I am leading a read-through of The Ethical Slut, 2nd edition. If you’d like to catch up on past installments, check the list at the bottom of the series introduction. Comments on the topics in this discussion are welcome anytime, even from people who aren’t following along in the book.
This week, the read-along continues with a discussion based on CHAPTER 17, “Making Connection”
When people first decide to become polyamorous, the often face a dilemma — especially if they make this decision as a single person and not as part of a primary relationship. We all know that serial monogamy is the dominant relationship model, so going in another direction may seem frightening, seemingly trapping them in a painfully small dating pool. Should we limit ourselves to only dating other committed polyamorists, or should we be willing to date anyone and try to “convert” others to our way of thinking? This chapter of The Ethical Slut is about those choices, and about the places sluts meet.
For a long time, I’ve been committed to dating only those who were either polyamorous or at least open to trying and I’ve rarely been without someone to date. While I’m not interested in trying to change the minds of anyone who is sure they want monogamy, I have found it rewarding to remain open to those who are curious but inexperienced. You will sometimes hear experienced polys lament the train-wreck mistakes newbies can make; while this is certainly true sometimes I’ve been extremely fortunate to meet those who were simply waiting for the right opportunity. Speaking to the regular lovers in my life, all were relatively inexperienced before meeting me, but have adapted and even thrived in this lifestyle.
Looking back, the ways I’ve met like-minded people have changed over the years. When I began exploring open relationships, I spent a lot of time in the Austin polyamory community, which is known as one of the best in the state. They host regular dinners and even an annual retreat called Poly Big Fun. While I’m glad they are still out there connecting to each other, I’ve drifted away from that scene and instead sought out my fellow freaks in other groups that have a broader focus. I meet just as many poly-friendly people in the Burner scene or among the kink community as I did at poly dinners, but I find the overall community fits me better.
I think the difference is that I actually have more in common with Burners or kinksters. I made many friends at a poly gatherings, but polyamory might be the only thing we have in common in some cases. At a Burner party I’m almost guaranteed to have more in common, whether or not the people I meet have made similar choices in relationships. The authors make a point of highlighting various subcultures as good places to meet other sluts, perhaps because people who have differentiated themselves from mainstream culture in one way are often open to others. Of course, the divisions between these subcultures are becoming ever more indistinct; there are polyamorous theme camps like Purple Taco or PolyParadise at Burn events and people from many other groups show up at kink events. Earlier this week a monogamous friend even lamented what an advantage she is at for meeting people in our scene.
Not everyone has the luxury of living where they can connect with not one but multiple freak-friendly subcultures. However, online dating and social networking sites have been the single best way I’ve met people for sex or relationships. The Ethical Slut mentions two, Poly Matchmaker and OkCupid. Although I was able to meet people years ago on Poly Matchmaker, it is now used almost exclusively by couples looking for their bisexual “sister-wife,” and only very rarely by anyone else (including the single bisexual women they desire). OKCupid, on the other hand, has provided more friendships, lovers, and relationships than any other single site. I have met people through FetLife, but that site has a different emphasis and most connections I have made there have occurred because of a post I made in a discussion forum, or because someone sought out my profile after seeing me at a party. Though valuable, it is not a dating site.
Since I seem to have more success on OKCupid than many of my friends, I think it might be useful to write a short guide to using the site for polyamorous dating. I’d written a short essay for Google SideWiki on the topic some time ago which I’d planned to crib from here, but it has somehow been deleted. Since I’m starting over and this entry is already going long, you’ll have to stay tuned over the next few days for another post. Tomorrow in this space, you can enjoy another guest post on opening up monogamous relationships, this time by Neamspleachas.
In our next installment (Thursday, July 21), we’ll continue to Chapter 18, “Couples.” For now, tell me about where and how you’ve made connections with polyamorous people. Have you had success through online personals or social networking sites? What decisions have you made about dating or hooking up with monogamous people?