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Friday, October 18, 2013

Kinky conversations aren't for everyone

Hello! I live in NYC and the organized poly events here always seem to be advertised to and heavily attended by people in the local kink community.  I am not into kink, and not interested in dating kinky people, so I have been really put off by the conversations that the kinksters try to engage me in at the events I've attended.  Seriously, it's been gross.  They all seem to assume that everyone there is also kinky AND they don't have a clue about what is appropriate conversation for a cocktail party.  Where can I go to meet some classy, available people who may be poly or open to it, but not into kink?  I do the online thing, too, but I much prefer going out and doing something to meet people rather than sitting in front of my computer.  Thanks for any advice you can offer!

Signed, New Life After 50
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Hi NLA50!  You know, when I write it like that, you sound like a rapper.  Just saying.

OK, so here's my take on your question.  One one hand, I can empathize with your initial observation, being myself a single male in my post-30s who self-defines as polyamorous but not kinky.  I've met many people at poly events with a strong interest in kink, which they are glad to share (and sometimes overshare) with people they meet at poly events.  I also prefer to meet people at events and in person, rather than online.  On the other hand, there's a negative inference regarding your mindset I (and presumably others) can draw from your question.  Imagine the reaction you might get from others regarding your own interest in polyamory: "Seriously, that's gross.  Don't you have a clue as to what is appropriate conversation for a cocktail party...?"  I don't know whether it's because you're first exploring nonmonogamy now after half a century of living traditionally, or whether you have some personal experiences that have colored your perception, but your characterization of kink comes across somewhat closeminded and uneducated.  Does it strike you as logical that someone such as yourself who presumably would like to meet other open, honest, and nonjudgmental people, would turn around and speak so dismissively and disrespectfully over someone else's equally valid lifestyle preferences?  I mean, no one's forcing you to DO any of these things, merely have it come up in conversation.  For poly, kink, and all other lifestyle choices, the following holds true: If you don't want to X, then don't.  But don't put down other people for wanting/discussing/seeking it.

The responsible nonmonogamy community here in NYC has thousands of people, with just as many oft-overlapping interests, and not nearly enough social outlets for people in any particular lifestyle to be insular.  It may be nice for some people to imagine a place where they can interact only with people who think just like they do, but a Venn Diagram trying to isolate and identify all poly people by their areas of sexual and romantic interest would look like a Slinky that got run over by a thresher.  There are just too many people with too many interests to realistically narrow it down as you describe - and why would we want to?  Open Love NY is one of the largest polyamory groups in the world, with thousands of members and participants, and our events bring in people who run the gamut from polyamorous, to poly-curious, to poly-friendly, and beyond. Kink isn't a subsection of poly, but there's a good amount of overlap.  This isn't even our first kink question on this blog.  In short, everyone is welcome as long as they follow our Rules of Conduct.  We don't assume everyone who attends is poly, just as kinksters shouldn't assume everyone who attends our events has an interest in kink, but surely you can see why kinksters have a much better chance at finding someone who does at an OLNY event than they might have at their own local bar?  In addition, not everyone is as experienced as Mischa and myself might be at interacting with others at poly events.  Many people might not be as aware of your opinions as you'd like them to be, but that's going to be true in any group - and communication and tolerance both improve with exposure and experience.

My advice to you is threefold.  First, if someone brings up a subject in conversation that you find distasteful, whether it's kink or anything else, simply explain politely that you don't find that subject appealing and would rather talk/ask about (insert your preferred topic here). 
It's a rare lifestyle person I've encountered at our events who wouldn't go out of their way to be sensitive to someone else's politely-expressed concerns.  There are always facilitators present at our events who can help you with that conversation, if you'd like.  Alternately, if you're up for it, I'd recommend you consider asking those oversharing kinksters for insight on their rationale for discussing kink at a poly event - and perhaps by discussing their interests and reasons for attending poly events, you might find more common ground than you'd expected.


Which brings me to my second suggestion.  One of the hallmarks of the poly community is the respect we share for others' consensual choices.  While kink may not be your bag of tea (nor teabagging, for that matter), please do your best to overcome your own judgmental instincts in order to accept that kink is just as valid a lifestyle for those who choose to participate, as is polyamory - or religion, or book clubs, or anything that consenting adults choose to enjoy responsibly.  I'd spend a little time sitting down with yourself and figuring out what it is about kink that upsets you so drastically, and coming to terms with the Golden Rule (or the Platinum Rule, as some have coined it: treat others as THEY'D like to be treated) in your interactions with others at our and similar events.  You don't have to be best friends, or engage in their interests, but we're all equals and allies in a world that only recently has begun to welcome nontraditional relationships.  It would behoove you to treat them as such.

Third, perhaps if there were a "meetup specifically for poly people not into kink" you'd find what would make you happiest - however, to the best of my knowledge, that currently doesn't exist. If you aren't happy with poly events you've attended because there are viewpoints and interests expressed with which you're not personally comfortable, feel free to start your own! It's as easy as creating a group on meetup.com, or finding other people who share your views and agreeing to meet for a monthly meal or round of adult beverages.  Just be aware that most people in the nonmonogamy community pride ourselves on inclusivity rather than exclusivity, and creating a "kink-free" poly group clearly goes against that concept.  It's sort of like hosting a comparative religion discussion group, but hanging a sign outside that says, "No Jews."  Sure, you'll get some people who don't mind the exclusionary policy, but it would leave a lot of otherwise quality people feeling alienated or discriminated against, and it certainly wouldn't result in the sort of experience I'd want people to take from my own cocktail parties.

