OpenCon 2012

When I started writing this it was going to be about all the things OpenCon taught me, but I’ve decided put that in a separate post. I started writing some of the things out, and it got quite personal! So I felt like it belonged in a different post, as it had a very different tone to it. So this shall just be about my observations of my experience.

OpenCon has a very deliberate safeness about it. Everyone goes on about what we can do to make people feel the most comfortable and safe in the environment. And it wasn’t until I left that safe space that I realised how completely absent that kind of environment is in, what I suppose you would call, “normal society”. For the first time in my life I was able to stand at the edge of a room of people dancing without feeling like I was expected to join in whether I wanted to or not*. It was also apparent when I realised that I’d been speaking up in pretty much every workshop I went to. I worry a lot about putting my foot in it, especially around so many people I respect, so the fact that I felt so free and confident to be able to do so was really a testament to how well everyone involved went about things**. Everyone was given a chance to have their voice heard (quite literally). And I think leaving that environment and going back to normalcy may have been largely what people were referring to when they spoke about getting a “comedown” from OpenCon. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could live in such a safe space 24/7?

It was also really wonderful being surrounded by so many critical thinkers! Being around people who think as deeply as I do is usually a rare thing, so it was really validating to be in a crowd like that. And very reassuring when I watched people shimmer their hands*** at my words in workshops. But anyway! Critical thinkers! It was really amazing that in the very first workshop**** we were already discussing the things we might be doing as a community that are inadvertently oppressing some of its members. Not once did I hear the phrase “if it’s not broke don’t fix it”. The fact that we, as a community, seem to be very willing to question our own beliefs and examine ourselves is very reassuring to me, and makes me proud to be part of it. And after OpenCon I feel much more part of the community than I ever did before, that’s probably the main thing I took away from the weekend in fact.

One of the workshops I went to was called “women flirting with women”. I did sort of feel like maybe I shouldn’t have been there since I don’t really experience the same problems as the other women who attended. But I thought it might be fun to share experiences with other women! I did enjoy it, and it was a little weird, but it was definitely a memorable experience. It was focussed on getting women to be a little more bold, and to actually make a move sometimes. And as a woman who rather likes getting hit on, I’m all for this! Upon reflection though, I became slightly concerned that maybe in its effort to empower – it may have negated some important things about reading negative signals. There was no “how to tell if she’s just not that into you” and how to take rejection gracefully. As someone who likes to chat up women – I find that’s pretty important. For example, in the workshop we were split up into groups of three; all taking turns to flirt, be flirted with, and observe. In the instance where I was being flirted with I had quite a surreal experience: Even though she was giving me clear flirting signs (duh, that was the point of the exercise), when I flirted back a little I picked up on some very subtle hints that, actually, she wasn’t interested in me. I think protecting yourself from those little rejections and learning that they mean nothing is important in being a confident flirter. So it would have been good to have more of that I think. But I totally get what they were trying to do in this workshop, and it’s really admirable, perhaps talking about rejection too much in that workshop would have felt really negative and been counterproductive in giving women more confidence when they really need it.

I had one suggestion to add based on my experience there, so I may as well include that here: I think it would have been useful to have some hand gestures introduced in the “welcoming” talk so that we could use them throughout the weekend in the workshops. Things like “on that point” would have been particularly useful, especially in the larger workshops as it’s harder to let everyone speak in those.

All in all, it was a really great experience. I’m really glad that we were able to go in the end! I feel a lot closer to the community now, and perhaps for the first time ever like I belong somewhere. It sort of feels like a new chapter of Tess.

* I love watching people dance, not so much dancing myself… maybe that will change, maybe it won’t, but it really bugs me when I’m expected to love it as much as Everyone Else™.

** Especially compared to PolyDay for example, where it was much harder to have your say (probably because there were just so many people) and the conversation was often dominated by the loudest members.

*** By this I mean the signal people make when they mean “I agree”

**** That was Meg Barker’s talk on her book “Re-writing the rules” which was absolutely outstanding, and gave us all stuff to think about and discuss among ourselves for the whole weekend. Including some new language and even a few in jokes! (It’s crab buckets all the way down!!!)

Is it a choice?

This is a question that I have been pondering on today after discussion on facebook. We’ve all heard that argument on non-heterosexuality about it not being a choice and it being something we can’t help. Sometimes people do the same for non-monogamy and talk about it being a choice.  There does seem to be this tendency to compare polyamory to sexuality, after all you could technically label it under the parachute term “sexuality” if you really wanted to… but I don’t think it’s quite as simple to compare being poly to being gay. At first glance you can see the similarities – gay people are in the minority against straight people, poly people are similarly outnumbered by the norm. However, if you boil it down to simple desires things seem a little different.

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Jealousy as a symptom of monogamy

I’m afraid it’s become a bit of a thing now, bashing monogamy. But I just can’t shake the opinion that it’s doing nothing good for society right now. Maybe it was a good change once upon a time when we lived in an alpha-male-rules kind of structure. Monogamy is clearly a more equal opportunities kind of arrangement when you compare it to the apes (though maybe not the bonobos! They’re a whole other thing). The other males have a chance to mate and eventually the women even have control. But I think it’s about time things changed again, it’s kind of surprising that they haven’t already. You can probably blame religion for playing it’s role in that.

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I answered my own question

I’ve been thinking about polyamory a lot recently … and in turn thinking about my opinions about monogamy. And I realised something about my ‘poly evangelist‘ post. Whenever I’ve heard it come up they always seem to say that these poly evangelists think they’re special just because they’re poly, and I realised that this doesn’t really have anything to do with them thinking poly is better than mono… but more like thinking poly people are better than mono people. Whereas I’m very much a “don’t hate the player, hate the game” kind of person. I can genuinely understand why more people don’t decide to go off the tracks like we do and make our own rules. And for some people, I think, being different is much harder.

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You can have it all

I was just watching a clip of some daytime TV show where they were arguing monogamy vs non-monogamy, and as usual – our team was vastly outnumbered, and as always – constantly talked over. But the host did bring up an idea that made me think about my approach to relationships – that you can have it all. I like polyamory for many reasons, but for me it’s just always seemed like less of a compromise than any other way of doing things. I’m sure many of us can agree that there are great things about being single and great things about being in a relationship, so why not combine them?

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Lately I’ve been hearing complaints (or more an expression of annoyance I suppose) from fellow polyamorists, about a certain type of poly person, who I have heard named an “poly-evangelists” in this article on polytical.  They tend to describe this kind of person by their belief that polyamory is “enlightened” or that it is a better option than monogamy.

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So there’s this guy, one of Night’s lovers (though I used to be involved too), who every time he’s brought up always seems to spark an unresolved argument between us. I don’t really talk to this guy anymore, lets call him Jez, because I got so fed up of not being able to say whatever I wanted to him. It just seemed to make the most sense for me not to try at all.

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