So. Queering Power 2014 happened last weekend almost a month ago, and Ghost, Kitty, and I were asked to facilitate a discussion about overlapping power exchanges in full-time and ownership dynamics. Here’s the description:
Long term, full-time Power Exchange is never simple, but it becomes exponentially more complicated when you add polyamoury to the mix. How do you hold someone firmly while allowing them enough leash to hold power in another person’s life? What authority does someone have over you when they are your owner’s owner? How do you balance the requirements of submission and dominance at the same time? In what sense is someone your subordinate, and in what sense are they your equal, when they’re in service to your servant… but not to you? Open and overlapping full-time power exchanges stretch far beyond occasional extra-dynamic playdates or the running of a staff of submissives by a single dominant. Regardless of whether you’re in charge, in service, or in the middle, please join us for a discussion of the difficulties and delights of overlapping 24/7 power dynamics.
Basically this was very much like the Poly and Power salons that I host chez moi periodically, but a bit more specific in focus, both in terms of topic and in terms of how heavily it was facilitated.
Usually, with Poly and Power, the discussion just kind of ambles where it will, and I keep a couple of question-prompts in my back pocket in case things lag or get tangled in the weeds. In this case, we came prepared with a series of open-ended questions meant to get people thinking and talking.
Now, granted, the folks who turn up for Queering Power are basically a bunch of nerdy keeners in fetish gear. (Uh… I’ll be in my bunk)… Where was I? Right. They’re basically a facilitator’s dream group: They talk, they listen, and they build on what others in the group are saying. Basically, my job as facilitator was really easy. 😉
One of the participants – possibly because he’s a school teacher, but also possibly because he may have been instructed to do so by his Person – took notes. Posssibly I should have done this, too, since it’s now almost a month after the fact, and I’m trying to remember what everybody said.
The main gyst of what came up, though, could – I think – be boiled down to some fairly basic Poly Principals, possibly with a D/s twist on them:
(A) Remember your Place. This is an important one, and I don’t mean it in the sense of “bottom of the ladder” hierarchies where the person who owns someone else’s owner gets to poly-veto All The Things and the person who is owned by the ownee just has to suck it up and take the crumbs. I mean it in the sense of things like… Remembering that I am Ghost’s boss, but not Kitty’s boss (therefore, just as I don’t get to boss Kitty around[1], I also have to remember that her Personal Growth is not my Personal Project). OR Remembering that, just because your Dominant is someone else’s Submissive doesn’t mean that you have to, or get to, serve (or answer to) two Keepers. OR Remembering that being In The Middle sometimes requires a lot of triage, but that everything still needs to Get Done.
This feeds directly into (B) Use your words. But also use your ears. I’ve got a friend who, at his day-job, recently acquired some Minions. And, as he is familiar with KinkyLand, we’ve had a couple of conversations about management and about the responsibilities that one has to the people over-which one holds power. One of the major ones – and one that I fall down on a lot is making sure that your People have enough direction to keep them busy, but also to keep them interested and engaged and developing. It’s the counter-balance to all those job-descriptions that require you to be a self-starter or good at working independently, rather than being the kind of person who either needs someone standing over their shoulder going “Have you finished that project yet? How ’bout now?” in order to actually get anything finished, or else who can finished Assigned Task X just fine, but won’t independently go looking for Task Y on their own.
This is Polyamoury’s “Communicate, Communicate, Communicate” blended with the multi-tasking long game of the Master, the attentive, multi-layered listening of the Servant.
S-types need to listen for instructions, sure, and not just the kind that are phrased as a formal request/expectation (see: Self-starting), but they also need to be careful not to volunteer, unasked, on tasks that they know they’ll resent doing, but feel like they “should” do without having been asked for them. On a similar note, presuming to clean the leather of your master’s master might wind you up with a sharp talking-to along the lines of “That is not your privilege!” rather than a “Thanks for taking that task off my hands” from your boss.
D-types need to offer instructions, sure, but we need to determine those instructions based on both our goals (for ourselves, our dynamics, our People, and our to-do-lists) and on the needs, spoken or unspoken, of our People. I can want to instruct my Servant to whip me up a new pair of leather sandals this evening, but that doesn’t mean I get to ignore things like (a) paid cobblery work that needs to get done, (b) pain flare-ups, and (c) social/emotional responsibilities to her own servant and any other partners who are in the mix. Sometimes Using Your Words is going to feel less like Issuing Decrees and more like parenting an easily-distracted kindergartener[2], but you (in theory) figure out how to make it work.
People in the Middle need to be aware of what they can/should deligate to their own servant(s) – and how frequently they can do that before said s-type(s) start feeling like they’re primarily serving a master-not-their-own – versus what needs to be done by them-specifically in order to continue providing the service (the relationship) they offered to their d-type. A big balancing act, to be sure.
No matter what position(s) we play in a given overlap, we all need to remember to talk about it when we’re swamped with Fill-In-The-Blank and need some help or some slack on This or That responsibility/task.
This, in turn, feeds into (C) Be generous with your heart. This means… assume the best of the people in your constelationships. Nobody’s in competition. Nobody is trying to gain control of All The Time, Energy and Attention (even if your Jerk Brain is saying that they are[3]). Sometimes creative solutions (like sleeping three to a bed once a week so that the ownee’s ownee can make everybody coffee in the morning) will be necessary to keep things running smoothly for everyone involved. Something unexpected relationship twists (an owner’s owner becoming – formally or informally – a mentor/teacher to their ownee’s property; a switch in which member of a given diad is Holding the Power) will happen, and the ripples from those changes will also need to be navigated by everyone else involved in the overlaps.
So there you have it.
Some thoughts on “D/s Cubed” and what I learned while discussing the specifics of overlapping 24/7 and O/p power dynamics at Queering Power 2014.
Ms Syren.
[1] …Ish. I use the analogy of “auntie/neice” to describe the kind of authority (or “authority) I have where Kitty is concerned. I’m only Tthe Boss Of Her when GHost (her “mom” in this analogy) is out of the house.
[2] Even when you don’t have a Mommie/girl relationship there are still going to be days where you have to say “Okay, no more TV, it’s time to Tidy Up” or “I thought I told you to Clean Your Room” or whatever.
[3] Just me? Okay.