When there aren’t any models for how you want to move through the world, it’s harder to move through the world. There’s no one right way to do ethical non-monogamy, just as there’s no one right way to do ethical monogamy, and no way is better or worse than any other, just better or worse for those involved. Poly Pocket looks at all the ways queer people do polyamory: what it looks like, how we think about it, how it functions (or doesn’t), how it feels, because when you don’t have models you have to create your own.
Danielle Dorsey is a 31-year old pansexual non-monogamous Black woman living in Los Angeles. She is currently single and works as a freelance writer and editor. Check out her website at Danielledorky.com.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Carolyn: When did you start to think about exploring polyamory?
Danielle: I would say I was first introduced to it about five years ago when I entered the kink community, but identified as monogamous until my last relationship. We started out just going to play parties and playing mostly as a unit but that eventually evolved into an open relationship. After we broke up, I decided that I wanted to explore polyamory and ethical non-monogamy in my next partnership. So far I haven’t really had a chance to act on it.
Right now, my poly life probably looks fairly boring, as I’m mostly just talking with friends who are poly and reading as much as possible so that I can figure out how I want to implement it in my next relationship. I’m recently single so I’m also figuring out how to broach that topic as I put myself out there and begin to date.
Carolyn: When you meet people, how do you position conversations about poly or what kind of relationships you’re interested in? And how are you trying to position your break up?
Danielle: I haven’t quite figured out how to do it with people I meet organically while I’m out and about. I guess I probably have some misplaced bi guilt that I’m still working through that makes me feel like I’m being greedy or slutty by wanting to explore polyamory. Online dating is a bit easier because I can size a person up beforehand. I’m pretty upfront about all of that in my profile so I tend to attract like-minded people. I find that when I connect with other poly people, it’s all really easy to talk about, including my break up.
“I have always been very independent so my attitude towards relationships tends to be very relaxed — if it happens, it happens.”
Carolyn: How would you characterize your attitude toward relationships generally?
Danielle: I have always been very independent so my attitude towards relationships tends to be very relaxed — if it happens, it happens. I don’t want to force anything. I enjoy meeting new people and I still try to be friends even if we don’t click romantically.
Carolyn: In light of that independence and openness, and in your experience in your past relationship and research and talking to friends etc about poly, what elements of poly do you find most compelling? What elements do you find less compelling?
Danielle: I used to think that my partner’s interest in someone else reflected upon me and our relationship. I feel like I’ve become more confident since letting go of that belief and not allowing other people to determine how I feel about myself.
I also think that when practiced in a healthy way poly forces you to be really honest with yourself and communicate more openly.
I don’t like how some people use polyamory to pressure their partners into unhealthy situations. I had a friend who was exploring poly in a new relationship, and one of her boyfriend’s other partners showed up at her house in the middle of the night raising hell. They had no idea about each other but he made her feel like that was part of what she signed up for. I feel like stuff like that gives polyamory a bad name.
I guess I just feel a pull to explore it further than I have in my past relationships. Polyamory sort of feels like a path I’ve been on for a while but certain beliefs or pressures made me resist it before. I feel ready now, whereas before I felt like monogamy was the more secure option or meant that my partner cared more, etc. I’ve let go of all that and am ready to give it an honest shot.
Carolyn: Has the way you approach relationships influenced by your childhood family or any other early models?
Danielle: Definitely. I was raised in a fairly conservative household and my parents divorced when I was young. I feel so lucky to have been raised by my mom. She did so much & made it look so easy! I think that’s part of why I’m so independent and have never felt like I needed to be in a relationship to be happy or complete. I do still struggle with how I will “come out” to my parents in that regard. I don’t think they’d understand polyamory at all.
Carolyn: Other than your parents, how out about it are you?
Danielle: Very. I’ve always been very open about that kind of stuff with my friends. I have a friend who, like me, has not yet practiced poly but is drawn to the lifestyle. She’s also single so we are on a similar page and look to each other for support.
And I’m just starting to get more active on Fetlife and look for related munches. Luckily I already have a lot of friends who identify as poly or nonmonogamous that I can look to for guidance and advice.
“Polyamory sort of feels like a path I’ve been on for a while but certain beliefs or pressures made me resist it before. I feel ready now.”
Carolyn: Where do poly and kink fit together for you? Where do they depart?
Danielle: In terms of Fetlife, I just recently became active after a couple year hiatus. I haven’t ventured out to any events yet. For me, since kink is an expectation for me in my sexual relationships, they’re pretty linked, and I think because it’s already sort of an underground, tightknit community, poly fits into that pretty naturally.
My last relationship was open in that we were both fine with the other pursuing casual connections, but never really went beyond that. We played together with other singles quite a bit, but kink didn’t enter the picture too much because we never really had deeper discussions about limits, safe words, etc. In the future I just want to be more open to both of us exploring connections of all types.
To clarify, we didn’t have those deeper discussions with the people we’d bring in, so didn’t feel comfortable getting too kinky with them. I feel like that requires a certain level of trust that we never reached with casual partners.
Carolyn: As you start to explore it, where does poly intersect with other elements of your identity?
Danielle: To be honest, since I’ve yet to fully put it into practice, I can’t say that it functions as more than a preference, currently. I have never been in love or in a committed relationship with more than one person at a time, so I can’t yet say for sure whether I’m naturally oriented that way.
But I am independent, very open minded, and always wanting to explore new things.
Carolyn: What do you want your future to look like? What vision are you working towards or hoping for?
Danielle: I want to have a relationship where we respect and honor each others’ needs and communicate about them honestly. I want to have the freedom to explore the different facets of my identity with support from my partner and provide the same for them. Right now I’m just looking for new connections with interesting people and seeing where that leads.