Author: polyspeeddating

The thinking behind our conduct policy

The following capture many of our reflections in designing our code of conduct and associated policy. It was a hard process, involving many conversations and struggles.  And we know it is not perfect. We do not know if we have found the best answer.  Our code of conduct and accompanying policy is a living, working document, and we invite feedback on it or this piece in the comments section below.  (You can also email us directly.)

There is no single polyamorous community, but rather a network of overlapping communities that share some idea about how love and relationship can work. The goal of Poly Speed Dating is to allow these communities to connect, to expand our worlds as we also find others to have relationships with.

This can be a scary thing to experience. Dating is scary, for many. Meeting people is scary, for many. And, in fact, sometimes these fears are justified. In any community there will be people that have caused harm, and will probably cause harm again as they struggle with their own damage and histories.

In principle, those that cause such harm could be banished from a community, if we could identify them. But the idea of banishment, once considered one of the worst punishments a community could manifest, does not mesh well with the idea that all have the ability to heal. The idea of banishment feels very local: protect our own, send our problems elsewhere. The experience of banishment seems like something that could exacerbate, reinforcing and expanding the bitterness and alienation that creates monsters. We do not see it as healthy for a community to lean towards restriction and exclusion in an attempt to guarantee safety. Banishment is a very serious act.

But safety is also important. Worrying about harm to someone who is causing or has caused harm, while letting those who may have been harmed bear the cost is no move towards social justice. The question is then what we, as organizers, should do.

Our balance is to attempt to structure our events in such a manner that while people might not be entirely comfortable, they will be safe. We work to create a space where people can play with meeting people in a context where potential for harm is greatly limited.

A foundation for achieving this is to enforce our code of conduct, to not allow people to invade other’s space and cause excessive discomfort. At our events, everyone has the right to be left alone by anyone they find undesirable in any way. No one is required to sit through a date they do not want to be on, or talk to people they don’t want to talk to. If people cannot conduct themselves in a manner that aligns with these values, we will ask them to leave and not return. If anyone is violating these principles, we hope people will approach us, the staff, so we can take action on the spot. Furthermore, if people repeatedly have notes about them on other people’s dating sheets or feedback forms when we read them after the event, we take the constellation of poor experiences as evidence that this person should be asked to not participate in future events. We hope these actions, and this intolerance of abusive behavior, will make our events safe enough.

But we do not feel we are able to make such decisions based on reports of history unrelated to our events. We simply do not know everyone in the many communities that attend, we do not know how to separate situational behavior–a bad break up or catastrophic mismatch of expectations–from the damage of predatory behavior. We do not know what the various lines separating acceptable and unacceptable are for different groups of people. Even if we tried, the system would be imperfect: we would miss some who have done harm, while simultaneously suggesting a degree of safety, of vetted dating participants, that is not in fact present. We let strangers sign up for Poly Speed Dating.

This reflection came in part from inquiries about missing stairs. From Wikipedia we have “Missing stair is an analogy for a sexual predator who many people know cannot be trusted, but who they work around by trying to quietly warn others rather than deal with openly.” It is unclear what the solution to missing stairs is, and we expect it varies depending on the stair in question. But our events cross multiple communities, are a microcosm of meeting and dating people in the broad world. We do not know what “dealing with it openly” would look like here. Banishment, in particular, does not deal with it openly.

Overall, we decided to take strong action to prevent harm in our space, but also find ourselves forced to say that you should date at your own risk. Ours is a venue to fairly safely meet strangers, but only so much can be learned upon an initial meeting.

June 20th event officially sold out!

We had to close registration to make sure we could handle the crowds!  It will be our biggest Boston area event ever, so wish us luck.

If you missed the deadline, please join our mailing list (link at right) to hear about future events. We will not sell your email and we will only email you rarely (way less than 1 email per month, on average).

Last call for our Poly Speed Dating event on June 20th!

Due to overwhelming response (250 people registered), for the first time ever we are going to close registration before the event and not allow walk-ins at all. If you have been meaning to sign up, do so now. We will close registration on Tuesday, 12pm (high noon).

We are formalizing our code of conduct, details here.  We are also formalizing our position on missing stairs (sexual predators known to a community) and what to do about them, which we will post soon.

Also, if you have not heard, we have had to restrict registration for some demographic groups (in particular, those not looking for men who need their dates to be looking for men).  Please read this blog post for more on this (including the reasons why).

The weird logic of requiring balancing companions

We get a lot of questions about our restrictions on registration and the logic behind it. Here’s the story.

