What if you could be openly welcomed with both your lovers at the local chemist… what if coming out as trans, queer or poly was simply one of many choices during adolescence… what if going to a dungeon to play kinky games on a Saturday night was as accepted as going out for a curry… What would the world look like?
Powell’s is Portland’s claim to bookstore fame. And it was there that I bought the book which was to change my life. It was – predictably – Sex at Dawn. Because although my partner and I met in Berkeley, California which seems to outsiders to be a liberal, bohemian heaven, we didn’t open our relationship until we had moved to Portland for graduate school. Portland is my idea of Poly-Mecca. A city with the social capital to support my wildest explorations and adventures.
Oregon boasts laws that protect some sexual expression as freedom of speech; thus, walking around naked is legal. Even if most don’t… most of the time ;-)
This also allows for an amazing number of strip clubs to exist. In fact Portland stands as the city with the highest number of strip clubs per capita in the country – most of which are fully nude clubs. Establishments are allowed to have both nudity and alcohol which attracts visitors from neighboring states to enjoy both booze and bums. This also means that Portland has the legal and social infrastructure to support two swingers’ clubs, both of which offer the ability to imbibe and have sex onsite.
There’s a wide and active sex positive community; feminist sex toy stores (like She Bop), the high number of kink, queer, and poly friendly and affirming therapists and the “casual encounters” section on Craigslist all reflect the dynamic and ever-expanding group of people interested in non-normative sexuality.
All tastes are catered for…there’s an active kink community (including dedicated dungeon spaces and other regular munches); an active swinger community; a regular storytelling series on sexuality (Mystery Box storytelling); a well-established presence of drag queen and burlesque performers; and a high concentration of people on OKCupid in open, non-monogamous, and polyamorous relationships. And if you need support, there’s a number of organizations that specifically address concerns and issues of the LGBTQ community (including the Q Center, which offers an inclusive relationships class for people of all sexual, gender, and relational orientations).
But Portland as a collective has been my biggest teacher. Everyone I have met in non-monogamous, open, and polyamorous relationships structures them in different ways. In Portland there is no wrong way to have a relationship (given baseline assumptions about honest communication and consent) where in areas of America more heavily dominated by conservative values (religious, political, etc.), it makes sense to me that open relationships have remained more closeted, and therefore perhaps more homogenous.
And, unlike places like Sweden where the polyamory movement is peppered by discourses about relationship anarchy, there doesn’t seem to be one overarching ideology guiding non-monogamous relationships in Portland. Portland is a highly diverse city, marked by many different subcultures of sexual deviancy and non-dominant sexual, gender, and relational groups.
Polyamory thought-leaders concur –
Portland has one of the most active poly communities of any place I’ve been, and that includes cities like San Francisco, Boston and Tampa. If you want to live in a city where you can walk down the street holding hands with two of your sweeties and not get a second glance, Portland’s your place. There are so many poly groups of so many different kinds I wouldn’t be surprised to learn there’s a poly get-together for left-handed redheads who like Hemingway.
Franklin Veaux, More Than Two
In Portland you can really live how you want to because of thorough and intricate network of social support around nontraditional relationships.
It’s truly my Poly-Mecca.
This post is part of the ‘Local Flavours of Open’ series on Multiple Match, which explores how polyamory is practiced in and influenced by different cultures across the world.
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