Voyeurism as Exposure Therapy: How Watching Kink Scenes Made Polyamory Easier for Me

a closeup of the face of an orange and white cat that is hiding in the grass
Image by Roman Till / CC BY

I’m watching them from across the room, leaning against the wall. Trying to be as unobtrusive as I can, so that I don’t spoil their energy. I’ve positioned myself so that there’s another scene partially obscuring my view: A woman pressed up against a St. Andrew’s cross, her partner flogging her back in time to the music filtering into the room. What they’re doing is hot of course, but for me this flogging scene is the potted plant I’m hiding behind. Not the main attraction.

No, my focus is spying on my partner as he tortures a willing woman with his bare hands.

He smacks her, and the sound reverberates. She squeals. I smile because I know how expert he is with this kind of torture. How he pulls his hand back at a certain angle so that it sticks to the point of impact longer, causing more pain.

There’s a long pause after the strike. My partner doesn’t appear to even move, but the woman stretched out on the table squeals again, contorting. Swearing at him. I stifle a giggle. He’s activating her pressure points — it’s invisible to an observer but extremely effective. Painful and obtrusive in a way that causes a flood of endorphins.

As the scene between them continues, I can see the energy shifting between them back and forth. It’s incredibly hot.  And heartwarming. I get almost as much of a rush out of watching them as I do out of my own scene with him that night.

It’s Not Polite to Stare

Like a lot of people, when I was new to polyamory, I wasn’t sure how I would react when I saw my partner being intimate with others. How would I feel the first time I saw my partner cuddling someone else? Kissing them? Doing even more?

And maybe it’s because my introduction to polyamory came in the form of a MFF triad with a long-time friend (about as gentle a configuration as a newbie can hope for), but I was shocked by my reaction: I found it sweet. Adorable. And frankly, kind of hot. Two people I cared for having a tender moment right in front of me.

But at the same time, I was deeply uncomfortable. And it wasn’t the “third wheel” feeling left out thing. No, it was something else entirely. I felt rude watching them. Like it was their private moment, and I was intruding. I was being creepy.

And interestingly enough, this became a rather dependable reaction. Unless I was explicitly invited in as part of the physical intimacy (i.e., we’re all making out together or having a threesome or something), I’d feel awkward seeing my partner with someone else.  That I was doing something wrong by watching.

Voyeurism as Exposure Therapy

It wasn’t until I’d been actively polyamorous for about a year and happened upon people in the kink scene that this started to change, albeit slowly. My first visit to a dungeon was a revelation: I was not only allowed to watch other people in the throes of intimacy, but here it was basically an expected behavior. So long as you didn’t enter someone else’s scene without permission or do anything loud or disruptive, people assumed that whoever wanted to would watch. And for some of the people at the dungeon, that was the whole point: The audience was the turn-on.

Suddenly, I had a new paradigm, a new way of understanding myself as a third party observer. One whose presence was neutral or positive.

Because if you don’t want an audience, you don’t start fooling around in front of non-participants. You go somewhere private.

And as the months and years wore on and I watched other people play on the kink scene (both partners and non-partners), I found that my voyeurism became a kind of exposure therapy. It became even more enjoyable to see my partners with others in both kinky and non-kinky contexts. I felt less creepy and rude when I’d happen upon a partner being intimate with another person (for example, at a party). I came to trust that any instances where people wanted privacy would be communicated and arranged to be that way (y’know, sexile) and stopped putting pressure on myself to anticipate that need for privacy.

And I learned to bask in the energy of people around me without feeling guilty about watching.

Well sorta. I’m still a little shy sometimes about doing so overtly.

I was hiding behind that flogging scene, after all.

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A Geek’s Guide to Unicorn Ranching: Advice for Couples Seeking Another Partner 

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