At our first events, we found that lots of women who signed up to meet other women didn’t get to do so. We wanted to figure out why, and eventually we did.

Our program was designed to make overall schedules to give people as many speed dates as possible. To achieve this we often preferentially match people with fewer options earlier on (well, mostly; see endnote (1)). Why do we do this? Well, imagine a dater who only wants to meet people named Greg. Now suppose there are only two people named Greg at the event! If you pair everybody in random order, the Gregs will probably already have dates by the time you get to our super-picky dater. So we give our dater priority. And there’s another dater who only wants to meet people named Dragon Breath, so THEY will be stranded unless you pair them with Dragon Breath before Dragon Breath has another date. And so on.

But straight people(2) have fewer options than bi/pan people. So this meant straight people tended to get matched first by the computer. And since straight people have an overrepresentation of men, this meant straight men mostly got matched before bi/pan women. Statistically, we were giving men ‘dibs’ on women’s time. This was not okay.

Our fix was to make half of our dating rounds “same” rounds, and half “different” rounds–in the first type of dating round, we make all the same-gender matches we can before we pair off anyone else; in the second type, we make all the different-gender matches we can before we pair off anyone else. (Note: Since gender(3) is “pick all that apply” at PSD, it’s not quite as simple as “same” and “different”. Also, we make other tweaks in order to not penalize other gender categories such as agender and non-binary(4) people. But if you think of it as “same” and “different” or “gay matches first” and “straight matches first” you will have basically the right idea.)

After the preferential matching, we always fill in any matches that are left over (so a straight woman, for example, will still probably get a date during a “gay” round, as long as there are men left over after the gay and bisexual men have been matched with each other, which there probably will be).

But wait! This doesn’t quite work unless the straight people at PSD are about half men and half women. And as mentioned earlier, if we register an equal number of men and women, we will end up with a tilt toward men among the straight population. This is why we wanted to impose some restrictions on registration.

All of this being said, our event is designed to be inclusive and open to all. Because of this, we decided that we would never start registration with any restrictions. Anyone can register independently. We then leave it open as long as possible until the balance becomes worryingly far in the wrong direction, and then restrict registration and hope that as registrations roll in we recover the balance we need. Furthermore, for our restriction we, rather than banning registration altogether for straight men, decided to allow for a “balancing companion” so that if someone registers with their friend they, together, are not making matters (too much) worse. This is our effort to continue to keep things as open as possible.

We recognize that it can be painful to be frozen out of an event. We also recognize that it can put people in an awkward position of trying to drag a friend along. Despite these things, we hope that this solution well serves our community. We also invite any who do feel excluded to reflect on other circumstances where others get excluded, either implicitly or explicitly, from things they want to do. And remember that if you sign up on our mailing list, we will email you when our next event occurs and that you can then register with no restrictions.

Postscripts about gender diversity:

1. You might be wondering whether this insight into our scheduling algorithm means you should be as restrictive as possible on your registration in order to get first priority for scheduling. Well, not quite. As soon as someone gets frozen out in a scheduling round, we increase their priority for the next round. And each time someone gets to “pick” their match, they lose priority. This ensures that the more open daters do not simply get left with the difficult-to-match matches.

2. The restriction is not just on straight men, in part because “straight” is a convenient term to use in a blog post but it doesn’t actually exist in the Poly Speed Dating world. The restriction is on people who don’t want to date men, but whose dates do need to be attracted to men. This latter category includes men, but also anybody who requires their dates to be bi/pansexual, and some groups who choose the “only give us dates that match all of us” option. If you aren’t sure whether you actually fall under this restriction, talk to us.

3. This entire post doesn’t use the words “trans” or “cis” at all, except for this footnote. That’s because being cis or trans has nothing to do with it! One of your faithful organizers–the one writing this footnote–is trans, and honestly feels kind of weird writing something this long about gender without an explicit reference to trans people, because of growing up in a world where people who say “men” often secretly mean “cis men”. But at PSD, that is never what we mean. Cis and trans men are both men, and are both treated the same by this policy. And likewise, when we talk about “same gender” matches, we do not care whether you’re cis or trans; cis women and trans women (e.g.) are the same gender, even though they are different checkboxes on the gender part of our form.

4. You may have noticed that this post sometimes mentions non-binary folks and sometimes doesn’t. This is mostly because when we say “straight” we are specifically referring to binary-gendered people: men who are only interested in women, and women who are only interested in men. But also, non-binary people are, in general, neither making the balance worse nor better, and so are not part of this particular math.

