Thoughts from BayCon: Polyamory, kink, community, divisiveness, and us vs. them

I’m just back from BayCon, an annual science fiction convention in the San Francisco Bay Area. I quite like cons, and I’ve been going to cons of various flavors for more than two-thirds of my life, though this was a bit unusual in that it was a much more businesslike trip than most of the other cons I’ve attended. My expenses were paid by a group of folks who really wanted to see me present (which was awesome, and I’d like to say “thank you” to the con organizers for helping make that happen), and I spent three days on various panels talking about everything from polyamory to creativity.

There’s quite a lot of interesting stuff that came up during those panels, some of which I’ll no doubt be blogging about for the next several days or so. One thing in particular that I want to talk about, though, concerns the way those of us who are active in alternative lifestyles tend sometimes to create and foster–sometimes deliberately, sometimes unintentionally–an atmosphere of exclusion and ostracism that perpetuates the very same kinds of things that we claim to be working against.


One of the panels I was on concerned the topic of defining alternative relationships. Throughout the panel, several folks, both on the panel and in the audience, referred to people who are neither polyamorous nor into BDSM by terms like ‘mundane’ and ‘muggle.’

And this is, I think, a huge problem for those of us in the kink and poly communities, or indeed in any sort of non-traditional social or relationship community.

Now, it seems to me that the problem with doing this should be self-evident. It’s self-congratulatory and divisive. It creates a completely unnecessary schism. It lumps everyone who isn’t into whatever we’re into in together as though they are all part of one great undifferentiated lump, which is just blindingly stupid; there are lots of folks who are neither kinky nor poly but who nevertheless are anything but normal. (I’ll warrant that the life of folks like James Cameron, who designed and built the world’s deepest-diving submersible because he wanted to check out what was going on at the bottom of the Marianas Trench, or Elon Musk, who designed and built the Falcon/Dragon successor to the Space Shuttle entirely privately on a shoestring budget because he thought that starting a private spacefaring company might be a cool thing to do for a living, are rather more interesting than the life of the average sci-fi fan even if those folks never once lift a flogger or date more than one person at the same time!) It does exactly what kinky and poly folks complain they don’t want others to do to them–it judges other people based on stereotypes mostly ridiculous and assumptions mostly baseless.

And, all those things aside, it’s simply bad policy.


I am a pragmatist. I tend to be less concerned with how people “should” behave and more concerned with what sorts of behaviors actually work.

And I think that every single derisive use of words like “mundane,” “vanilla,” “muggle,” and so on actually ends up hurting the folks who use them.

The problem with describing people outside of one’s community this way, aside from the fact that it’s arrogant, dismissive, and inaccurate, is that it recognizes no distinctions between all those “normals.” To someone who dismisses anyone not kinky or poly as a “mundane,” a Unitarian who works for acceptance, sex-positivity, and compassion is no different from someone who belongs to Westboro Baptist Church, America’s most well-known trolls.

And not only is that stupid, it’s counterproductive. It alienates potential allies. It pre-emptively antagonizes folks who are simply neutral. It creates an us vs. them mindset which, at the end of the day, the “us” is almost certain to lose; when the “us” is a single-digit, or perhaps at the most optimistic a low double-digit, percentage of the size of the “them,” fabricating an us vs. them mentality is simply bad tactics.

It is also exclusionary. A lot of folks who are poly, or kinky, or both, tend not to be part of the kink and poly communities, because this “us vs. them” mentality subconsciously shapes attitudes and opinions in ways that limit participation in the community.


When I lived in Tampa, I was for a number of years a regular host for PolyTampa, which appears to be as of this writing the longest-running polyamory support group in the country that’s still ongoing.

Anyone who’s been part of the community for any length of time has probably noticed that a disproportionate number of folks in the poly community tend to be geeky, middle-class, pagan, gamer…the stereotype of the “bi pagan poly gamer geek” is prevalent for a reason.

But it might not be the reason that people think.

I’ve watched a lot of folks talk about why the poly and kink scenes are so overwhelmingly gamer geek pagan bi (and, though it rarely gets mentioned, white and middle-class), and the explanations I hear usually fall along the lines of “Well, once you’ve started questioning monogamy and relationships, it follows naturally that you’d question other things, like religion and culture and stuff too. It’s because we’re so openminded and unconventional!”

Which, honestly, sounds like self-congratulatory horseshit to me.

There’s another reason, though I think it’s more subtle. It’s something I think a lot of folks in the poly and kink communities are blind to; namely, that the communities are hostile to anyone who ISN’T cut from the bi pagan gamer geek cloth.

I don’t think it’s deliberate or malicious, mind you. (At least not usually; there are some exceptions, like one exceedingly unpleasant chap I encountered on Facebook recently who claims quite stridently that all monogamous relationships are abusive, anyone who prefers monogamy does so only because he wants to control his partners or he simply hasn’t broken the brainwashing of conventional culture enough to look at relationships critically…but I digress. Not everyone in the community shares anything like those beliefs.)

During the course of the time I spent hosting PolyTampa, I noticed a fair number of people who would come to a single meeting, hang around for a bit, and then leave, never to be seen again. I also spoke to several folks who talked about being polyamorous but also about how they felt unwanted and unwelcome in the poly community, because they weren’t pagan, New Age, geeky, gamers, or techies.

I don’t think there’s a lot of pagan New Age gaming geeks in the poly community because being poly means challenging accepted social norms about religion, hobbies, or attitudes. Quite the opposite; I think there are a lot of pagan New Age gaming geeks in the poly community because the poly community can be quite unfriendly to folks who aren’t pagan New Age gaming geeks.


Now, let me be clear that (with very, very few exceptions) I don’t believe it’s intentional. Aside from that one unpleasant Facebook fellow, I’ve never encountered anyone in the poly community who would tell someone else “you’re not welcome here.”

However, as I’ve said before, any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.

It doesn’t matter that it’s down to social incompetence more than maliciousness; the fact is, the poly and kink communities do tend to see the world in a polarizing, us vs. them light, and do often make themselves unfriendly to folks outside the pagan New Age gaming geek mold.

It’s subtle–so subtle that the folks who do it are probably totally unaware that they’re doing it. It happens through a process of normalization–of seeing everyone who doesn’t fit the pagan New Age gaming geek mold as a “mundane,” a “normal,” a “muggle,” part of an undifferentiated mass. It happens through tacit, rarely acknowledged expectations that if you’re poly, of course that means you aren’t Christian, you prefer video games to NASCAR, you have the free time and the money to meet and socialize at restaurants, you get the jargon and lingo of the geek crowd.

I’ve had folks come up and talk to me after poly meetings to say that they feel unwelcome because they are evangelical Christian, or because they’d rather go fishing than play World of Warcraft. Like I said, it’s not intentional, it’s subtle, but it shows in a thousand different ways. There are subtle little expectations, occasional barely-acknowledged disparaging remarks about all those other folks who, heh heh, just mindlessly cling to some mainstream religion instead of, you know, something more spiritually thoughtful like paganism, the offhand remarks about how the rest of the world is just stuck in the boring rut of vanilla sex… All of these things create an unmistakeable social subtext: this is who we are, and if you’re not one of us, you’re one of them. The Mundanes. The great boring unwashed mass of People who Just Don’t Get It.

And we’re cleverer than they are, oh yes. We appreciate diversity more than the mundanes do. We understand the value of being our own individual, something all those people don’t. Because, you know, they’re all the same. And they aren’t as smart as we are, or as tolerant, or even able to challenge their own assumptions. You know, the way we can.

It seems that being subjected to unwarranted prejudice and unfounded assumptions tends to make one skilled at doing these very things to others.

During the panel, when a few of the panelists had derisively referred to non-alt people as “mundanes” and “normals” several times, I chipped in that I don’t use that sort of language because I find it unnecessarily divisive and totally inaccurate. It creates a myth of “normalcy” that doesn’t actually exist; the mundanes that the other panelists derided do not, in any real sense, actually exist.

After the panel, a woman approached me to say that she was Mormon and in a D/s relationship, and found the kink community to be quite hostile. The assumptions that came from her being Mormon rather than pagan–she must be politically conservative, she must be anti-gay, she must be a blind puppet of organized religion–were subtle but real to her. When people in the community assume a baseline of pagan New Age gaming geek and talk about “mundanes” and “muggles,” she saw a rejection of her in that–or, perhaps, a rejection of a distorted funhouse mirror picture of her, as rife with unchallenged assumptions as any that poly or kinky people will ever be targeted with.

And that’s a damn shame. We need to do better than that.

166 thoughts on “Thoughts from BayCon: Polyamory, kink, community, divisiveness, and us vs. them

  1. I see some of the behaviours that you see, but I don’t agree as to the cause.

    (FWIW, I’m not pagan, I’m not a gamer, I’m mono in a poly relationship, I’m bi with a hetero bias and in a hetero relationship… but I am a geek ;-)).

    Many BDSM/kink/poly communities are self-selecting. These communities are _social centers_ as much as they are support groups and education groups. People go to them to hangout and chat and catchup with friends and talk about anything. I’ve been to parties where maybe 1/3rds of the participants played, the other 2/3rds just socialised; even the playing 1/3rd needed to socialise during non-play time.

    This “social” aspect leads to certain commonalities; I can’t hang out and chat NFL or MLB or NBA with someone ‘cos I have no points of reference, but I could chat about the latest Stross or Vinge, or Fringe or Warehouse 13… If I have nothing to talk about then I’m less likely to go to munches, less likely to make friends, less likely to become part of the group. What this means is that the newbie or outsider has a “barrier to entry”, that same as with all cliques. A newbie with some commonalities will find that barrier lower than someone without.

    And thus the clique self-selects and becomes even _more_ “bi pagan yadayada”, making the barrier to entry even harder.

    Is the barrier real? Yes. On top of that, newbies may already be suffering a large confidence deficit and failing to have commonality of interests with the clique makes it that much harder to interact.

    This isn’t “being unfriendly”, however. It’s not even a problem unique to poly/kink groups. I think every social group suffers this.

    I think that once you switch your mind from “this is a poly/kink group who are into gaming/geeking/paganism” into “this is a bi-pagan-poly-gamer-geek group into kink” then it becomes clearer; these people are primarily bi-pagan-yadayada first and the kink is secondary.

    Unfortunately I don’t have a solution to the problem. If we divorce the social aspect from “official events” then a new group will form for the social aspects (people _like_ talking about their hobbies), and private parties will still remain closed to those outside the social group and thus “the other” will still be driven away.

    Conclusion: people are a problem!

    • Agreed. I’ve been at a few poly meetings & groups where this was discussed. It came up at BrevardPoly one time when I was there, one first timer was literally a “good ol’ boy” (his own words) redneck southern NASCAR hunting & fishing enthusiast.

      He noted he’d been to poly meetings before & felt unwelcome or out of place not because anyone tried to make him feel that way but simply because he had nothing in common with the people there. He talked about what he was interested in, and several of us WERE interested in some of his likes, so we made a point of talking with him (as usual at things like that small groups & conversations formed & shifted thru the night) about things he’s interested in (for instance I hunt & fish too).

      One thing interesting that came out of it was a major communication issue… he said he’d gone to the events before & felt out of place BUT SIMPLY NEVER SPOKEN UP! No one KNEW he felt out of place or unwelcome, and the first time he said something we all included him with no prejudice. Poly 101, COMMUNICATE and let your needs be known or they can’t be met!

      • Honestly, I think that’s disingenuous. It’s a bit much to expect someone to “speak up” when you put that person into an environment where people are using words like “mundane” to refer to anyone who isn’t exactly like they are.

        • THAT I will agree with. Putting people in a place where they’re uncomfortable is stupid, and I have been saying so since back in the early 90’s when people in the pagan community started using “cowan” to describe non-pagans. That was one of the things that finally caused me to move away in to full on atheism.

          My point was more that if you like the things this guy liked & people are talking about other stuff it doesn’t mean they’re trying to exclude you… some of them might like stuff you like, too, but if you don’t speak up how will you ever know?

    • I think that once you switch your mind from “this is a poly/kink group who are into gaming/geeking/paganism” into “this is a bi-pagan-poly-gamer-geek group into kink” then it becomes clearer; these people are primarily bi-pagan-yadayada first and the kink is secondary.

      That may be true at social get-togethers like BDSM munches, but I’m not sure it applies to, say, poly support groups, where the stated intention and goal of the group is to be a place to talk about polyamory first, and to be a social get-together second (if at all).

      The problem I see at these kinds of gatherings is a subtle, never entirely explicit set of assumptions–if you’re there you’re pagan rather than Mormon, if you’re not poly you have a boring sex life and you’re driven by control and jealousy, that sort of thing. These assumptions aren’t usually explicit, though they sometimes are. That creates a barrier to entry that’s over and above the social commonalities you’re talking about, I think.

      I’m not really talking about differences in interests, but more about false assumptions about normativity–deriding folks who aren’t already part of the clique as “mundanes,” assuming that people who aren’t pagan gamer geeks are all basically uninteresting and uniform. That’s quite a bit different, I think, than what you’re talking about.

      It’s not always blatant. Even people who don’t use words like “mundane” or “muggle” can still hold tacit assumptions about what it means to be poly or what it means to be kinky that aren’t true.

      • “That may be true at social get-togethers like BDSM munches, but I’m not sure it applies to, say, poly support groups, where the stated intention and goal of the group is to be a place to talk about polyamory first, and to be a social get-together second (if at all).”

        They’re still the same people who go to munches and private parties and the like. Even if the event _organisers_ are 100% focused on the core goal or presentation, the participants will chat amongst themselves during setup, before the event, after the event. Socialising is part of the atmosphere, whether it’s planned or not.

        “Water cooler” type conversations happen in workplaces (“what are you doing this weekend?”) where the only commonality is that people work for the same employer; such conversations will definitely arise at events where people share more commonality of interest (bi-poly-yadayada).

        “I’m not really talking about differences in interests, but more about false assumptions about normativity–deriding folks who aren’t already part of the clique as “mundanes,” assuming that people who aren’t pagan gamer geeks are all basically uninteresting and uniform. That’s quite a bit different, I think, than what you’re talking about.”

        I don’t think that’s really true for the vast majority of participants. (Or maybe I’ve just been lucky with the people I associate with). But it is an attitude that may be _perceived_ by outsiders.

  2. I see some of the behaviours that you see, but I don’t agree as to the cause.

    (FWIW, I’m not pagan, I’m not a gamer, I’m mono in a poly relationship, I’m bi with a hetero bias and in a hetero relationship… but I am a geek ;-)).

    Many BDSM/kink/poly communities are self-selecting. These communities are _social centers_ as much as they are support groups and education groups. People go to them to hangout and chat and catchup with friends and talk about anything. I’ve been to parties where maybe 1/3rds of the participants played, the other 2/3rds just socialised; even the playing 1/3rd needed to socialise during non-play time.

    This “social” aspect leads to certain commonalities; I can’t hang out and chat NFL or MLB or NBA with someone ‘cos I have no points of reference, but I could chat about the latest Stross or Vinge, or Fringe or Warehouse 13… If I have nothing to talk about then I’m less likely to go to munches, less likely to make friends, less likely to become part of the group. What this means is that the newbie or outsider has a “barrier to entry”, that same as with all cliques. A newbie with some commonalities will find that barrier lower than someone without.

    And thus the clique self-selects and becomes even _more_ “bi pagan yadayada”, making the barrier to entry even harder.

