Do bdsm relationships need an etiquette? Participants in bdsm negotiate before they engage in play. There are explicit and unspoken rules that are used in play parties. Many experienced in bdsm lifestyles maintain a thorough communication about aspects of the bdsm activity. Discussions about dealing with outsiders center around the hierarchy of the bdsm relationship (who is master/dom, who is slave to who, etc…) and the type of role they expect with the new member. In my experience, there are only limited discussions about interpersonal relationships. How are relationships with outsiders communicated in bdsm ones?
Kitty Chambliss talks about communication styles in polyamory:
it can be beneficial to distinguish between 3 styles of communication:
a) Open Awareness
b) Open Approval
c) Don’t Ask Don’t Tell
In Open Awareness, if you have sex with a new partner, you are agreeing to make your other partners aware of it as soon as it is convenient…
For Open Approval, that means that you need to ask PERMISSION from your partners BEFORE any sex happens with new partners…
Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is pretty obvious. The relationship is consensually “open” but neither party wants to hear the gory details of their partner’s sex-capades
Should one have a communication agreement with your partners before engaging in bdsm with outsiders?
Chambliss communicated to me privately:
two kink-friendly people who are in a relationship. Let’s say for example, they don’t even have physical sex with each other, but they like to enjoy bdsm type of activities, such as being tied up. If they choose to open their relationship to other people (versus be monogamous and only be emotionally and physically intimate — in this case meaning tie each other up to get each other off — with only each other), they have a choice as to how to allow other people to enter their arrangement (thus they could then have a “polyamorous” arrangement by entertaining several kink relationships in tandem). Again, as an example, Open Awareness would mean, one person could get tied up by a new person, but doesn’t have to inform their original partner until soon after this occurs (versus getting prior approval BEFORE doing this, which would be Open Approval).
To many, bdsm relationships are treated similarly to polyamorous ones.
The critical thing is to ensure that all the parties know exactly what is expected of them. The roles have to be clearly defined and there must be complete honesty in everything that happens. Everyone must be able to share their feelings and thoughts as they happen and prevent any bad feelings from simmering and damaging the dynamic. A submissive in a relationship with a dominant and multiple other submissives should know that all of the submissives are important and that in the end it is a privilege to serve a dominant who provides for everyone. The moment jealousy and entitlement interferes, the groups tend to break up, even when all involved cared about each other. Submission in a polyamorous situation takes even more strength than submission to one does
If you are thinking about involving playmates or bringing on a permanent new equal as a 3rd, you have to have ground rules that all will agree to and follow. This is very important to make sure that everyone feels equal and included in all dynamics of the relationship. Open and Honest communication between all parties is a must. There can be no secrets. If you are feeling any type of negative feelings, you should tell your Dominant first and then the partner with whom you have the negative feelings as soon as possible. If you don’t, it will just fester and grow until a big blow up occurs…
Be careful in picking the potential playmate/new addition. Remember, there are people out there that are very deceptive and will pretend to be one way, until they get into the relationship, then slowly try to push you apart from your Dominant. Before inviting anyone to join you, make sure you and your Dominant have deep talks about the new person and lay all of your feelings, wants, needs, desires and expectations on the table. Make sure you are very sure and have given a lot of time into getting to know the new person before allowing them closer into your family.
Interpersonal relationships in bdsm are often based on roles.
In BDSM relationships and dynamics, each person has a specific set of roles, a clearly defined status, and each person knows what is expected of them and what to expect from each other. This leaves less room for assumptions and misunderstanding about an individual’s status and the hierarchy of relationships. In any relationship, vanilla or kinky, unspecified and unmet expectations can create a lot of hurt feelings…
This type of polyamorous arrangement works well for people that have several different partners. Each partner can be given a specific role that only they can fulfill. In example, “You are my one and only daddy.”
In this arrangement, a pre-established couple comes as a packaged deal. You can only play with one if you play with the other.
This can be a significant partnership, but it is based around a sense of formality and service. Be it domestic service, high protocol for a specific event, or a formal sense of service. Oftentimes, people who are dedicated to D/s usually adopt this.
In this arrangement, a dominant has multiple submissive partners who don’t have other Doms.
An alpha slave is a submissive/slave that is owned or dominated by one person. S/he is allowed to own or dominate submissives/slaves of their own, or is given the responsibility of doing so over the other dominant’s submissives/slaves.
One partner of the primary relationship is not interested in BDSM. The secondary partner is allowed to explore their needs and wants with one or multiple BDSM partners.
An example of how a couple in a bdsm relationship takes on a third:
I do want to play with a third alongside my Owner, I know that we are going to need a specific type of girl to fulfill my needs …
I will need a third who will enjoy pain because…I plan to inflict some on her as I allow her to service my Owner… and service me
my Owner…requires me to be submissive/slave to ONLY Him… so I don’t ever need to be submissive or a slave to any other person. He agrees that a third would never be above me… so we aren’t following any hard rules about it, but rather, what we discuss and agree on. He is my Master/Owner and I His slave, but not because of any rules… I am His slave by choice. He would never make me be a slave to a ‘third’ that we bring into the bedroom…. He wants us both to enjoy the third
Negotiations are usually necessary with those you meet only at playparties.
what might be called “pickup” play at playparties typically involves the partners’ knowing details about each other than [what] many folks who have been married for a year don’t ask! Negotiations before playing with someone new at a BDSM event can be quite involved and personal; and they get even more involved and personal after years of the partners’ playing together
But there are exceptions. In private (and some public) parties one can come into contact with well-known community members. On these occasions, one can have a “free” pass because your partners know what to expect. For example, one of my partners might go into a session with an expert on rope bondage at a party and it isn’t necessary that she inform the other members of the triad since we know what the outcome will be.
As an example of a private party, my partners will pickup a third woman for an evening at our apartment. It isn’t necessary for me to get acquainted to the third unless she plans to stay for more than one night. Of course, I don’t mind hanging out with her outside of the bedroom and we have often become friends. Similarly, my partners take the same position about friends I bring for the night. Relationships that have room for give-and-take are a lot less stressful.
Is it worth the effort to establish and maintain an etiquette about bringing outsiders into your relationship? Bdsm relationships with additional people are rare and difficult to cultivate and maintain. So why bother? If you’ve done it, you’ll know how rewarding the experience can be. Here is an example from fiction in the story about “sage”, a woman who joins a couple for a kinky threesome:
What we were going to do was to fuck — it was something much more primal and exciting than what normal people did when they went to bed. It was kinky. Kinky might be in, but most people never had the nerve to really push their boundaries