk about litigiousness and liability.  Mason deRou said if we took that track about a lot of what we do – we probably wouldn’t do half of the stupid things we do.

Can the person even give consent?  Are they in an impaired state of mind?  Mason points out that lots of endorphins can produce an impaired state of mind and therefore the person can’t give consent.  And people get upset when you bring this up because you are messing with their fun.   Just because you risk assess doesn’t mean you don’t do something – you acknowledge the risk, list the reasons it is crazy and then make a decision if you are going to go ahead as well.   Mason points out that when you make an error you have to be accountable and give a genuine apology and make amends.   You have to have some credibility with yourself when that happens so when you do that to someone, they are more apt to be willing to hear you out.  Can still make the choice but everyone has to know what they are getting into.    There is a difference between playing with someone you know and pick up play  – where you just met someone.    We talked about making bad choices versus blaming others.    Who had the ultimate responsibility for the scene?  The top has the responsibility for the scene.  If you don’t want it, don’t take the responsibility.

Mason deRou gave a shout out to Black Rose who do a BDSM 101 where people can talk to people and learn without being able to play.

Gateway.

BESS in Baltimore.

Mason deRou says you are at the whim of what you can find in your local area.  I say that I am putting together of an archive of basic topics because of interviewing people over time.  Lots more of an online presence for information where you can Q & A. Mason says the second part of what we need is an enforcement to see if people have been to a basic course so they have the basic skills and required people to have a card to show this order to play at a local dungeon.  If we invested in not moving if you can’t prove that someone has knowledge.  We are only willing to accept a certain level of risk.   People need to invest in the basic skills – communication and negotiation skills.  Of course that does involve work and Mason says some people don’t want to work.

 

The best place to find Mason deRou

At an event.  If you are out and about in Washington DC I’ve been at the Crucible, I’ve been to BESS.  Online Mason deRou on Facebook and on Fetlife LeRougaroux.  There is a group LeRougaroux’s Den with lots of readings. You can follow without sending a friend request.

Thanks for joining me for Sex Spoken Here with Dr Lori Beth Bisbey.  This week we talked about consent, risk assessment, the importance of education in BDSM and how the community polices itself and the problems with this.  If any of this triggered you, please write me at drbisbey@the-intimacy-coach.com and I will help you to find resources.

Write to me with suggestions for the show, questions you want answered at drbisbey@the-intimacy-coach.com, follow me on twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Check out my YouTube channel: Dr Lori Beth Bisbey. For a free 30-minute strategy session with me, go to https://the-intimacy-coach.com/and click the button that says click here! on the contact page.

Please leave a review on iTunes and stitcher if you enjoy the show.

I look forward to seeing you next week.

Master Black Zeus

Welcome to my virtual therapy room!  I am Dr Lori Beth Bisbey and this is Sex Spoken Here. Remember that this Vlog deals with adult themes so if you don’t have privacy you might wish to put on your headphones.

This is part 2 of my interview with Master Black Zeus.  Part one can be found on the A to Z of Sex podcast, Z is for Black Zeus.

I had the opportunity interview Master Black Zeus during Master Slave Conference 2018.  He is a community elder who entered the leather community in 1986 when he was mentored and introduced into the community by a gay leatherman who he rode motorcycles with.  Like many who engage in BDSM and/or are part of the leather community, he began his journey anonymously so as not to cause problems in his daily life.  He entered the public scene in 1997 by joining Black Rose and attending a number of classes and events.   He developed a website and began to host regular online educational events.  He is a member of MAsT Las Vegas and hosts the ISA Network video conferences.

We continued our conversation by talking about the differences between D/s and M/s relationships.   He talks about teaching power exchange (PE) versus total power exchange (TPE) and also talks about erotic power exchange which is solely for the erotic potential of the exchange.

We spoke about the models coming into BDSM, kink and leather.  We spoke about the fact that lots of things get eroticised because of the authority transfer.    So that some service activities become erotic because they are part of the service.

Master Black Zeus says that it is important to talk about more than kink when talking BDSM and that we are talking about relationship building.  He talked about the fact that there was a big thing made in his local community when they found out that he played with men.   He went on to say that being a dominant and a sadist, he can enjoy playing with people of all genders.   I point out that often times sexual orientation doesn’t enter into this because it is all about the dominance and submission, about the sadism and masochism and that means you can play with someone who is not of your usual preferred orientation or gender.

The conversation turned round to respect, relationships, consent and HIV.  We talked about sexual health and the importance of knowing about your sexual health status.  We spoke about the illusion that PREP means there is no epidemic anymore.  We spoke about all the other diseases that are around and how important regular sexual health screening is.

