Why is this so much harder than I was expecting? I wonder, over and over, until it hits me: without meaning to, without intending to, without really consciously trying to, I accidentally wound up in a 24/7 switch dynamic.
Let me back up.
We talk about total power exchange, 24/7 D/s and M/s dynamics. Those seem, on the whole, fairly easy to define and honor and celebrate through collaring ceremonies and commitments and well-negotiated limits and boundaries and expectations.
Switch dynamics are a lot more nebulous and harder to define. For some people, switching means they sometimes top and sometimes bottom, but they maintain the same role once it has been established in a relationship (e.g. don’t switch inside the relationship). For others, switching means switching within a dynamic- that is, sometimes topping, sometimes bottoming, sometimes struggling for one or the other, all with the same person.
The most fulfilling relationships I have fall into the latter category, although there are some people that fall into the former. But I like to switch with the same person, like the interpersonal tension of a switchfight, like the push and pull of two people fighting for control, sort of.
I don’t do TPE. In all of my ramblings and brain thoughts about D/s dynamics and power exchange in general, the one thing that feels important to hold is that my identity as a switch is a fundamental part of who I am, and I am nothing- male, female, top, bottom, sadist, masochist, whatever- all of the time. I am a shapeshifter, nebulous and not particularly prone to fitting well into any of the boxes.
So I’m a switch, and I switch in scenes, and it’s something that feels pretty great for me. What I don’t think I have tackled- at least, not in this language or sense- is that my switchiness leaks over into the rest of my life because I have the immense fortune of being able to be a whole, integrated person (e.g. my kink life and my vanilla life are pretty much one in the same). I’m also an emotional masochist, which often means I put myself in emotionally taxing or difficult situations because I enjoy the sensation. This can sometimes be very explicit (such as certain kinds of CNC), and sometimes innocuous (such as watching TV).
But what this also means, I’m realizing, is that when I interact with other people whose lives are also fairly well-integrated in similar ways, who are also switches… we accidentally fall into a 24/7 switch dynamic where trying to figure out dinner, or putting on a movie, or saying thank you for something are all intricately laced with switch dynamics.
When every interaction- sexual, scene-based, or otherwise- is directed by a current/countercurrent of push-pull tension, that’s the closest to a 24/7 switch dynamic that I can imagine. And, whoops, I think I found myself accidentally doing exactly that.
This all came about because I was in a situation where I was focused on limiting, as much as possible, the sexual dynamic between myself and someone else. I was prepared for how interactions would change in specific ways- particularly in interacting in kink and scene spaces. That was all fine. What I wasn’t prepared for was the ongoing experience of switch tension outside of those spaces, how the push and pull carried over to normal human interactions.
Why is this so hard? I kept asking myself. I was prepared, I knew what I was doing, I know how to manage my own shit pretty well, and I knew what I was getting myself into. What I didn’t take into account, however, is that the switchy dynamics aren’t discrete moments, in scenes or during sex. They’re a continuous trend, a thread that flows through every interaction we have: it’s in our banter and conversation, it’s in the ways we meet and connect, in how we show gratitude, in how we engage with one another on nearly every level. I had just never noticed or realized it before now, quite probably because, up until now, everything worked together and the transitions from one space to another were as fluid and dynamic as we are.
But life happens, and shit isn’t always easy, and sometimes you have to allow things room to shift and move and grow and heal and change, which means intentionally stepping back from certain ways of interacting. The trouble comes when the foundations of the rest of your interactions are the same as the foundations of your sexual ones- because it’s clunky and awkward when you aren’t engaging sexually but are still continuing to switch in life. Sort of like walking in two different shoes that are different heights: you remember to walk evenly and balanced for awhile, but as soon as you forget, you trip.
Why is this so hard? Because I kept stumbling over different heights, not realizing that that’s what was happening. That suddenly, I looked- really looked- at what was going on and realized that I had accidentally, somehow, sort of… wound up in a situation that just organically emerged but is, effectively, a 24/7 switch relationship. That the ways that we inherently interact are laced with switchy chemistry, making it really difficult to shut off one aspect of that while keeping the others open.
The myriad of ways that switching and switch dynamics manifest don’t get talked about as much. For those of us who are switches- however that manifests- we kind of…figure it out as we go along, often working extra-hard not to get pigeonholed into one particular side of the slash. Ongoing, outside-the-bedroom, outside-the-scene switch dynamics are nebulous, often not nearly as well-defined, and complicated to navigate when they accidentally blindside you.
I don’t want or need these things to change or be different. Outside of this isolated writing, I doubt I would describe any of my relationships with this language, because the language is only beneficial so long as it is well-defined and only useful when it gives me a new perspective to understand how I relate and connect with other people. But it has certainly given me some food for thought in understanding stress and tension, understanding interpersonal dynamics and interconnectedness in interaction and engagement with other people.
Why is this so hard? Because it’s not discrete, it’s not isolated, it’s not singular. Because it’s encompassing and permeating and part of a bigger network of interaction. And that? That is something I think I have the tools to tackle.