    Is the barrier real? Yes. On top of that, newbies may already be suffering a large confidence deficit and failing to have commonality of interests with the clique makes it that much harder to interact.

    This isn’t “being unfriendly”, however. It’s not even a problem unique to poly/kink groups. I think every social group suffers this.

    I think that once you switch your mind from “this is a poly/kink group who are into gaming/geeking/paganism” into “this is a bi-pagan-poly-gamer-geek group into kink” then it becomes clearer; these people are primarily bi-pagan-yadayada first and the kink is secondary.

    Unfortunately I don’t have a solution to the problem. If we divorce the social aspect from “official events” then a new group will form for the social aspects (people _like_ talking about their hobbies), and private parties will still remain closed to those outside the social group and thus “the other” will still be driven away.

    Conclusion: people are a problem!

  3. Agreed. I’ve been at a few poly meetings & groups where this was discussed. It came up at BrevardPoly one time when I was there, one first timer was literally a “good ol’ boy” (his own words) redneck southern NASCAR hunting & fishing enthusiast.

    He noted he’d been to poly meetings before & felt unwelcome or out of place not because anyone tried to make him feel that way but simply because he had nothing in common with the people there. He talked about what he was interested in, and several of us WERE interested in some of his likes, so we made a point of talking with him (as usual at things like that small groups & conversations formed & shifted thru the night) about things he’s interested in (for instance I hunt & fish too).

    One thing interesting that came out of it was a major communication issue… he said he’d gone to the events before & felt out of place BUT SIMPLY NEVER SPOKEN UP! No one KNEW he felt out of place or unwelcome, and the first time he said something we all included him with no prejudice. Poly 101, COMMUNICATE and let your needs be known or they can’t be met!

  4. Totally with you on this one. I also scent a whiff of “doing unto others what was done unto me” about the Mundanes label. “Once *I* was the dumped-on loser, but now I’m special and different and better than the mainstream world which scorned me!”

  5. Totally with you on this one. I also scent a whiff of “doing unto others what was done unto me” about the Mundanes label. “Once *I* was the dumped-on loser, but now I’m special and different and better than the mainstream world which scorned me!”

  6. In addition to my reply to Sweh above, I will add this… Anyone who self-identifies as a Mormon or Evangelical Christian (or for that matter a devout Muslim, Orthodox or stricter Jew, etc) but takes part in the kink or poly community has SERIOUS issues and likely some severe self-hatred going on, much as if someone homosexual identifies as part of those groups, and for the same reason… the basic structure of those belief systems is fundamentally incompatible with the practices & beliefs (widely & wildly varied as they are) of the kink & poly communities.

    In fact it’s no different than showing up at a meeting for devout followers of Islam & saying “Oh I’m part of this community, fully accept it, and live by & follow its beliefs… but I’m a fundamentalist Christian!” It’s simply incompatible and doesn’t work.

    I’d say the same thing about a Mormon who identifies as a liberal Democrat… You CAN’T be both. If you identify as a practicing Mormon that means you believe in & follow the tenets of the LDS Church, and the LDS’ political and social directives are fundamentally incompatible with being a liberal Democrat.

    **Note I am only referring to devout followers of certain branches of the named religions, not ALL followers of such faiths. Please note I could also list other faiths that hold similar issues, but the Abrahamic trio are the best known examples.**

    • Anyone who self-identifies as a Mormon or Evangelical Christian (or for that matter a devout Muslim, Orthodox or stricter Jew, etc) but takes part in the kink or poly community has SERIOUS issues and likely some severe self-hatred going on, much as if someone homosexual identifies as part of those groups, and for the same reason… the basic structure of those belief systems is fundamentally incompatible with the practices & beliefs (widely & wildly varied as they are) of the kink & poly communities.

      See? That’s precisely the sort of false normativity and divisive assumption I’m talking about.

      Not every Christian denomination is the same. Not every Evangelical believes the same way the Westboro Baptist Church does. If you want to talk about specific churches and specific denominations, you might have a stronger case, but to lump all Mormons, all Evangelicals, or all conservative Jews into the same category is EXACTLY the behavior I’m talking about here.

      Contrary to popular myth accepted by folks who don’t actually have any real first-hand knowledge, the Mormon church does not discourage kink at all; indeed, a surprisingly high number of Mormons are kinky. And also contrary to common misperception, evangelical Christianity is not the same as Fundamentalist Christianity. Evangelism is not a synonym for Fundamentalism. Folks who don’t know a lot about religion often assume that they are, for much the same reason that folks who don’t know much about polyamory assume that it’s all about promiscuity or folks who don’t know about BDSM assume that it’s all about abuse.

      Indeed, “Modernist Evangelicals” are socially and politically liberal, believe that salvation is universal (much like Unitarian Universalists do), work for social justice (including equal rights for gays and lesbians), and tolerance of other faiths. If you want a less prejudicial notion of what socially progressive Evangelical Christianity looks like, I suggest you check out the book More Ready Than You Realize, by modernist Evangelical pastor Brian McLaren. McLaren made Time magazine’s list of the country’s 25 most influential Evangelicals, and he calls for civil rights for gays and lesbians and work for social justice and equality.

      • I know quite a bit about the LDS, its roots, beliefs, and history. I’ve even been to the main Temple in Salt Lake to do additional research, and I stand by what I said. Ditto for Evangelicals. I understand the difference between them and Fundamentalists VERY well and I still stand by what I said. Any active interpretation of the Abrahamic faiths & their derivatives, no matter how much a few members might say “no, we’re for social justice and tolerance!” simply are incompatible with poly, kink, or many other things.

        Your belief about modern evangelicals and most of them being socially progressive and liberal is also demonstrably false. In fact for many of them that’s entirely a false front. I have a relative who’s part of “The Family,” the people who put on the national prayer breakfast. They make all those claims, and put on that face here in the US. Meanwhile in Africa they write “death to gays” laws. It’s a way to gain members and power, simple as that.

        This’s one topic I have put a LOT of time & research in to, and I’m confident of what I’m saying. BTW, I note you didn’t mention Muslims in your reply, and they should be included too.

        • If you re-read what I wrote, you will see that I did not claim “most evangelicals are socially progressive and liberal”. I said “some are.”

          I am totally mystified by what point you’re attempting to make, though. You seem to be going on about irrelevancies like what the Mormon church spends its money on. What does that have to do with creating a welcoming environment at poly and kink events? Are you trying to say “It is OK to discriminate against all Mormons because some of them do bad things”?

          • I didn’t say anything baout LDS spending, I was talking about DOCTRINE.

            My original comment wasn’t that such people should be made to feel unwelcome, I was simply saying I don’t think their belief systems are compatible in any way with polyamory or kink.

          • And yet there are kinky and poly people of all religious persuasions. To confuse the institution of a religion with the mindset of every one of its individual followers is…well, let’s see, there’s a word for that, what was it again? Oh, yes. Prejudice.

          • I don’t think it’s prejudice to say that if someone holds a set of core beliefs that’re incompatible with how they choose to live it’s likely to cause issues for them at some point, or to point to existing ones you might not otherwise see.

        • I’m not sure what research you have done, but I LIVE in Utah and know a LOT of devout Mormon liberal democrats. This Sunday 300 (or 500 depending on which counts you believe) of them marched AT THE FRONT OF THE PRIDE PARADE to show that not all Mormons are the same. I felt compelled to refute your statement because I have lived here most of my life and while I often feel opressed by actions of “the church”, there are many of its members who are wonderful decent people who do not deserve the labels you are giving them.

          • I didn’t say all Mormons were bad. I said their church doctrine was bad, and that ultimately those who, for example, took part in that march have beliefs that’re fundamentally incompatible with church doctrine.

          • You know, I keep running into religious folks who care more about being seen as “one of the good ones” than they do about doing actual good. The Mormon church has spent a lot of time, energy and money on fighting gay rights and a host of other good things. Marching in a parade doesn’t change that. Leaving the church – and taking your money and your numbers with you – does. There’s nothing stopping your friends from forming a new Mormon church that’s pro-gay. But that might require some kind of personal sacrifice on their part, so these oh-so-nice Mormons choose the path of least resistance. And they’re able to get away with that because well-meaning folks like you let them. Make them pay the price for their allegiances; maybe a negative social consequence will get them to reassess their priorities and do the right thing.

          • I am loving that the responses I have received seem to fall right in under exactly what tacit has been discussing. You seem to be firmly rooted in your beliefs so nothing can be different. I’m completely happy leaving you to them and going over here to have a kinky orgy with my Mormon closed-minded bigoted friends rather than dole out punishment that has not been priorly consented to.

          • I love that the responses have fallen right in with what tacit is talking about here. It seems you all have your firmly held beliefs and nothing can be different. I will leave you to them and go over here to have an orgy with my closed-minded bigoted Mormon friends since I don’t punish people who have not priorly consented.

          • There’s a line between trying to get along and sacrificing the well-being of minorities to comfort the privileged. The victims of the church didn’t consent to their mistreatment either, but apparently you care more about your own pleasure than their rights or safety.

          • Oh, come ON. Nobody is coming into a poly get-together with pitchforks and torches and saying “I’m poly and Christian, so death to the poly folks!” That’s not what this is about.

            What this is about is not being exclusionary toward people who are already polyamorous but don’t fit the stereotypical geek-gamer-pagan mold. If you’re going to say to anyone who identifies as Christian and poly, or Christian and kinky, “nope, sorry, you’re just like the people who want to burn heretics at the stake,” then how is it you are not EXACTLY like the Fundies who say “You’re not monogamous and heterosexual? You’re just like those pedophiles!”?

          • Mormons, not all Christians. I’ve met plenty of Christians who are even more strident about this stuff than I am, so I know better than to think they’re a hivemind on all social issues. I’m referring to something specific in bikil’s post: namely, people who belong to oppressive organizations, do nothing to challenge those organizations, in fact giving them money and swelling their ranks, but who still want to be part of the Nice People Club because they marched in a parade that one time. Of course they were at the front – it was all a big show.

            This wasn’t originally about poly, but rather pointing out that inclusiveness should have limits when it comes to groups that spread hate. You made a lot of examples in your post that I agree with, but those ones are easy – there are no organizations fighting against the rights of people who like sports, fishing, etc. But what about the people who belong to groups that actively demonize, even if it’s not the focus of your club? If some of your club’s gay members were upset because Mormons were trying to join the club, would you really side with the Mormons over the gays? Sometimes we have to make choices, and I’m arguing that we should be erring on the side of social justice in those instances.

      • I’d actually like to know what specific incompatibilities, based on your knowledge of Mormon roots and beliefs, make you think that a person cannot be Mormon, kinky, and happy. And please cite the sources that helped you draw that particular conclusion. It’s an interesting statement, and I’m intrigued to know exactly why you stand behind it.

  7. In addition to my reply to Sweh above, I will add this… Anyone who self-identifies as a Mormon or Evangelical Christian (or for that matter a devout Muslim, Orthodox or stricter Jew, etc) but takes part in the kink or poly community has SERIOUS issues and likely some severe self-hatred going on, much as if someone homosexual identifies as part of those groups, and for the same reason… the basic structure of those belief systems is fundamentally incompatible with the practices & beliefs (widely & wildly varied as they are) of the kink & poly communities.

    In fact it’s no different than showing up at a meeting for devout followers of Islam & saying “Oh I’m part of this community, fully accept it, and live by & follow its beliefs… but I’m a fundamentalist Christian!” It’s simply incompatible and doesn’t work.

    I’d say the same thing about a Mormon who identifies as a liberal Democrat… You CAN’T be both. If you identify as a practicing Mormon that means you believe in & follow the tenets of the LDS Church, and the LDS’ political and social directives are fundamentally incompatible with being a liberal Democrat.

    **Note I am only referring to devout followers of certain branches of the named religions, not ALL followers of such faiths. Please note I could also list other faiths that hold similar issues, but the Abrahamic trio are the best known examples.**

  8. I think this piece is among the best you have written, and you write a lot of stuff. Please try to get a version of this published in other places for those that need to see it.

    Also:

    However, as I’ve said before, any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.

    This is my new favoritest phrase. So very true.

  9. I think this piece is among the best you have written, and you write a lot of stuff. Please try to get a version of this published in other places for those that need to see it.

    Also:

    However, as I’ve said before, any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.

    This is my new favoritest phrase. So very true.

  10. agreed, we need to engage with nearly-agree-people

    Well said …

    I would just like to add [to your unabbreviated rant] …

    We need to be able to engage with anyone fractionally-like-us … someone who agrees-on-most-topics should not be driven away by explosive-anger-on-tangential-topics like righteous-atheist-anger-against-religion-towards-your-Mormon-interlocutor or going Credible-Hulk-on-an-SCA-type-because-they-use-the-word-“chivalry” …

    Communities grow by co-opting nearly-agree-ers on their periphery … and shrink by driving-away the impure and imperfect.

    I can understand that we-poly-people feel besieged by you’re-going-to-hell theocrat-christian-types (who would legislate us into criminality) … but historically most people are born into religious families and secularize … they de-convert as abusive-priests or allowed-holocausts disabuse them of their belief of the Almighty-on-OverWatch.
    (We seculars are notoriously childless on average, it’s the religious people who have large families whom we seem to de-convert faster than they can raise)

    Even priests and ministers … and even protesters … frequently end up secularizing … and sometimes the protesters are performing a self-convincing-act-of-faith and may themselves be wobbly.

    So we need cheerful-debaters and welcoming types who can cordially explain-and-explain-and-explain and engage-without-anger … and without accusing a disagreer after a few sentences of not-listening or reading-comprehension-problems, … or needless blowups on life-extension or word-use will drive off that nice Presbyterian-couple or libertarians-who-aren’t-liberals or schism-with-the-party-hosting-academic-poly-couple-over-trivial-matters.

    As the libertarian of the previous sentence, I have *frequent* long happy (mutual-growth+learning) debates without name-calling or reading-comprehension-insults+internet-wars with both the Presbyterian and Academic couples (and my triad gets invited to their parties and events *because* we are happy conversationalists and debaters)

    We need healthy-happy-debates, not talking-on-eggshells 😉

  11. agreed, we need to engage with nearly-agree-people

    Well said …

    I would just like to add [to your unabbreviated rant] …

    We need to be able to engage with anyone fractionally-like-us … someone who agrees-on-most-topics should not be driven away by explosive-anger-on-tangential-topics like righteous-atheist-anger-against-religion-towards-your-Mormon-interlocutor or going Credible-Hulk-on-an-SCA-type-because-they-use-the-word-“chivalry” …

    Communities grow by co-opting nearly-agree-ers on their periphery … and shrink by driving-away the impure and imperfect.

    I can understand that we-poly-people feel besieged by you’re-going-to-hell theocrat-christian-types (who would legislate us into criminality) … but historically most people are born into religious families and secularize … they de-convert as abusive-priests or allowed-holocausts disabuse them of their belief of the Almighty-on-OverWatch.
    (We seculars are notoriously childless on average, it’s the religious people who have large families whom we seem to de-convert faster than they can raise)

    Even priests and ministers … and even protesters … frequently end up secularizing … and sometimes the protesters are performing a self-convincing-act-of-faith and may themselves be wobbly.

