Location, Location, Location: Establishing Social Events and Venues
Sun, 03/22/2009 - 23:26
A local social group cannot survive on Internet discussions alone. Part of building a community is creating events where members can get to know each other offline. This also allows for members to be able to discuss topics that they may not feel completely comfortable with bringing up on the Internet. This could be due to privacy issues or wanting to engage in a conversation that also uses the subtle nuances of physical gestures or vocal inflections (things that are missed in an online discussion).
Informal Social GatheringsIn the polyamory group that I'm involved with, we host bi-weekly gatherings at local coffee shops. We refer to these social events as "Poly WOG's" (With Our Group). I know, it's a bad pun ;) Most other polyamorous (or alternative lifestyle) social groups use a different name for this type of event - a munch. As you can probably guess, a munch is an informal event where people can socialize and eat. While discussions on different aspects of polyamory can and do occur, the purpose of these gatherings is more social than educational. At a munch, there is at least one person who acts as a host(ess) and facilitator. It is their job to help newcomers feel welcome and are able to participate. They also help to make sure that the gathering remains a safe place for people to socialize. If you plan on attending a munch, take some time to think about your motivations. Are you looking for fellow polyfolk that share similar interests that you may want to hang out with in the future, or are you looking for a potential partner (either romantic or sexual)? If your intentions fall in the latter category, that's completely okay. However, don't show up with the expectation that the other people at the munch will be immediately interested in courtship. Some people may be intimidated or turned off by advances. Proceed with caution and keep an eye out for nonverbal cues on whether or not someone is interested. For additional information about what to do when attending your first munch, I recommend checking out Polyamory Weekly, Episode # 181.
Informational / Discussion MeetingsIn addition to social gatherings, some groups also provide educational opportunities for their members. Here's a couple ideas to consider:
- Discussion panel on jealousy
- Book review
- Workshop for building communication skills
- STD/Safer Sex workshop and Q&A (See if you can get a volunteer speaker from a local sexual health services clinic)
- Sex toy workshop hosted by a local vendor
PartiesWhere munches are social events that are typically held at public establishments, parties are slightly structured (or themed) events that are held at private locations. Venues can range from the homes of current members to church basements and community centers. Depending on the type of party, these events can either be exclusive to current group members, or open so that non-members can attend. Social mixers, speed dating events, dances, and cuddle parties fall into this category. Due to the costs that come with renting party space (unless you are using someone's home), there is usually an admission fee to attend this type of gathering.
Things to ConsiderAs you plan out the social gatherings for your polyamory group, there are a couple of things to keep in mind: Is this something that members will attend? It sucks to put a whole lot of work into preparing for an event, only to have no one show up. Sometimes, the best planning and advertising in the world can't stop a party from being a dud. It's important to check with the group to find out if there's an interest in a certain type of event before commit your time, energy, and funds into pulling it off. How do you plan on handling 'accessability' issues? Depending on your group membership, you may have individuals with specific needs that you should consider when planning out a social event.
- The first are those with chemical sensitivities. Someone with this type of condition can become very sick if they are exposed to strong perfumes or heavily fragranced body products. One way to help accommodate their needs is to specify that an event is fragrance free, and ask for attendees to not wear strongly scented body products. They should still bathe ahead of time - just skip the aromatic body wash and cologne. ;)
- The next are those who are mobility challenged. By this, I am referring to those that do not have access to an automobile, and rely on public transportation to travel. You may want to make sure that the venues you choose for your gatherings are on public transit routes, or that there are members willing to give rides to those who may otherwise be unable to attend.
- The third are those that are economically challenged. This is probably the most difficult issue to address because we as a society put a lot of emphasis on a person's financial situation. This may lead to members and potential guests from feeling excluded if they are unable to afford the cost of attending an event, and they may feel embarrassed because of it. One way of resolving this, provided that the cost of the event is covered by those who are able to pay, is to offer free admission to an event in exchange for volunteer service.