Dear Heather: I’m a hetero poly male who is interested in dating a hetero poly female. She’s also in a D/s relationship with another guy. What the heck is up with D/s, and is it possible to make something work when I don’t want anything to do with that kind of thing? She’s awesome, but I don’t know if I should pursue her given her other involvements. What do you think?
— A no D/s Dude
I think you’ve asked one of the many complex questions of the universe, and my short answer is this: It depends. There are a lot of factors to consider in this equation, and I sympathize with your dilemma because I’ve been there myself. On the opposite end of it, though.
The first question is can you honor her Dominant/submissive dynamic even if you don’t understand it? D/s and M/s are polarizing concepts even within the kink community. People have hundreds of legit reasons for why it does or doesn’t work for them, and there are always heavily debated pros/cons online wherever kinksters hang out. In fact, I’ve talked about my reasons for choosing M/s a lot on this blog, and we have a list of resources if you want to educate yourself.
In it’s simplest definition, Dominance/submission (the DS in the middle of BDSM) is “a set of behaviors, customs and rituals involving the giving by one individual to another individual of control over them in a BDSM erotic episode or lifestyle. Physical contact is not a necessity, and it can even be conducted anonymously over the telephone, email or other messaging systems. In other cases, it can be intensely physical, sometimes traversing into sadomasochism. In D/s, both parties take pleasure or erotic enjoyment from either dominating or being dominated.”
D/s can take many forms and each construct of the relationship is different depending on the Dominant and submissive involved. The levels of commitment and intensity run a broad spectrum from occasional play to a 24/7 lifestyle. As the definition explained, some people experience D/s solely through electronic means. It can be anonymous and casual. The other end of the spectrum is intense both physically and mentally and can involve long term commitments.
You might not feel the need to understand what D/s means for your potential love interest, but you should get a sense of her commitment. You need to talk about boundaries and time. Is she in a 24/7 type of dynamic where she’s D/s all the time? Or is it a weekend here and there or maybe a couple of hours every week? The one question all my ex-lovers had was “how does your D/s affect me?” You need to ask this question too because the truth is that although she may not think it will, if she’s in a 24/7 D/s relationship, it’s GOING TO affect you. If you’ve had any experience with poly (and it sounds like you have) then you understand that we don’t have relationships in a vacuum. There may be overlap between your more traditional relationship and her D/s in some areas, and you’re definitely going to feel something about her D/s. Like I said, it’s a kink that generates opinions in everyone. If her D/s is something casual that she does on occasion to get her rocks off, then the effects on her other relationships will be less in my opinion.
You liking D/s or disliking it isn’t the heart of the issue, though. More importantly, can you have your opinions and still respect hers? Her kinks may not be yours, and you need to honor her choices for anything (even friendship) to work. Because this is the part that gets under my skin. I understand that you may not ever understand or even like the fact that I call myself a BDSM sex slave, but you damn well better respect my right to choose this. Live and let live, brother. Nothing will cause more stress and conflict for the two of you if you belittle her dynamic. Asking questions and talking about it is really good, but don’t be disdainful or ridicule it. And most importantly, don’t think less of her or respect her less because she chooses to submit.
There may come a time where she tells you about something she did with her consent and within the bounds of her D/s arrangement that inspires you to say WTF?! Trust me, this happens. Even if you find the activity baffling and maybe repugnant, can you give her the space and respect to have that experience without your judgment and condemnation? Because your negative reaction will make her much less likely to open up to you again about D/s, and less communication in any relationship is the opposite direction of where you want to go.
What I’m trying to say here is that no one in this scenario is right or wrong. You’re both trying to figure out if you’re a good fit which is key in any type of relationship. But in my opinion, pursuing someone in a lifestyle that you don’t approve of or understand might not be the most suitable match.
Rock on, dude.