Registration going strong, but some space left

In a week we have reached 144 people registered, and registrations are still coming in. Apparently there was some pent up demand. But our space is large, and we would love to have even more people.  More people = better matches for all.

So please spread the word, especially to corners of the non-monogamous world that our missives may not have reached.

We have also, to make sure the event serves everyone as well as possible, had to start restricting registration for those who are only looking for women who are open to men (broadly defined). This is to ensure that, in particular, pansexual and bisexual daters get a good mix of genders in their dating pool. If you are such a person, you can still come!  You just need a gender-balance companion to also register.  Further details about all of this on this page.

And if you haven’t registered, please register now!


See details of event on this post.

Finally, a Boston Speed Dating Event!

We are finally getting our acts together to run a Poly Speed Dating event this June 20th (a Wednesday) at the Armory in Somerville.  This could be the last one ever, or the last one for a year, or the last one for a month.  Who knows?  Our advice: if you are interested in an experience unlike almost any other, don’t wait but register now!

We are operating on a fairly short time frame and so details will be posted as we acquire them, but nonetheless registration is open  Your registration options are:


Event Details:

  • Wednesday, June 20 from 6-9:30 p.m.
  • The event will be held at The Armory, 191 Highland Avenue, Somerville, MA
  • $18.00 preregistration, $25.00 at the door. But no person will be turned away for lack of funds – please contact us!
  • This space is accessible (accessibility card ideally forthcoming).  There is limited parking.  Taking the T to Davis Square and walking up Highland is strongly recommended.  (There are also regular buses.)
  • Check-in starts at 6 p.m.  You must be there by 7 p.m.
  • There will be food and drink. Pay bar.
  • We will be donating any profits to an anti-racist organization yet to be determined, ideally one that also has connections to the broader non-monogamous community.  (E.g., The Network/la Red.)  All suggestions welcome.



Further commentary for your reading pleasure: We have pulled the system from the ashes of time and have added a certain amount of spit and scotch tape.  Please ignore the smoke.  Also please forgive any rough edges as this evolves. We are not pretending to be professionals but instead are volunteering our time to try and make the world a better place (and because it is fun).  While we tried to have another round in JP or surrounds, we did not find a venue there, so here we are in Somerville.

We are still (slowly) porting everything over to various services (in particular Digital Ocean to host DateWrangler(tm), MailChimp for mailing lists, PoBox to send email, to host our static site, bitbucket to version control the codebase).  These systems can do weird things when stuck together.  Why are we doing this?  The more streamlined the system, the easier it is to run events without undue suffering.  This means more events.  The codebase (all in Python & Django) needs help; we are looking for those who want to help.  Have skills?  Please email us.  All payment will be in beer or equivalent.


So you want to run your own PSD?

Generally, the way PSD gets started in a new area is someone decides to run it. We original designers of the system are happy to offer support, be we cannot do the ground work of finding a venue, talking to the daters, and so forth. Several different sorts of folks have run their own events, and it is totally doable and often even fun!

How it works is we host the registration site and you run your event by using our tools, which we call DateWrangler(tm), over the internet. The only thing you need on your end is a browser and some hardware including a printer. We do charge $50 for an initial set up and your first event and $30 to pay for 6 months of cloud servers that we pass on to folks who host the application. This is all due before we set up your registration site. Subsequent events are $30 each, plus $5/month to maintain your server. In most circumstances, the door fees you charge could cover this and all the other fees you may incur. We typically do a bit better than breaking even with the events we run, but we try to keep our ticket prices rock bottom.

We ask folks agree to a service contract that basically focuses on equity.  A (probably out of date, but you get the gist) version of such an agreement is this sample DateWrangler Use Agreement.  Also, here is a system manual.  This document talks about what an event involves, and gives some details on the system.  (It is also out of date.)

If interested, contact us after you have read the above agreement.  Put something clever in your email proving you have read this agreement.

What actually happens at Poly Speed Dating?

Well, funny you should ask. Read on!

A Quick Overview

On the night of the event, you’ll come to our venue and check in; we use the check-in list to make sure nobody is scheduled on a speed date with someone who couldn’t make it. After everyone (about 100-200 poly people!) has checked in and we’ve gotten up on the microphone to welcome you, we will print out a unique dating schedule for each person, telling them where to go and when. (See an example of what a dating sheet looks like below.)

