In June I am going to be hold a nonmonogamy conference here in San Francisco, called OpenSF! I started planning this conference at this time last year, and I have been all-out working on it ever since, which is why freaksexual has been even quieter than usual.
I am going to spend this post talking about the conference. But before I get into that, I encourage you to go check out the conference website. In particular, take a look at the sessions, the keynote speakers, and the social events.
And if you want to attend, here is the registration page! Conference registration is $60 until May 1st, $80 after that until June 5th, and then $100 at the door.
Here is our front page and mission statement, which covers the conference nicely:
OpenSF is a vibrant new Bay Area conference, bringing together like minded people ready to share, explore, and dialogue on creating acceptance of the non-monogamy community. OpenSF will have a diverse and rich menu of workshops, interactive seminars, and after hours socializing. OpenSF strives to be welcoming and accessible across a range of backgrounds including race and ethnicity, sex, gender, sexual orientation, size, age, class and economic access, and ability. Our goal is to create a conference where people find wonderful knowledge and experiences and forge amazing new connections.
OpenSF conference workshops will incorporate innovative topics such as advanced non-monogamy skills, research findings, sex/kink party etiquette, movement classes, and peer led skill shares. In addition there will be a strong focus on the role of non-monogamy in sexual minorities and other oppressed groups. All this will run alongside traditional non-monogamy subjects such as managing jealousy and opening relationships. Complimenting the OpenSF daytime conference will be numerous affiliated night activities including fun and exciting social events, non-monogamous speed dating, and at least one play party.
Interesting Workshops and Activities
One of my primary motivations in holding this event is to put on a conference where the topics are varied and very interesting. I have been to a number of polyamory conferences, and they seem to largely be composed of basic nonmonogamy skills sessions, which I stopped needing a long time ago. This strategy makes sense as the people most likely to pay for conferences are new-to-poly folks, but it means that at such conferences I often find myself either not going to sessions. At OpenSF, we are retaining those basic skill sessions, but also adding in advanced skill sessions and a bunch of other exciting stuff. We are doing a number of sessions that deal with the intersections between nonmonogamy and other issues (sizism, a lack of money, disability, race, and so on). How are we doing all these different things? Well, we are just doing more sessions than other conferences I have been to – we have forty sessions planned out currently.
Also, we decided to do a lot of sessions that were not even specific to nonmonogamy, to broaden the appeal of the conference. Many of these are sexuality topics, like the planned sessions on sexual shame, anal fisting, and erotic breathwork. Others are activities that involve physical movement or creativity, in order to break up the day – conferences are often too much talking and not enough doing.
An Emphasis on Socializing
Another issue that I often have with conferences is that I do not meet people easily during the sessions, and when the evening comes around I find myself wondering where the play party is. Because of my dissatisfaction on this score, OpenSF is going to be a very social place. We have a number of events lined up that emphasize different sorts of socializing: a cuddle party, a dance club night, speed dating, and a play party.
And there are a bunch of items that are still being planned. We are looking to dedicate a room to socializing on Sunday, and we will have a hospitality suite at the hotel devoted to various receptions and small-group get-togethers. We will encourage people to organize small groups that fit their interests by using the hotel facilities. And we are going to have some sort of social introduction to the event on Friday, that will probably involve a general reception and speed-meeting, to encourage folks to make friends early on in the weekend.
Diversity and Accessibility
From the beginning of planning this conference, I decided to go all out on diversity and accessibility. Living in the San Francisco area, I have seen a lot of different scenes with a lot of different sorts of people, and I did not want to create an event that only catered to a small slice of the nonmonogamous population. So I worked hard on pulling together a diverse staff for the conference, and then leveraged that to produce variety in our session topics and presenters, along with the focus on intersectionality.
In addition, it has been important to me to pull in various sorts of nonmonogamy. While my base is in polyamory, and there will be a lot of poly people at the conference, we are also pulling in people in open relationships, swingers, sex workers, queer nonmonogamous folks, and BDSM types. Maybe it is just that San Francisco people do not like to live in boxes, but over the last decade I have seen all kinds of nonmonogamous identifications and styles. I want to honor people who are doing any sort of nonmonogamy. This is why the conference is named “OpenSF” rather than “PolySF” or something like that, because “open” is a more generic term that we felt would attract a wider range of people.
And of course, there are all the standard accessibility concerns. The hotel is accessible to people in wheelchairs. We are working on lining up translators and childcare. We will have front-row seating for folks with hearing issues.
But one of the biggest accessibility concerns is cost. I think a lot of “lifestyle” (kink, poly, swinger, etc) conference organizers view their conferences as luxury items, and charge appropriately. We made the decision to take a different approach with this conference, and keep it as cheap as possible while still covering our costs. My personal goal has been to hold a conference that people expect to pay $200 for, but only charge them $60. And I feel like I’ve accomplished that with OpenSF.
As an organizer, another reason to keep it cheap is because it prompts lots of people to attend, and the event gains momentum. Certainly that seems to have happened here: including attendees, staff, volunteers, and presenters, we are already looking at over 300 people signed up to OpenSF, which is very large for a new conference. I am hoping to add another 100-200 in May and June.