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Swingers of the world, unite! A report from an "alternative lifestyles" conference.

THE RECENT DEBATE OVER GAY MARRIAGE INSPIRED ME (IN PART) TO ATTEND THE THIRD ANNUAL "BUILDING BRIDGES' CONFERENCE, HELD IN A HOTEL IN SUBURBAN SEATTLE ...

I HAD NO IDEA WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THIS GATHERING OF SWINGERS, POLYAMORISTS, SADO' MASOCHISTS, TRANSSEXUALS, AND OTHER NONTRADITIONAL TYPES OF FOLKS ...

AND MY INITIAL GREETING HAD ALL OF MY UPTIGHT, TRADITIONALIST ALARM BELLS RINGING ...

HERE, TAKE MY SEAT NEXT TO MY FRIEND ...

IN FACT, TAKE MY FRIEND! HA-HA!

"GIGGLE!"

ERR ... TH-THANKS, I GUESS ... HEH-HEH!

?!

SHOULD I FLEE NOW? OR WOULD THAT BE TOO CONSPICUOUS?

MY AWKWARD REACTION-COUPLED WITH MY OVERSIZED PRESS BADGE-IMMEDIATELY SINGLED ME OUT AS AN OUTSIDER, AND FROM THAT POINT ON THE OTHER ATTENDEES WERE POLITE YET WARY TOWARDS ME ...

WILL YOU BE ATTENDING OUR "SPANK-GIVING" BALL?

(CAREFUL! HE'S WITH THE PRESS!)

("REASON MAGAZINE"--WHAT'S THAT? IS THAT GOOD?)

LIBERTARIAN, I THINK ...

DOES THAT MEAN I'M NOT INVITED?

HAVING MY NONPARTICIPATORY STATUS CONFIRMED MADE ME MORE AT EASE, THOUGH I STILL HAD MY SQUARENESS PUT TO THE TEST BY SUCH CASUAL UTTERANCES AS THESE:

HOW CAN I GET MEDICAL COVERAGE FOR MY SECOND HUSBAND?

IF I ADOPT MY LIVE-IN LOVERS WOULD I BE VIOLATING INCEST LAWS?

?!?

PLOP!

THE "INSTITUTE FOR 21ST CENTURY RELATIONSHIPS" IS HEADED BY JIM FLECKENSTEIN, AN ACTIVIST IN THE POLYAMORY SCENE ...

I "CAME OUT" AS A POLYAMORIST AFTER A TWENTY-THREE YEAR MARRIAGE ...

I'VE SINCE HAD TO DEAL WITH IRRATIONAL PREJUDICES FROM FRIENDS, FAMILY, AND CO-WORKERS, WHICH INSPIRED ME TO BECOME AN ACTIVIST ...

AND YES, IT'S A VERY UPHILL BATTLE I'M FIGHTING.

POLYAMORISTS (OR "POLYS") BELIEVE IN OPEN, POLYGAMOUS SEXUAL RELATIONSHIPS, EITHER AS A DOMESTIC ARRANGEMENT OR IN THE FORM OF AN "OPEN MARRIAGE" ...

SAY PAL, HOW ABOUT INTRODUCING ME TO YOUR FRIEND-OOF!

SHE HAPPENS TO BE MY OTHER "SIGNIFICANT OTHER," YOU CAD!

POLYAMORY DIFFERS FROM SWINGING IN THAT IT'S NOT ABOUT CASUAL OR ANONYMOUS SEX, AND THAT A CERTAIN LEVEL OF COMMITMENT AND ADHERENCE TO "GROUND RULES" IS EXPECTED FROM ONE'S SEX PARTNERS.

STILL, THERE'S A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF SPILLOVER BETWEEN THE POLY AND SWINGER SCENES (OR "COMMUNITIES"), AS WELL AS WITH THE SM, BONDAGE AND BISEXUAL COMMUNITIES ...

SAY, DIDN'T WE MEET AT "THE DEVIL'S DUNGEON" THE OTHER NIGHT?