We finished by talking about what is important if you are going to engage in a BDSM lifestyle.   We talked about the fact that we all make mistakes and apologising and learning from mistakes is essential.  No one is perfect.

Thanks for joining me this week for Sex Spoken Here with Dr Lori Beth Bisbey.

Write to me with suggestions for the show, questions you want answered at drbisbey@the-intimacy-coach.com, follow me on twitter and instagram @drbisbey.

For a free 30 minute strategy session with me, go to https://the-intimacy-coach.com and head to the contact page and click the button that says Schedule Now!

I look forward to seeing you next week

I have written about polyamorous D/s relationships in the past.  Recently, in a mentoring session with the head of the leather household, House of Trei, Choc Trei, polyamory in a full Master/slave or Owner/property authority transfer based relationship came up as part of a discussion of their House tour.  The discussion raised new points and led to me re-examining the many types relationship style that people who are in an authority based relationship might adopt.

As a refresher, authority transfer based relationships are ones in which one person is definitely the leader and the other is the follower.

These are consensual relationships in which the person who is in the subordinate role, surrenders part or all of their autonomy by surrendering authority over part or all of themselves and their lives to the one who is in the dominant role so that the dominant is the one who makes the decisions or has the final say.

There are a number of different flavours of authority transfer based consensual relationships  The most common are:

D/s (Dominant/submissive) In D/s relationships, the submissive gives the Dominant partner limited authority over themselves and over their lives.   They negotiate the areas of service and of authority transfer.

M/s (Master/slave)  In M/s relationships, the slave surrenders authority over themselves and their lives to the Master.  This is a full transfer of authority as opposed to in D/s.

O/p (Owner/property) In O/p relationships, the Owner has full authority over the property just as in M/s.

However, as with most definitions, these tend to evolve so YMMV.

How does this intersect with non-monogamy?

Many people who practice non-monogamy, particularly those who identify as practicing polyamory dislike the idea of hierarchical relationships.  They eschew the previous common polyamorous structure that had one relationship identified as a primary relationship and others as secondary, tertiary and so on.    They feel that no relationship should be more important than another, no person taking precedence over another, all relationships be seen as and treated as equal.

In practice, equal is truly the wrong term.

While relationships may be treated equally in mind and heart – be equal in value, in day to day life, equal is very difficult if not impossible to achieve.  Equal means to be the be the same in degree, size or quantity.   Attempting to create equality of time alone can be a challenge.

When one of the relationships is a hierarchical one as all authority transfer based relationships are, equal becomes difficult at best and impossible at worst.

If the authority transfer based relationship is a D/s one, it is possible to create equal other polyamorous relationships as both parties retain at least some agency.  However, if it is an M/s or O/p relationship, equal other relationships are not truly possible.

Why is this so?  In surrendering authority, the submissive also surrenders agency.  Some agency is usually returned except in the most restrictive and micro-managed M/s relationships where the Master controls every aspect of the slave’s live.    But even though the subordinate regains some agency, the ultimate decision maker is person in charge.  They can allow the subordinate to have other romantic and/or sexual relationships and they also have the authority to end these relationships.

Full polyamory requires full agency.

As the slave does not have the agency to create the relationship without permission, to define the parameters of the relationship, or to choose if the relationship is to continue or to end, then it is not polyamory as such.

Therefore what is it? It is consensual non-monogamy that is taking its form from the hierarchical authority transfer based relationship.

Choc Trei calls this ‘loaning’ as the Owner/Master/Mistress is the party with the agency to begin the second relationship, negotiate it’s parameters and to end it.    In discussing this, she used the example of a car.  Two people can purchase a car together, share the use of it, the maintenance of it and both names are on the title (registration document).    This is polyamory – with two people each having a relationship with a separate third person.  In the car analogy, both people have agency to use the vehicle as they see fit as they both own part of it.  In the polyamory example, the separate relationships can take any form as all parties have agency over the relationship (which is the car).

However, when there is an M/s or O/p relationship, the car analogy becomes one person (the M/O) purchases the car, takes responsibility for maintenance of it, uses it and that person’s name is on the title (registration document). The owner of the car can choose to lend it to another person.  The owner would define the terms of the loan.  For example, don’t take the car over state lines, don’t use cheap petrol, wash the car every week.  In addition, the owner could end the loan for any reason.  For example, the person who borrows the car uses the wrong petrol or simply the owner has need of the car.   More or less agency can be awarded when making a loan of property, but the final decision point is always the Owner.

