Speed Dating and Poly Organizing

This writeup started as a report on a poly speed dating event I have been helping to organize, and turned into a meditation on holding innovative poly events. If you want to skip the somewhat lengthy event report, head down to the Speed Dating and Poly Organizing section.

To date, we have held two poly speed dating events in Berkeley. They have been raucous and fun, a whirlwind carnival of romance and rejection. Our first event attracted fifty people to a pizzeria in Berkeley. The second event was attended by ninety people, and we completely stuffed the pizzeria, including their banquet room. We are looking for a larger venue for the third round, which has not been scheduled. If you want to participate in a future round, go to the poly speed dating website and email us using the link at the bottom to be put on our mailing list.

You can see my girlfriend Debby’s chronicle of her speed dating experience at the second event here, or Luke’s report of the first event here.

The Setup

As it turns out, running poly speed dating takes more than one or even two people. Luke had the idea and continues to be the ringleader and main programmer, and he puts in the most effort. I helped him with the programming and I yell at people during the event to get them to do things. My partner Jen and her boyfriend have been logistical support, registering people, doing the data entry, setting up and taking down, and so on. A friend of ours provided website space. None of us has any prior experience holding speed dating events.

The basic premise of speed dating is that many people can gauge their level of attraction to someone within the first couple minutes of meeting them. For these folks, chemistry tend to either strike quickly, or not at all.

Mainstream speed dating pairs men and women up for quick “dates” that last from two to five minutes. Two people sit down at a table, chat for a couple minutes, and then get up and move on to the next date. Between dates, each person writes down whether or not they are interested in pursuing things further with the other person. If both people mark down that they are interested, the speed dating agency puts them in contact either later that evening or after the event. The organization is easy: you just have one gender stay seated after each date, and the other group gets up and moves to the next table.

For poly speed dating, we had to expand on this concept. First off, the organized polyamory community in our area has a lot of queer folks. Bisexuals make up a decent percentage of event attendance (20-50%, depending on event), and they are joined by a smattering of transgender, lesbian, and gay folks. Holding a speed dating event where men only talked to women would be way too limiting for this crowd. Which meant we needed to get people’s gender and attractions, and match them based on those.

But of course, this makes the problem of setting up dates very difficult. Instead of just rotating the men or women, we needed to create a schedule where people generally met with the gender(s) they were interested in. This is a very hard problem to solve, and cannot be done by just sitting down with a pencil and paper. Luke wrote a computer program to do it, using a search algorithm to find solutions that generally gave people as many dates as possible.

Since we already had a computer matching program in the works, we could also put in criteria other than gender attraction. We included age, since many people have determined that they date best in certain age ranges, or that they tend to be attracted to people in certain age ranges. (Though as it turns out, people’s dating age preferences turned out to be surprising – more on this below.)

And because this was poly speed dating, we also gave people the ability to date as a couple or group (say, as a triad). In other words, they would go around together, having dates with other singles or groups where they were both (or all) present. So, we needed to ask people if they were interested in singles versus couples/groups.

The computer program would do a first pass where it checked each particular dating unit (single, couple, group) versus every other dating unit to see if they were compatible. Then, it would run the search algorithm and generate a schedule, assigning each date to a particular location.

The good news is that running this program took only a couple minutes, including printing time. So we could do just-in-time scheduling, running the program after everyone was registered but before we started the speed dates.

We aimed for ten dating rounds, but as it turned out, we needed to put some people on more dates (up to fourteen) in order to get others to have a minimal number (say, six). More on this below.

We charged a minimal fee ($12 pre-registration, $20 at the door). The money went towards buying pizza (including vegan pizza), soda, and beer for the attendees. Basically we were renting the venue for the attendance price, and getting food and drink as part of the deal. People munched and drank throughout the evening.

The Results

In terms of numbers, poly speed dating has been a rousing success. We had fifty people at the first poly speed dating event, and over ninety at the second. Polyamory events in the SF area typically attract ten to thirty people, though there is the occasional pool party or mini-conference with more. Given that we were holding something on a Monday evening at a random pizza place in Berkeley, our attendance numbers were surprisingly high.

Matchups went very well. We were kind of surprised by how often people marked down that they were interested in pursuing things further. While there were some people who only put down one or two “yes” marks (or occasionally, none), there were lots who put down five or more. The upshot was that there were lots of two-way matches, and most people got at least one or two. The highest match count was ten for one person. There were also a handful of people at each event who got zero matches, and we sent them an apologetic note.

I think this might be one area where poly speed dating differs from mainstream (monogamous heterosexual) speed dating. If a person is looking for The One, my suspicion is that they will generally not mark down “yes” to ten different people. Of course, I could be wrong, since I’ve never been to a mainstream speed dating event. However, I think this is a good example of how polyamory tends towards romantic abundance. Several walked away with more matches than they could ever hope to actually date.

