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How Can I Meet Like-Minded People?

May. 13, 2011
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I moved to Milwaukee about a year and a half ago and soon became involved in a serious relationship. We had a lot in common and enjoyed the same kinks sexually. Our relationship was great and the sex was amazing. We were very open to exploring one another's fantasies.

Recently, after returning home from a great vacation, she suddenly flew halfway across the country to sleep with her ex-boyfriend. This was completely unexpected, and I hadn't even known she had left—she literally just got a ticket and took off. I can emotionally handle having sexual openness in a relationship or having multiple partners, if these boundaries are set upfront and there is honesty. The fact that she lied to me when I caught her is what I cannot tolerate. I feel that trust and honesty are extremely important in a successful relationship, be it monogamous or polyamorous. Once that trust is broken, a relationship cannot exist.

Like I said, I met her right when I moved here. I didn't really develop a social network and am not interested in meeting someone at a bar or online. Is it acceptable for a single male to attend social events or classes that you have at your shop in hopes of meeting someone with the same sexual desires and willingness to be open and explore them? What is the best place to meet someone who shares the same open-mindedness when it comes to sex play, bondage play, toys, etc.?

I completely agree that trust and honesty are important in any relationship, be it monogamous, open or polyamorous. I'm sorry that your previous partner violated your trust, and I'm really glad you wrote expressing a desire to meet new people and move beyond whatever hurt and anger you may have felt after that violation.

I also agree with you that bars can be difficult places to meet people, especially if you are looking for partners that share a particular kink or sexual practice that isn't considered to be "usual" (although I think most people would be surprised at just how common kink is—surveys range from 10% to 50% of U.S. adults expressing interest in various things that could be considered kinky). In theory, searching for partners online allows you to be more open and upfront about your interests, but it also allows for a lot of misrepresentation as well. So, what's an open-minded person to do?

I suggest getting involved in local volunteer activities, discussion groups, community meetings, religious groups or other activities that embrace open-mindedness. I would do this not with the sole intention of meeting a partner, but to become involved with things you enjoy and meet people who share your values. The feeling of constantly looking for a sexual partner can put a lot of undue pressure on a situation and lead to constant feelings of disappointment, but if you get out and start meeting interesting people, potential partners will gradually start cropping up.

The particular types of activities that you get involved with depend on your personality and interests. Some examples of places where you are likely to meet open-minded folks include Cream City Collectives, a social center in Riverwest; volunteering to organize Slutwalk Milwaukee, an event to end the blaming of sexual assault victims; or a Unitarian Universalist congregation near you. This is not an exclusive list, just a few suggestions that may or may not appeal to you. Do some research and see what you find in Milwaukee.

You asked specifically about classes at the Tool Shed. Single men are certainly welcome at our events and classes. I wouldn't describe the gatherings that we have at the store as atmospheres where people are looking to meet potential partners, but again, getting out and doing things you enjoy will help you meet people in the long run. If you are under 35, I would suggest going to MODE (Milwaukee Organization for Deviant Education) meetings on the first Thursday of every month or Young Milwaukee Poly Group on the third Wednesday of every month. These open discussion groups for young people interested in kink or polyamory are very welcoming to new members. Information about both can be found at http://www.toolshedtoys.com/events/.

Finally, I wouldn't completely write off the option of meeting people online. I recently wrote a column about how to get involved with the local BDSM community, and most of the folks I interviewed for this piece suggested FetLife.com as a good resource. Many local groups, classes and munches are advertised on FetLife, so if you create a profile, you can search for things to do in Milwaukee that will let you meet people face to face rather than just trying to hook up with individuals on the site. Facebook can be used similarly—as a source of information about local groups and events rather than as a way to meet individuals.

Hope that helps, and good luck!

Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXpress? Send them to
laura@shepex.com. Not all questions received will be answered in the column, and Laura cannot provide personal answers to questions that do not appear here. Questions sent to this address may be reproduced in this column, both in print and online, and may be edited for clarity and content.

Laura Anne Stuart has a master's degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than a decade. She owns the
Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee's East Side.


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