(SHHHH! I DON'T WANT ANY OF MY BISEXUAL SWINGER, FRIENDS TO KNOW I'M INTO S&M!)

WHILE SUCH "LIFESTYLE CHOICES" HAVE BECOME MORE TOLERATED BY SOCIETY OVERALL, THERE'S ALSO BEEN A SIMULTANEOUS AND ORGANIZED BACKLASH AGAINST THEM ON THE PART OF CONSERVATIVE RELIGIOUS GROUPS, WHO USE SUCH BACKDOOR MEANS AS THE SELECTIVE ENFORCEMENT OF LIQUOR LAWS AND ZONING RESTRICTIONS TO CRIMINALIZE THESE TYPES OF ACTIVITIES ...

--YOU'RE UNDER ARREST!

... OOPS! SORRY. WE THOUGHT THERE WERE THREE OF YOU.

SOME ZONING STATUTES HAVE BECOME SO RESTRICTIVE THAT IN SOME PLACES IT'S NOW TECHNICALLY ILLEGAL FOR MARRIED COUPLES TO HAVE SEX IN A HOTEL WITH AN ON-SITE BAR! NEEDLESS TO SAY, THIS ASPECT OF THESE LAWS IS NEVER ENFORCED.

ALARMED BY THESE DEVELOPMENTS, FLECKENSTEIN AND OTHERS ORGANIZED THE FIRST "BUILDING BRIDGES" CONFERENCE AS A WAY TO SHARE INFORMATION WITH SIMILARLY AFFLICTED GROUPS ...

Y'KNOW, AGNES, YOU'RE REALLY HARSHING MY BUZZ WITH THESE PETITIONS OF YOURS.

NO KIDDING! TALK ABOUT A BONER KILLER!

BUT ...

THIS MISSION HAS BEEN A TOUGH ONE, THOUGH, SINCE MOST POLY/SWINGER/BDSM PRACTITIONERS PREFER TO REMAIN ANONYMOUS-EITHER FOR PRAGMATIC REASONS OR BECAUSE THE GET OFF ON THE FORBIDDENNESS OF IT ALL.

REACHING OUT TO THE GAY COMMUNITY HAS ALSO BEEN DIFFICULT, SINCE THE TWO GROUPS OFTEN FIND THEMSELVES AT CROSS-PURPOSES.

... WE'RE STILL TRYING TO CONVINCE PEOPLE TO STOP PARADING AROUND NAKED AT GAY PRIDE EVENTS, AND YET YOU WANT US TO JOIN FORCES WITH THE LIKES OF YOU?

B-BUT, THE ZONING LAWS ...

SM PRACTITIONER AND LONG-TIME SEXUAL FREEDOM ADVOCATE JUDY GUERIN IS WELL-VERSED WHEN IT COMES TO THESE INTER-COMMUNITY CONFLICTS ...

I'M OPPOSED TO SAME-SEX MARRIAGE BECAUSE I'M OPPOSED TO MARRIAGE!

JUST AS WE'RE FINALLY GETTING THE STATE OUT OF OUR BEDROOMS. WHY WOULD I SUPPORT INVITING THEM BACK IN?

AT ONE FORUM, GUERIN AND CONSUMER RIGHTS ATTORNEY JIM TURNER OFFERED SOUND ADVICE ON GETTING THE MESSAGE OUT. ONE THING THEY BOTH STONGLY ADVISED AGAINST IS THE USE OF "IDENTITY POLITICS" ...

GAY ACTIVISTS ARE FIGHTING TO BECOME A PROTECTED CLASS ...

THEIR MESSAGE IS: "WE WERE BORN THIS WAY, BUT OTHERWISE WE'RE PERFECTLY NORMAL" ...

THIS STRATEGY WOULD NEVER WORK FOR YOU, OBVIOUSLY.

THE THING IS, WE DON'T WANT TO BE "NORMAL." THAT'S OUR RIGHT, AND THAT'S WHY WE'RE HERE!