Because of all these matches, after each event there was a flurry of email activity, with people arranging actual coffee dates with various matches. Of course, this is San Francisco, so there was also lots of laming out. I’ve heard “oh, I should really write my dates” so many times that I’ve lost count. But even so, there have been some hookups, and we have started at least a couple relationships. In other words, poly speed dating works, so far at least.

In another interesting development, the crowd that turned out for poly speed dating was not the same people who frequent poly community events in the area. I hold various events in the area, and the people at speed dating were mostly new faces. One of the pivotal east bay organizers was at the first event, and he said the same thing. Apparently there are a lot of poly people in the SF area who are on the lists or otherwise reachable, but almost never come to events. A bunch of them came to speed dating.

Issues, Surprises, and Wins

The first speed dating event, we had a big problem with no-shows. Around ten people simply didn’t show up. At first, we decided to leave them in the rotation for dates, assuming they would show fairly soon. We underestimated how many tables we would end up having with just one stood-up person. Five dating rounds in, we decided that leaving no-shows in the rotation was a bad idea, so we recalculated a new set of eight rounds for the remainder. A couple people walked out halfway through, so we still had some empty tables, but it was much better. This was a nice illustration of the power of being able to recalculate the dating schedule in minutes at the event.

At both events, we have had various demographic issues, where certain age/gender/sexuality groups would show up more than others, or where we had trouble matching folks.

The biggest one was that we got more men interested in women than women interested in men. This is a common issue with singles or dating events. Perhaps for various cultural reasons, men find them more accessible than women? The imbalance was compounded by the fact that over half of the women available to date men were bisexual, and so wanted to go on dates with other queer women. To put it differently, there were a lot more people interested in women than there were women.

Our first stab at handling this was to cut off pre-registration for men who were only interested in women a couple days before the event, unless they were coming with a woman. We were hoping that registrations after this point would balance things out. This had a slight balancing effect, but did not solve the problem.

Our second strategy was to just handle the imbalance in the setup of the dating rounds. People who were in the more-desired demographic simply got more dates, and the people who desired that demographic would get fewer. We abandoned our original goal of ten dates for everyone, and cranked up the total number of rounds to fourteen. This managed to get most of the straight guys up to six dates. As Debby noted, it meant that bi women tended to date all fourteen rounds, which gets a bit harrowing.

There were other demographic issues. We had trouble developing a critical mass of men interested in men and women interested in women. This meant that people only looking for same-gender matches could have a small number of of possibly matches, say four. When we increased the total rounds to fourteen, it helped a bit. We also expanded people’s age ranges slightly, which helped a lot. (More on age ranges below.)

Most of our registered men who were interested in men did not show to the first event. That and a scheduling snafu left guy/guy dating pretty much dead, which was sad. However, for the second event, we had lots of men going on dates with men. Moving from fifty to ninety attendees seemed to create enough of a critical mass of interest. There were similar problems for women only interested in women, in particular those under thirty.

We also had problems attracting folks under thirty, in particular men under thirty. I am not sure why – guys under thirty don’t go to dating events? Maybe they don’t pre-register in advance, and we cut off registration before they got to it?

In addition, there were very few women over fifty-five who attended the first event. We did get some straight men in this age range, and we unfortunately had to turn them away since we did not have any matches for them. Again, I am not sure what was keeping this demographic away: there are certainly plenty of women this age in the local polyamory community. This seemed to improve significantly in the second event, with more women showing up.

Our first round created some funny matching effects for bisexual women. Because our algorithm prioritized people who were harder to match, straight men could end up monopolizing bisexual women, even with the difference in the number of dating rounds. We changed the algorithm in the second round so that it would attempt to balance bisexuals’ dating between men and women as much as possible.

We tried to bake transgender and genderqueer inclusion into the event from the beginning. There was a trans/genderqueer gender registration option that could be picked on its own, or in combination with the man or woman options. We also asked people if they were interested in dating genderqueer folks. And happily, most were. A small but real number (six at the last event) of trans and genderqueer folks have been registering and attending.

We discovered that giving registrants the ability to designate an age range tended to create or exacerbate matching problems. In the first round, people were pretty restrictive with their age range interest, I think more so than they are when dating in their social life. The second speed dating event was better, but there were still some matching difficulties. In order to get matches for younger or same-gender-attracted folks, we ended up expanding some age ranges by a handful of years in various directions.