    So we need cheerful-debaters and welcoming types who can cordially explain-and-explain-and-explain and engage-without-anger … and without accusing a disagreer after a few sentences of not-listening or reading-comprehension-problems, … or needless blowups on life-extension or word-use will drive off that nice Presbyterian-couple or libertarians-who-aren’t-liberals or schism-with-the-party-hosting-academic-poly-couple-over-trivial-matters.

    As the libertarian of the previous sentence, I have *frequent* long happy (mutual-growth+learning) debates without name-calling or reading-comprehension-insults+internet-wars with both the Presbyterian and Academic couples (and my triad gets invited to their parties and events *because* we are happy conversationalists and debaters)

    We need healthy-happy-debates, not talking-on-eggshells 😉

  12. *nodnod* Yep. It’s similar to my feelings on all of the atheist backlash and bigoted comments about religion. “You othered me, with horrible consequences! That is wrong! So..um..I’m going to do it back!” Divisiveness and bigotry and any other shorthand for making X group subhuman is never going to make anything better. It just changes who gets stepped on next.

  13. *nodnod* Yep. It’s similar to my feelings on all of the atheist backlash and bigoted comments about religion. “You othered me, with horrible consequences! That is wrong! So..um..I’m going to do it back!” Divisiveness and bigotry and any other shorthand for making X group subhuman is never going to make anything better. It just changes who gets stepped on next.

  14. I think that once you switch your mind from “this is a poly/kink group who are into gaming/geeking/paganism” into “this is a bi-pagan-poly-gamer-geek group into kink” then it becomes clearer; these people are primarily bi-pagan-yadayada first and the kink is secondary.

    That may be true at social get-togethers like BDSM munches, but I’m not sure it applies to, say, poly support groups, where the stated intention and goal of the group is to be a place to talk about polyamory first, and to be a social get-together second (if at all).

    The problem I see at these kinds of gatherings is a subtle, never entirely explicit set of assumptions–if you’re there you’re pagan rather than Mormon, if you’re not poly you have a boring sex life and you’re driven by control and jealousy, that sort of thing. These assumptions aren’t usually explicit, though they sometimes are. That creates a barrier to entry that’s over and above the social commonalities you’re talking about, I think.

    I’m not really talking about differences in interests, but more about false assumptions about normativity–deriding folks who aren’t already part of the clique as “mundanes,” assuming that people who aren’t pagan gamer geeks are all basically uninteresting and uniform. That’s quite a bit different, I think, than what you’re talking about.

    It’s not always blatant. Even people who don’t use words like “mundane” or “muggle” can still hold tacit assumptions about what it means to be poly or what it means to be kinky that aren’t true.

  15. Honestly, I think that’s disingenuous. It’s a bit much to expect someone to “speak up” when you put that person into an environment where people are using words like “mundane” to refer to anyone who isn’t exactly like they are.

  16. Anyone who self-identifies as a Mormon or Evangelical Christian (or for that matter a devout Muslim, Orthodox or stricter Jew, etc) but takes part in the kink or poly community has SERIOUS issues and likely some severe self-hatred going on, much as if someone homosexual identifies as part of those groups, and for the same reason… the basic structure of those belief systems is fundamentally incompatible with the practices & beliefs (widely & wildly varied as they are) of the kink & poly communities.

    See? That’s precisely the sort of false normativity and divisive assumption I’m talking about.

    Not every Christian denomination is the same. Not every Evangelical believes the same way the Westboro Baptist Church does. If you want to talk about specific churches and specific denominations, you might have a stronger case, but to lump all Mormons, all Evangelicals, or all conservative Jews into the same category is EXACTLY the behavior I’m talking about here.

    Contrary to popular myth accepted by folks who don’t actually have any real first-hand knowledge, the Mormon church does not discourage kink at all; indeed, a surprisingly high number of Mormons are kinky. And also contrary to common misperception, evangelical Christianity is not the same as Fundamentalist Christianity. Evangelism is not a synonym for Fundamentalism. Folks who don’t know a lot about religion often assume that they are, for much the same reason that folks who don’t know much about polyamory assume that it’s all about promiscuity or folks who don’t know about BDSM assume that it’s all about abuse.

    Indeed, “Modernist Evangelicals” are socially and politically liberal, believe that salvation is universal (much like Unitarian Universalists do), work for social justice (including equal rights for gays and lesbians), and tolerance of other faiths. If you want a less prejudicial notion of what socially progressive Evangelical Christianity looks like, I suggest you check out the book More Ready Than You Realize, by modernist Evangelical pastor Brian McLaren. McLaren made Time magazine’s list of the country’s 25 most influential Evangelicals, and he calls for civil rights for gays and lesbians and work for social justice and equality.

  17. us vs. them

    Franklin, thanks for your thoughtful blog on this interesting issue. It’s an issue that needs more attention and awareness and I share your position that it perpetuates the ‘normal’ myth and further isolates already marginalized communities. I’ve observed this phenomenon in the gay community as well, and I think another cause for it is ‘opposition identity’ that individuals in oppressed or repressed communities develop. In her seminal book “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” psychologist Beverly Daniel Tatum explores oppositional identity in the black community. Briefly summarized, it’s an attitude of opposition to white people caused by oppression by the dominant white culture. It’s a stage in personal development between oppression and freedom, a freedom that comes with understanding the history of the oppressed community that was has been hidden by the dominant culture, which leads to self actualization and constructive attitudes towards and engagement with the dominant culture. Thanks for helping to push our marginalized community in the direction of fuller understanding and constructive engagement with the dominant culture.

  18. us vs. them

    Franklin, thanks for your thoughtful blog on this interesting issue. It’s an issue that needs more attention and awareness and I share your position that it perpetuates the ‘normal’ myth and further isolates already marginalized communities. I’ve observed this phenomenon in the gay community as well, and I think another cause for it is ‘opposition identity’ that individuals in oppressed or repressed communities develop. In her seminal book “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” psychologist Beverly Daniel Tatum explores oppositional identity in the black community. Briefly summarized, it’s an attitude of opposition to white people caused by oppression by the dominant white culture. It’s a stage in personal development between oppression and freedom, a freedom that comes with understanding the history of the oppressed community that was has been hidden by the dominant culture, which leads to self actualization and constructive attitudes towards and engagement with the dominant culture. Thanks for helping to push our marginalized community in the direction of fuller understanding and constructive engagement with the dominant culture.

  19. Quite well put. I do especially relate to your comment on pragmatism. Far more would do well to try everything they believe and see which of those things (practices, ideologies, etc.) succeed and which fail miserably. Let the pruning begin.

    On one fun note, I couldn’t help getting a bit of a giggle on one typo:

    Now, it seems to me that the problem with doing thins should be self-evident.

    Why? (Cue Spinal Tap)

    “The bigger the cushion,
    The better the pushin’. . . .”

    I laughed.

  20. Quite well put. I do especially relate to your comment on pragmatism. Far more would do well to try everything they believe and see which of those things (practices, ideologies, etc.) succeed and which fail miserably. Let the pruning begin.

    On one fun note, I couldn’t help getting a bit of a giggle on one typo:

    Now, it seems to me that the problem with doing thins should be self-evident.

    Why? (Cue Spinal Tap)

    “The bigger the cushion,
    The better the pushin’. . . .”

    I laughed.

  21. You pretty much just nailed why I don’t feel comfortable in a lot of the ‘communities’ out there. While I fit a lot of the labels that belong to the communities, I don’t fit all of them, and the unwelcome feeling from the stuff I don’t fit makes me just not want to go anymore, unless I’m basically forced to by other people, and then I just sit there in silence.

  22. You pretty much just nailed why I don’t feel comfortable in a lot of the ‘communities’ out there. While I fit a lot of the labels that belong to the communities, I don’t fit all of them, and the unwelcome feeling from the stuff I don’t fit makes me just not want to go anymore, unless I’m basically forced to by other people, and then I just sit there in silence.

  23. One of the things about the PolyTampa community was that it seemed the most diverse of any “group” I’ve attended. Having “support” as its primary function helped, and I found that the groups that included “socializing” as a primary function did not have this diversity. When I started attending, I was the outsider (younger, kinkier, more tech-friendly, child-free, politically more conservative, a still-occasionally-practicing Catholic) and I remember yours being the first “friendly” connection I made when you finally joined the group, the first new person who shared some of my non-poly interests.

    Here’s a smattering of the folks who’ve been regular attendees (not one-timers):
    Lesbian groups of various sizes (including singles)
    Gay male groups of various sizes (including singles)
    Bi/straight mixed groups of various sizes (including singles)
    Unitarian Universalists, Evangelical Christians, Catholics, pagans (of various flavors), atheists, and at least one Quaker.
    Technophiles and technophobes, libertarians, hippies, kinksters, and folks who’d never heard of BDSM.
    People aging from their 20s to their 60s, with grown children, grandchildren, teen children, young children, and child-free by choice.

    And yet, as the group grew, it seems like it became more and more homogenized, centering on the kinky, pagan, techie, geek interested members, and most others faded away. One of the reasons I no longer attend is because I don’t find the diversity of experiences and interests sufficient to provide me with true support. (If I want to hear my own ideas parroted back, I can get that in my immediate social group, without going out and subjecting myself to a larger group than I’m comfortable with.)

    So, what I’m saying is: As soon as a critical mass of similar interests appears, even a support-based group will begin to homogenize, and I agree, that is a downright shame. FWIW, it seems that the particulars of any given group vary somewhat from region to region and group to group. That’s good news if the thing I’m looking for is a social group who share many or most of my interests.

    But when it comes to “support”, it’s only when I walk into a relatively diverse group that I truly feel like I may have found a “home”.

  24. One of the things about the PolyTampa community was that it seemed the most diverse of any “group” I’ve attended. Having “support” as its primary function helped, and I found that the groups that included “socializing” as a primary function did not have this diversity. When I started attending, I was the outsider (younger, kinkier, more tech-friendly, child-free, politically more conservative, a still-occasionally-practicing Catholic) and I remember yours being the first “friendly” connection I made when you finally joined the group, the first new person who shared some of my non-poly interests.

    Here’s a smattering of the folks who’ve been regular attendees (not one-timers):
    Lesbian groups of various sizes (including singles)
    Gay male groups of various sizes (including singles)
    Bi/straight mixed groups of various sizes (including singles)
    Unitarian Universalists, Evangelical Christians, Catholics, pagans (of various flavors), atheists, and at least one Quaker.
    Technophiles and technophobes, libertarians, hippies, kinksters, and folks who’d never heard of BDSM.
    People aging from their 20s to their 60s, with grown children, grandchildren, teen children, young children, and child-free by choice.

    And yet, as the group grew, it seems like it became more and more homogenized, centering on the kinky, pagan, techie, geek interested members, and most others faded away. One of the reasons I no longer attend is because I don’t find the diversity of experiences and interests sufficient to provide me with true support. (If I want to hear my own ideas parroted back, I can get that in my immediate social group, without going out and subjecting myself to a larger group than I’m comfortable with.)

    So, what I’m saying is: As soon as a critical mass of similar interests appears, even a support-based group will begin to homogenize, and I agree, that is a downright shame. FWIW, it seems that the particulars of any given group vary somewhat from region to region and group to group. That’s good news if the thing I’m looking for is a social group who share many or most of my interests.

    But when it comes to “support”, it’s only when I walk into a relatively diverse group that I truly feel like I may have found a “home”.

  25. I think most (if not all) of this is ‘community’ (or tribal) behavior that some would say is programmed into us. You get any group of people in a room, and you end up with a ‘we’ and ‘them’ (those in the room and everyone else). It is a pretty strong drive in us to identify with a (or many) group(s) and, to do that, we grab onto characteristics that define ‘us as a group’. Then we use those characteristics in our speech.

    I think it becomes exclusionary when more characteristics are included than are literally intended, eg ‘we are polyamorous and mostly geeks’. Note that even ‘we’ is exclusionary to a new person. If most speech can be focused on ‘I’ (I am polyamorous and a geek’), that doesn’t imply that it is ‘better’ to be also a geek unless you start saying ‘most people here are also geeks’.

    I think that it takes a LOT of awareness to avoid the community defining talk and be accepting of a global community of ‘everyone is different and isn’t it great!?!?!’

  26. I think most (if not all) of this is ‘community’ (or tribal) behavior that some would say is programmed into us. You get any group of people in a room, and you end up with a ‘we’ and ‘them’ (those in the room and everyone else). It is a pretty strong drive in us to identify with a (or many) group(s) and, to do that, we grab onto characteristics that define ‘us as a group’. Then we use those characteristics in our speech.

    I think it becomes exclusionary when more characteristics are included than are literally intended, eg ‘we are polyamorous and mostly geeks’. Note that even ‘we’ is exclusionary to a new person. If most speech can be focused on ‘I’ (I am polyamorous and a geek’), that doesn’t imply that it is ‘better’ to be also a geek unless you start saying ‘most people here are also geeks’.

    I think that it takes a LOT of awareness to avoid the community defining talk and be accepting of a global community of ‘everyone is different and isn’t it great!?!?!’

  27. Hmmm. I think it’s to be expected that people who generally feel excluded want to make sure their community remains inclusive *of them* and the most straightforward way to achieve that would be to exclude the kind of people that tend to exclude them (the minority) in the larger community. Somewhat paradoxically, a community can become exclusive to remain inclusive. If the percentage of religious attitudes in X community were to reflect mainstream society, and if mainstream society generally excludes, say, pagans, one can expect that X community would eventually exclude pagans too. Why would the pagans want to encourage something that could exclude them from their own community?

    I don’t have a solution for this problem. But it doesn’t seem right to place the onus for inclusiveness on the excluded minority. Who is stopping the Evangelical Mormon Baptists from creating their own kink support groups and showing the geek pagan polys how to be inclusive and welcoming to all, if it’s so easy?

    • To clarify, I have no experience with the communities you mention, but have long been pondering a similar dynamic in a group I belong to.

      On second thought, I completely agree with your first point that calling people “muggles” or “mundanes” and creating an arbitrary separation is stupid and counterproductive.

      But I have some reservations about the second point, and I don’t think it’s necessarily related to the first; if people feel uncomfortable with the number of visible “others” in a community, I wonder to what extent they are being actively excluded as opposed to simply feeling uncomfortable because those uppity geeks or atheists or whatever aren’t staying in the closet like they’re supposed to and like they’re forced to do in “normal” social contexts. Often the mere assertion of existence by a minority is seen as threatening by those with majority privilege. If such people leave the community because they’re only comfortable among people that are more like themselves, how is that a lack of inclusiveness of the community?

  28. Hmmm. I think it’s to be expected that people who generally feel excluded want to make sure their community remains inclusive *of them* and the most straightforward way to achieve that would be to exclude the kind of people that tend to exclude them (the minority) in the larger community. Somewhat paradoxically, a community can become exclusive to remain inclusive. If the percentage of religious attitudes in X community were to reflect mainstream society, and if mainstream society generally excludes, say, pagans, one can expect that X community would eventually exclude pagans too. Why would the pagans want to encourage something that could exclude them from their own community?

    I don’t have a solution for this problem. But it doesn’t seem right to place the onus for inclusiveness on the excluded minority. Who is stopping the Evangelical Mormon Baptists from creating their own kink support groups and showing the geek pagan polys how to be inclusive and welcoming to all, if it’s so easy?

  29.        I find terms like ‘muggle’ to be handy identifiers. I’m talking about people who are not poly or kinky. It’s not an insult. It is a bit of a stereotype. But…not necessarily a negative one. I could type out ‘people who are not poly or kinky’ every time. But it means the same thing to me.

