POLYAMORY, POWER & POLICING DESIRE
The policing of desire (or ‘not’) is a fairly common polyamorous catch phrase, along with the ‘control of one’s body.’ Usually in the context of ‘I won’t police your desires or control your body’ the implication is: you can do whatever you want [and so can I]. But really, our desires are always policed. And I remain unconvinced that polyamorous discourse effectively overcomes this.
The fact is, someone always likes someone else more. And there is so much power in that. When it comes down to it, the person who most likes the other will forfeit their desires quicker and easier: the terms will always be set by the more nonchalant. And what is interesting and important (and too often ignored) is what the partner ‘in power’ does, how they use that power (ir)responsibly.
Thinking about power through daddying can help elucidate some of the complexities here. The power that a daddy has is surrendered to him (of course, a daddy can be a woman but either way I will use male pronouns) by his boy/orphan/girl. Put in a more general context, the top only has power given to them by the bottom. The way in which this power is respected – reciprocated – is by the daddy only doing what the boy wants. Doing something else, using that (daddying) power against someone who has given it to you; in a way they don’t want, is (always) abusive.
In a poly relationship, saying ‘we [or I] do what we [or I] want’ ignores this transference of power and the ways in which our decisions and actions impact those around us. It’s naïve and perilous. Being clear about what you want helps, but things are more complicated than that. The fact is, mostly you know when someone likes you more than you like them, or when your desires (often so very inappropriately termed ‘needs’) are overriding theirs. Highlighting the way power functions like this in relationships is of desperate necessity.
I don’t want to police anyone else’s desires, and certainly not someone I love. But if our desires differ, which they certainly will in one context or another, someone wins out. Power is always at play. Pretending that we’re autonomous, that our decisions and actions don’t affect others, isn’t helpful. All it does is overwrite and invalidate ways in which power is abused. Being a good daddy means taking care with the ways in which you have power. Please.