There Can Be Only One (Dom): A Slavish Monogamy and Me

a closeup of a box of gray and black crayons with only one yellow crayon standing out from the rest
Image by Jessie Pearl / CC BY

Stealy McGrabbypants, Experienced Master

Hi pretty, how are you doing? Experienced master is here and I’d like you to be mine if you don’t mind……

*

I read the message, shake my head, and think: Okay, dude, what kind of slave just rando jumps ship when some guy PMs them? Not the kind you want, let me tell you. I already have a Dom. An owner. Who is listed very clearly on my profile.

And of course this “experienced master” has a username that’s something like Goodguy134. Clearly not so good, this guy. False advertising. Horning in on someone else’s slave.

I christen thee Stealy McGrabbypants.

I Can Have Two Lovers, But I Can’t Have Two Dominants

Now maybe I’m being a little harsh towards McGrabbypants.

Some people can have more than one Dom, I hear, but it’s unusual.

And in my case, it’s a hard limit. One of the few I have for myself as a polyamorous person. I can’t see submitting seriously to more than one person, unless maybe they worked together. A conspiracy of lovers. That, maybe, could work.

Because what if their orders conflicted? What if I’m in orgasm denial for one and the other orders me to come? What then?

Whose order do I disregard? Whom do I disappoint?

And besides at that point, as I tease away the inconsistencies, resolve the conflicts, I’m in the driver’s seat. I’m no longer a slave.

Opening Up a Monogamous Relationship as a Slave Was Very Different Than as a Vanilla Partner

And this limit of mine? Well, it made opening up my D/s dynamic a trickier proposition.

I’ve gone through 2 poly openings of previously closed relationships, one in 2015 and one in 2009. They were very different in character. I’ve talked extensively (e.g., here, here, and here) about the differences that were brought about because I had different primaries each time, Seth in 2009 and Skyspook in 2015 (and because I worked different jobs), but honestly, that was only part of it.

In 2009, I was in a vanilla marriage.

In 2015? I was a slave with an owner.

I had no idea how to make that work. How to be polyamorous within a power exchange relationship.

All of the experience I had with polyamory and negotiation was tied to the vanilla world. Sure, I had been my (former) boyfriend Rob’s pet. But that was new, far from 24/7. And we’d negotiated our poly setup well before getting into any sort of D/s territory.

I had no fucking clue how to reconcile my status as a slave with the autonomy and self-determination that I had come to associate with polyamory.

We Fought for Six Months Before I Became His

I suppose it didn’t help that so much of my dynamic with Skyspook came about implicitly. He didn’t sidle up to me and say “Experienced master is here, and I’d like you to be mine.”

No, we were friends for many months. Knew a lot of the same people. Orbited each other in interlocking poly circles. So we flirted. Developed an emotional connection. He told me he loved me a few months before our first date. And when we finally became physical, we fought like vicious animals. Biting. Hitting. Energy switching.

He towered over me by at least 8 or 9 inches. Outweighed me. And he knew aikido.

I didn’t let that stop me. I attacked him when he was vulnerable. Exploited every weakness I could.

But over and over again, I lost.

And one day, after about 6 months of constant wrestling, of limbs and of wills, I conceded defeat. “I do believe you own me,” I said.

*

Skyspook was always slow and measured in his approach to D/s. I watched him grow into a loving Dom who could be an evil fucking sadist. But it happened in time lapse, and I was often surly about that. I wanted everything now, and I didn’t care if it hurt, or harmed, me. But Skyspook wanted to make sure he didn’t break what he owned.

We came from a relatively low-protocol kink crowd, not true old school Leather. The environment was such that neither of us was used to formality, as much as I might have craved it.

Our dynamic grew in shadows. Wordless. And even after several years of being his, I couldn’t quite articulate what it meant or define its boundaries.

Which, to a writer, was the most exquisite kind of torture. Being bound to the ineffable.

Defining a Previously Ambiguous Dynamic

So in 2015 when Skyspook and I decided to open back up to new partners after a long hiatus (dealing with life, becoming financially stable, etc), I was totally devoted to a relationship I didn’t quite understand. And I certainly had no idea what it meant to Skyspook. He seemed to enjoy my frustration about this (and in general).

