Trends in poly organizing: Going beyond conferences

Observations on trends in polyamory organizing

We are less than a week away from the Poly Living Seattle Conference and PLN Summit.  Between what we've seen in the media and what's being discussed on various forums, polyamory and relationship choice are hot topics. Curious about where the trends are when it comes to the polyamory movement? I will share some of the highlights here over the next several days:

Conferences and events

I'm a bit of a hermit when it comes to my local scene, but I like travelling to larger poly events.  I enjoy meeting researchers and activists and learning about their various projects. I'm also interested in hearing about what the poly scene is like in other large cities so I can figure out what can be done to nurture the one in my area .

During the past few years, I attended some of the larger, hotel-based conferences (I prefer controlled climate environments over campgrounds).  A lot of work goes into these events - selecting the venue, educators, performers, etc.  For those that want a full weekend of education, networking, and entertainment and can afford the admission cost (~$200 plus travel and lodging), these polyamory conferences can be worthwhile experiences.

The admission cost is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it allows the organizers to host the conference at a nicer venue and pay for speakers. On the other hand, it limits potential attendees to those that are willing and able to spend a couple hundred dollars on a weekend event. There's a lot of poly-curious and poly people that have a hard time justifying such a cost, let alone affording it. Accessibility to these events tends to be limited to those with an higher than average income (which typically means white, middle-age professionals).  

Another challenge that event organizers face is the preference towards peer-based learning among the younger generations, especially within the mainstream.  Nowadays practically anyone can start a podcast or blog.  We have sites like Wikipedia or Squidoo where individuals can collectively share their knowledge. Some companies have been quick to realize this and foster employee-based learning communities. The line that distinguishes teacher from student is fading.  Rather than sit and listen and learn, we want to share and participate.

Some of our intersecting communties have created events that are both financially accessible and allow for greater individual participation:

  • Sex-positive activist maymay developed a framework for KinkForAll, an ad-hoc informational unconference about sexuality. Rather than financially pay for admission, attendees must instead find a way to participate. This could be anything from doing a presentation to helping with "behind the scenes" work.
  • BDSM/Kink educator and sex-positive activist Graydancer fascilitates a kink-oriented unconference known as the GRUE (Graydancer's Ropetastic Unconference Extravaganza!)   There have been several successful GRUE's so far, and there are many more planned between now and early 2011.
  • Sex 2.0 was a series of three unconferences that focused on the intersections between social media, feminism, and sexuality.  The last Sex 2.0 conference was held in Seattle, WA in May, 2010.   Two new conferences developed after the end of Sex 2.0:  MOMENTUM in Washington, DC, and Sex 3.0 (in early planning stages)

I'm not saying that we should completely do away with the existing polyamory conferences. More people will attend these events as the economy continues to recover and people are able to justify such a financial investment.  However, if our goal is to educate others about relationship choice and build community, we need to recognize the needs of a larger audience and consider events that allow for collective participation and have minimal barriers for entry or involvement.


This leads to the next trend: The emergence of polyamory (more specifically: consentual alternatives to monogamy) in the mainstream, the movement's intersections with alternative subcultures, and the potential struggle for identity.

(To be continued...)