Kinky conversations aren’t for everyone

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Mischa, what do you think?

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck to you and thank you for your question!

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