Some of the age ranges were downright surprising. A couple people put down age ranges that they themselves were not included in. This did not necessarily follow the stereotypical “man only looking for younger women” model, though there was a couple of those. One woman was only looking for women and men at least three years older. Another woman was only looking for folks (of any gender) younger than herself. Most people had really wide age ranges, but others had ranges that were as small as eight years.

A number of people got to the event and realized that their gender and/or age range restrictions had kept down the number of dates they would be going on, and expressed that they would likely change them for the next event. I think there was a general tendency to treat the speed dating registration much as one would the registration for a personals website. Personals websites have membership numbers in the thousands to millions, so restrictive searches still net some people. We have less than a hundred people at speed dating, which makes matching much harder.

Couple/group dating was a special challenge. Remember, couples or groups could sign up and go on dates as a single unit. After starting registration in the first round, we realized that we couldn’t figure out who to match the groups with. If a M/F couple said they were interested in men, did that mean straight men, bi men, and/or gay men? We ended up mostly matching groups with each other for the first speed dating night. For the second, Luke updated the registration so groups could specify who in the group was attracted to which genders, and/or who was just along for the ride and not really looking.

So far, all of our eleven registered couples have been M/F couples, with some straight and some bi sexualities. We had one queer triad at the first event.

We had trouble getting people to write down their yes/no answers right after each date, since they would be running around to find their new table and then would start talking to the new person. Attendees often forgot who they had met and whether they liked them. In the future, we have a dream of having people with internet-enabled cell phones enter their yes/no answers on their phone after each date, and get the next date on their phone as well.

This would help with a further problem we had, where we did not have enough time to enter all the data from the dates before the end of the event. We want to give people their matches on the way out the door, but it just takes too long to input into a computer. We have ended up sending out match emails later that night instead. Getting people to mostly enter their own matches via phone (or possibly afterwards on a computer) would solve this problem.

We also discovered that many people simply cannot judge whether they like someone after talking to them for five minutes. There have been a lot of requests for more time, or for a “slow dating” event variant. This points to a need for a variety of poly dating events, since some people are not served by speed dating. However, most of the attendees seemed to be fine with the fast dates, and some explicitly stated that they liked the format because they felt they could judge chemistry quickly.

I think that people who pick up chemistry slowly tend to characterize speed dating as shallow, focusing only on physical attributes. Certainly there have been criticisms along those lines on various poly lists in the area, with people stating that speed dating would never work for them because they value personality. However, most attendees seemed to be judging personality-based chemistry as much or more than looks, from their comments. I think it is actually possible for some people to gauge personality compatibility relatively quickly, and those folks do well at speed dating.

It is important to remember that the speed dating rounds are mostly there to get people to the “hey let’s have coffee” level, which means that most of the chemistry-building will actually happen (or not) after the event, and the dating rounds are really there for quick elimination of folks who definitely do not match. It’s pretty easy for many people (myself included) to quickly rule out most people they meet due to personality or physical factors. It does not necessarily indicate shallowness, but rather good self-knowledge around one’s desires and attractions. Note that these attractions often do not match up with mainstream culture’s expectations of what is attractive.

There were some complaints from BDSM aficionados that they were having trouble finding other kinksters. If a person is only attracted to kinky people, ending up on a number of dates with non-kinky folks can be a bummer. We may add an “interested in BDSM” criteria in the future if we have the critical mass, or hold a separate kinky speed dating event.

We have some concern that attendance may shrink at future events. That tends to be a problem with events in our area: they make a splash in the pan, and then disappear. Also, we may be victims of our own success in certain ways. This can happen if they actually start dating due to the speed dating event, since they then have less need for a dating event. Also, I think people were in some cases overwhelmed by the abundance of possibilities afterwards, and this may lead them to avoid dating events for a while. We had few repeat customers at the second event, which means that people may not be up for returning much. This may lead to a less frequent speed dating schedule – the first two events were about three months apart.

Ironically, most of the organizers are too busy in our own lives to date new people, through a combination of prior relationships, work, and family. Though apparently we are not too busy to organize dating events.

Speed Dating and Poly Organizing

My sense is that we hit a nerve with poly speed dating, evidenced by the large attendance by people who normally don’t make it to poly events. At the first speed dating night, there was not only a lot of interest during the dates, but people seemed pretty flirty during the open social time as well. Watching this, I realized that there haven’t been any poly dating events (speed or otherwise) in the area at all.

We hold lots of poly discussion or support groups, and we hold plenty of social events. But at the social events, we tend to discourage come-ons. This is reasonable, because if the event starts to take on a meat-market atmosphere, people (particularly, but not exclusively, women) start getting uncomfortable, and the poly social event dies. So, we generally encourage light flirting but steer people away from heavy flirting or come-ons.

