Kink vs Amatonormativity
Something I've really wanted to share my thoughts on for a while is how kink and power exchange relationships are deeply intertwined with my aromanticism and ace experience, and how that can be when "an aroace" is probably not the first type of person that comes to mind when most folks think "kinkster."
It's been hard trying to organize these thoughts, and I've been struggling to find a way to articulate them for months, so bear with me here. This gets a little long;;
If you asked me if I feel romantic attraction or not, I'd answer by asking you to define romantic attraction and then picking it apart and asking why it's described how it is. I'm quoiromantic, so that's just how I answer the question of romantic orientation. I uh .. don't.
That said, I'm in 4 very happy and healthy partnerships, and there's one in particular that I want to talk about here, and that's my D/s relationship.
My primary kink identity is as a submissive and pup, and I'm collared and owned by my Mastress. It's a loose but 24/7 dynamic, and it's the only way to accurately describe our relationship to eachother -- as submissive and dominant. We aren't a romantic couple that's into kink, or just sexual play partners, or even queerplatonic -- power exchange is the emotional nature of our entire relationship, and that's why it works for us both as quoiromantics.
BDSM has long been perverting and subverting sex and gender norms, power imbalances, relationship norms, and plenty more for a longass time. It's often a reclamation of power and control for many people, or a release and a way to relax for many others. The point is that it's very cerebral. A lot of people think of kink as what you do in the bedroom, but to me and many others, it's really more about what you're doing in your head. And that ties in a lot to how BDSM challenges amatonormativity.
As a submissive, I feel a specific kind of submissive attraction. When I think of my dom, I feel safe, protected, taken care of -- all because I know I belong to hir and ze takes the responsibility of having that power over me very seriously. The relationship is one founded in deep mutual trust and ongoing, constant communication. I have to have immense trust in my Mastress to say "I want to give up control of parts of my life to you," and my Mastress has to trust me to let hir have that control, voice my boundaries and needs, and take care of hir emotions as much as ze cares for mine. Doms need aftercare, too.
And that trust goes far and works well. I do what my Mastress tells me, which means my Mastress can order me to take care of myself when I need it because it's the only way for me to power through my disabilities to get things done. My Mastress has helped me, through obedience training, to establish healthy habits like taking my meds regularly (severe short-term memory loss makes that very hard) and getting exercise regularly. And there's just something deeply comforting in knowing that if I'm stressed and overwhelmed, there's someone I can go to who can just take all that away by lulling me into subspace and just turning off my brain for a while. I trust someone to take me into altered states of consciousness as a way to relax and bond -- to be honest that's pretty intense.
And that immense trust and the constant communication that has to happen to make it work are foundational to making any relationship work, really. It just has to go a little further when the intimacy isn't just physical or emotional, but deeply psychological in how it changes your state of mind. Intimacy comes from how a single word from my Mastress can stir something in me and make me pay attention or do something I didn't have the will to before. It comes from how I feel in deep subspace when I know I truly belong to someone and am totally safe in that vulnerability, and from wanting to serve and be controlled by someone who, in turn, takes care of and values me and helps me grow as a person.
And absolutely none of it is romantic. And that's the beauty of how amatonormativity can be ripped apart by kink relationships. There's nothing about what I described that's really amatonormative.
And you'll notice I haven't mentioned sex once yet?
Because kink can be very asexy. 😎
I talked a lot about trust and headspaces and altered consciousness, and that's because that's really the primary thing a lot of people go to kink for, whether they involve sex or not. There are many pro doms who never have sex with their clients, there are a significant number of pet players who are just there for the pet experience, there are plenty of kinky aces, and I've seen and known chastity kinksters who find pleasure in riding the liminality of erotic celibacy. While most people conflate kink with sexual activities, the fun of kink is how subversive it can even be of the idea of sex, what sex is, and whether you even need it to "get off" - whatever that means to you.
So as a demisexual with a complicated relationship to sex, that's also been a huge relief. Sex is a part of my dynamic, but it doesn't define my D/s relationship as being about sex any more than the assumption that romantic couples have sex defines romantic relationships as being inherently about sex. The emotional intimacy of D/s is what fuels us -- if it didn't and it only ran on sex, we'd have a very boring relationship, because my sexual attraction hinges entirely on feeling a strong emotional attraction first.
Which just circles back around to how it's been so good for me as an alternative relationship model to amatonormative ideas about romance, partnership, and how those are "supposed" to work.
I don't understand romance. I don't grok the emotion, I can't help but pick apart the concept, I'm just not vibing with romance.
But power imbalances, trust, and safety are three things I'm deeply familiar with the significance of. Subverting those power imbalances I struggle with every day by re-building trust and safety in a consensual exchange of power with someone is radically healing for me, and it speaks to me more than the abstract concept of romance ever has.