Posted on March 28, 2009

Two things prompted this post.

The first was a conversation that I had a few weeks ago with one of my friends in the local poly community.  (I use the term ‘conversation’ loosely because, technically, it was us ranting loudly over the loud music in a dance club) 

My friend mentioned the website for the (now cancelled) Chicago Polyamory Conference and asked me about “the guy that was dressed like Dumbledore” who was one of the featured speakers.   I almost fell over in shock at the assessment that he gave of Oberon Zell Ravenheart, who is one of many individuals who influenced the polyamory movement.  This led to further commentary on image/perception.

The second was the review that I received from The Philosophy of Non-Monogamy.

Young Metro and Poly

I am all of these things. Yep. That is me; I could be one of the racially vague stock-photo models smiling away at the top of the page. So why does it bother me?

A) I don’t like exclusion, and age exclusion seems like the silliest kind because everyone gets old.

B) I don’t WANT the image of our community to be clean cut, good looking, young people. I want us to look like the real people we are. Which means some of us are fat, some of us have tattoos on our necks, and some of us have gray hair in ponytails

I hate this corporate fed image of what we should be. I’m not saying the person who runs this site buys into this image, but she is sure putting it up there.

This led me to think about the role of target marketing in the context of outreach for polyamory.  There are some that may find what I’m about to write rather controversial. Others may simply nod and say ‘that makes sense’. I’m looking for your feedback one way or another here (comment, email me, or use my contact form).


The concept of target marketing

In a nutshell, target marketing means finding a method of persuasion that fits the group of people that you are trying to convince.  Advertisers do this by placing their ads in periodicals and shows that their ‘target demographic’ is more likely to look. They also adjust commercials and print ads to fit with the cultural preferences of a region or ethnic group. 

Let’s say that you’re trying to sell a new infrared oven that’s on the market. You take it to a health and wellness expo, and based on research, you know that the majority of people present are going to be vegetarian or vegan.  It would be a very smart move to not cook chicken, meat, or fish as part of your demo, but instead show how the oven could steam veggies, cook roots, or dehydrate herbs.   That is an example of adjusting your message to your intended audience.


Why is this important? 

Polyamory, or the acceptance of polyamory, is like the oven that we were trying to sell in the previous example. It is a concept that we want others to support (either by participating or aiding those of us that are seeking larger social acceptance).   The problem that we are faced with is that most poly resources have polyamory mushed together with something else, so that it’s “polyamory and…”

  • Polyamory and sexually explorative (open to different experiences/kink)
  • Polyamory and lesbianism
  • Polyamory and paganism (or non-Judeo/Christian/Islamic spiritual path)

There are people that may be open to supporting polyamory that don’t fall into any of the sub-categories. 

The problem with using the “polyamory and…” materials on these people is that their belief system may not support the “and…” or they may not care for it.   It may not be their thing, they may consider it wrong, or they may be in a situation where being included in the “and…” crowd may get them labeled as a freak by their peers, which may lead to problems in their personal and professional life.


An example

Imagine that you are an adult that is either in college or early in your career. You were raised in a household where you were taught to be comfortable with your sexuality and learned the importance of protection, but you are otherwise ‘vanilla’ in preference and consider modesty to be a virtue.  Imagine that you were also raised atheist, agnostic, or Christian. Bonus points if you imagine yourself as the type of person that’s satirized in this website.

In other words, imagine being me ;)

Got that concept in your head? Now, imagine being shown the following video, and being told this is an example of what polyamorous folk are like:


How would the imaginary ‘you’ react? Would you be comfortable with identifying yourself openly as “polyamorous” if this is the current image of what polyfolk are (or are supposed to be)?  Keep in mind that you have your family, social life, and career to also be concerned with.


Why “young” poly’s need TLC

Like it or not – when most people think of “polyamory”, they think of swingers, religion-based polygamists, and the free love hippie movement

Being a “young” poly person means being born in the early 70’s or later – where you weren’t a part of those cultural movements.  Most of us found out about polyamory unintentionally (real life experience before book experience).  We’re stuck in a situation where our label ties us to an era that we don’t belong to.  In addition,  the issue of age is still important for some people – and it can be difficult to talk about issues involving sexuality with someone that’s as old as our parents.

The younger audiences (teens and young adults) are going to be more susceptible to peer pressure – meaning that they are going to at least partially base decisions on whether or not something will get them labeled as “freaks” or looked down upon. 

