Relationship terminology in the BDSM scene can be very different than in the traditional dating scene. Although there are plenty of gray areas even in mainstream dating and relationships – open relationships, friends with benefits, monogamy – the BDSM scene is even more diverse. One major part of the scene is that many traditional expectations are flouted, sexuality and sex are more nuanced, and people’s interpersonal relationships are very rarely fixed or black and white. Don’t get confused when you’re dealing with women in the scene, and pay attention to what they’re looking for, what they have, but also, what you personally want.
Polyamory is when someone has multiple intimate relationships at once. For example, someone that’s polyamorous does not practice monogamy, and may have three different people they’re dating that are also considered as serious relationships. Polyamory is basically the antithesis of monogamy, where someone is exclusively tied to one other partner. Anyone involved in a polyamorous relationship will also know that they’re in that type of relationship, and usually, there will be lots of boundaries set up to maintain everyone’s comfort. Polyamory is complex, but completely possible. Like most things in the scene, it requires lots of communication and honesty. Overall, though, if you’re a beginner in the scene and you think you found the woman you want to marry, if she’s polyamorous, she’s not going to be into being your one and only.
Primaries are similar to monogamy, but only in the sense that someone has made a serious commitment to another person. Usually, kinksters with primaries are free to play with other partners, but their primary partner is the one they’re romantically and intimately interested in. A primary denotes a serious commitment, versus a casual playmate you act out scenes with. There are many shades of gray, but just like polyamory, the bottom line is trust and communication. Although the word primary definitely infers a particular type of relationship in the scene, it’s also widely interpreted and practiced in ways specific to every set of partners.
Playmates are simpler: people you play with. A playmate is someone you spank at a party, if that’s what they’re into, and have fun acting out kinky scenes. Some people have only one playmate; some people have many playmates. It depends on your comfort level. There are kinksters that are only comfortable playing with a few specific people, and others that are always interested in trying new things and meeting new partners at every party they attend. The thing about playmates is that it’s usually casual. You can be close friends with a playmate, and get along great, but you wouldn’t necessarily refer to someone you play with – simply because you acted out a scene – as a primary, for example.
There are a lot of terms you’ll come across you may not be familiar with, and getting to know what they generally mean is helpful. However, always remember that no terminology can replace mutual understand in a relationship between two or more people. Communication, trust, and understanding are at the core of BDSM relationships.