[UPDATE: I am no longer supporting Atlanta Poly Weekend because they support abusers and scapegoat their victims]
Atlanta Poly Weekend was this past weekend (June 6-8, 2014), and it was an awesome experience for the Living Within Reason crew. It was a 28-hour round trip drive, but totally worth it, and we’re definitely planning on going again next year.
We left from South Jersey on Thursday evening. Jessie, Gina, and I picked up our friend Miri (the amazing author of Brute Reason) after a few Bolt Bus-related difficulties, and started the 14-hour drive to Atlanta. Gina & I switched off driving, and managed to get there by 10am. Thankfully, our room was ready (check-in was supposed to be at 3pm) and we all went upstairs to take a nap.
I made sure to be up by 12:30pm for Franklin Veaux’s and Eve Rickert’s workshop on creating a culture of consent. It was a great workshop, mostly consisting of a guided discussion about what a culture of consent would look like, and how to create a culture of consent in our spaces. Franklin and Eve have a lot of credibility on this issue due to their well-established public advocacy, as well as their new book More Than Two, which was available at the conference. I picked up a copy, and I’m excited to see what’s in it. Highlights from the consent culture discussion:
Next up was my workshop on skeptical monogamy: good reasons to be monogamous. The workshop was based on my linked blog post, but included a much more in-depth discussion on how to apply skepticism in our relationships, and how that fits with concepts like love, trust, and rational decision-making. I had a lively and enthusiastic audience, and I really enjoyed hosting the discussion. Miri tweeted a few highlights:
After my workshop, we decided it was dinner time, and had some delicious cheeseburgers at a place called Farm Burger. Good stuff. Then we came back, and got ready for our burlesque performance. Our troupe, Bust & Trunks Burlesque (joined by local performer Candi LeCouer) put on a 45-minute show doing a few of our Doctor Who numbers, as well as some Stepford Wives and Labyrinth. Candi did an amazing Maleficent number. The crowd was great. People were enthusiastic, but respectful, and everyone had a good time. The rest of the evening was spent socializing, playing Cards Against Humanity, and getting to know the other attendees.
Saturday morning, Gina led a burlesque 101 workshop. I caught the latter half, which was a fun time for everyone. People learned a few moves, and we discussed our philosophy about how to do burlesque in an empowering way, consistent with the idea of consent culture and sexpositivity. Sadly, it meant we had to miss a workshop by the always-excellent Sterling Bates on personality types and relationships, but we’d attended it last year and was able to interrogate him about it later.
The next workshop we attended was The Five Love Languages for Poly by Joreth Innkeeper. I absolutely loved this workshop. Joreth has clearly done this before, as her presentation was professional, well-organized, and informative. The Five Love Languages are usually a mixed bag. While the concept is great, the original author is coming from a conservative, Christian, monogamous perspective, and it shows in her work. Joreth was able to extract the key concepts and present them in a more skeptic-friendly and poly-friendly way. She also went a little deeper, and broke each love language down into separate dialects. I’m extremely glad I caught her presentation. Small sample of Twitter highlights below. See the full list on Storify:
Next up (after a quick Starbucks run with some excellent new friends) was the charity auction for Lost N Found Youth. Gina donated a number of her drawings, which all sold! One even went for $45! She’s officially an artist! She also bought a cool 3D abstract art piece which will be hanging on one of our walls soon.
Following the auction, I attended the Breaking Up Poly panel, hosted by Joreth Innkeeper and Sterling Bates. Joreth and Sterling are two of my favorite people (they’re going to hang out with us when we go to Disney! Woo!), so I knew I had to attend this one. The presentation was Joreth’s usual excellent quality, and it gave a lot of helpful suggestions. The idea was that bad breakups are bad for the community, and often people break up just because they aren’t compatible as lovers, not because either party is toxic or abusive (though they gave the caveat that their advice was not meant to be followed in abusive situations). They gave a lot of useful suggestions regarding how to break up with someone in a compassionate and respectful way, which lays the groundwork for continuing a relationship as friend, or at the very least, not enemies. Highlights (see Storify for more):
After dinner at the local Mexican restaurant, it was time for my presentation on Relationship Anarchy and the Spectrum of Relationship Control. I was nervous about this one, because relationship anarchy can be a controversial position, and it’s sometimes difficult to talk about the negative implications of relationship rules without offending people. Also, my visual aides didn’t really work, so I’ll be preparing something else next time I do this workshop. The reactions was largely positive, however, and I think people got a lot out of it, especially for a concept that many people probably hadn’t encountered previously. Twitter highlights:
Afterward, Gina taught a workshop on Costuming for Burlesque (mostly pastie-making), then there was a dance party in the main panel room. Good stuff! Unfortunately, there was an incident where the same creepy male attendee approached both Jessie and Gina with crude, objectifying, sexual propositions (in Jessie’s case, it was before he even introduced himself). Jessie reported him to the conference organizers, who took appropriate action. While a warning probably would have been enough, unfortunately, the offender (and his partner), rather than express understanding and contrition, attempted to escalate the situation, resulting in a future attendance ban. Situations like this are always regrettable, but the APW staff handled it beautifully, and we all feel safe attending in the future. Aside from that incident, the dance party was a great time. I didn’t get to bed until after 3am!
Sunday morning, given the 14-hour drive ahead of us, we were anxious to get on the road. However, we couldn’t leave before Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert’s discussion on putting the ethics in ethical non-monogamy. The polyamory community lays claim to the title “ethical non monogamy.” If we’re going to do so, argue Franklin and Eve, we have a responsibility to create a community where ethics are defined an enforced. More Than Two (available in September) is primarily about ethics in the polyamory community, and Franklin and Eve led a discussion on how to create ethical communities, and what kind of ethics we need in our spaces. Twitter highlights:
Afterward, we said our goodbyes to all the new friends we made, and the old friends that we got to see for the second time, and made the brutal 14-hour drive home (complete with horrible traffic jam)! However, despite the drive, the experience was definitely worth it, and we are definitely planning to attend next year.