Where do people who share my values hang out?
April 29, 2014 4:28 AM   Subscribe

Nearly all of my friends are in the fetish scene; of late I have found that the community seems to be full of fair weather good time friends, and largely missing those friends that help you in a pinch. I want to give myself the opportunity to meet people with whom deeper friendships could form. Where should I look?

Over the past few years I have realised that I am a fairly rare type of person. I am truly altruistic - I regularly go out of my way to help people, even when it puts me at a disadvantage. I organised a regular party for people in the scene and someone tipped off the neighbours, forcing me to cancel the events; almost nobody even offered condolences. I've had stalking and people offering to kick my door own. My fiance and I are shaken to say the least; we have drastically cut down our wedding guest list, as we have discovered that seemingly close friends are anything but.

It is good politics for me to be friendly and nice to these people even when they aren't nice to me, but it is soul-sucking. I want to build friendships over time that are built on empathy and trust. The fetish community may have a bias towards selfish people because we all come in to indulge our personal interests; would other special interest groups, such as hiking or photography, offer a better selection? I don't want to commit the time otherwise, as I will have to keep my work and life secret from people in such a group, at least to start, and that is draining as well. I thought about a church or a meditation group, but others have warned me spiritual seekers can be quite selfish as well. Alternatively, suggestions on how I can more effectively build friendships in my existing community are extremely welcome.

By the nature of my work I project strength but it feels quite hollow at the moment; I really need to get started on building a good network. I should also say that the opportunity to help others in friendship is as important to me, if not more so, than the opportunity to get support from friends. I am in therapy and have a wonderful and supportive fiance.
posted by Mistress to Human Relations (19 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Every group has its selfish people, yes. But I've found that for the most part, churchgoers are in general a generous bunch. (All those readings about the Good Samaritan, blessed are the poor, etc. seem to rub off.) I don't believe in Jesus all that much, but I go to church anyway for the music and friendships. (Many people there will go to the ends of the earth to help you.) It depends on the church, of course! Good luck.
posted by Melismata at 5:04 AM on April 29, 2014

I was pretty active in the scene for years, and then dropped out (burnout). I was really surprised at how few people kept in touch - people that I had thought were really close friends. Looking back at it, I really didn't have much in common with them other than the fact that we went to the same events and were interested in the same general thing (kink). But the fact that we were always at the same social events together encouraged us to talk and become friends, and plan other things together.

Once I stopped going to those social events/kink events, we were no longer thrown together and I was no longer around when the other events were being planned, so I was no longer a part of them. We were friends by circumstance, not friends due to a deeper connection.

I think this could happen in any special interest group, to some degree. One thing that might be helpful is to find a sub-interest group (i.e., fetish photography, fetish people that like to hike) because at that point, you know you'll have more that one thing in common with them, and maybe there will be someone there that you'll make a deeper connection with.

I've also thought about joining other special interest groups to make friends, but then realized that I would likely never be able to share the extent of my life with them, and I feel like that would limit my friendship with them. I think the fetish/kink aspect of my life is the harder thing to accept, so for me, looking for friends in the kink community is easier than going to the craft community and looking for friends.

I agree with Melismata - I think you're going to find selfish people anywhere, or people whose values don't align with yours. If you're really focused on wanting to meet people who are less selfish, a spiritual group may be the place to start.

Feel free to memail me if you ever want to chat!
posted by needlegrrl at 5:09 AM on April 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Volunteer. Hospitals, community groups, schools. Seriously.
posted by hal_c_on at 5:32 AM on April 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

I was going to recommend a UU church. The odds are good, but the goods are odd, and that suits me fine!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:33 AM on April 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's not a thing I personally do, but my friend has had amazing success with climbing. Those people are bros (in the good way). Three years later and a few thousand kilometers away, and they still fly out to climbing sites as a group and have a ball. It might have to do with the collaborative-selfcompetitive vibe. You're only competing with yourself, really.

Myself? I have an awesome community built around dungeons and dragons, and a game called Warmachine. Wouldn't hesitate to crash on anyone's couch for a month, since I know I'd do the same for them if push came to shove. Different strokes for different folks!
posted by aggyface at 5:34 AM on April 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

How about volunteering? Regardless where I volunteered, there were always plenty other generous people who in large shared my values.

I imagine that burlesque and roller derby groups would have some overlap with your values and aesthetics. Are there any in your area? Did you check meetup for interesting groups? Why not create one?