I am guessing that there are a lot of polyfolk that are successful in their careers and lives that would be good role models for the younger generation, but they keep their poly’ness in the closet due to the risks it would bring upon their professional lives.

This leads to my mission – to show that it’s possible to be a successful, middle/upper-class city-dweller (or suburbanite) and poly. I’m targeting those that are in similar situations as me, as well as their friends and parents in order to show that being polyamorous can also mean being “normal” by our crazy, Western standards.

As for my header photo, I am going back to the drawing board to find something that isn’t so… yuppie’ish.  If the boys are willing, and I can find a local volunteer, I may get some pictures taken of Dale, Corey, and me, and use those instead.  Just to warn you, we do look pretty ‘clean cut’, though. :p

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  1. LeAmber

    Good article hun. And I do think your website is a useful tool for your target audience.

  2. 28/03/2009

    Nice writing style. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    Chris Moran

  3. 28/03/2009

    This is _exactly_ what I’ve been telling people here (Seattle!)

    The thing is, the local poly meetups are mostly populated with the over 40 crowd that fits the demographics you described. Which is fine and cool by me; I think these folks have a lot of valuable experience that us younger polys can benefit from, and we have different persepctives too, which they can probably find enlightening as well. But right now, it’s been hampering my community organizing.

    See, I got frustrated with my tiny circle of polys, after having lived here 3 years post college graduation, because most of them are newer to poly and less experienced than me. Out of about 12, at least 3 starting trying poly due to my partial or direct influence. So I started going to a local monthly event, esp since they were talking about planning a new party at night after. Which I immediately jumped into helping plan, and am close to the main organizer for. But I’m having a really hard time getting the 20- and 30-something crowd active in the poly scene because they think everyone there is going to be twice their age, and thus, they won’t be comfortable dating, flirting/ partying with/ etc. It’s taken a lot of work to slowly shift that social perception that the only people who are poly are much older, and either kinky, pagan, supergeeky, hippies, or all of the above.

    Whereas I believe anyone who is capable of the emotional and communication responsibilites can do it… and that means people who are on the mainstream.

    I really heartily expect the people in that marginalized demographic from times past, that are still active, to be reticent about a push to go mainstream. To them I constantly console, I’m not pushing to leave them behind, I’m pushing to expand, so more will feel welcome. Which is a concept that I hope polys can understand. It’s not that my relationship with the “oldschool” perception of polys isn’t good enough, it’s that I need more and different things than just that. And in order to get that relationship that I want– have hot young urban 20 and 30somethings involved too, upstarts, rebels, artists, and professionals, people I’d be comfortable dating– I have to actively advertise and seek them out, and learn how to make them comfortable. Just like being bi and trying to date your same gender, it’s easy to default to what’s “normal,” harder to push outside.

    And goddammit, if NYC can have their own poly pride parade, Seattle (on the west coast, reknown for it’s “Large poly community,” tho certainly not as populous as SF) can have a goddamn scene too. Even if I have to get it started myself, and recruit all the rad polys I can find to that cause. :)

  4. metropoly

    “Whereas I believe anyone who is capable of the emotional and communication responsibilites can do it… and that means people who are on the mainstream.”

    Exactly. I think that there have been some shifts in our culture with regards to sexuality and relationships which make it more likely for the younger generations to “stumble” upon the option of polyamory. The problem at that point is “what next?” How do we support those that are interested in being polyamorous, but have never read Heinlein, aren’t into alternative/new-age religions, and are a long ways away from being comfortable with going to a clothing-optional party or openly discussing kink and sexual experiences?

    The solution in the St. Paul – Minneapolis scene happened on its own. We have the more publically known polyamorous organization, and a newly developing and separate non-monogamy group. The younger (and less spiritual) folk tend to congregate in the latter group.

  5. 24/04/2009

    Finally got to catching up on your posts. Thanks for the mention my dear. I actually compared Mr. Ravenheart to Gandolf but the sentiment is the same :) I understand his contribution to the poly movement but (as I think I said) doesn’t he own a suit. You know me and my soapbox about “mainstreaming” poly.

  6. [...] ago, I wrote the article Target Marketing and the Creation of Pop Culture Poly as a response to the criticism that I received for creating a site that targeted a specific age [...]

  7. [...] site is an online resource that targets a modern audience while still being accepting and inclusive of others views and lifestyle choices: [...]

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