This works well to create a good social atmosphere, but it means that poly social events do not really double as opportunities for meeting people to date. It can be done of course, but typically one has to attend a poly social gathering repeatedly and really get to know the regulars before dates start happening. This is a decent-sized time investment.

A speed dating event, on the other hand, is much more focused. You talk with a number of people, meeting them with the explicit goal of finding people to date. At the end of the evening, you’ll probably go home with a couple prospects. The time investment is relatively short compared to the work of digging into a new social scene. And this is San Francisco, so people are busy.

I think the formality of speed dating helps to keep the event from feeling like a meat market, even though that’s exactly what it is. People tended to avoid clumsy come-ons (or come-ons of any sort, really) during the social time, which is understandable given that they had their hands full with between six and fourteen dates during the dating rounds. The system of marking down yes/no made rejection nicely impersonal and thus really easy. And even if you got paired with a person who was aggressive or creepy (and indeed there were a couple of these who attended), they would be gone in five minutes.

In any case, we have identified a need for poly dating events, at least in the SF bay area. Speed dating certainly doesn’t work for everyone, but poly organizers should consider holding dating events in their area, preferably ones that somehow avoid the bad meat-market atmosphere that singles (availables?) events tend to fall prey to. Formalizing the event in some way might do this. For example, one could have an explicit “no come-ons” rule combined with a way to register interest to the organizers, and again mutually inform any two-way matches. Also, I think that having an activity of some sort tends to make the event feel comfortable. In speed dating, the activity is the dating rounds. In other events, it could be social games (charades, etc) or other things that get people talking.

The largely new crowd at the event brought me to a further conclusion: there are a lot of poly people out there who are not being served by poly events. Again, this may be specific to the San Francisco area. I would estimate that the number of poly-identified people in the area is measured in thousands. If we include people in any sort of nonmonogamous arrangement, it moves into the tens of thousands. However, I would estimate that the number who attend poly events in any year is in the hundreds, and the number of regular attendees is around two hundred, tops.

Being the rabid community organizer that I am, this inevitably leads me to the question of why: why are these folks not coming to poly events? Polyamory events tend to be useful for support, advice, camraderie, and to find dating partners. But perhaps they are not useful enough? After all, people are busy with work, friends, and all kinds of social stuff. And in this region, they’re really really busy.

I’ve been trying to build a profile of these non-attending poly people. At least among my poly friends, most people have figured out their jealousy issues and rarely get into big poly drama. They aren’t in crisis. They know a lot of poly people, just through their friend network and dating network. They date folks in these networks. In many cases, they are polyamorous second and something else first: Burning Man aficionado, gamer, pagan, new age, goth, etc. A lot of them are super-busy with job and/or family.

In other words, it takes a lot to get these people to a poly event. They won’t go just because an event is poly. They usually need some other draw as well. Perhaps the event intersects with one of their other interests. Perhaps it is a focused one-time thing that quickly fills a poly need without a lot of lead-up time. Perhaps it draws a large number of people. Perhaps it is really entertaining in some way.

I feel like the usual discussion group / social event / conference trifecta is not working for these folks. Support and discussion groups are great if you need support or like to discuss polyamory. Poly social events are good, but people who primarily socialize in other scenes don’t make it. Conferences tend to be aimed at people new to polyamory, and are a big time investment. In other words, the trifecta works for some people, especially people new to polyamory. But it does not work so well for certain long-time poly folks, who have their own poly social networks and don’t need support or advice.

My poly friends came to poly speed dating, most of them. This is a first: I have been bedeviled by absence of my own social cohort at the poly events I organize. In some ways, this is turning into a new event success litmus test for me: are my friends going?

The unexpected success of poly speed dating has inspired me to reconsider how we hold poly events. We tend towards the sexual minority organizing model pioneered by LBGT folks, oriented towards community and support. This is great, and provides community and support, something that many of us need. But, I feel like we should branch out, and borrow organizing models from other communities, or at least creatively break out of the usual patterns.

I want to put out a call to poly organizers: try something vaguely ridiculous, or at least very different, while still maintaining your usual poly events. Poly speed dating was a half-joke from the beginning. Somewhere along the line, it morphed into something that actually works and is pretty cool at the same time. What weird poly event could you put on? Most of these will of course bomb out, but the occasional one will surprise us and turn into something really cool.

In some ways, this sort of thing is already happening. People are innovating in various ways. In New York, Cuddle Parties seem to have become a poly community mainstay. There’s various poly book clubs springing up. What else is going on?

There’s lots of other things we could try (or perhaps already are trying). Advanced polyamory conferences of some sort? Poly club nights? Poly groups pursuing random sports, like rock climbing? Poly rafting trips? Poly sex/play parties?