Another thing is: If your sexuality and kink(s) are such a big part of who you are as a person, that will by default be alienating, since sexuality is considered rather private by most people.
posted by travelwithcats at 5:45 AM on April 29, 2014

Came here to say burlesque or hashing. But you have to drink to hash.
posted by oflinkey at 6:26 AM on April 29, 2014

Unitarians generally are just about the most generous and diligent people there are, and won't think twice about kink
posted by Blasdelb at 6:52 AM on April 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have found that the community seems to be full of fair weather good time friends

It might help you to re-frame this as these people being special interest friends. I do not mean to disparage the fetish scene, but rather to highlight that the social glue that binds special interest friends is not first and foremost the friendship but rather the special interest. For example, I have dog rescue friends with whom I spend quite a lot of time. Despite the fact that I share both intense and meaningful experience with my hobby friends, they are not friends I would be able to call on if my house burned down at 3 am. They are special interest friends, not real friends; our shared special interest is what we primarily have in common, rather than any of the other factors that go into building a true friendship.

Very occasionally, hobby friendships will translate into real friends, but in my experience, it's a low ratio. I would instead suggest looking outside the fetish scene to find other interests -- book clubs, salsa dancing, stitch n bitch, UU, activism, co-op volunteering, whatever -- and looking to cultivate one or two real friendships from all of these special interest groups.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:05 AM on April 29, 2014 [19 favorites]

Where should I look?

Right here?

I've found that MetaFilter is a super common denominator. I've met some great people at "official" MeFi IRL meetups, the MeFite group in the game Glitch, and over at MeFightClub, just to name a few examples. (Is FetLife is active where you are? There's a MetaFilter group there, too.) Maybe a MetaFilter sub-group somewhere online could be a place to evolve friendships, too: Many of my Glitch friends remain close RL friends long after the game itself shut down. You could even post an IRL with volunteering opportunities; that's something I'd definitely be interested in! There are also ongoing MeFi meet-ups like monthly bar trivia, and that's an even easier way to get to know people and let friendships and connections grow.

Over the past few years I have realised that I am a fairly rare type of person. I am truly altruistic

I'm not going to say that MetaFilter is a utopian gathering of people, but there are worse places to look if you want an altruistic community.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:25 AM on April 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

A phenomenon in church groups (and I'm guessing there might be an analogous phenomenon in other kinds of groups) is that people mentally categorize each other as either "someone who loves to help" or "someone who needs our help," and it is hard to get the group to see you differently when your level of need or capacity to give shifts over time or due to circumstances. For example, someone who joins up and immediately volunteers to wash dishes for the spaghetti supper, makes a big donation to the capital campaign, and teaches the teen sunday school class that no one wants to teach? They tend to get surprisingly few visits when they're in the hospital, because people's mental image is of that person being strong and giving, and it throws people off to think, "wait, they need me? Really?"

It can help if you show vulnerability, like talking about tough times in the past where you needed people. It can help to ask for help with little things that come up, so that you have some idea of who might be willing to step up in bigger situations. And definitely focus on relationships with particular individuals as others have suggested, because if you give to the group, then when it comes time for "the group" to give back, everyone assumes someone else is handling it, or else you get an official visit/phone call/card on behalf of the group which feels very different from a friend spontaneously reaching out.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 7:34 AM on April 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'll amplify looking at volunteering possibilities, in whatever social cause or community issue resonates with you. UU churches are also a good option, or if you prefer your religion with even fewer formalized trappings of religion, go to a Quaker meeting (Religious Society of Friends). Quakers have strong traditions of social service, tolerance of diverse beliefs, equality, and community.
posted by itstheclamsname at 7:47 AM on April 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Volunteer groups tend to attract people who aren't necessarily in it for themselves, at least not in a direct way. There are exceptions ("volunteer" groups that are really dating services, e.g.) but by and large if someone is willing to give up a significant fraction of their spare time in the service of some sort of public good, they're probably not pining for Galt's Gulch.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:15 AM on April 29, 2014

I estimate that I add one new good "friend for life" every 2 years or so. Been at it since I was 12, so I've got a good number of them. You don't always know who they are at first.

You are talking about it like you can just find "friends" en masse. That will work for people you socialize with casually - acquaintances, or "friends" you see once a month or so. But for "call them when you find out you have cancer" friends, it works better to use these activities to pick out individual people that you click with, and then cultivate deeper friendships with them outside of the activity.

For example, perhaps you could have picked 1 couple out of the fetish scene that you start having dinner with and walking your dogs with and playing monopoly with - that's the one couple you invite to your wedding.