AT ANOTHER FORUM, ALLENA GABOSCH (DIRECTOR OF "THE WET SPOT: SEATTLE'S SEX-POSITIVE COMMUNITY CENTER") AND DEFENSE ATTORNEY ROBYN FRIEDMAN TALKED ABOUT THE "RULES" THAT SHOULD BE FOLLOWED IN SM RELATIONSHIPS, PARTICULARLY WHERE THE LAW IS CONCERNED.

ONE SAGE BIT OF ADVICE THEY OFFERED: IF THE COPS SHOW UP, DROP THE ACT!

?!?

I'M SORRY OFFICER, BUT MY MASTER FORBIDS ME TO TALK TO ANYONE.

MS. GABOSCH WAS QUITE CANDID ABOUT HER OWN HISTORY AS SHE EXPLAINED WHY THESE SELF-IMPOSED "TERMS OF ENGAGEMENT" THAT SHE AND HER PARTNERS ADHERE TO CAN LITERALLY BE LIFESAVERS ...

I'VE ALWAYS GOTTEN OFF ON ROUGH, VIOLENT SEX, AND THAT USED TO LEAD TO MY GETTING INVOLVED WITH SOME REAL ASSHOLES ...

SO BEING PART OF A COMMUNITY OF RULE FOLLOWERS HELPS KEEP ME SAFE, WHILE STILL ENJOYING A SATISFYING SEX LIFE.

ANOTHER SPEAKER, THE WRITER AND SELF-DESCRIBED "SOCIAL ENZYME" DARKLADY (AKA THERESA REED) RECENTLY RAN FOR A SEAT IN OREGON'S STATE LEGISLATURE AS A LIBERTARIAN AND WOUND UP GARNERING 10% OF THE LOVE WITH HER "SEX POSITIVE" PLATFORM ...

I EVEN BECAME THE TARGET OF A FEW ATTACT ADS FROM THE MAJOR PARTY CANDIDATES ...

THAT ALONE MADE THE WHOLE EXPERIENCE WORTHWHILE!

DARKLADY RAISED MOST OF HER COMPAIGN FUNDS BY HOSTING SEVERAL "MASTERBATE ATHONS," WHICH WERE EXACTLY WHAT THE NAME IMPLIES, AND WHICH WERE SO SUCCESSFUL THAT SHE'D URGE OTHER L.P. CANDIDATES TO FOLLOW HER EXAMPLE ...

OTHER THIRD PARTIES COULD ALSO HOST JERK-OFF FUNDRAISES, COULDN'T THEY?

THEY COULD, BUT I DOUBT THEY WOULD ...

I CONSIDERED RUNNING AS A GREEN AT FIRST, BUT THOSE THERE-HUGGERS ARE EVEN MORE UPTIGHT THAN THE GOP ...

--OOH, LOOK! FREE COOKIES!

COMPLIMENTARY BOX LUNCHES (HAM & CHEESE!)

THERE WERE SEVERAL SPEAKERS AT THIS CONFERENCE WHO REALLY PUT ME OFF, HOWEVER, SUCH AS THE PROPONENTS OF THESE NEW "HOT TUB" RELIGIONS, WHO LIKE TO ATTACH SOME MUDDLED SPIRITUAL SIGNIFICANCE TO THEIR ORGIES ...

... AT WHICH POINT WE USUALLY BREAK UP INTO GROUPS OF FOUR ...

--AND I MUST STRESS THAT NUDITY IS OPTIONAL ...

OPTIONAL YET MUCH PREFERRED. HEH--HEH!

CHUCKLE!

NOT THAT THESE FOLKS AREN'T FAR PREFERABLE TO ANY GROUP OF SEX-HATING BIBLE-THUMPERS, BUT THESE "SENSUAL SANTAS" STILL GAVE ME THE CREEPS!