I don’t really know what events would work, or I would already be holding them. And indeed, I was not the clever person who came up with poly speed dating. But, I think this sort of social and community innovation is crucial, and I strongly encourage you to put on the occasional odd, different, or downright silly shindig in an effort to expand the horizons of what we are doing as a community.

32 Responses to “Speed Dating and Poly Organizing”

  1. Trish Says:

    I really like the idea of building poly community into something that I wanted to do already anyway. In my area (around Boston, MA) most of the poly events I’m familiar with are “poly people sitting around and having coffee with people they already know well.” I already do this with people I know well, some of whom are poly, and so I tend not to find that appealing. Some other event would be more appealing to me — I can’t actually think of what it would be off the top of my head, but I’m going to think about it, now, and see what I come up with. (I also don’t feel that nonmonogamy is a terribly important part of my identity, most of the time, and so seeking out that kind of community isn’t a priority for me.)

    I did end up dragging myself out to a kinky “sit around and have coffee and chat with random people” thing because I didn’t feel like my normal friends group was really serving my desire to talk about those issues. I don’t think I’m going to become a regular attendee (though who knows) but it did serve as a useful gateway to things like a reading group and individual people with whom I’ve met up and had conversations apart from the group. It seems possible that events like this poly speed dating (which sounds like it went really well!) could serve as gateways for people looking to make their own microcommunities, and that seems like a very good thing.

    Actually, you know what I would be likely to attend? A poly-people board or card games event — a lot of structured socialization if you’re feeling shy that say and plenty to talk about other than relationships, but the opportunity to strike up chats with people who could become friends and community based on some known point of shared community. And it seems like that might generalize by replacing “board or card games” with any reasonably structured activity that some people would find interesting, and it’s just a matter of finding an activity that draws a bunch of people out of the woodwork. If I were trying to start such a thing (which I totally don’t have time to do right now) I’d look for activities that were underserved otherwise — so maybe not games, in my crowd. :) But I think the overall idea still stands?

  2. Baylink Says:

    Being both poly and a systems analyst by trade (:-), I have a suggestion for your operations problem.

    Assign each dating unit a number.

    Print a slip for each match, with the round number, “my/our” code, “their” code, and three checkboxes: “Yes”, “Maybe”, “No”.

    Give everyone their slip at the beginning of the round; tell them to check a box and return it to you at the end of the round to get their slip for the next round.

    When you collect each round’s slips, key in the data (or, if you’re feeling really froggy, do this with a scanner with an ADF, and barcodes for the Dating Unit codes and ovals for the answers :-), matching yes with yes or maybe, and depending on how that works out, possible maybe with maybe to fill in for people with too few matches.

    Oh; and come run one here in Florida. :-)

  3. pepomint Says:

    Trish:

    I also don’t feel that nonmonogamy is a terribly important part of my identity, most of the time, and so seeking out that kind of community isn’t a priority for me.

    Yeah, I keep hearing this from my poly friends as well. They end up often socializing with poly people, but their poly-ness is not their primary identity priority. So the question is what sort of event (which may or may not be a “poly event”) could be held to attract folks like this?

    Actually, you know what I would be likely to attend? A poly-people board or card games event

    We’ve had one of those in the bay area (down in Fremont, pretty far from SF) for a while that has been successful. Various people in my social circle keep suggesting one, since a lot of us game and we never seem to get together to do it. Apparently we are being underserved when it comes to gaming. =)

    useful gateway to things like a reading group

    Ya know, I’ve been trying to get together a decent social theory discussion/reading group for a while. Strangely, the best connection I’ve found along these lines is an anarchist BDSM group starting up in the area. We’ll see how it goes.

  4. Trish Says:

    Ya know, I’ve been trying to get together a decent social theory discussion/reading group for a while. Strangely, the best connection I’ve found along these lines is an anarchist BDSM group starting up in the area. We’ll see how it goes.

    I would so totally attend that if I lived on your coast. :) Is there a place where such groups collectively post their reading lists? Because if not, there should be…

  5. pepomint Says:

    Baylink:

    Give everyone their slip at the beginning of the round; tell them to check a box and return it to you at the end of the round to get their slip for the next round.

    Given the troubles we already have moving people around between dates, this is prohibitively time-consuming.

    That said, I think we might try a similar strategy where we break people’s dating list into two sheets and have them hand in the first at intermission. Eventually we’ll try to get this on a mostly-electronic input plan of some sort, perhaps using people’s cell phones.

  6. pepomint Says:

    Trish:

    Is there a place where such groups collectively post their reading lists?