           There’s a difference between using handy identifiers and linguistic shortcuts, and intentionally discriminating against someone. Vanilla, monogamous sex can be just as intense, as magical, as deep and spiritual as any other kind. But it is vanilla sex. Or ‘different’ from what I’m doing/talking about.

           As far as accepting people for their religious views…tolerance goes both ways. Where do we call people on their BS? On their hate? Why is it okay for them to be mormon or conservative or Evangelical? Whether or not that individual agrees with 100% of those philosophies, they’ve chosen to self-identify with a culture of small-mindedness, hate, and discrimination. That’s not okay. You can still be a cool person, and be Mormon, but you can’t be a ‘good’ Mormon and not believe 80% of the crap they do. 99% of which is awful and hateful and anti-humanism.

           I have no interest in giving someone who believes that gays, brown people, women, muslims, kinksters, etc are sinners and abominations or should all be locked up a ‘fair shake’. And whether they believe the same or not, anyone who allies or aligns themselves with those people is not someone I want in my life. No matter how sweet and kind and good they are. Hate is hate. It’s not okay.

    K.

    • I think this is exactly the mistake people make in the opposite direction (not you, the problem you’re talking about). Sometimes, in their efforts to be “inclusive”, we drown out important dissent. Yeah, we shouldn’t be ostracizing other poly folk just for not being kinky. But at the same time, we shouldn’t be afraid to speak up when we disagree or when we think someone is wrong, or worse, harmful, out of fear that we’re not “inclusive” enough. And that’s where this kind of “it’s not right to call people names” tends to go. Both side of the spectrum are harmful.

      • *nods* I’ve never played WoW in my life. I’m not pagan. I can’t afford to go to munches (very often.) I don’t feel excluded and never have. I think part of the problem is, the munches and whatnot are organized by people who are computer-literate if not computer-centric. That means, you’re going to attract a certain group, who’re more likely to do WoW than fishing. Dunno.

        K.

    • As far as accepting people for their religious views…tolerance goes both ways. Where do we call people on their BS? On their hate? Why is it okay for them to be mormon or conservative or Evangelical? Whether or not that individual agrees with 100% of those philosophies, they’ve chosen to self-identify with a culture of small-mindedness, hate, and discrimination.

      It sounds like you’ve made the same mistake as James in believing that “evangelical” is a synonym of “Fundamentalist.” They’re not; many Evangelicals are actually very progressive, embracing the right of gays and lesbians to marry, for example.

      That’s beside the point, however. Allowing a person who identifies as Christian to feel included in a polyamory support meeting is not the same thing as endorsing the value system of conservative Christianity. This should, I feel, be obvious, but it bears saying anyway.

      Not all Christians are homophobic, misogynistic nutters. Ditto for Mormons.

      And from a purely pragmatic direction, being welcome and inclusive does far more to promote the ideas of polyamory and other non-mainstream relationships than being discriminatory. Many people from conservative religious backgrounds are told that they should associate only with others from those same backgrounds. (This is definitely true of Mormons, for example.) By showing up at a poly meeting, they are already taking that first, tentative step outside the boundaries of those religious restrictions you hate so much. This is something that should be encouraged, I feel. Slam the door in their face and they go back to the safe, comfortable restrictions of their religion. Show them that they are welcome, and you might be surprised that they continue to step away from that oppressive religious background.

      WARNING: RANT AHEAD: Read at your own risk

      Now you are, if you want to, perfectly welcome to host a poly event or start an alternative lifestyle community that says “Christians not welcome.” It’s your group; fill your boots. But I really, really, really don’t think you want to get on that train.

      As soon as you step foot on that train, at some point you’re going to have to ride it all the way to the last station. Sure, you can say “Well, the Mormon church is oppressively homophobic and misogynistic, and that harms society. By being Mormon, this person has chosen to self-identify with those values. I don’t want any person at my meeting who holds beliefs that are harmful to society.”

      But, man, what a can o’ worms you’ve just opened there. By the same logic, you better not allow any New Agers! After all, the New Age movement embraces all sorts of negative, harmful jackassery like alternative ‘medicine’ and ‘crystal healing,’ which embraces an anti-rationalist, anti-intellectual mindset that encourages people from turning away from medical care that has actually been demonstrated to work, and so leads to greater sickness and death. Of course, not ALL New Agers are against evidence-based medicine, but by identifying with the New Age movement they have still chosen to identify with irrationality and anti-intellectualism, even if they don’t agree with 100% of those philosophies.”

      And you better not allow any antivaxxers, either. Those guys are actually killing people!

      By the time you’ve taken that train to the last stop, your poly group will consist of about half a dozen people in Tampa, one or two people in Chicago, and James Hughes.

      • *nod* I get your point. And you’re right, I am assuming Fundamentalist christians. However, the mormon church funded a lot of Prop 8 in california. New agers might be crazy, but they’re not inflicting their crazy on other people. I feel that mormons and fundies and republicans and whatever have a right to be as crazy as they want…until it starts affecting the social or political arena. At that point, it’s a duty, of all of us, to call them on it.

        I think, being a good person, means occasionally drawing a line in the sand. The Republican party has become motivated by fundamentalist christians and hardcore, ardent classic conservatives. People who believe that society should be unequal, that that is the natural order, that the customs and traditions of our past worked well and that we shouldn’t try to improve on them or fix social inequality. It is fundamentally an endorsement of racism, sexism, etc.

        Yes, probably not every single person who votes republican doesn’t believe everything. But? It’s probable that not every nazi believed that jews were bad, or every Hutu believed that every Tutsi was unclean, or every Klansman doesn’t hate black people. But? You’ve chosen to align yourself with a movement of hate. At a certain point…that needs to have consequences. Otherwise, it’s not philosophically honest.

        And I don’t mean to be all Godwin’s law. But? Had the republicans managed to defeat gay marriage and create a total victory? It would be us they’d be coming for next. It would be the poly, the kinky, the ‘weird’, the ‘socially abnormal’ that would be next. Pretending like they’re not the enemy or that they’re not against everything we believe in is…frightening to me. I don’t know the answers, but…I do see us as courting a tiger.

        Thank you for taking the time to respond to me.

        K.

      • The problem I’m having here is not with anything you’re saying. It’s with the implementation. As I skim through the comments and go over past discussions I’ve been in, what ends up happening in practice is that anyone who has a dissenting viewpoint is automatically called “intolerant”. I see some comments here, and in other places, where people are saying they felt “unwelcome” simply because people are talking about a topic that the person isn’t interested in. If we’re all standing in a circle & the conversation turns to football, it doesn’t mean that the guy who doesn’t follow football is “unwelcome”, on that alone.

        The problem I’m having is that, as an organizer, it often feels as though there isn’t anything I can do to make some people feel “welcome” because merely having a different viewpoint is automatically translated to “unwelcome” and “intolerant”. I can outlaw the use of words like “muggle” and “mundane”, but if 9 out of 10 people show up to a meeting and they all play WoW, how am I supposed to make the non-player feel “welcome” without further banning discussions of WoW *if* simply having that conversation makes someone feel unwelcome?

        There absolutely needs to be an attitude adjustment. My problem is with implementation, not theory. My difficulty is in balancing diversity & dissent (which I think is necessary) with inclusivity. When you get a group of people together that have different interests, there is going to be ebbs and flows in the conversation that naturally leave some people out of it if they are not interested in that particular topic. But if just having a conversation happen that one person isn’t interested in counts as “unwelcome” or “intolerant” or “in-group” (which has happened), then, as an organizer, I start to feel as though there isn’t anything I can do, since I’ve already made it group policy to welcome anyone who isn’t actually opposed to polyamory & there to pick a fight.

        For example: one of the big problem we have in sex-centric communities is the scaring off of young women. OP was specifically created to attract that demographic for the purpose of giving them a place to be poly. So we have a no-hookup rule – not that people can’t get together with other members, but that they can’t attend for the purpose of finding a date. Consequently, we have quite the respectful group of people – all genders, all ages.

        I have had 2 complaints about this. 1) Some women, who have not developed any “aggressor” skills in dating are unhappy that the guys are so hands-off and won’t pick up on them at meetings. 2) Some men are angry that I am, according to them, interfering in their sex lives and trying to dictate who is allowed to date whom. You can argue that these are the sorts of people we don’t want at the meetings anyway, but my point is that I can’t make the group any more “inclusive” without inviting in people who will then scare away certain other people. And yet, the accusations here are that *I* am the one who is intolerant and exclusive.

        So, my bottom line is that I agree with your position completely. But no matter what I do, someone is going to call me intolerant, someone is going to say I’m not inclusive enough, someone is going to not get what they want out of the group no matter how hard I try to accommodate everyone. And if I’m going to get called those names, it makes it hard to sift through the obvious assholes & find the areas that actually could use improvement, since I thought I had good reasons for the limitations I instituted in the first place, or else I wouldn’t have put them there.

        • Yes, I think the implementation is tough, and perhaps not really possible in all circumstances. Eg, we could have an ‘orientation’ for each gathering, but that excludes people who can’t get there in time for that. I have, on occasion, included a comment about expected behavior, confidentiality, etc in invitation posts, but even that doesn’t reach everyone since many people come as a guest of someone else. The gatherings I have tend to have a fairly high percentage of people just getting into polyamory; sometimes all they really want is to ask some questions; making them feel welcomed is pretty key to getting them to a comfortable place where they feel ok asking them.

          When there gets to be a gathering of more than 6-8 people, most times it will break into clumps of those talking about a particular interest; or some want to ‘do’ some music and others want to just talk. Do those who want to talk feel a bit excluded from the folks who want to be part of the ‘do music’ clump? probably. About all I can do is wander around, notice if there is someone quiet in one clump or another and see if they ‘want’ to be pulled into the conversation, etc. But then, that can feel pushy too for some personalities…..

          If ‘we’ even talk about this issue, that makes a subset of those who come to later gatherings, which could even set up another barrier! sigh.

        • I see a difference between active exclusion and passive exclusion, though active exclusion can sometimes be so subtle that it looks passive. I don’t know that there’s anything you can do about passive exclusion, but there certainly is about active exclusion.

          By way of an example, if there’s a poly meeting, and two folks at the meeting start talking to one another and say “Hey! How about that televised sporting competition last night? One sporting organization totally triumphed over a different sporting organization! Did you check out those skilled acts that let the dominant sporting organization prevail?” then someone who doesn’t follow sports might feel excluded. This is what I’m calling ‘passive’ exclusion; there’s no malice nor any attempt to exclude, and the exclusion really exists, for the most part, in the mind of the person who feels excluded.

          On the other hand, when someone refers to anyone outside their particular clique as a “muggle,” or makes assumptions about the people at the meeting (“if you’re here, you must be pagan and New Age”), that’s active exclusion. That kind of thing, people CAN do something about.

          So as far as implementation goes, here’s what I’d say as a starter:

          – Don’t make assumptions, either implicitly or explicitly, about people’s interests, hobbies, religion, or anything else based solely on the fact that they have more than one relationship at a time. Watchdog yourself; be aware of it when you do start making those assumptions.

          – Don’t use exclusionary language. Don’t assume someone is a “mundane” simply because they DON’T have more than one relationship at a time.

          – Be aware of group dynamics. Pay attention to the social dynamics. If someone seems excluded or marginalized, invite (but don’t demand) their participation.

          – As Noel Figart says, “Be a credit to your kink.” Be aware that not everyone shares it, even in subcultures where it’s common, and that when you move in those subcultures you’re an ambassador. The people around you will likely make judgements, for better or for worse, about folks with your interests on the basis of how you behave.

          – When people in the group DO make assumptions, if you’re a counterexample, speak up. If someone says something like “We’re having a crystal healing energy vibration session next week, which I’d like to see you guys at because I know poly people are all into energy vibration healing,” raise your hand and say “Well, actually, that’s not an interest of mine. Not all poly folks are part of that community.” Let other folks who don’t share that interest know that they’re not the only ones.

          – Be vocal about interests you DO have that aren’t part of the stereotypes for the community you’re in.

          • Well, again, I agree with you, but it’s not how I see things playing out in practice. I see people who cannot distinguish between “active” & “passive” exclusion, and I see people who take merely the presence of some “other” as being “unwelcoming” to them.

            I have been told, for example, that just wearing an atheist symbol (without even speaking the word “atheism” or discussing my beliefs) is offensive and rude to a person’s Christian beliefs while her friend stood next to her wearing a pagan star. That I would not be allowed in her home while wearing any atheist symbols because it is disrespectful to her beliefs, again, while her friend wearing a pagan star sat next to her.

            When I was interviewed by Minx for Poly Weekly about atheism & polyamory, I was told, flat out, on the forums, that I should not be speaking about atheism at all, that I should instead be listening to the pagans and their beliefs. On an episode set aside to discuss atheism.

            So I’m a bit dubious & touchy when people start talking about being “inclusive” when the responses to even reasonable suggestions like yours revolve around “someone is different from me, therefore I feel unwelcome”.

          • Well, there are going to be dingleberries wherever you go. There are folks who will say there’s no difference between science and religion, but that doesn’t mean that the difference doesn’t exist; it means the people who don’t understand the difference are dingleberries. 🙂

            Sure, there will be folks who don’t get that being different is not, of and by itself, being exclusive. I see inclusion a bit like I see science: the fact that lots of people don’t understand what it is, isn’t a reason not to practice it.

          • No, of course I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t practice it. I’m saying that it feels like I’m beating my head against a wall & feeling frustrated to read posts like yours and think “yep, that’s totally right!”, and then to read the comments, or to try to put the theory into practice and hear, what amounts to, “see? You shouldn’t be talking about these things, because it makes me feel bad!”, which brings us right back into the “well it’s OK if you’re into that, just don’t rub my nose in it” arguments that we get for being whatever minority is currently threatening the majority.

            So, as a community organizer, I read this and think “that’s great!”, but then those not into kink who are already in the majority start saying “just stop talking about kink, because it makes me uncomfortable” and the kinky folk who are looking for a place to feel accepted get shut down even within their minority spaces because they’re not being “inclusive” enough, and I have to deal with the fallout of both sides getting pissed off that they can’t be who they want to be.

  30.        I find terms like ‘muggle’ to be handy identifiers. I’m talking about people who are not poly or kinky. It’s not an insult. It is a bit of a stereotype. But…not necessarily a negative one. I could type out ‘people who are not poly or kinky’ every time. But it means the same thing to me.

           There’s a difference between using handy identifiers and linguistic shortcuts, and intentionally discriminating against someone. Vanilla, monogamous sex can be just as intense, as magical, as deep and spiritual as any other kind. But it is vanilla sex. Or ‘different’ from what I’m doing/talking about.

           As far as accepting people for their religious views…tolerance goes both ways. Where do we call people on their BS? On their hate? Why is it okay for them to be mormon or conservative or Evangelical? Whether or not that individual agrees with 100% of those philosophies, they’ve chosen to self-identify with a culture of small-mindedness, hate, and discrimination. That’s not okay. You can still be a cool person, and be Mormon, but you can’t be a ‘good’ Mormon and not believe 80% of the crap they do. 99% of which is awful and hateful and anti-humanism.