But I knew that the ambiguity that worked in functional monogamy would likely cause problems in polyamory, with others in the picture. So it became time to make sure we had similar expectations.

In Power Circuits: Polyamory in a Power Dynamic, Raven Kaldera talks about D/s relationships existing on a continuum. Some are more intense, and others not so much. Kaldera outlines the following 5 points as examples of levels on that continuum:

  • Only In Scene. The couple is generally egalitarian, and only occasionally play at a power dynamic during kinky sex. They negotiate as equals outside a scene about sexual contact with others.
  • Part Of My Time Is Owned. The s-type is part-time, and the dominant only has authority over limited and specific parts of their life, and monogamy/polyamory is not one of them. They must negotiate as equals in this area.
  • All The Time, But Not Everything. The s-type is full-time, but the dominant still only has authority over limited and specific parts of their life, and monogamy/polyamory is not one of them. They must negotiate as equals in this area.
  • My Sex Life Is Owned. The s-type has given over authority in almost all areas of their life, including polyamory, but the dominant has promised them specific sexual expectations (such as monogamy, or that they will have certain rights should polyamory occur; for instance remaining the primary partner or helping to select new partners) and it is agreed that the s-type has the right to walk out should the dominant break their word.
  • Everything Is Owned: No Recourse. The slave is owned property, and willingly gave up their right to decide on such issues or enforce such limits. They must depend on the dominant’s honor and the promises that they have made, and if those promises are changed they have no recourse.

As I looked over these categories, I knew that we weren’t Only in Scene and that we weren’t Everything Is Owned: No Recourse. But which of the middle three?

Would I negotiate as an equal in polyamory? Was this what I wanted? And did it square with Skyspook’s expectations?

I became a pest. “You need to read this book,” I said, waving it in front of his face.

“Okay, when I get time.”

“Fine,” I said and sighed heavily.

He laughed. “You’re adorable. I promise I’ll read it.” And chuckled when he saw that I’d written down pages and chapter numbers that I particularly wanted to discuss.

Skyspook made good on that promise. And it became clear as we talked through what we both wanted and needed that we were a clear case of All The Time, But Not Everything. We would negotiate as equals.

And with that, the major conflict seemed to be resolved, and I was able to draw upon my former experiences with vanilla polyamory to negotiate our new agreement.

Blindsided by a Slavish Possessiveness

“The things you own end up owning you.”

-Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

*

I was completely unprepared for what happened next.

Skyspook and I had both been dating, having adventures, bonding over it all. Everything in poly land had gone swimmingly, beautifully even, until I saw him talking to another s-type. A submissive. One that he was interested in topping.

But, but he’s MY Dom, something screamed primally from within me. That’s MY Dom!

I was knocked completely off guard. What the fuck was this? I had years and years of experience being polyamorous. And I hadn’t been this jealous, this upset, this insecure feeling since… the first night I spent alone when a lover went on a date with someone else.

And even this was worse than that. This was fresh and hot. This was anguish.

I felt a feeling I hadn’t felt in years, maybe not since junior high. I didn’t just feel jealous. I felt possessive.

When I calmed down and took a step back, I could see it all clearly: My whole template of D/s, Owner and slave, revolved around possession. Yes, my Owner owned me (thus, the name), but I had never really consciously acknowledged that I believed it went both ways: That I owned him in return.

And while I was fine sharing him in a vanilla capacity, my fear centers were taking major issue with sharing him as a Dominant.

And I realized this was going to cause huge problems if I couldn’t make peace with it. And quick.

Because kink isn’t a footnote for either of us. One activity on a list of many that we enjoy. “Me? I’m into water skiing, Parcheesi, and BDSM.”

No. Instead, it’s woven into our identities. And at this point, it’s arguably a sexual orientation.

Vanilla Dating Alone Just Wouldn’t Cut It

Indeed, we’d just come off a stint attempting to date another couple who were vanilla, and even though we hadn’t gotten into any kink with them, they found everything we did laced with it.

When Skyspook placed his hand lightly on the wife’s neck as they made out, she interpreted this as Skyspook “choking” her. And my running my nails down the husband’s neck when I kissed him? Supposedly pain play. This would become a theme in our brief time dating them – their comparatively vanilla sensibilities thinking everything we did was kinky.

While this wasn’t a dealbreaker per se, and they liked it, the mismatch led to some awkward conversations which didn’t help compatibility on our side.