    Not as far as I know. I was thinking Shelfari (www.shelfari.com) would be a good place for that. I poked around and there is a queer theory group, but it is dead. Want to get something started, where at least people can review books they’ve read?

  7. Jason Says:

    I’d be interested in a social theory reading group (and I’m interested in the BSDM/anarchist one you’ve found).

    Also, you mentioned holding a specifically kinky speed dating event. I think that’s a great idea, and that you could get some serious turnout if you held it in SF in a venue like the Citadel and advertised it through Janus and all the gazillion kinky groups on tribe.net, etc. I know some people in Janus (including myself) who might be able to help you organize/run it, if you’re interested. Email me!

  8. Trish Says:

    Not as far as I know. I was thinking Shelfari (www.shelfari.com) would be a good place for that. I poked around and there is a queer theory group, but it is dead. Want to get something started, where at least people can review books they’ve read?

    Sure! I’ve added the book I’m reading for my gender reading group right now and I’ll add a review when I’m done with it, and look at some of the other things on my theory shelves… Where did you find the queer theory group? Or did you plan to start a new one? Their search is terrible, the first hit on queer theory is astrophysics.

  9. Penny Royale Says:

    Whatever your ultimate input method, please don’t cut us Luddites out of the loop! Not everyone has (or can afford) cell phones with Internet access or cheap text messaging plans.

    It might help to include an explicit 30 second ballot-marking period between rounds, if you don’t already. Or to package the date assignments in a way that asks you to stop and take action between rounds, rather than just looking at the slip – perhaps by putting them in an envelope, and having people pull out the slip one round at a time. In theory one could just discard the envelope and see everything at once but people are shockingly uncreati.. er, I mean, they’re responsive to design.

  10. pepomint Says:

    Trish:

    Where did you find the queer theory group?

    If you search for just “queer”, it’s the 5th entry.

    I think I want to set up a group though. I’m not sure what to call it. “Sex Theory”? “Sexual Minority Theory”? “Sex and Gender Theory”? I could call it the freaksexual reading group, but that seems self-centered. Any ideas?

    You should be able to find me through the queer theory group or the polyamory group.

    Jason:

    I’d be interested in a social theory reading group (and I’m interested in the BSDM/anarchist one you’ve found).

    I’m too busy with other events right now to start an in-person reading group, though it is tempting. Want to join us on Shelfari?

    See Subversive Sub’s blog for the Anarchist BDSM group announcements:

    http://subversivesub.wordpress.com/

    Also, you mentioned holding a specifically kinky speed dating event.

    Yeah, a lot of the stuff we’ve figured out could be adapted to kinky speed dating, like doing matching by sexuality. When we get to thinking about kinky speed dating (probably after this next poly speed dating round in December), I’ll contact Janus. Strangely, the Citadel may not have enough chairs for us. The big logistical problem is always, where do 100 people sit?

    Penny:

    Whatever your ultimate input method, please don’t cut us Luddites out of the loop! Not everyone has (or can afford) cell phones with Internet access or cheap text messaging plans.

    We’ll mix cellphone entry with other kinds of data entry. The idea with cellphones is to be able to get most people to enter most of the data themselves.

  11. Trish Says:

    I joined the queer theory group! Very small.

    I think I want to set up a group though. I’m not sure what to call it. “Sex Theory”? “Sexual Minority Theory”? “Sex and Gender Theory”? I could call it the freaksexual reading group, but that seems self-centered. Any ideas?

    Freaksexual wouldn’t bother me but I can see why it would bother you. “Non-normative sexual theory” is wordy but is how I would describe it… it’s one of those points of overlap kinda things, and so there isn’t one good word for it…

  12. pepomint Says:

    Trish:

    I’ve created the new group. I called it “Sexuality Theory”, which is vague, but I get into the purpose in the description.

    I’m going to start steadily adding my theory and nonfiction library to the group, putting in reviews for each book. This will take a while, but when I’m done I’ll post about the group on freaksexual.

  13. Renee Christy Says:

    I’ve been running a Game Night here in Vegas for 15 years. 8 years ago I started PolyVegas as a gift to my wife. And while not everyone at game night is poly, everyone who comes is made aware of PolyVegas quickly, since I start every intro with my boyfriend, my girlfriend, my daughter, her husband, her boyfriend… We’ve tried discussion groups, meetups, potlucks, etc… but Game Night is the only really consistently successful event. So much so, we are starting Strategy Sundays this week, for those who want to play longer games, like Risk, Magic and Bridge. Am interested in the Speed Dating idea. Glad it was such a success.

  14. Ra Says:

    Man, I wish we had more poly-folk in our area. We’re all pretty much few and far between. Something like this would be great – but with only a few people – pointless.