At this point, the dating can start. In each of a series of rounds your sheet will tell you to go to a specifically numbered table. Your date for that round will also be told to go there. You meet at that table and talk. At the end of a few minutes you say goodbye, part ways, secretly write down whether you would be interested in seeing your date again, and go on to your next table. Some of your dating rounds will be blank – this allows you to get a moment to collect your wits, go purchase a drink, and chat with people also having a break.

At the end of the evening you turn in your sheet and we enter the data into our matching system. If someone you are interested in was also interested in you, it’s a match! We will send you an email listing all of such matches, along with the relevant email addresses.

What will happen at Poly Speed Dating (In much more detail)

Step 0: Register.

This is the part where you fill out the registration form online and answer a bunch of questions as to what you want. Based on that information we are going to be able to make matches and schedule an evening of dates with people that have the potential of being mutually interested based on a few characteristics such as sexual preference and desired relationship style.

Also based on this information, we can determine if you are likely to have many or few dates. If you are at risk of having very few dates, we will email you before the event so you can adjust your registration to be more open, or decide whether to come to the event or not.

Step 1: Check In.

When you show up, there will be a line to check in and get your nametag. You can speed this up by having your Poly Speed Dating ID ready (the thing that looks like FZL1102), but we can look it up if you don’t have it.

Step 2: Mingle.

While people are still arriving the social space will be open for chatting, mingling, ordering drinks, quietly reading books while everything around you is chaos, etc. And we do mean chaos: we typically have between 100 and 200 people at these events. You are welcome to talk to people you do not know, if they seem amenable, but this is not a time to be picking people up. It is definitely not okay to ask people for contact information or anything of that nature.

Step 3: Introduction. We’ll stand up and talk, hopefully not for too long. We’ll repeat the things in this email and remind people how to be respectful and awesome toward each other. Then we will hand out The Date Sheets, which look like this:


Sample Date Sheet

And how do you use them? Well, keep reading…

Step 4: Dating.

Your date sheet has 10-15 lines on it, one for each round of dating. During your dating rounds, you’ll go to one of about 100 numbered spots in the room (mostly tables) and meet one or more people to have a speed date with them. Your Date Sheet includes your dates’ nametag codes, so you can tell if you’re talking to the right person.

You’ll have about 6 minutes for each speed date. During that time, we encourage you to tell one another about who you are and ask questions to get to know each other better. The date will end with an announcement from us (something like “Round 6 is ending! Round 6 is ending! Move on to Round 7.”)

Step 4a: Deciding.

After each date, once you and your date are no longer in the same spot, you should take a second to mark either “Yes” or “No” for your date on your Date Sheet. You might also, if you wrote down “Yes”, jot down a note somewhere on why you liked your date so you can remember them the next day. After the event, if you and your date both said “Yes”, we will send you one another’s email addresses. If either of you said “No”, we won’t.

Step 4b: Moving To The Next Date.

Your next round of dating may be at the same table or a different one. If it’s a different one, you’ll have a short time to find the table and meet your next date; if it’s the same table, you get to stay put. We try to keep as many people as possible in the same place, so you may stay put fairly often. Your next round may also be blank, meaning you have a break; everybody will have some rounds without dates so that you can use the restrooms, get food, chill out, or whatever else you want. There will be a designated social area with no speed dates in it; anytime you don’t have a date, you’re welcome to hang out there.

Step 5: Exit.

When all the dating rounds are over, you have to give us your Date Sheet. That’s how we know who you said “Yes” to. We’ll also have an anonymous feedback survey that we hand out near the end of the event; it’s not mandatory, but it is appreciated. Once you turn your date sheet in, you are free to go!

Then sometime soon, hopefully within the next day, you’ll get an email from us listing any matches you had. (You’ll get the email even if you don’t have matches.) It may also list “cruises” (we’ll describe those in a second). The rest is up to you!

Other questions

Q: What do I do if I have a match?
A: If you want to, we encourage you to email the person and say “Hi! We matched at Poly Speed Dating. Want to get coffee sometime?” It doesn’t have to be coffee, it could be anything, but we do encourage you to keep it low-key at first. You can get to know a lot about someone in 6 minutes… but not that much. Following up with more casual friendly conversation is almost always a better idea than diving into dating with both feet. That said, anything the two of you both enthusiastically agree to is okay. Communicate!