           I have no interest in giving someone who believes that gays, brown people, women, muslims, kinksters, etc are sinners and abominations or should all be locked up a ‘fair shake’. And whether they believe the same or not, anyone who allies or aligns themselves with those people is not someone I want in my life. No matter how sweet and kind and good they are. Hate is hate. It’s not okay.

    K.

  31. I’m quite geeky, and I’ve “run” in different kinds of geek circles (anime geeks, video game geeks, food geeks, breastfeeding geeks, academic geeks) and my experience has been that geeks in general can be very cliquey and very exclusive. Elitism is a running theme, and it’s sad for all the reasons you so eloquently described. You can’t be a TRUE fan of a certain series unless you’ve read the manga and watched all the episodes plus the extra movie (and all subtitled, of course), oh, and have watched/read all of the other works by the same creator(s)…

    These people habitually push others away, and then more often than anything, wonder why they don’t have more friends and/or their social interactions rarely “go well”.

  32. I’m quite geeky, and I’ve “run” in different kinds of geek circles (anime geeks, video game geeks, food geeks, breastfeeding geeks, academic geeks) and my experience has been that geeks in general can be very cliquey and very exclusive. Elitism is a running theme, and it’s sad for all the reasons you so eloquently described. You can’t be a TRUE fan of a certain series unless you’ve read the manga and watched all the episodes plus the extra movie (and all subtitled, of course), oh, and have watched/read all of the other works by the same creator(s)…

    These people habitually push others away, and then more often than anything, wonder why they don’t have more friends and/or their social interactions rarely “go well”.

  33. Yes, yes, and yes! Although it does seem to be human nature for the formerly-crapped-upon to start crapping on the kind of people they associate with those who once crapped on them… *sigh*

    (Also, as a SCAdian, what’s wrong with chivalry? I’ve always been given to understand that it’s really a matter of being a good person–honest, helpful, thoughtful, considerate of others; in other words, the good old Golden Rule put into practice, not a system of antiquated behavior designed to render women helpless by putting them on pedestals.)

    • Chivalry

      On SCA chivalry, yes, that is about people being considerate of each other.

      However I have run into people, mostly outside the SCA, that practiced the sort of chivalry where they expected the woman to let them do all these things for her, and in return she should stay on that pedestal and not be threatening in any way or insist on being seen as an individual.

      Both things exist, and you have to actually get to know someone sometimes to really know which kind of attitude you are really seeing.

  34. Yes, yes, and yes! Although it does seem to be human nature for the formerly-crapped-upon to start crapping on the kind of people they associate with those who once crapped on them… *sigh*

    (Also, as a SCAdian, what’s wrong with chivalry? I’ve always been given to understand that it’s really a matter of being a good person–honest, helpful, thoughtful, considerate of others; in other words, the good old Golden Rule put into practice, not a system of antiquated behavior designed to render women helpless by putting them on pedestals.)

  35. You are correct. Any labeling creates an us vs them. I’ve been associated with the local kink community for 15+ years. In that time, while I’ve met quite a few people via the local munches and events, for the most part few would say they know who I am. My husband, however, somewhat fits your profile, and while he’s only lived here for a few years, has a far higher profile than I. It’s not so much a blatant ostracism as it is that uncomfortable feeling when someone says “Oh are you coming to celebrate Imbolc” (which coincides with our wedding anniversary) and I reply in the negative (unless I’m bitchy and then I reply with something that approximates my true feeling for any organized religion). Immediately I get the polite smile and the shine on. Everyone is always polite, but if I attend any event with my husband, I’m usually sitting quietly in the corner – I’m “them”.
    I hope I see the day when people stop putting a label on someone, take the time to get to know them and accept other people for who they are, not what they do, believe, practice, dress or fuck.

    Sorry, brief rant, you struck a chord – I’ll go back to my corner 😉

  36. You are correct. Any labeling creates an us vs them. I’ve been associated with the local kink community for 15+ years. In that time, while I’ve met quite a few people via the local munches and events, for the most part few would say they know who I am. My husband, however, somewhat fits your profile, and while he’s only lived here for a few years, has a far higher profile than I. It’s not so much a blatant ostracism as it is that uncomfortable feeling when someone says “Oh are you coming to celebrate Imbolc” (which coincides with our wedding anniversary) and I reply in the negative (unless I’m bitchy and then I reply with something that approximates my true feeling for any organized religion). Immediately I get the polite smile and the shine on. Everyone is always polite, but if I attend any event with my husband, I’m usually sitting quietly in the corner – I’m “them”.
    I hope I see the day when people stop putting a label on someone, take the time to get to know them and accept other people for who they are, not what they do, believe, practice, dress or fuck.

    Sorry, brief rant, you struck a chord – I’ll go back to my corner 😉

  37. “That may be true at social get-togethers like BDSM munches, but I’m not sure it applies to, say, poly support groups, where the stated intention and goal of the group is to be a place to talk about polyamory first, and to be a social get-together second (if at all).”

    They’re still the same people who go to munches and private parties and the like. Even if the event _organisers_ are 100% focused on the core goal or presentation, the participants will chat amongst themselves during setup, before the event, after the event. Socialising is part of the atmosphere, whether it’s planned or not.

    “Water cooler” type conversations happen in workplaces (“what are you doing this weekend?”) where the only commonality is that people work for the same employer; such conversations will definitely arise at events where people share more commonality of interest (bi-poly-yadayada).

    “I’m not really talking about differences in interests, but more about false assumptions about normativity–deriding folks who aren’t already part of the clique as “mundanes,” assuming that people who aren’t pagan gamer geeks are all basically uninteresting and uniform. That’s quite a bit different, I think, than what you’re talking about.”

    I don’t think that’s really true for the vast majority of participants. (Or maybe I’ve just been lucky with the people I associate with). But it is an attitude that may be _perceived_ by outsiders.

  38. I can’t even begin to tell you the number of PolyTampa attendees who have thanked me at one meeting or another just because I revealed that I’m vanilla, or not pagan, or not a gamer, or that I garden, or I’m a stay at home mom – normal stuff, regular stuff, simply my set of life markers. That it’s okay to be poly AND do regular stuff AND be a science fiction fan AND a gardener, or whatever.

    Nuance, people. We are jam-packed with NUANCE. I resist boxes. I like options. 🙂

    • I think that one of the best approaches that a group can take to being inclusive is to be open about the differences and diversity inside that group. That’s pretty awesome. 🙂

      • 🙂 This “tactic” is born of my terrible shyness when I moved here 31.5 years ago, and how I came to understand how connecting in groups actually works. Most people want to feel included, recognized, connected with, and the only way to do that for strangers is to display what you are, so they can see if there are any similarities they want to acknowledge.

        It’s also why I am out here on the Internet. I am making connections I otherwise would never get to. Very often it happens by my illustrating some part of my life that perhaps not many people understand.

  39. I can’t even begin to tell you the number of PolyTampa attendees who have thanked me at one meeting or another just because I revealed that I’m vanilla, or not pagan, or not a gamer, or that I garden, or I’m a stay at home mom – normal stuff, regular stuff, simply my set of life markers. That it’s okay to be poly AND do regular stuff AND be a science fiction fan AND a gardener, or whatever.

    Nuance, people. We are jam-packed with NUANCE. I resist boxes. I like options. 🙂

  40. I’m guilty. I call non-kinky/poly people muggles. In fact, I was just thinking today about whether to ask if it was okay to bring a boyfriend other than Khall to a barbeque next weekend. I’ve concluded that it would expose the guests to something they may not want to be exposed to and not to bother. Even though I know the hostess is cool with it. (I’ve been taking her to doctor’s appointments in Seattle and it’s a long drive so plenty of time to talk. Plus Khall hasn’t hid he’s poly from his friends.) This attitude is rooted in living in the Bible Belt in Arkansas for too long and having to hide my lesbian relationship for fear of violence, job loss, and general havoc in our lives. My ex is an amazing high school science teacher, was even nominated for the Presidential Science Teacher award. We had a lot to protect and knew a gay teacher who had lost her teaching license because of scandal.

    So I’ll try to do better.

  41. I’m guilty. I call non-kinky/poly people muggles. In fact, I was just thinking today about whether to ask if it was okay to bring a boyfriend other than Khall to a barbeque next weekend. I’ve concluded that it would expose the guests to something they may not want to be exposed to and not to bother. Even though I know the hostess is cool with it. (I’ve been taking her to doctor’s appointments in Seattle and it’s a long drive so plenty of time to talk. Plus Khall hasn’t hid he’s poly from his friends.) This attitude is rooted in living in the Bible Belt in Arkansas for too long and having to hide my lesbian relationship for fear of violence, job loss, and general havoc in our lives. My ex is an amazing high school science teacher, was even nominated for the Presidential Science Teacher award. We had a lot to protect and knew a gay teacher who had lost her teaching license because of scandal.

    So I’ll try to do better.

  42. I’ve seen this sort of behavior a lot too, and in group mindset I definitely agree it can be problematic. My husband and I never made it to a Tampa meeting, but we did go to a couple of Orlando meetings, and the experience just left us kind of unfulfilled. We’re poly, and have been happily so for most of our relationship. We’re techy, and geeky, but not especially kinky. It’s not that we disapprove. We just aren’t that way. One of the meetings we never went back to involved the hosts basically showing off their kinky toys very proudly for about an hour. I don’t think a person has to be disapproving, vanilla, or a prude to run out of things to say about someone else’s floggers and sex swing. I mean, eventually you have said, “Wow, that’s something,” so many times before wishing to move on. We probably could have said something, but they were the hosts. It felt rude to go, “Sorry. We’re not into that.” And no, the meeting wasn’t advertised (such as these things are) as a kink meeting.

    I remember also, very distinctly, a poly event that was happening at Dragoncon. It was supposed to be a meet and greet down at the bar. My husband, myself, and his OSO got dolled up, thinking there would be folks with adult beverages gathered and mingling, from all over the country. Perhaps even the world. How exciting! We were slightly late when we got there. The poly folk had literally arranged into a circle of about 20 to 30 people locked arm in arm in a tight group. Maybe my brain is warping the exact number, but the circle was large and tight. People shoulder to shoulder, and butt to butt. There is no greater visual cue that if you are late you’ll literally have to muscle your way in. Everyone’s backs faced out. They were closed group. We just did one of these expressions, O_O, and kept walking. I’ll always wonder how many others like us saw that, and also kept walking. Never mind cliquish, that was cultish.

    • I apologize if you had a negative experience at OP. For the record, the regular host never brings kink toys to a meeting, and we have lots of members who aren’t kinky. It’s also not a requirement to be kinky.

      As one of the moderators (who wasn’t at that meeting), you are certainly in your place to say “sorry, we’re not into that.” The meetings exist for the community, and if the community isn’t happy, then the meetings need to change to reflect that. The whole reason OP exists is because the community wasn’t happy with the way it was being run before. It’s written into our very mission statement that we will reflect the needs of the community, but we can’t change if we don’t know anyone wants change.

      • I’m not 100% certain it was one of your groups, . This was several years ago, and during that time we witnessed via word of mouth, and online contacts the rise and fall of several splinter groups as various factions decided they were unhappy with this or that. The meeting was at the hosts house, so they didn’t bring toys to a meeting, they were showing off their bedroom. Other folks were engaged and interested in the conversation. Like I said, it just seemed like it might be rude, which is more awkward when you are strangers thinking about joining a group. I know of you by reputation, and you’ve always seemed an approachable person. We’ve never communicated before that I recall, but I think maybe Brian’s touched base with you before. I think he’s mentioned you in passing. His lj name is .

        • I do recognize that name, and I’m glad to hear that it wasn’t likely an meeting. We only met in a person’s house once, and that was our very first meeting because the venue actually forgot we were coming and they were closed. If the meeting was in their house, I can see how it might feel rude to say something.

          There is still a strong overlap between poly & kink at OP, but we do try to remind ourselves & the rest of the group that no one has to be one in order to be the other. We have had some kinky events, but the moderators try very hard to make sure that events are labeled properly.

          There was one incident not too long ago where someone was hosting a swinger party and did not label it as such, and it was only my probing for details (because they used language that tipped me off to what kind of party it might be) that gave it away. We had several new members who thought that a party might be a less-intimidating way to meet the group and were planning to go … until they learned that it was a sex party. OP doesn’t discriminate against sex parties, but we do have a very strong aversion to not letting people know what they’re getting into, and the guests were, rightfully IMO, shocked at finding out that they would not have been told ahead of time what kind of event it was.

          Unfortunately, that sort of incident tends to make our group look like we are anti-swingers, and we sometimes get backlash for not being “welcoming” of swingers. I have yet to learn how to be “welcoming” of swingers in a way that doesn’t include allowing our members to be “surprised” by sex parties.

  43. I’ve seen this sort of behavior a lot too, and in group mindset I definitely agree it can be problematic. My husband and I never made it to a Tampa meeting, but we did go to a couple of Orlando meetings, and the experience just left us kind of unfulfilled. We’re poly, and have been happily so for most of our relationship. We’re techy, and geeky, but not especially kinky. It’s not that we disapprove. We just aren’t that way. One of the meetings we never went back to involved the hosts basically showing off their kinky toys very proudly for about an hour. I don’t think a person has to be disapproving, vanilla, or a prude to run out of things to say about someone else’s floggers and sex swing. I mean, eventually you have said, “Wow, that’s something,” so many times before wishing to move on. We probably could have said something, but they were the hosts. It felt rude to go, “Sorry. We’re not into that.” And no, the meeting wasn’t advertised (such as these things are) as a kink meeting.

    I remember also, very distinctly, a poly event that was happening at Dragoncon. It was supposed to be a meet and greet down at the bar. My husband, myself, and his OSO got dolled up, thinking there would be folks with adult beverages gathered and mingling, from all over the country. Perhaps even the world. How exciting! We were slightly late when we got there. The poly folk had literally arranged into a circle of about 20 to 30 people locked arm in arm in a tight group. Maybe my brain is warping the exact number, but the circle was large and tight. People shoulder to shoulder, and butt to butt. There is no greater visual cue that if you are late you’ll literally have to muscle your way in. Everyone’s backs faced out. They were closed group. We just did one of these expressions, O_O, and kept walking. I’ll always wonder how many others like us saw that, and also kept walking. Never mind cliquish, that was cultish.

  44. To clarify, I have no experience with the communities you mention, but have long been pondering a similar dynamic in a group I belong to.

    On second thought, I completely agree with your first point that calling people “muggles” or “mundanes” and creating an arbitrary separation is stupid and counterproductive.

    But I have some reservations about the second point, and I don’t think it’s necessarily related to the first; if people feel uncomfortable with the number of visible “others” in a community, I wonder to what extent they are being actively excluded as opposed to simply feeling uncomfortable because those uppity geeks or atheists or whatever aren’t staying in the closet like they’re supposed to and like they’re forced to do in “normal” social contexts. Often the mere assertion of existence by a minority is seen as threatening by those with majority privilege. If such people leave the community because they’re only comfortable among people that are more like themselves, how is that a lack of inclusiveness of the community?

  45. Yes, this! Brilliantly written and so true.

    Even though I identify with a lot of the labels/practices you mention (poly/bi/kinky/pagan) I am not a gamer or a geek, and I’ve felt excluded or looked down upon in poly circles more than once just for that reason. It’s time we stopped ‘other’ing ourselves, and scorning anyone who isn’t like us. It doesn’t do anyone any favours.

