San Francisco Chronicle
by Kristen V. Brown
Since moving from Louisiana a few years back, William Winters has ascended to a sort of unofficial throne, the de facto king of the East Bay polyamory scene.
The poly potlucks he hosts have surged in popularity and tripled in regularity. It would appear that in the Bay Area there is an expanding interest in upending the traditional relationship.
But even in a region where alternative sexual cultures thrive in the open, the polyamory community has remained a relatively small circle. And as interest in open relationships grows, so too does a need to reach a larger, more diverse and perhaps even more vanilla crowd.
Kotango, a new social network for those who asrcibe (or aspire) to something other than monogamy, intends to do exactly that.
Imagine it as something like a kinky mashup of Facebook, OkCupid and Reddit, a place for the sexually venturesome to connect, cruise for dates and seek out advice.
Or, in the words of Polly “Superstar” Whittaker, a co-founder of the site and leader of San Francisco’s varied sex scene, it’s “kind of social networking for kinky hot nerds.”
But Kotango is also a marriage of two of the things that have come to define San Francisco most, tech and kink. It’s a startup solution to a summer of love problem.
“We wanted a safe place for people to meet, connect and share stories,” said local IT bigwig Andrew, the brains behind the site (he asked to go by first name only, as his kids aren’t aware that he and his wife have an open relationship)./p>
As the polyamory community grows, he said, it needed a “gateway,” something more approachable than sex parties or dinner with a room of open-minded strangers.
Other online fetish networks exist, but, as the Kotango website explains, “a lot of people are looking for a sexy, intelligent community without the sleaze and shame typical of many conventional dating or swingers sites.”
Mainstream social networks wouldn’t cut it, either: Facebook’s privacy settings aren’t quite private enough, and even on dating sites like OkCupid it’s hard to find like-minded individuals (polyamory, after all, isn’t just about sleeping around.)
“Even if you’re joining a closed group on Facebook, unless your privacy settings are pretty tight it will still notify your friends that you joined the group,” said Winters. “For a lot of people who aren’t out or who are just exploring this lifestyle, Kotango is a lot safer.”More than two to ’tango
Andrew came up with the idea for the site then passed it along to Christopher Ryan, co-author of the book “Sex at Dawn” and a celebrity in the polyamory community. Kotango launched in beta last year and is slated to debut in full this spring. So far, it has attracted over 5,000 users, about 2,000 of them in the Bay Area.
Here is a snapshot of some of the happenings on the site: a query as to how to tell the kids that mom and dad are polyamorous; a nuanced discussion of the difference between jealousy and envy; and advice for newbies on managing the complex emotions of relations with multiple lovers.
There are individual profile pages, where people list their favorite books, describe their dream dinner party and identify their “relationship model” of choice. Like most dating sites, Kotango users go by avatars accompanied by headshots. There is also a calendar and group pages that serve as a directory of local polyamory events.
The site is surprisingly tame; in fact Kotango advises its members to save the sexy shots for themselves. The site’s name is a portmanteau of tango — “unlike other dances, it doesn’t have a pre-determined set of steps,” the website explains — and community, cooperation and connection. ...