Q: How should I behave on speed dates?
A: This is important and you’ll hear more about it: Do not escalate the date. Here’s what that means. While you’re on a speed date at our event, you should not ask for contact information or try to arrange a future date. You should not say “Are you going to say yes to me? I’m totally saying yes to you.” You should not say “That movie sounds fun, want to go see it?” You should not try to connect on Facebook. There are a lot of things that are appropriate in other social situations that we ask you to avoid entirely here; the goal is to meet people without either of you feeling any pressure to send or respond to signals of interest. If there’s mutual interest, you’ll find out when the email goes out.

This rule applies at the event even when you aren’t on a speed date. Which brings us to…

Q: What if I meet someone in the social area I want to keep talking to?
A: Sometimes people meet at the PSD bar or social area and strike up a conversation. But we ask people not to exchange contact information. So then what? Well, we have a mechanism for that! Your Date Sheet has space at the bottom for “cruising” people. To do that, you put their PSD ID (the letters and numbers on their nametag) in one of the blanks. We will then send that person your email address (but we do not give you their email address). Cruising someone does not give you any information from or about that person unless they decide to write back.

As you might guess from the name, you can also cruise someone you didn’t even meet, but just thought looked cool. But since they don’t get any information about you except your name, the odds of them writing back may not be super high. But hey, you probably helped make someone’s day!

Q: I thought I really clicked with someone but I guess they didn’t say yes. Should I find them on social media and ask why?
A: Please don’t. If you weren’t a mutual match, it’s probably best to let that person be.

Q: There are people I definitely don’t want to match with during the event. What can I do?
A: We can prevent any specific unwanted matches. If you know someone’s PSD ID, that’s easy; email us and we will prevent you from matching them. We can also prevent matches at the event. If you see someone during the Mingling phase who you specifically do not want to match, let us know their nametag ID or their name or whatever you can, and we will make sure the match doesn’t happen.

Running Speed Dating without the Technology

The following are some ideas from Pepper, one of the co-founders of PSD, in response to folks asking how to do it on their own (and without our system):
You can run a speed-dating-like event using a “table for four” structure, where people meet more than one person at a time.  This tends to handle mixed sexualities better because you just meet more people.  The format goes like this:
1)  At the beginning of the event, give everyone a nametag with a unique name on it.
2)  Also at the beginning, have each person pick colored paper with numbers on it out of a number of buckets – one bucket for each color.
3)  The event consists of a series of rounds, where you call out “go to the table with the number on the red piece of paper” and then people go there.
4)  Due to the way you set up the numbers in the buckets, each table has 4 people.
5)  In the round, people introduce themselves and talk, maybe for 10 minutes or a little longer.
6)  After the time, end the round and have people get up and mingle.  If they liked someone, they write their nametag name down on a sheet of paper.  They can also just write down folks they meet while mingling.
7)  Start a new round after a little mingling.
8)  At the end, collect the sheets of paper.  Order them alphabetically and manually cross-check them.  If two people wrote down each others’ name, send them email with each others’ email or (if at a campout) introduce them.
If you have too many rounds for colors, you can put a round number on the paper instead of having a color.  Though really, you should probably stick to no more than 8 rounds with lots of mingling – the mingling is where the magic actually happens.  You’ll need to meter the number of tables that go into the buckets by the number of people who show up, though if a few tables end up with 3 people that’s okay.
This can be run pretty easily with some prep, including at a campout or burning-man-style event.  Save enough time for the cross-check at the end and get a number of people working on it – it can be a lot of work.  Maybe do a practice cross-check run to see how it goes.
Pay attention to event atmosphere as well.  You want to make it feel like a romantic dating event, not like a church prayer meeting with bright lights and uncomfortable chairs.  Consider whether to have alcohol or not – it can go either way.  Make it easy to socialize before, during, and after the event.  The real trick of these events is getting a bunch of people in a room together, all of whom are looking for new partners.
There’s no actual minimum size, but if you have fewer than 20 people it could get a little weird, I would expect.

Boston Poly Speed Dating Happening Again!

We have just booked our next venue for Saturday, June 3rd, 2017, at Spontaneous Celebrations in Jamaica Plain.  Yes, we have finally crossed the river!

Location is 45 Danforth Street.  Doors open at 6:00pm for food and registration.  Doors close at 7:30pm with dating beginning at 8:00.  (This is all tentative—we are still working out some details).

There will be a full (pay) bar and some snacks.

$16 per person if you pre-register, $25 at the door, but each registration comes with a ticket good for a $6 discount on food or drink.

No person turned away for lack of funds–please contact us!

We will post the registration link as soon as we get our site up.  Meanwhile, join our mailing list (link) to keep apprised.