  46. Yes, this! Brilliantly written and so true.

    Even though I identify with a lot of the labels/practices you mention (poly/bi/kinky/pagan) I am not a gamer or a geek, and I’ve felt excluded or looked down upon in poly circles more than once just for that reason. It’s time we stopped ‘other’ing ourselves, and scorning anyone who isn’t like us. It doesn’t do anyone any favours.

  47. I think this is exactly the mistake people make in the opposite direction (not you, the problem you’re talking about). Sometimes, in their efforts to be “inclusive”, we drown out important dissent. Yeah, we shouldn’t be ostracizing other poly folk just for not being kinky. But at the same time, we shouldn’t be afraid to speak up when we disagree or when we think someone is wrong, or worse, harmful, out of fear that we’re not “inclusive” enough. And that’s where this kind of “it’s not right to call people names” tends to go. Both side of the spectrum are harmful.

  48. I apologize if you had a negative experience at OP. For the record, the regular host never brings kink toys to a meeting, and we have lots of members who aren’t kinky. It’s also not a requirement to be kinky.

    As one of the moderators (who wasn’t at that meeting), you are certainly in your place to say “sorry, we’re not into that.” The meetings exist for the community, and if the community isn’t happy, then the meetings need to change to reflect that. The whole reason OP exists is because the community wasn’t happy with the way it was being run before. It’s written into our very mission statement that we will reflect the needs of the community, but we can’t change if we don’t know anyone wants change.

  49. I definitely have experienced that feeling of exclusion.
    I went to a poly meeting in the Bay Area with my boyfriend, and it seemed like everyone else was pagan. Also, some of them started having sex in front of everyone, which I didn’t really mind, but certainly didn’t expect. I thought we were going to all meet, talk about our different situation, exchange advice, and meet people we could relate to.
    In the end, I felt like I could relate to them much less than to the general population. We never went back.

    I have also felt that way the other way around. Some poly-themed websites seem really put off when you mention BDSM at all, saying that issue should be talked about on a BDSM forum, not a poly one (which, if the question is about dealing with several doms or several subs or having one of each or something, definitely is a poly issue as well) or saying that BDSM shouldn’t be discussed in “normal” threads but restricted to a single thread, which of course isn’t practical considering how many different discussions would have to be shared within the same thread.

    I consider myself pretty vanilla (which I never thought of as an insult, by the way. I mean, people talk to me all the time about “Vanilla World of Warcraft” in ways that make it clear that it was BETTER then. To me it just means “basic”, and is whatever you make out of it, negative, positive or neutral). So I don’t feel rejected by the rejection of BDSM (sure, I’m not against getting tied up every so often, or tying up my partners, but I don’t have any advice to ask about either anyways, so it’s all the same to me) but I’m pretty put off when I see people, even sometimes mods, saying to keep these subjects out.

    Another thing I have noticed is a lot of distancing themselves with swinging. Now I know swinging and poly aren’t the same, but do we have to tell people “you’re not poly, go to a swinging site and leave us alone”? We could very well have relevant advice, plus I’d rather we stood together rather than against each other. And it’s not like you can’t be both at once anyways.

    • Another thing I have noticed is a lot of distancing themselves with swinging. Now I know swinging and poly aren’t the same, but do we have to tell people “you’re not poly, go to a swinging site and leave us alone”? We could very well have relevant advice, plus I’d rather we stood together rather than against each other. And it’s not like you can’t be both at once anyways.

      Indeed, I’ve seen that same thing too, which has always surprised me a bit. Poly and swinging aren’t exactly the same thing, but certainly a person can be polyamorous and also a swinger, much like a person can be polyamorous and also a car mechanic…yet we don’t say “You’re a mechanic? Go to a mechanic’s site and leave us alone!”

      Someone at the same panel I was on (a person I know from elsewhere in the poly community, and have a lot of respect for; in addition to being a poly activist, she’s also an anthropologist who has a very keen insight into the way groups work) talked about the fuzzy boundaries at the places where alternative lifestyle groups overlap, and why these tend to be the places where the most in-group vs. out-group policing occurs.

      The example she used was with lesbian groups rather than poly groups. Many lesbian groups have a reputation for being highly antagonistic toward bisexual women, sometimes to the point where members will actually shun anyone who comes out as bisexual.

      People will give all sorts of rationalizations for this behavior, but her contention, which I tend to agree with, is that people in a group will tend to reject folks whose behavior puts them near the edges of that group’s self-identity. It’s clear that a het straight male isn’t a lesbian; but when you start looking, say, at women who socially and politically identify as lesbian but who sometimes like having sex with men, the border gets a little fuzzy, and that presents a challenge to other people who identify as lesbian. A challenge which, often, they react to by rejecting the people at that fuzzy edge.

      I think that some folks in the poly community do the same thing with swingers. The overlap between swinging and polyamory is a lot fuzzier than some folks in the swinging AND the poly communities are comfortable with, so that’s the place where a lot of policing happens.

      • Yes, that is where the ‘community’ defining ‘stuff’ goes on, in the fuzzy areas. Over time, if it goes on, the fuzzy areas become more and more sharply defined as there seems to be a drive in most any group to keep honing the ‘who we are’. I would wager that, in most any group, there are those who feel, or are felt by the rest, that they don’t quite fit in. There is probably some ‘happy number’ when there isn’t a drive to keep honing that ‘who we are’, but I think we are almost always having to fight this tendency in most social gatherings.

  50. I definitely have experienced that feeling of exclusion.
    I went to a poly meeting in the Bay Area with my boyfriend, and it seemed like everyone else was pagan. Also, some of them started having sex in front of everyone, which I didn’t really mind, but certainly didn’t expect. I thought we were going to all meet, talk about our different situation, exchange advice, and meet people we could relate to.
    In the end, I felt like I could relate to them much less than to the general population. We never went back.

    I have also felt that way the other way around. Some poly-themed websites seem really put off when you mention BDSM at all, saying that issue should be talked about on a BDSM forum, not a poly one (which, if the question is about dealing with several doms or several subs or having one of each or something, definitely is a poly issue as well) or saying that BDSM shouldn’t be discussed in “normal” threads but restricted to a single thread, which of course isn’t practical considering how many different discussions would have to be shared within the same thread.

    I consider myself pretty vanilla (which I never thought of as an insult, by the way. I mean, people talk to me all the time about “Vanilla World of Warcraft” in ways that make it clear that it was BETTER then. To me it just means “basic”, and is whatever you make out of it, negative, positive or neutral). So I don’t feel rejected by the rejection of BDSM (sure, I’m not against getting tied up every so often, or tying up my partners, but I don’t have any advice to ask about either anyways, so it’s all the same to me) but I’m pretty put off when I see people, even sometimes mods, saying to keep these subjects out.

    Another thing I have noticed is a lot of distancing themselves with swinging. Now I know swinging and poly aren’t the same, but do we have to tell people “you’re not poly, go to a swinging site and leave us alone”? We could very well have relevant advice, plus I’d rather we stood together rather than against each other. And it’s not like you can’t be both at once anyways.

  51. Well written, as usual.

    I have three things come to mind, that I want to add.

    Vanilla ice cream is still ice cream

    Yes, some people may be “stuck” in the “rut of vanilla sex,” but you know what? They’re still rutting. Maybe they’re bland, but they’re still getting what they want, and who are we to tell them that their happiness isn’t good enough?

    Lables == Objectification

    This is something that I got from my Should-have-been-a-nun mother of all people, but any time you use a label for an individual or group (other than an individual’s name, obviously), you dismiss whole aspects of them. For example, if I were to refer to tacit as a hetero, white male who’s reasonably well off, that’d all be accurate, but I’m certain we can all see how much that would strip from him. The same thing happens any time we talk about Muggles, Women, Men, Straights, Gays, Christians, Pagans, whatever. Any time you think about someone as what they are, rather than who they are, you’re treating them as objects, something that is even evident in the use of the appropriate placeholder words “what” vs “who.”

    On the “us” being “Oh so clever”

    I face this problem, too. I am quite frankly terrified of exploring the non-vanilla side of myself because of the reactions & behavior of some of the people I’ve run into when first doing so. A number of my kinky lady friends have commented that I’d be fun to play with, but that’s all based on theory, because I have no opportunity to explore myself and that world comfortably; as a straight atheist who isn’t yet comfortable with practicing poly, I don’t feel safe enough to explore the more intriguing (to me) flavors of relationships.

    For example, the group I ended up hanging out with when I moved to Seattle was BPPGG to the extreme, and all my hiding in plain sight tricks I use to navigate mainstream society got almost as much use with them. And what led me to spend less and less time with them was the fact that they were so “sex positive,” so many of them were “liberated women” that when they watched as a woman who I had explicitly told I wasn’t comfortable with, that day, forcefully pulled my head into her breasts, they couldn’t understand why I was upset. What am I to do when one of my few nightmares that I can remember is being raped, but most of the women around with whom I could theoretically explore this stuff treat my sexuality as though they’re as entitled to it on a level comparable to the entitlement mainstream society treats women’s sexuality?

    It’s a phenomenon that I find repeatedly. People of every nature do it, saying “we’re right, and you’re wrong.” Everybody does it, and all sides, conservative, libertarian, liberal, statist, kinky, straight, everybody thinks that they’re so wonderful and everybody else is wrong. It really is too bad, because sometimes one side is right, but they’re so pretentious that they ignore all the ways they’re still wrong.

    • On the labels being objectifying part, I do think that’s true, but only in a narrow context; when the labels are used prescriptively, or to make assumptions about the bits that aren’t being labeled.

      I think, for example, that the panelist who kept referring to non-poly, non-kinky folks as “mundanes” at the convention was using that label to suggest implications about them (that they weren’t enlightened, that their sex wasn’t interesting) without actually coming right out and saying it. The label did talk only about one narrow facet of what these “normal people” were, but the subtext of the label suggested a lot more than just the label itself stated. It did, in the subtext, talk about other parts of their lives (or at least make implications about other parts of their lives), and that subtext wasn’t flattering.

      Labels can be used purely descriptively, in ways that don’t either confine a person to conform to the label nor make implications about other parts of that person’s life, but I tend to suspect that is pretty rare; most people don’t seem to use labels that way.

      • And you may be using a word descriptively while I, or others, may hear it as a label. (isn’t it interesting that descriptive words ARE labels merely by applying them to a person/situation/object/action). ‘I am polyamorous’; I think I am describing one characteristic I have; others cram me into that conceptual box where polyamorous people are kept.

        • I’ve often wondered what the result of simply declining to use the is-of-being on anything that is a dynamic process would do to people’s thinking. To wit: I’m not poly. I’m not an atheist. I’m not a maker. I’m not a hacker. I hack. I make things. I do not have religious or spiritual beliefs. I have a couple of loving, intimate relationships.

          It becomes very difficult to apply labels to things if you can’t say what they “are”. “He accepts the beliefs of the Church of of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints” doesn’t have the same brevity as “He is a Mormon”, even if it is more accurate and less labelling.

          Of course, Korzybisky had all my cool ideas first, in the 70’s.

          • I can see that this way of expressing characteristics can soften the impact of the descriptors, but I am not sure that the impact to a new person would be all that much less. Perhaps Korzbisky did some comparative studies??

          • For some reason I had it in my head that Korzybski (which I also misspelled) was active in the ’70s, when he died in the ’50s. At any rate, I think the use of this sort of change in language is to encourage mindfulness on the part of the speaker, which might result in less exclusionary speech, rather than to make things easier on a particular new person.

            I have heard (but not confirmed) that Korzybski didn’t do studies, and so the outcome of General Sematics should probably be regarded as tools, to be used or not as they are found to be useful or not, rather than facts.

  52. Well written, as usual.

    I have three things come to mind, that I want to add.

    Vanilla ice cream is still ice cream

    Yes, some people may be “stuck” in the “rut of vanilla sex,” but you know what? They’re still rutting. Maybe they’re bland, but they’re still getting what they want, and who are we to tell them that their happiness isn’t good enough?

    Lables == Objectification

    This is something that I got from my Should-have-been-a-nun mother of all people, but any time you use a label for an individual or group (other than an individual’s name, obviously), you dismiss whole aspects of them. For example, if I were to refer to tacit as a hetero, white male who’s reasonably well off, that’d all be accurate, but I’m certain we can all see how much that would strip from him. The same thing happens any time we talk about Muggles, Women, Men, Straights, Gays, Christians, Pagans, whatever. Any time you think about someone as what they are, rather than who they are, you’re treating them as objects, something that is even evident in the use of the appropriate placeholder words “what” vs “who.”

    On the “us” being “Oh so clever”

    I face this problem, too. I am quite frankly terrified of exploring the non-vanilla side of myself because of the reactions & behavior of some of the people I’ve run into when first doing so. A number of my kinky lady friends have commented that I’d be fun to play with, but that’s all based on theory, because I have no opportunity to explore myself and that world comfortably; as a straight atheist who isn’t yet comfortable with practicing poly, I don’t feel safe enough to explore the more intriguing (to me) flavors of relationships.

    For example, the group I ended up hanging out with when I moved to Seattle was BPPGG to the extreme, and all my hiding in plain sight tricks I use to navigate mainstream society got almost as much use with them. And what led me to spend less and less time with them was the fact that they were so “sex positive,” so many of them were “liberated women” that when they watched as a woman who I had explicitly told I wasn’t comfortable with, that day, forcefully pulled my head into her breasts, they couldn’t understand why I was upset. What am I to do when one of my few nightmares that I can remember is being raped, but most of the women around with whom I could theoretically explore this stuff treat my sexuality as though they’re as entitled to it on a level comparable to the entitlement mainstream society treats women’s sexuality?

    It’s a phenomenon that I find repeatedly. People of every nature do it, saying “we’re right, and you’re wrong.” Everybody does it, and all sides, conservative, libertarian, liberal, statist, kinky, straight, everybody thinks that they’re so wonderful and everybody else is wrong. It really is too bad, because sometimes one side is right, but they’re so pretentious that they ignore all the ways they’re still wrong.

  53. I’m not 100% certain it was one of your groups, . This was several years ago, and during that time we witnessed via word of mouth, and online contacts the rise and fall of several splinter groups as various factions decided they were unhappy with this or that. The meeting was at the hosts house, so they didn’t bring toys to a meeting, they were showing off their bedroom. Other folks were engaged and interested in the conversation. Like I said, it just seemed like it might be rude, which is more awkward when you are strangers thinking about joining a group. I know of you by reputation, and you’ve always seemed an approachable person. We’ve never communicated before that I recall, but I think maybe Brian’s touched base with you before. I think he’s mentioned you in passing. His lj name is .

  54. As far as accepting people for their religious views…tolerance goes both ways. Where do we call people on their BS? On their hate? Why is it okay for them to be mormon or conservative or Evangelical? Whether or not that individual agrees with 100% of those philosophies, they’ve chosen to self-identify with a culture of small-mindedness, hate, and discrimination.

    It sounds like you’ve made the same mistake as James in believing that “evangelical” is a synonym of “Fundamentalist.” They’re not; many Evangelicals are actually very progressive, embracing the right of gays and lesbians to marry, for example.

    That’s beside the point, however. Allowing a person who identifies as Christian to feel included in a polyamory support meeting is not the same thing as endorsing the value system of conservative Christianity. This should, I feel, be obvious, but it bears saying anyway.

    Not all Christians are homophobic, misogynistic nutters. Ditto for Mormons.