I ALSO WAS SURPRISED BY THE SIZE OF THE PRESS CORPS AT THIS EVENT, WHICH CONSISTED SOLELY OF MYSELF AND A CAMERA CREW FROM THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL(?!). DESPERATE FOR VISUALS, THE LATTER CONVINCED A THREESOME OF HALFWAY-DECENT-LOOKING SWINGERS TO PUT ON A DISPLAY WHILE I TRIED TO "UNWIND" AT THE HOTEL BAR ...

C'MON, FOLKS! LET'S SEE SOME O'THAT SEXUAL FREEDOM IN ACTION!

WHEE!

SNORTH!

GIGGLE!

WHAT ABOUT MY FREEDOM TO GET DRUNK IN PEACE?!

PLUS I OFTEN OVERHEARD POLYS MAKE REFERENCE TO THEIR "PRIMARY" MATES, AS OPPOSED TO THEIR "SECONDARY"-OR EVEN "TERTIARY"-MATES. SO MUCH FOR THE CONCEPT OF HAVING MULTIPLE "SIGNIFICANT OTHERS" ...

I HOPE MY SECONDARY REMEMBERED TO FEED THE FISH.

HER "TERTIARY"

CAN YOU IMAGINE BEING SOMEONE'S THIRD-STRING BEDROOM BENCHWARMER? HOW HUMILIATING!

AND THEN THERE'S THE AGE-OLD PROBLEM OF REVERSE DISCRIMINATION ...

I WAS PART OF THE PLY COMMUNITY FOR YEARS ...

BUT NOW THAT I'M IN A MONOGAMOUS RELATIONSHIP I NO LONGER HAVE ANY FRIENDS.

TRAITOR.

SELL-OUT!

YET JUST WHEN THESE PANEL DISCUSSIONS ON "HOW TO DEAL WITH JEALOUSY" AND "WHAT DO WE TELL THE CHILDREN?" HAD ME WONDERING WHY ANYONE WOULD WANT TO EVEN BOTHER WITH THESE CONVOLUTED "LIFESTYLES," I'D SUDDENLY REMEMBER THAT TRADITIONAL "STRAIGHT" COUPLES HARDLY HAVE A MONOPOLY ON HAPPINESS AND FUNCTIONALITY EITHER ...

WHAT TH ...? A "SWINGERS CONVENTION"? WHY, THAT'S DISGUSTING!

I'M HERE AT "SWING CON "04" IN VEGAS ...

I BET YOU WISH YOU COULD JOIN THEM, YOU PIG ...

AND YOU KIDS GET IN THE CAR NOW, BEFORE I BEAT THE SNOT OUT OF YOU!

WHY DO WE HAVE TO GO TO CHURCH AND DAD DOESN'T?

YEAH! I'M SICK OF GOD!

AND I WANNA WEAR MAKE UP!

I HATE THIS FAMILY!

I HATE YOU!

JUST LOOK AT HOW MANY MARRIAGE COUNSELORS AND DIVORCE LAWYERS THERE ARE IN THIS COUNTRY! LET'S FACT IT: WE'RE ALL A MESS!

SPEAKING OF WHICH, ONE LAWYER WHO HELD A Q&A ON "THE LEGAL ALTERNATIVES TO MARRIAGE" MADE A PARTICULARLY PROFOUND POINT ...

THE SO-CALLED "MORAL MAJORITY" NOW REPRESENTS A MINORITY, IN THAT TRADITIONAL NUCLEAR FAMILIES ACCOUNT FOR ONLY ONE-FOURTH OF ALL U.S. HOUSEHOLDS ...

SO TO CALL, OUR LIFESTYLES "ALTERNATIVE" IS A MISNOMER, AND WE NEED TO MAKE OUR LAWMAKERS AWARE OF THAT FACT!

END!

[ILLUSTRATIONS OMITTED]
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Culture and Reviews
Author:Bagge, Peter
Publication:Reason
Geographic Code:1U9WA
Date:Mar 1, 2004
Words:1446
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