The Owner sets the tone for all other relationships that their property has whether these relationships are sexual, romantic and sexual, friendships, business or family relationships. The Owner can award more or less agency to their property to create and maintain relationships but the owner has the final say.

People often believe that this relationship structure is overly complicated.

In my experience, it depends wholly on the tone set by the dominant partner.  Some Owners love to micro manage and sometimes that means that any other relationships can become complicated as permissions and negotiations happen on a regular basis.   Other Owners give significant agency and freedom to their property which tends to mean that other relationships are less complicated.

Jarrod and Seth are in an authority transfer based relationship. Jarrod sees himself as a benevolent Owner.  Seth has always been able to have casual sexual liaisons with minimal interference.  Jarrod requires Seth to ask first and to make clever choices.   ‘Clever choices’ means to choose people who won’t bring any drama into their relationship.  Jarrod does not ask to meet most of the people Seth becomes involved with as he feels no need.   

When Seth meets Angelo, the connection is extremely intense. Seth asks Jarrod for permission to have sex with Angelo and Jarrod grants this.   Seth realises that he wants an actual relationship with Angelo and brings this to Jarrod.    Jarrod sits down with Seth to discuss what kind of relationship he would like to have with Angelo and after this discussion, asks to meet Angelo so they can negotiate the terms of the relationship and discuss the rules. 

Jarrod likes Angelo immediately upon meeting him.  He explains to Angelo that he is happy for him to start a relationship with Seth, his property, with certain rules in place. Rule number 1 is Angelo is always to be available to him (Jarrod) when needed.  Jarrod tells Angelo that he will do his best to respect their time together, but reiterates that if he needs Seth, his need will come before Angelo’s needs or desires.  Jarrod goes on to say that if he becomes concerned about the relationship between Seth and Angelo and his concerns cannot be resolved, he (Jarrod) will end the relationship between them.   The rest of the rules include safe sex only, no group scenes, no cuts or skin breaks of any kind and no permanent marks.  Angelo agrees to these rules and pursues his relationship with Seth. 

After 6 months, the relationship between Angelo and Seth is still going strong.  Angelo tells Seth that he has fallen in love with him.  He becomes uncomfortable with Jarrod having the final say over their relationship.  He wants to their relationship to be completely autonomous and resents that Jarrod has some say over their relationship even though Jarrod doesn’t interfere and never has interfered.  At first, Angelo urges Seth to address this with Jarrod.  Seth refuses and says that Angelo must have this conversation.  Seth tells Angelo that he does not want to change his relationship with Jarrod.    Angelo is upset by this but decides to talk with Jarrod about changing the rules anyway.   The conversation doesn’t go well and the relationship between Seth and Angelo ends.

In that example, the intensity of the relationship between the property and the outside person changed and this lead the relationship ending as the other person would no longer respect the rules set by the Owner.  I see this type of situation in my consulting room regularly either because Owner and property come in to make sense of the drama that has entered their relationship or because the outside person comes because they are not happy having a relationship that is not completely autonomous.  This type of situation can often be avoided if all parties are clear at the outset as to what the relationship possibilities are and what kind of parameters will be put into place.

I often see people who are in an M/s or O/p relationship and want to have other M/s or D/s relationships. In these relationships, the negotiation can be easier as all parties understand authority based relationships. It can also be more complicated while people try to figure out who is ultimately in charge of whom.     Short term encounters are mostly easily managed.  It is the longer term relationships that require the most care and attention to negotiate.

For people whose primary sexual orientation is dominance or submission, it is not unusual for most of their romantic relationships and sexual encounters to have at least an element of dominance/submission.

Though many of my romantic relationships are not D/s, almost all of my sexual relationships involve submission as this is my primary orientation.  My husband and I are in an M/s relationship and so he has the last word on any other relationships that I become involved in. He gives me lots of agency to form relationships and does not micromanage any of these relationships.  He has only a few rules and is laid back as long as these rules are adhered to.  Everyone I become involved with is well aware of the hierarchy before they get involved with me.    People who only want egalitarian polyamorous relationships don’t usually get involved with me because I am in a hierarchical relationship.

The trend to denigrate all hierarchical non-monogamous relationships works to exclude many people who choose authority transfer based relationships as part of their relationship structure.

By their nature, authority based relationships are hierarchical and this does impact upon non-hierarchical relationships that a person has as well.  It doesn’t always mean that the authority based relationship is creating and controlling the hierarchy but often this is the case.

Are you in an authority based relationship and non-monogamous?  If you would like help creating a structure that works well or managing the issues that arise out of the relationship structure, sign up for a 30 minute free discovery session with me on my contact page.  If you want to learn more about authority based relationships, check out my online course here.