And then from your photography group, there would be one woman you get along with, and you'd invite her to coffee, and then you'd go shopping together (still seeing her at photo group in between), and then eventually you'd bring your husbands along for a double date, and then she'd be the one person from photography group who would come to your wedding. (Sub "help you when your house burned down" for "Come to your wedding" as desired.)
posted by amaire at 9:11 AM on April 29, 2014 [6 favorites]

In my experience it comes down to finding people who are interested in adding to their close-friends circle, and exactly how you come across them can be hit or miss. Venues that might seem sort of dorky but attract people who are actively looking to connect, like Meetups, might help, or groups focused on pure socializing rather than activities, like some Newcomers Clubs.

In my area, a lot of people have lived here their whole life and have family and old high school friends around. Getting to know people who are in life stages where their social situations are changing a lot, such as if they're new to town, they just got a divorce, they or their kids just graduated, etc. can lead to stronger friendships.
posted by metasarah at 9:14 AM on April 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

From this outsiders perspective, the fetish/kink scene seems to be heavily weighted towards idealized, ritualized interactions between people. That might make it more difficult to form durable friendships than it would be in a special interest community that was more neutral (say a sailing club). On the other end of the spectrum, a group that met around a common interest in being supportive, and helping people (without regard to other characteristics), might be easier.
posted by Good Brain at 11:52 AM on April 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

As a semi-insider in the kink scene, or in a similar, overlapping, queer pervy weirdo scene, I also find these scenes generally to be shallow and fair weather. Of course there are exceptional people within the scene and hold fast to them when you find them! But I do not think it's a good place to go hunting for long-lasting, deep, committed friends who will become part of your extended family.

I don't think the hiking scene, or meditation scene, or any other particular scene is automatically going to produce better people though. It matters a lot which people you focus on in any given scene, I think, and I think the people to focus on are the ones doing the actual work of keeping the scene going. When you find a new interest, look for the people who bring the coffee, put away the chairs at the end of the meeting, and come to you after the event to ask if you have a cold or just the sniffles. You can find those people by being that person yourself, and bond over carrying a bunch of heavy boxes to the car or whatever together.

To increase the odds, go to the places people who show up, show up. Activists, volunteers, parents of young kids or caretakers of sick relatives, these are the folks who have built in values and habits around mutual caretaking. If you are passionate about something, volunteer in that field, or become an activist in that field, and find the people who are the responsible folks, who you also like and enjoy being with, and cultivate friendships there. (A good person from outside the kink scene will respect your kinky ways, even if they don't share those kinky ways, because they're a good person.)

Having said all that, long term, deep, mutually caretaking friendships take a long time to develop. My most trusted friends have been around for many years and I don't make new ones easily. This stuff does get harder as we get older, and you have to have a patience for building something like this.
posted by latkes at 3:02 PM on April 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Join a running club. Runners are awesome, dedicated people with big hearts and shrug off a lot of annoyances and cheer each other on. Bonus: you will get in shape.
posted by floweredfish at 3:05 PM on April 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

You don't mention your level of engagement kink-wise, so this is written with the assumption that kink, outside of public play, is a lifestyle for you:

Don't give up on the scene just yet! The scene has a highly local "flavor." Have you had an opportunity to join different groups within your local scene? If so, and all of the people you find are simply "fairweather," is another community within reasonable distance from you? Would you be willing to attend munches say, 20 miles away instead of 10 or less?

This isn't to say that going outside of the community for new friends isn't a good idea - it is. In fact, you may be surprised to see a bit of overlap! But don't give up on forging deep, lasting friendships with other kinky people. While you're definitely going to find vanilla-oriented folks who don't mind your lifestyle practices, it may feel "easier" to let loose around other kinky people .

I organised a regular party for people in the scene and someone tipped off the neighbours, forcing me to cancel the events; almost nobody even offered condolences. I've had stalking and people offering to kick my door own.

I'm so sorry that someone outed you! But you didn't clarify: is the harassment coming from people WITHIN the community? If so, truly consider settling in another community; that is NOT an okay or "normal" experience for private event hosts. It is NOT on the spectrum of "normal" experiences for most people who are in the scene either, I'd wager.

Kink, like other subcultures, attracts a variety of people who are brought together under a common leather/pvc/latex/nitrile/liquid rubber/metal/fuzzy banner. And kinky organizations aren't unlike any other interest group in that they attract lots of people who make poor friends. If you decide to begin a second attempt to make new (and good) friends in the kink world, think of it this way: "most of the people in the scene suck. Except your friends. Your friends are what make the scene worthwhile."
posted by Ashen at 4:20 PM on April 29, 2014

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