  15. pepomint Says:

    Renee: Glad to hear you’ve had such a strong games night there. We haven’t managed to keep a solid one going in San Francisco, though there is one down by San Jose.

    Drop me an email at pepomint at gmail if you want to have a long conversation about holding a poly speed dating event.

    We’re happy to share our computer program with you – however it is not polished, and you would need someone good with computers to run the technical side of things.

    Also, speed dating seems to work well when you have a bunch of people. If you don’t have 40-ish folks who would attend, maybe consider holding a dating event that isn’t speed dating?

  16. pepomint Says:

    Ra: If it is a very small community and everyone already knows who they are interested in and compatible with, then you’re right.

    However, if there are enough people in the area looking, maybe consider holding a dating event that is not speed dating? You could incorporate elements of speed dating, specifically the process of writing down the people you’re interested in and having the hosts check for two-way matches.

    I think there’s a lack of dating events in the community, so even in a low-poly-population area, you might find that there’s some interest in dating events.

  17. voltbang Says:

    One thing I have observed is that a lot of poly social activities I have had a chance to go to discourage “date-seeking” behavior. For me, if I’m not looking to get to know people with that as a possibility, I don’t see the point of limiting my socializing to poly people, so I don’t go. Sitting around and not being mono with other not-mono people isn’t enough of a social connection.

    If someone were to hold a poly speed dating event in the DC area, I would attend.

  18. pepomint Says:

    voltbang:

    One thing I have observed is that a lot of poly social activities I have had a chance to go to discourage “date-seeking” behavior.

    The reason for this is usually that the group is trying to discourage people (usually guys) from showing up and hitting up a bunch of people for casual sex in an uncomfortable manner. Which does happen, so it is a reasonable concern.

    I think the idea is that you should go to the event in question, and then either see someone a couple times before giving them your number, or perhaps contact them online after the event. The slow approach to dating, as it were.

    But for a lot of people (perhaps you?) this puts a real damper on the event, since their primary purpose is actually to find dating partners. Once nice thing about speed dating is that it gets all that out up front, and you get to meet a whole pile of people with the explicit intention of looking for dates. Apparently there’s a lot of people like you, who are too busy to take the slow approach to meeting people through poly events. Thus the surprisingly big response to our speed dating events.

    Have you considered holding a poly dating event in your area, speed or otherwise? Speed dating is kind of a headache, but an “availables” mixer would probably be easy to set up.

  19. Jenni Says:

    Here in Austin, someone in the poly group did start an “availables meeting” and one of the kink groups did kinky speed dating for singles and couples. Both fizzled out in three months because not enough women showed up. But I’m glad those things are working in places where there’s enough of a critical mass.

    “Sitting around and not being mono with other not-mono people” is precisely the reason why I like the local Poly Dinners and other social events here. I don’t have to censor myself when I talk about what I did the previous weekend and with whom. It’s a place where I can relax and be myself, and on occasion meet somebody I can date.

  20. pepomint Says:

    Jenni:

    It’s a place where I can relax and be myself, and on occasion meet somebody I can date.

    Yeah, I think most people who go to poly events on a regular basis take this slow approach to dating. And I suspect there’s a gender difference, with women somewhat more likely to take the slow approach and men somewhat more likely to be in a hurry, due to cultural conditioning around how we date.

    Someday I’m going to write that guide for nonmonogamous men, and “slow down already, you’ll get more dates” is going to be one of the sections.

    Both fizzled out in three months because not enough women showed up.

    It is interesting that we’ve managed to attract a critical mass of women to these events in the San Francisco area (though we have had some gender-balancing issues, as I described). Perhaps around here there is more of a gender balance in the overall poly community? Or perhaps everyone in San Francisco is just so damn busy that a quick-and-dirty dating event has a broader appeal? Hard to say what is going on.

  21. Jenni Says:

    Austin’s poly and kink community events have a very even gender balance, when they’re social (Poly Dinner or kink group munches) or educational (Poly 101 or the GWNN Bash). The imbalance happens when the events are specifically about dating (the availables mixer, kinky speed dating) or physical interaction (cuddle parties or a sex party group started by a bi poly couple).

    I guess with the “explicit” events, some women feel a sort of pressure to interact with people they may not want to interact with that way. With the slower social/educational things, you can get to know someone and decide later to ask them out.

  22. pepomint Says:

    Jenni:

    Austin’s poly and kink community events have a very even gender balance, when they’re social (Poly Dinner or kink group munches) or educational (Poly 101 or the GWNN Bash).

    In San Francisco there’s an imbalance (more men) even for social or educational poly events. (Not for private parties, interestingly enough.) The imbalance gets larger for speed dating, but it sounds like the difference is not as big as what you have seen in Austin.

