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Usual disclaimer, not a one-true-way post. The “answer” for you as a poly sub may be different. This is just a post to elucidate for people in my life how I see it for myself. I don’t know if this is how I’ll always feel on these topics, as identity is a constantly evolving project. But I wanted to write on how I feel about it now.
There’s a lot of other people who have written extensively on the idea of “collaring yourself.” I suppose that what I am writing here is in some ways similar to that.
There’s a sort of obnoxious double standard in a lot of mainstream BDSM: “Doms can have more than one lifestyle sub” is a statement very few disagree with, but “subs can have more than one lifestyle dom” is something some do disagree with, or feel initially confused by. They conjure-up thoughts of being owned by a couple as the only logical conclusion, or outright dismiss the entire concept.
For me, as a poly sub, it couldn’t be any other way. Telling me I can’t be owned by more than one person is like telling me I can’t have a relationship with more than one person. It’s farcical.
“Okay but what about conflicting orders!!! Clearly someone must own you the most!!”
99% of the time when someone says this they are talking about orgasm control, which is pretty irrelevant to me. If they aren’t, they’re a creative enough person setting creative and obscure enough rules that they frankly don’t conflict or are enjoyed by all involved.
This, again, is similar to the hierarchical poly idea that “obviously someone is the most important because they get the most of your time because it’s impossible to always have equal time!!!!” It’s coming from that resource competition idea of poly that I do not prescribe to, as well as from the flatly anti-poly idea “well you must love someone more!” (If you want to read more of that sort of discourse, this article is fairly solid: https://www.morethantwo.com/primarysecondary.html It’s not perfect because nothing is, but I’ve found it a helpful framework for communicating how I view poly.)
“But wait, Sera, something can’t be owned by more than one person!”
Back on self-collaring–For me, words like “sub” and “property” are things I think of in an identity sense for myself. Identity is not dependent on others–it’s me and mine.
And more to the point, things absolutely can be owned by more than one person. One (particularly objectifying) example I like to use for myself is a rec room/community recreation room.
Everyone owns the rec room. You can go and sit at the TV, and enjoy the pool table, and use the microwave or stovetop, and all the other things you do in a community rec room. Yes, someone is managing funding the rec room, or perhaps an organization of more than one person is, but it belongs to and can be used by everyone. If the stovetop is broken, people don’t stop using the rec room; they just may use the microwave instead. If the TV is on the fritz, maybe they opt to play a board game instead.
I can have more than one relationship and that means I can have more than one dom. Yes, relationships can have different levels of economic or life-commitment entwinements, but that doesn’t change how I feel about other people. If my leg is hurt from a scene with someone else others can just respect that and have me stand instead of kneel. If there’s some sort of “status condition” placed on me by another dom–or yes, for the orgasm denial crowd, I’m not allowed to cum–it’s really not hard to play around and respect those.
“But obviously everyone you play with doesn’t ‘own’ you, so what does ‘owned’ actually mean to you?”
I’ve tried very hard to put this into a single, concise sentence and not a bunch of paragraphs, as what prompted this writing was being asked to define what owned means to me.
I think I’m left with something like: “For me, ‘owned’ is one possible D/s equivalent to romantic love.”
It may also coincide with romantic love, or it may not–there doesn’t need to be both. And it isn’t the only term with which that same depth of a relationship can be expressed. But it represents a shared trust and commitment. It’s knowing I’m safe to give control of myself to someone (that usually comes with a certain degree of being willing to do things small or large that I don’t want to if I’m told to). I’ve talked about how much I get out of that power exchange in other writings, so I suppose another way to put it could be:
“For me, ‘owned’ applies with someone who I have a deep level of mutual trust, mutual respect, and an ongoing power exchange relationship where I am okay giving that much control because I know they’ll be there for me both as a person and a submissive.”
So often in context of poly, that’s entwined with love, but again, it doesn’t have to be. But it is nonetheless a very deep, meaningful word for me.