    And from a purely pragmatic direction, being welcome and inclusive does far more to promote the ideas of polyamory and other non-mainstream relationships than being discriminatory. Many people from conservative religious backgrounds are told that they should associate only with others from those same backgrounds. (This is definitely true of Mormons, for example.) By showing up at a poly meeting, they are already taking that first, tentative step outside the boundaries of those religious restrictions you hate so much. This is something that should be encouraged, I feel. Slam the door in their face and they go back to the safe, comfortable restrictions of their religion. Show them that they are welcome, and you might be surprised that they continue to step away from that oppressive religious background.

    WARNING: RANT AHEAD: Read at your own risk

    Now you are, if you want to, perfectly welcome to host a poly event or start an alternative lifestyle community that says “Christians not welcome.” It’s your group; fill your boots. But I really, really, really don’t think you want to get on that train.

    As soon as you step foot on that train, at some point you’re going to have to ride it all the way to the last station. Sure, you can say “Well, the Mormon church is oppressively homophobic and misogynistic, and that harms society. By being Mormon, this person has chosen to self-identify with those values. I don’t want any person at my meeting who holds beliefs that are harmful to society.”

    But, man, what a can o’ worms you’ve just opened there. By the same logic, you better not allow any New Agers! After all, the New Age movement embraces all sorts of negative, harmful jackassery like alternative ‘medicine’ and ‘crystal healing,’ which embraces an anti-rationalist, anti-intellectual mindset that encourages people from turning away from medical care that has actually been demonstrated to work, and so leads to greater sickness and death. Of course, not ALL New Agers are against evidence-based medicine, but by identifying with the New Age movement they have still chosen to identify with irrationality and anti-intellectualism, even if they don’t agree with 100% of those philosophies.”

    And you better not allow any antivaxxers, either. Those guys are actually killing people!

    By the time you’ve taken that train to the last stop, your poly group will consist of about half a dozen people in Tampa, one or two people in Chicago, and James Hughes.

  55. *nods* I’ve never played WoW in my life. I’m not pagan. I can’t afford to go to munches (very often.) I don’t feel excluded and never have. I think part of the problem is, the munches and whatnot are organized by people who are computer-literate if not computer-centric. That means, you’re going to attract a certain group, who’re more likely to do WoW than fishing. Dunno.

    K.

  56. *nod* I get your point. And you’re right, I am assuming Fundamentalist christians. However, the mormon church funded a lot of Prop 8 in california. New agers might be crazy, but they’re not inflicting their crazy on other people. I feel that mormons and fundies and republicans and whatever have a right to be as crazy as they want…until it starts affecting the social or political arena. At that point, it’s a duty, of all of us, to call them on it.

    I think, being a good person, means occasionally drawing a line in the sand. The Republican party has become motivated by fundamentalist christians and hardcore, ardent classic conservatives. People who believe that society should be unequal, that that is the natural order, that the customs and traditions of our past worked well and that we shouldn’t try to improve on them or fix social inequality. It is fundamentally an endorsement of racism, sexism, etc.

    Yes, probably not every single person who votes republican doesn’t believe everything. But? It’s probable that not every nazi believed that jews were bad, or every Hutu believed that every Tutsi was unclean, or every Klansman doesn’t hate black people. But? You’ve chosen to align yourself with a movement of hate. At a certain point…that needs to have consequences. Otherwise, it’s not philosophically honest.

    And I don’t mean to be all Godwin’s law. But? Had the republicans managed to defeat gay marriage and create a total victory? It would be us they’d be coming for next. It would be the poly, the kinky, the ‘weird’, the ‘socially abnormal’ that would be next. Pretending like they’re not the enemy or that they’re not against everything we believe in is…frightening to me. I don’t know the answers, but…I do see us as courting a tiger.

    Thank you for taking the time to respond to me.

    K.

  57. On the labels being objectifying part, I do think that’s true, but only in a narrow context; when the labels are used prescriptively, or to make assumptions about the bits that aren’t being labeled.

    I think, for example, that the panelist who kept referring to non-poly, non-kinky folks as “mundanes” at the convention was using that label to suggest implications about them (that they weren’t enlightened, that their sex wasn’t interesting) without actually coming right out and saying it. The label did talk only about one narrow facet of what these “normal people” were, but the subtext of the label suggested a lot more than just the label itself stated. It did, in the subtext, talk about other parts of their lives (or at least make implications about other parts of their lives), and that subtext wasn’t flattering.

    Labels can be used purely descriptively, in ways that don’t either confine a person to conform to the label nor make implications about other parts of that person’s life, but I tend to suspect that is pretty rare; most people don’t seem to use labels that way.

  58. Another thing I have noticed is a lot of distancing themselves with swinging. Now I know swinging and poly aren’t the same, but do we have to tell people “you’re not poly, go to a swinging site and leave us alone”? We could very well have relevant advice, plus I’d rather we stood together rather than against each other. And it’s not like you can’t be both at once anyways.

    Indeed, I’ve seen that same thing too, which has always surprised me a bit. Poly and swinging aren’t exactly the same thing, but certainly a person can be polyamorous and also a swinger, much like a person can be polyamorous and also a car mechanic…yet we don’t say “You’re a mechanic? Go to a mechanic’s site and leave us alone!”

    Someone at the same panel I was on (a person I know from elsewhere in the poly community, and have a lot of respect for; in addition to being a poly activist, she’s also an anthropologist who has a very keen insight into the way groups work) talked about the fuzzy boundaries at the places where alternative lifestyle groups overlap, and why these tend to be the places where the most in-group vs. out-group policing occurs.

    The example she used was with lesbian groups rather than poly groups. Many lesbian groups have a reputation for being highly antagonistic toward bisexual women, sometimes to the point where members will actually shun anyone who comes out as bisexual.

    People will give all sorts of rationalizations for this behavior, but her contention, which I tend to agree with, is that people in a group will tend to reject folks whose behavior puts them near the edges of that group’s self-identity. It’s clear that a het straight male isn’t a lesbian; but when you start looking, say, at women who socially and politically identify as lesbian but who sometimes like having sex with men, the border gets a little fuzzy, and that presents a challenge to other people who identify as lesbian. A challenge which, often, they react to by rejecting the people at that fuzzy edge.

    I think that some folks in the poly community do the same thing with swingers. The overlap between swinging and polyamory is a lot fuzzier than some folks in the swinging AND the poly communities are comfortable with, so that’s the place where a lot of policing happens.

  59. I think that one of the best approaches that a group can take to being inclusive is to be open about the differences and diversity inside that group. That’s pretty awesome. 🙂

  60. 🙂 This “tactic” is born of my terrible shyness when I moved here 31.5 years ago, and how I came to understand how connecting in groups actually works. Most people want to feel included, recognized, connected with, and the only way to do that for strangers is to display what you are, so they can see if there are any similarities they want to acknowledge.

    It’s also why I am out here on the Internet. I am making connections I otherwise would never get to. Very often it happens by my illustrating some part of my life that perhaps not many people understand.

  61. I do recognize that name, and I’m glad to hear that it wasn’t likely an meeting. We only met in a person’s house once, and that was our very first meeting because the venue actually forgot we were coming and they were closed. If the meeting was in their house, I can see how it might feel rude to say something.

    There is still a strong overlap between poly & kink at OP, but we do try to remind ourselves & the rest of the group that no one has to be one in order to be the other. We have had some kinky events, but the moderators try very hard to make sure that events are labeled properly.

    There was one incident not too long ago where someone was hosting a swinger party and did not label it as such, and it was only my probing for details (because they used language that tipped me off to what kind of party it might be) that gave it away. We had several new members who thought that a party might be a less-intimidating way to meet the group and were planning to go … until they learned that it was a sex party. OP doesn’t discriminate against sex parties, but we do have a very strong aversion to not letting people know what they’re getting into, and the guests were, rightfully IMO, shocked at finding out that they would not have been told ahead of time what kind of event it was.

    Unfortunately, that sort of incident tends to make our group look like we are anti-swingers, and we sometimes get backlash for not being “welcoming” of swingers. I have yet to learn how to be “welcoming” of swingers in a way that doesn’t include allowing our members to be “surprised” by sex parties.

  62. The problem I’m having here is not with anything you’re saying. It’s with the implementation. As I skim through the comments and go over past discussions I’ve been in, what ends up happening in practice is that anyone who has a dissenting viewpoint is automatically called “intolerant”. I see some comments here, and in other places, where people are saying they felt “unwelcome” simply because people are talking about a topic that the person isn’t interested in. If we’re all standing in a circle & the conversation turns to football, it doesn’t mean that the guy who doesn’t follow football is “unwelcome”, on that alone.

    The problem I’m having is that, as an organizer, it often feels as though there isn’t anything I can do to make some people feel “welcome” because merely having a different viewpoint is automatically translated to “unwelcome” and “intolerant”. I can outlaw the use of words like “muggle” and “mundane”, but if 9 out of 10 people show up to a meeting and they all play WoW, how am I supposed to make the non-player feel “welcome” without further banning discussions of WoW *if* simply having that conversation makes someone feel unwelcome?

    There absolutely needs to be an attitude adjustment. My problem is with implementation, not theory. My difficulty is in balancing diversity & dissent (which I think is necessary) with inclusivity. When you get a group of people together that have different interests, there is going to be ebbs and flows in the conversation that naturally leave some people out of it if they are not interested in that particular topic. But if just having a conversation happen that one person isn’t interested in counts as “unwelcome” or “intolerant” or “in-group” (which has happened), then, as an organizer, I start to feel as though there isn’t anything I can do, since I’ve already made it group policy to welcome anyone who isn’t actually opposed to polyamory & there to pick a fight.

    For example: one of the big problem we have in sex-centric communities is the scaring off of young women. OP was specifically created to attract that demographic for the purpose of giving them a place to be poly. So we have a no-hookup rule – not that people can’t get together with other members, but that they can’t attend for the purpose of finding a date. Consequently, we have quite the respectful group of people – all genders, all ages.

    I have had 2 complaints about this. 1) Some women, who have not developed any “aggressor” skills in dating are unhappy that the guys are so hands-off and won’t pick up on them at meetings. 2) Some men are angry that I am, according to them, interfering in their sex lives and trying to dictate who is allowed to date whom. You can argue that these are the sorts of people we don’t want at the meetings anyway, but my point is that I can’t make the group any more “inclusive” without inviting in people who will then scare away certain other people. And yet, the accusations here are that *I* am the one who is intolerant and exclusive.

    So, my bottom line is that I agree with your position completely. But no matter what I do, someone is going to call me intolerant, someone is going to say I’m not inclusive enough, someone is going to not get what they want out of the group no matter how hard I try to accommodate everyone. And if I’m going to get called those names, it makes it hard to sift through the obvious assholes & find the areas that actually could use improvement, since I thought I had good reasons for the limitations I instituted in the first place, or else I wouldn’t have put them there.

  63. THAT I will agree with. Putting people in a place where they’re uncomfortable is stupid, and I have been saying so since back in the early 90’s when people in the pagan community started using “cowan” to describe non-pagans. That was one of the things that finally caused me to move away in to full on atheism.

    My point was more that if you like the things this guy liked & people are talking about other stuff it doesn’t mean they’re trying to exclude you… some of them might like stuff you like, too, but if you don’t speak up how will you ever know?

  64. I know quite a bit about the LDS, its roots, beliefs, and history. I’ve even been to the main Temple in Salt Lake to do additional research, and I stand by what I said. Ditto for Evangelicals. I understand the difference between them and Fundamentalists VERY well and I still stand by what I said. Any active interpretation of the Abrahamic faiths & their derivatives, no matter how much a few members might say “no, we’re for social justice and tolerance!” simply are incompatible with poly, kink, or many other things.

    Your belief about modern evangelicals and most of them being socially progressive and liberal is also demonstrably false. In fact for many of them that’s entirely a false front. I have a relative who’s part of “The Family,” the people who put on the national prayer breakfast. They make all those claims, and put on that face here in the US. Meanwhile in Africa they write “death to gays” laws. It’s a way to gain members and power, simple as that.

    This’s one topic I have put a LOT of time & research in to, and I’m confident of what I’m saying. BTW, I note you didn’t mention Muslims in your reply, and they should be included too.

  65. If you re-read what I wrote, you will see that I did not claim “most evangelicals are socially progressive and liberal”. I said “some are.”

    I am totally mystified by what point you’re attempting to make, though. You seem to be going on about irrelevancies like what the Mormon church spends its money on. What does that have to do with creating a welcoming environment at poly and kink events? Are you trying to say “It is OK to discriminate against all Mormons because some of them do bad things”?

  66. Thank you for this, so much. This is a conversation that needs to be had in many communities, but (in my limited experience) Poly especially. I am Jewish, and lead a “normal” life, work my 9-5 at a “normal” office job. I will often feel a distance at Poly discussions or events because of my religion and the rest of my life.

    I have been invited to “Poly Pagan Parties” (usually around the same time as other holidays for other religions), but have been shot down/met with frustration and confusion when suggesting it could be a secular party. It is hard when you are trying to connect with people and they are too busy making assumptions about you to really get to know you.

    After a while it’s easier to just give up and not try anymore, removing yourself from the local community.

  67. Thank you for this, so much. This is a conversation that needs to be had in many communities, but (in my limited experience) Poly especially. I am Jewish, and lead a “normal” life, work my 9-5 at a “normal” office job. I will often feel a distance at Poly discussions or events because of my religion and the rest of my life.

    I have been invited to “Poly Pagan Parties” (usually around the same time as other holidays for other religions), but have been shot down/met with frustration and confusion when suggesting it could be a secular party. It is hard when you are trying to connect with people and they are too busy making assumptions about you to really get to know you.

    After a while it’s easier to just give up and not try anymore, removing yourself from the local community.

  68. Yes, I think the implementation is tough, and perhaps not really possible in all circumstances. Eg, we could have an ‘orientation’ for each gathering, but that excludes people who can’t get there in time for that. I have, on occasion, included a comment about expected behavior, confidentiality, etc in invitation posts, but even that doesn’t reach everyone since many people come as a guest of someone else. The gatherings I have tend to have a fairly high percentage of people just getting into polyamory; sometimes all they really want is to ask some questions; making them feel welcomed is pretty key to getting them to a comfortable place where they feel ok asking them.

    When there gets to be a gathering of more than 6-8 people, most times it will break into clumps of those talking about a particular interest; or some want to ‘do’ some music and others want to just talk. Do those who want to talk feel a bit excluded from the folks who want to be part of the ‘do music’ clump? probably. About all I can do is wander around, notice if there is someone quiet in one clump or another and see if they ‘want’ to be pulled into the conversation, etc. But then, that can feel pushy too for some personalities…..

    If ‘we’ even talk about this issue, that makes a subset of those who come to later gatherings, which could even set up another barrier! sigh.

  69. Yes, that is where the ‘community’ defining ‘stuff’ goes on, in the fuzzy areas. Over time, if it goes on, the fuzzy areas become more and more sharply defined as there seems to be a drive in most any group to keep honing the ‘who we are’. I would wager that, in most any group, there are those who feel, or are felt by the rest, that they don’t quite fit in. There is probably some ‘happy number’ when there isn’t a drive to keep honing that ‘who we are’, but I think we are almost always having to fight this tendency in most social gatherings.

