How to for more than 2: Exploring non-monogamy

Hannah Cooper/Senior Staff

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I started my exploration with non-monogamy last year when my boyfriend and I decided to open up our relationship. Ironically, I felt largely alone as I waded through awful Tinder matches and dating app after dating app. I found that my matches frequently had hidden hang-ups, whether that be a no-strings hookup or criticisms of my lifestyle.

The kink community at large had their own polyam-friendly events, but many were still oriented around sex. While I was undeniably interested in these more sexually active events, also known as “play parties,” I also wanted to be able to explore my interests in polyamory and open relationships outside of a physical context.

It was through luck that I stumbled upon Organ House, a “community devoted to normalizing non-monogamy and sexual exploration.” Unlike my aforementioned encounters, there was a feeling of acceptance and approachability. They had a wealth of resources for non-monogamous scenes in the Bay.

The polyam community is one of the most welcoming and accepting, regardless of whether a non-monogamous lifestyle ultimately ends up being for you.

“It’s strange,” Danelle Suchon, another Organ House member, remarked. “When you’re honest about your sex life, it carries over into every other part in your life. It’s nice to be surrounded by people who are on the same page.”

As Valentine’s Day lurks around the corner, many are consumed by the pressures of finding their one true soulmate. So what about those who are not only without a special boo, but also are uninterested in restricting themselves to just two?


Volunteering at a polyam-friendly event, rather than diving straight in as an attendee, is an good way to start, said Suchon, because volunteers have a reason to introduce themselves to new people.

Wholesome events

I know I don’t always want to work while I’m trying to mingle. Organ House hosts plenty of wholesome, dry, polyam-friendly events such as group rock-climbing. People gather for semi-monthly polyam movie nights at the New Parkway Theater in Oakland.

Nights on the town

There are also many Facebook groups which consistently organize bar events, such as Poly Happy Hour. Ethan Cantil-Voorhees, an organizer of the Organ House, also noted that interest-based events, such as burlesque nights, costume-making and Burning Man camp organizing, while not polycentric themselves, usually include attendees that are “some flavor of non-monogamous.”

BDSM/kink-related events

When I want to explore more of my sensual side, I look for kink workshops. PlayDate events feature bondage scenes and above-the-waist nudity.

If you’re looking for Valentine’s Day plans, on Feb. 15, instead of watching the awful new “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie, Organ House is hosting Open Underground. The event will be held at a motorcycle club in San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood with a bar, fire performances and topless aerial. PlayDate’s last gathering, aptly titled “Prohibition’s End,” will be Feb. 23 on the Armory’s Upper Floor.

All-out orgies

The Organ House organizes monthly play parties, and the ambiance has been described as warm, perfect and incredibly sultry. There are BDSM gear, wooden crosses, sex toys and buckets of condoms and lube.

Obviously, you won’t be able to just waltz in to one of these, unlike when Elon Musk apparently attended one in Silicon Valley thinking it was a costume party instead. One must submit an application and be approved. While not all play party’s applications are made the same, and some may even shockingly require meeting minimum “attractive” requirements, groups like the Organ House do not have those restrictions.

When going to a play party, the Organ House recommends coming with someone else for a first time, whether that be a significant other or simply a friend. If you go with a friend, it’s nice to be able to check in if you’re feeling feeling uncomfortable (even midstroke if you’re really not feeling it).

But, if you do find yourself alone, there will be many people there to check in with you and make sure you feel safe. As to be expected, consent is a huge part of these play parties. Be comfortable saying no, and expect others to say no. Many people follow the motto: “High possibility, low expectations.”

Don’t just go into the night expecting to have sex; go in ready to have a good time.

Contact Michelle Zheng at [email protected].

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  • Cool article. PS Organ House practices age discrimination. The 4th question on their application: “What’s your age?*
    Persons over 45 must be accompanied by a millennial. 😉” Perhaps this is the real reason Musk left. He was kicked out for being 46!

    • Ethan Cantil-Voorhees

      Hi there!

      Thanks for jumping in here, I’d love to address that part of our mission.

      We’re working to create a safe space for people who are, in many cases, first exploring what sexuality, community and relationship norms mean to them. Those are fun places to explore in one’s life, but they can also be overwhelming and intense.

      Having a generational safe space has been important in this for two reasons.

      One, many of our members have tried traditional play spaces and felt preyed upon by older, more established people. A millenial-focused space lets them avoid that.

      Second, of course folks with more life experience are often in a space of discovering new areas of their sexuality and relationship styles! However, the needs that that person will have are likely to be different from the needs of someone discovering poly at 25. I’d much rather point that person to a community like Kinky Salon (or any of the many, many other parties/communities custom made for that demographic) where they will find the resources to make them happy and satisfied!

  • Andrew Middleton

    Very thoughtful article. I’m glad you’ve had such a great experience!