And Skyspook was about as Dominant as they come. He’d spent some time as a switch when he was new to kink, but time and practice had borne out the reality that he was mostly a top. And any bottoming tendencies were extremely limited. Teasing, a bit of delayed gratification.  But he didn’t like being ordered around. And he despised pain.

Barring him from seeing other submissives? Especially since we both found it more difficult to date vanilla folks? Would practically force him into monogamy. It was unfair.

And yet, I reeled from another sense of unfairness: I couldn’t have more than one Dom. It just wouldn’t work for me.

What the fuck was I supposed to do?

Coming Clean

I’m sobbing, curled up on the couch, hiding my face behind a pillow. I’ve confessed it all to him. And I don’t know how he’ll take it. Whether he’ll judge me. Or if he is already.

“Page,” Skyspook says softly. “Just because I play with someone, it doesn’t mean that they’re going to be on equal footing with you. Instantly. Without discussion. I’m not going to just move someone into the house. I won’t give anyone your collar. It’s okay.”

“But you could,” I choke out. “You’re in charge. What could I do?”

“Have you ever known me to do things just because I could do them? If they weren’t the right thing to do?” he asks, very carefully. His voice is measured, each syllable deliberate.

I pull the pillow away from my face. I sigh. “No.”

“What makes you think I’d change now?”

“I don’t know,” I say. “Martin?”

He laughs. Sits down on the couch next to where I’m lying. Pulls my legs up into his lap. “I wouldn’t just take a 24/7 submissive out of nowhere. You’d know them. You have a right to choose who lives with you and who doesn’t. And besides, why would I want someone who would instantly submit to a new guy? A virtual stranger? Serious submission is a big fucking deal. They’d need to vet me, too. And if they didn’t, I’d have concerns about their judgment.”

I nod.

“And let’s say everything lined up, and I did take another submissive, what makes you think it’d be the same as what I have with you?”

“Well, it’d be D/s and…” I stop.   

“And what?” he asks.

I shake my head. “I don’t know.”

“That’s what I’m talking about. D/s doesn’t mean any one thing. It’s a basic structure, sure, but every relationship is different.”

And I know he’s right. Because that was the whole issue before. Why we had to figure out where we fell on Kaldera’s continuum. But I just smile at him.

“It doesn’t matter how many submissives I’m seeing,” he says. “You’ll always be my Page.”

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3 Comments

  1. “And yet, I reeled from another sense of unfairness: I couldn’t have more than one Dom. It just wouldn’t work for me.”

    What did you do with that sense of unfairness?

  2. Talking it through with Skyspook helped. A lot.

    The other thing that helped was focusing on the fact that there were a bunch of DIFFERENT kink relationships I could have even if I wasn’t in the market for another 24/7 owner.

    I actually went on after the events in this essay to have my own sub for a while, which was entirely unexpected. CC was my first male submissive (in the past, I’ve topped entirely women).

    And while CC isn’t my boyfriend anymore, I still love the guy. We’re good friends. He even wrote a guest post for Poly Land!

    I’ve basically dated all switches the past few years (even CC was a switch).

    Although the girl that I’ve been seeing is a sadist. And that’s been really fun.

    While the bond I have with Skyspook is of huge importance (I’m devoted to him), I’m probably most properly described as a switch or kinkster.

    Others have said that Skyspook basically enslaved another Domme when he collared me.

    I’m sexually toppy. But a physical masochist. The Domming I do is really specific though (mostly verbal humiliation, insults, and selfishness, I’m more of an emotional sadist than a physical one). And I haven’t done a full-on 24/7 Dom-ing of anyone. It’s a lot of work even in a casual thing, so I do it rarely.

    I had emotionally forgotten a lot of this though… when we went to open. I was so far into this slave space. I didn’t even remember how I could be with other people in different ways.

    So part of the fun was exploring and remembering all of that. 🙂

    But yeah. I stopped focusing on what I couldn’t have and focused on what I could.

  3. Now, I didn’t THINK I was a switch or a kinkster when we opened, mind you. I was ID-ing “slave all the way, baby.”

    But in reality, I had multiple other sides of myself that I could connect with people. And once I stopped being upset about the one thing not working, I had a great time figuring the other stuff out.

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