  70. And you may be using a word descriptively while I, or others, may hear it as a label. (isn’t it interesting that descriptive words ARE labels merely by applying them to a person/situation/object/action). ‘I am polyamorous’; I think I am describing one characteristic I have; others cram me into that conceptual box where polyamorous people are kept.

  71. The class issue could be a whole series of posts in and of itself. I think that class is one of the hugest contributors to the “polyamorists vs. swingers” dichotomy that’s often argued about in poly circles.

  72. The class issue could be a whole series of posts in and of itself. I think that class is one of the hugest contributors to the “polyamorists vs. swingers” dichotomy that’s often argued about in poly circles.

  73. I’m not sure what research you have done, but I LIVE in Utah and know a LOT of devout Mormon liberal democrats. This Sunday 300 (or 500 depending on which counts you believe) of them marched AT THE FRONT OF THE PRIDE PARADE to show that not all Mormons are the same. I felt compelled to refute your statement because I have lived here most of my life and while I often feel opressed by actions of “the church”, there are many of its members who are wonderful decent people who do not deserve the labels you are giving them.

  74. I’d actually like to know what specific incompatibilities, based on your knowledge of Mormon roots and beliefs, make you think that a person cannot be Mormon, kinky, and happy. And please cite the sources that helped you draw that particular conclusion. It’s an interesting statement, and I’m intrigued to know exactly why you stand behind it.

  75. I’ve often wondered what the result of simply declining to use the is-of-being on anything that is a dynamic process would do to people’s thinking. To wit: I’m not poly. I’m not an atheist. I’m not a maker. I’m not a hacker. I hack. I make things. I do not have religious or spiritual beliefs. I have a couple of loving, intimate relationships.

    It becomes very difficult to apply labels to things if you can’t say what they “are”. “He accepts the beliefs of the Church of of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints” doesn’t have the same brevity as “He is a Mormon”, even if it is more accurate and less labelling.

    Of course, Korzybisky had all my cool ideas first, in the 70’s.

  76. I see a difference between active exclusion and passive exclusion, though active exclusion can sometimes be so subtle that it looks passive. I don’t know that there’s anything you can do about passive exclusion, but there certainly is about active exclusion.

    By way of an example, if there’s a poly meeting, and two folks at the meeting start talking to one another and say “Hey! How about that televised sporting competition last night? One sporting organization totally triumphed over a different sporting organization! Did you check out those skilled acts that let the dominant sporting organization prevail?” then someone who doesn’t follow sports might feel excluded. This is what I’m calling ‘passive’ exclusion; there’s no malice nor any attempt to exclude, and the exclusion really exists, for the most part, in the mind of the person who feels excluded.

    On the other hand, when someone refers to anyone outside their particular clique as a “muggle,” or makes assumptions about the people at the meeting (“if you’re here, you must be pagan and New Age”), that’s active exclusion. That kind of thing, people CAN do something about.

    So as far as implementation goes, here’s what I’d say as a starter:

    – Don’t make assumptions, either implicitly or explicitly, about people’s interests, hobbies, religion, or anything else based solely on the fact that they have more than one relationship at a time. Watchdog yourself; be aware of it when you do start making those assumptions.

    – Don’t use exclusionary language. Don’t assume someone is a “mundane” simply because they DON’T have more than one relationship at a time.

    – Be aware of group dynamics. Pay attention to the social dynamics. If someone seems excluded or marginalized, invite (but don’t demand) their participation.

    – As Noel Figart says, “Be a credit to your kink.” Be aware that not everyone shares it, even in subcultures where it’s common, and that when you move in those subcultures you’re an ambassador. The people around you will likely make judgements, for better or for worse, about folks with your interests on the basis of how you behave.

    – When people in the group DO make assumptions, if you’re a counterexample, speak up. If someone says something like “We’re having a crystal healing energy vibration session next week, which I’d like to see you guys at because I know poly people are all into energy vibration healing,” raise your hand and say “Well, actually, that’s not an interest of mine. Not all poly folks are part of that community.” Let other folks who don’t share that interest know that they’re not the only ones.

    – Be vocal about interests you DO have that aren’t part of the stereotypes for the community you’re in.

  77. Well, again, I agree with you, but it’s not how I see things playing out in practice. I see people who cannot distinguish between “active” & “passive” exclusion, and I see people who take merely the presence of some “other” as being “unwelcoming” to them.

    I have been told, for example, that just wearing an atheist symbol (without even speaking the word “atheism” or discussing my beliefs) is offensive and rude to a person’s Christian beliefs while her friend stood next to her wearing a pagan star. That I would not be allowed in her home while wearing any atheist symbols because it is disrespectful to her beliefs, again, while her friend wearing a pagan star sat next to her.

    When I was interviewed by Minx for Poly Weekly about atheism & polyamory, I was told, flat out, on the forums, that I should not be speaking about atheism at all, that I should instead be listening to the pagans and their beliefs. On an episode set aside to discuss atheism.

    So I’m a bit dubious & touchy when people start talking about being “inclusive” when the responses to even reasonable suggestions like yours revolve around “someone is different from me, therefore I feel unwelcome”.

  78. Well, there are going to be dingleberries wherever you go. There are folks who will say there’s no difference between science and religion, but that doesn’t mean that the difference doesn’t exist; it means the people who don’t understand the difference are dingleberries. 🙂

    Sure, there will be folks who don’t get that being different is not, of and by itself, being exclusive. I see inclusion a bit like I see science: the fact that lots of people don’t understand what it is, isn’t a reason not to practice it.

  79. No, of course I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t practice it. I’m saying that it feels like I’m beating my head against a wall & feeling frustrated to read posts like yours and think “yep, that’s totally right!”, and then to read the comments, or to try to put the theory into practice and hear, what amounts to, “see? You shouldn’t be talking about these things, because it makes me feel bad!”, which brings us right back into the “well it’s OK if you’re into that, just don’t rub my nose in it” arguments that we get for being whatever minority is currently threatening the majority.

    So, as a community organizer, I read this and think “that’s great!”, but then those not into kink who are already in the majority start saying “just stop talking about kink, because it makes me uncomfortable” and the kinky folk who are looking for a place to feel accepted get shut down even within their minority spaces because they’re not being “inclusive” enough, and I have to deal with the fallout of both sides getting pissed off that they can’t be who they want to be.

  80. I can see that this way of expressing characteristics can soften the impact of the descriptors, but I am not sure that the impact to a new person would be all that much less. Perhaps Korzbisky did some comparative studies??

  81. For some reason I had it in my head that Korzybski (which I also misspelled) was active in the ’70s, when he died in the ’50s. At any rate, I think the use of this sort of change in language is to encourage mindfulness on the part of the speaker, which might result in less exclusionary speech, rather than to make things easier on a particular new person.

    I have heard (but not confirmed) that Korzybski didn’t do studies, and so the outcome of General Sematics should probably be regarded as tools, to be used or not as they are found to be useful or not, rather than facts.

  82. I didn’t say anything baout LDS spending, I was talking about DOCTRINE.

    My original comment wasn’t that such people should be made to feel unwelcome, I was simply saying I don’t think their belief systems are compatible in any way with polyamory or kink.

  83. I didn’t say all Mormons were bad. I said their church doctrine was bad, and that ultimately those who, for example, took part in that march have beliefs that’re fundamentally incompatible with church doctrine.

  84. And yet there are kinky and poly people of all religious persuasions. To confuse the institution of a religion with the mindset of every one of its individual followers is…well, let’s see, there’s a word for that, what was it again? Oh, yes. Prejudice.

  85. You know, I keep running into religious folks who care more about being seen as “one of the good ones” than they do about doing actual good. The Mormon church has spent a lot of time, energy and money on fighting gay rights and a host of other good things. Marching in a parade doesn’t change that. Leaving the church – and taking your money and your numbers with you – does. There’s nothing stopping your friends from forming a new Mormon church that’s pro-gay. But that might require some kind of personal sacrifice on their part, so these oh-so-nice Mormons choose the path of least resistance. And they’re able to get away with that because well-meaning folks like you let them. Make them pay the price for their allegiances; maybe a negative social consequence will get them to reassess their priorities and do the right thing.

  86. I am loving that the responses I have received seem to fall right in under exactly what tacit has been discussing. You seem to be firmly rooted in your beliefs so nothing can be different. I’m completely happy leaving you to them and going over here to have a kinky orgy with my Mormon closed-minded bigoted friends rather than dole out punishment that has not been priorly consented to.

  87. I love that the responses have fallen right in with what tacit is talking about here. It seems you all have your firmly held beliefs and nothing can be different. I will leave you to them and go over here to have an orgy with my closed-minded bigoted Mormon friends since I don’t punish people who have not priorly consented.

  88. There’s a line between trying to get along and sacrificing the well-being of minorities to comfort the privileged. The victims of the church didn’t consent to their mistreatment either, but apparently you care more about your own pleasure than their rights or safety.

  89. Oh, come ON. Nobody is coming into a poly get-together with pitchforks and torches and saying “I’m poly and Christian, so death to the poly folks!” That’s not what this is about.

    What this is about is not being exclusionary toward people who are already polyamorous but don’t fit the stereotypical geek-gamer-pagan mold. If you’re going to say to anyone who identifies as Christian and poly, or Christian and kinky, “nope, sorry, you’re just like the people who want to burn heretics at the stake,” then how is it you are not EXACTLY like the Fundies who say “You’re not monogamous and heterosexual? You’re just like those pedophiles!”?

  90. Mormons, not all Christians. I’ve met plenty of Christians who are even more strident about this stuff than I am, so I know better than to think they’re a hivemind on all social issues. I’m referring to something specific in bikil’s post: namely, people who belong to oppressive organizations, do nothing to challenge those organizations, in fact giving them money and swelling their ranks, but who still want to be part of the Nice People Club because they marched in a parade that one time. Of course they were at the front – it was all a big show.

    This wasn’t originally about poly, but rather pointing out that inclusiveness should have limits when it comes to groups that spread hate. You made a lot of examples in your post that I agree with, but those ones are easy – there are no organizations fighting against the rights of people who like sports, fishing, etc. But what about the people who belong to groups that actively demonize, even if it’s not the focus of your club? If some of your club’s gay members were upset because Mormons were trying to join the club, would you really side with the Mormons over the gays? Sometimes we have to make choices, and I’m arguing that we should be erring on the side of social justice in those instances.

  91. I don’t think it’s prejudice to say that if someone holds a set of core beliefs that’re incompatible with how they choose to live it’s likely to cause issues for them at some point, or to point to existing ones you might not otherwise see.

  92. Chivalry

    On SCA chivalry, yes, that is about people being considerate of each other.

    However I have run into people, mostly outside the SCA, that practiced the sort of chivalry where they expected the woman to let them do all these things for her, and in return she should stay on that pedestal and not be threatening in any way or insist on being seen as an individual.

    Both things exist, and you have to actually get to know someone sometimes to really know which kind of attitude you are really seeing.

  93. Excellent post. I have not read all the comments, as there are many, so I hope I’m not being repetitive here.

    Many years ago, when I discovered there was a word for what I am, and that word is “polyamorous,” my husband and I attended a couple of gatherings of our local poly group.

    We met a couple of people in the group that we liked a lot, but overall, they just weren’t “our kind of people.” Now, I’m not a gamer or pagan or bi, but I am pretty damn geeky (I have a Star Trek insignia tattooed on my chest, FFS). And my husband is a bigtime gamer. But we just didn’t mesh with the group. I wanted advice and information about poly, but I found it on the web (much of it written by you!) and it was more useful to me than having a poly community. I’m out to a lot of my mono friends and I have a stronger, more supportive community with them than I was ever able to form among my fellow polyfolk, simply because of all the *other* things we have in common.

    I guess what I’m saying is that community building is just hard. Even if you police yourself and avoid using exclusive language like “Muggles” (which no one in my local poly community ever did, that I am aware of), when you get a group of people together and the majority share all the same interests, the person who comes in who doesn’t share those is going to feel like an outsider. Unless you run your “community” like a business meeting, only discussing the single issue in common (which is great for advice, but not great for building community), you will have people feeling excluded if they don’t share the majority interests. I’m not sure this is really avoidable.

    And it happens in all communities. I just came back from a professional conference with a really close-knit group of colleagues. We all do the same kind of work, and that’s why the community formed. But we also tend to share a lot of similar interests–musical, political, etc. When the rare person joins who doesn’t share these, they are often uncomfortable. Everyone in the group works hard to make everyone else feel welcome. But when the workshops end and the beer starts flowing, and conversations naturally veer into realms hat some members just aren’t familiar with.

  94. Excellent post. I have not read all the comments, as there are many, so I hope I’m not being repetitive here.

    Many years ago, when I discovered there was a word for what I am, and that word is “polyamorous,” my husband and I attended a couple of gatherings of our local poly group.

    We met a couple of people in the group that we liked a lot, but overall, they just weren’t “our kind of people.” Now, I’m not a gamer or pagan or bi, but I am pretty damn geeky (I have a Star Trek insignia tattooed on my chest, FFS). And my husband is a bigtime gamer. But we just didn’t mesh with the group. I wanted advice and information about poly, but I found it on the web (much of it written by you!) and it was more useful to me than having a poly community. I’m out to a lot of my mono friends and I have a stronger, more supportive community with them than I was ever able to form among my fellow polyfolk, simply because of all the *other* things we have in common.

    I guess what I’m saying is that community building is just hard. Even if you police yourself and avoid using exclusive language like “Muggles” (which no one in my local poly community ever did, that I am aware of), when you get a group of people together and the majority share all the same interests, the person who comes in who doesn’t share those is going to feel like an outsider. Unless you run your “community” like a business meeting, only discussing the single issue in common (which is great for advice, but not great for building community), you will have people feeling excluded if they don’t share the majority interests. I’m not sure this is really avoidable.

    And it happens in all communities. I just came back from a professional conference with a really close-knit group of colleagues. We all do the same kind of work, and that’s why the community formed. But we also tend to share a lot of similar interests–musical, political, etc. When the rare person joins who doesn’t share these, they are often uncomfortable. Everyone in the group works hard to make everyone else feel welcome. But when the workshops end and the beer starts flowing, and conversations naturally veer into realms hat some members just aren’t familiar with.

  95. I Know the Feeling

    When I was 18 and an activist for equality I went to a meeting in the portuguese ILGA (International lesbian and gay association) and was imediately introduced by an admittedly straight girl as “here’s Ana and she’s straight like me”. First I never thought of myself as straight or gay and it bothered me to be labaled and secondly I should have guessed something was wrong when she felt compeled to say she was not alone. By the end of the meeting I was beeing told to shut up because I was a chicken (derogatory word some portuguese gay men use to refer to “passive straight women”) and I had no say there. Needless to say, I never returned and I don’t want to be part of an association that does exactly what it’s trying to fight.
    Loved your post and enjoying your blog.

  96. I Know the Feeling

    When I was 18 and an activist for equality I went to a meeting in the portuguese ILGA (International lesbian and gay association) and was imediately introduced by an admittedly straight girl as “here’s Ana and she’s straight like me”. First I never thought of myself as straight or gay and it bothered me to be labaled and secondly I should have guessed something was wrong when she felt compeled to say she was not alone. By the end of the meeting I was beeing told to shut up because I was a chicken (derogatory word some portuguese gay men use to refer to “passive straight women”) and I had no say there. Needless to say, I never returned and I don’t want to be part of an association that does exactly what it’s trying to fight.
    Loved your post and enjoying your blog.

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