Mischa, what do you think?

Leon, I think you pretty much covered the whole gamut of responses. I think the summary of the answer is that there isn't such thing as a "non-kink poly event" in New York, to the best of our knowledge. We can be reasonably sure of that is because I can't imagine how anyone would promote such an event. Would it be:

  1. Poly People who only have sex with the lights off
  2. Poly People into Vanilla sex between couples only
  3. People who want to love multiple partners who only believe in traditional and conservative expressions of affection
  4. And so forth and so on....

See, for many people, being Poly IS your kink. Group sex is kinky to most people. Spouse-swapping is kinky. Anything outside the traditional monogamous couple will be considered kinky to most people. So holding a poly event and saying there's no kinky people there is like a black person saying they live in an all-white neighborhood.

For that reason, I can see that kinky poly people might assume that everyone at a poly event is also kinky, but that's obviously not true and they are wrong to assume that. I agree with Leon's suggestion that you simply and politely tell anyone who tries to engage you in kink conversation that you are not interested in kink and "bridge" to another topic or politely excuse yourself.

The other suggestion I can make is, instead of parties or munches, you might try coming to Open Love NY's discussion groups, held on the fourth Tuesday of each month. In these events, we have moderated discussions or expert speakers, so you can get a sense of what the people in the room are like without actually engaging with them. Then, after the meeting, you can approach whomever you found interesting and invite them out to the post-meeting gathering we lead at a nearby diner.

Good luck to you and thank you for your question!

4 comments:

  1. I don't think the poster who asked this question is necessarily close-minded. I think NewLife just would rather not have such a kink-focused experience at poly events. Advising her to seek out the discussions is fine, but NewLife didn't say that hasn't been tried. Besides, it is unfair to say that going to a cocktail party requires a more open mind to kinkier things than attending a lecture. I am sure that most adults have been at cocktail parties where conversation does not lead to BDSM topics. We don't have to worry about that at most cocktail parties

    I am a poly person who sometimes engages in a little kink in the bedroom, but am not interested in dating people who view kink as an important part of their identity or who go to kink events, etc. I definitely DO NOT view having multiple relationships as a kink or fetish. Unconventional, yes - kink, no. I have also had the experience, as NewLife has - many times - of interacting with people at Poly Cocktails who start conversations right off the bat with something kinky. One time I was there (in the back room of that mildewy basement bar) and suddenly three men took all their clothes off. They were sitting in a booth, and I was standing nearby and looked over to see three naked men. They were promptly told to put their clothes back on by two of the organizers, because obviously that was inappropriate, but it was clear that they had assumed polyamory must be a kink, so therefore poly events must be kinky events. Another time, I was conversing with someone and his friend came up to us and started talking about bukkake and how she dislikes her Dom ejaculating on her face. I had just been introduced to her and within five minutes that is what she spoke to me about! At another Poly Cocktail party, a man came up to me and introduced himself thusly: "Hi, I'm a switch, my name is ___." I thought it was telling that he introduced himself first as his sexual proclivity, and second with his name. People who engage me in conversation at Poly Cocktails and automatically use terminology like "play parties," "safe words," "Dom," and "play partners" clearly assume that I would know what that all means. It is obvious that there is clearly a strong kink element at OpenLoveNY events who belive that they are at a kink events.

    My theory is that is due to Poly Cocktails & OpenLoveNY only being promoted at communities like FetLife or having a presence at Folsom Street BUT nowhere else more "mainstream." It is my belief that for poly to be more accepted in the mainstream or general society, polyfolk in NYC would be better off if the groups here promoted poly and their events in mainstream circles as well as alternative circles. Hell, have a speaker give a talk about poly at the Learning Center, church groups, alternative health conferences, or various places and organizations that are not even relationship-focused but would welcome such an interesting topic like that. Otherwise, how will monogamous people realize that polyamorous people are nothing to be afraid of and that polyamory just another option for approaching relationships? As it is now, NYC's poly community is just one fringe group promoting to another fringe group (kinksters/FetLifers). I've spoken to my poly friends about this and they agree. As I see it, poly is a structure for relationships, not a kink.

    In general, from conversations I've had, OpenLoveNY and Poly Cocktails has come to be viewed as a poly/kink crossover group and not as a place that is welcoming to poly people who do not wish to be part of the kink scene.

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    1. I just want to add that, after re-reading Mischa's response, I take issue with this comment: "See, for many people, being Poly IS your kink. Group sex is kinky to most people. Spouse-swapping is kinky. Anything outside the traditional monogamous couple will be considered kinky to most people." Of course, people should not be led to believe that polyamory is all about group sex, "wife-swapping," or even just casual sex. It is exactly for that reason that OpenLoveNY should be out there among more conventional, mainstream groups and telling them that. This is a big city, and yet it is difficult to meet non-kinky polyfolk here. There are open-minded monogamous people who don't have a clue about poly and might even embrace it if they understood that poly is not group sex or wife-swapping. I think that the focus to get across is the relationship, the psychology and emotions, rather than the physical/sexual aspect.

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  2. In my iner circle we have enjoyed the freedoom and respect that goes with having pleasure that the body requiers with out the restraints. i am new to the group mrpeter23@hotmail.com

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  3. Looking foward to the next event.
    Mrpeter23@hotmail.com

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