    I guess with the “explicit” events, some women feel a sort of pressure to interact with people they may not want to interact with that way.

    I think you’re right on here. When I talk about the “meat market” atmosphere above, I’m getting at this air of social obligation that develops at dating events, where women feel like they have to entertain guys that they aren’t attracted to. This kind of reflects general problems in the culture around gender and dating.

    The formality of speed dating seems to cut down on this problem. I’ve heard some variant of “and if you end up with a creepy guy, you only have to talk with him for five minutes” numerous times now, so apparently it’s a selling point. Perhaps dating events would work out better if there were some mechanism so that women would not be cornered by men they did not like?

    With the slower social/educational things, you can get to know someone and decide later to ask them out.

    As I’ve said, while most women seem to prefer this slow start to dating, there is apparently a solid subset of women in my area who want to move faster or interact in a explicit looking-for-dates context.

    But then, a lot of this is specific to the region. I’ve held sex parties in both Boston and San Francisco. In Boston, women would attend at about the third of the rate of guys. In San Francisco, the rate is almost even.

    It will be interesting to see if speed dating takes off elsewhere. We’ve had interest from Boston and Seattle, among other places. It may only work in regions with particular gender dynamics.

  23. anna Says:

    i swear someone was just telling me about this the other day. just moved to oakland in november. neat to see people around here thinking about these things together. hope i can catch the next event. cheers. anna

  24. pepomint Says:

    anna: Glad to hear you are interested! We will be holding the next speed dating event in May, if things go as planned.

  25. brookswift Says:

    I’m very much looking forwards to the next event. Unfortunately, I only saw a flier for this after the event happened. I’ve been to mainstream speed dating events, and they tend to have a limit on how many matches you can make, so what happens is that matches are relatively uncommon rather than relatively common. One event I went to had 100 people to go through and you only got to pick 5. What ended up happening is that no one would pick anyone for fear of running out of picks if they met a particularly wonderful person and everyone just had to end up picking random numbers at the end.

    I’m part of the “doesn’t primarily identify poly” crowd. I’d prefer to date poly people, but I survive the rigors of monogamy for the most part. Also, I tend to have the fear of being the man looking for a woman in a room of men and women looking for women. Being young tends not to help that problem either. It all adds up to feeling more discouraged than encouraged. This post does dispel some of that fear though.

    So yeah, I think there need to be more events like this. Even without the dating bent, it can be quite difficult to break into the social poly scene as an outsider (especially a male outsider).

  26. pepomint Says:

    brookswift:

    I’ve been to mainstream speed dating events, and they tend to have a limit on how many matches you can make

    See, that’s what happens when you get monogamous assumptions in your speed dating. It just messes things up. =)

    Being young tends not to help that problem either. … Even without the dating bent, it can be quite difficult to break into the social poly scene as an outsider (especially a male outsider).

    Do you know about the under-40 coffeehouses? Here’s a link to the last one (this last Monday). They aren’t dating events, but if you come regularly for a while, you’ll start organically meeting poly people in the area.

  27. Idea: Kinky Speeding/Speedfriending « Spokewench Says:

    [...] people interested in specific kink such as rubber or furries, monogamists and poly folk.  This article about organizing poly speed dating speaks of a computer program they wrote to match people up: The computer program would do a first [...]

  28. Janet Says:

    Another idea for an event: a poly cruise. This sort of thing is generally put together by an individual, often a travel agent, who takes responsibility for reserving and selling a block of rooms on a traditional cruise ships; in exchange, the organizer gets his or her own cruise for free, and sometimes makes a profit. The group sits together at meals, and can arrange for “field trips” during the shore expeditions.

    My then-partner and I did a “BDSM cruise” as guest speakers a few years ago and had a marvelous time. The problem with traditional cruising, of course, is that you’re stuck on a boat with a bunch of strangers whose values often aren’t a good match for yours, so if you can arrange to cruise with a like-minded group it can be a lot of fun.

    I’ve been looking for a “bisexual cruise” for years now; my gay and lesbian friends have such fun on the RSVP and Olivia cruises, and I’m envious. I don’t have the organizational skills or wherewithal to put such a thing together, but I wish someone did.

  29. pepomint Says:

    Janet: A poly cruise is a great idea, though as you say it would take some serious organizing effort and would need to involve a travel agent.

    Your comment prompted me to hunt around for BDSM cruises online. I found some references to a cruise in 2005, but nothing current. I would love to go on a kink cruise – that sounds awesome.

  30. Age and Polyamory Organizing « freaksexual Says:

    [...] Speed Dating and Poly Organizing [...]

  31. Anonymous Says:

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  32. Anonymous Says:

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