Communal Dystopia

“Look, I want to be honest and real with you because you deserve it sweetie… I am attracted to you and yes I want you to be mine one day if God is willing, babygirl. My wife and I would love to get to know you sweetie… You are a beautiful woman and getting to know you would be a pleasure. We, as a married couple, are seeking to have a committed serious relationship that could lead to family and children one day. We want to be upfront and real with a fine sexy beautiful goddess like yourself, sweetie, and by the way, we are new to this also, so hit us up when you have a chance ok. Take care babygirl!”

This is by far one of the oddest messages I have received via my online dating profile. Through the years, however, I have encountered many swingers. For a long time I was a waitress at a sushi bar and during that time I saw some of the craziest stuff and met some of the craziest people- these people, of course, included swingers. There was the nude photographer who offered me $50 an hour to sell my soul (aka to pose nude for his smut photography). “Well, you’re just a waitress,” he assumed, “I’m sure you could use the extra money.”  As if! This self-proclaimed “photographer” was a married man and often visited the restaurant accompanied by two other couples and his wife. They invited me to join in their “after dinner festivities” several times. I flirted with them to up my tip, but would never ever participate in an orgy (and if I did, they would certainly be my last choice of partners).

This recent message from the married couple online, wouldn’t be the first message I’ve received from a couple on the dating site that inquired about some type of group sex/ relationship arrangement. The first was from a guy who had a girlfriend but was seeking a threesome. The first time he messaged me he was upfront. The second time he messaged me, his profile no longer mentioned that he was in a relationship. I envisioned that he still was with the girl and that meeting up with him would inevitably get me jumped and possibly murdered by them both. I promptly ignored his message just like I am going to ignore the one from the married couple who wants to make their couple into a triple (that could possibly lead to “a committed serious relationship that could lead to family and children one day”).

This reminds me of the time I almost joined a commune. When I lived in Arizona, one of my best friends, who also happens to be a mega-Christian sorority girl, brought me to a place called Arcosanti. Because of my friend’s extremely conservative background, I never suspected that anything at Arcosanti was awry, being a devout Christian, she would die before she went against her Bible-given principles.

Arcosanti is an art commune of sorts that focuses on building an Earth friendly society with urban planning that focuses on sustainability (architecture that goes along with the grain of the terrain rather than dominate it). From what I gather, it is an independent community that self-governs and self-regulates (such as the Vatican). The place is gorgeous and built within the desert in a way that doesn’t seem to alter the land as it reaches towards Arcosanti’s goal of a sustainable environment.

Arcosanti Panoramic View

Entrance Arcosanti, Hayley Rose 2008

“The goal of Arcosanti is to explore the concept of arcology, which combines architecture and ecology. The town aims to combine the social interaction and accessibility of an urban environment with sound environmental principles such as minimal resource use and access to the natural environment.[1] To accomplish this, the project is building an experimental town on 25 acres (0.1 km2) of a 4,060 acre (16 km2) land preserve.” (Wikipedia)  Arcoanti is located about 65 miles north of Phoenix and was created by Paolo and Colly Soleri. Paolo Soleri was an architect who studied briefly under the legendary Frank Llyod Wright. Soleri became well known when one of his designs was recognized by the Museum of Modern Art. Arcosanti is Soleri’s design now realized and under construction since 1970.

Arcosanti, Hayley Rose 2008

The buildings at Arcosanti are beautiful. When I first visited, it appeared to be a quiet and peaceful place where students work together with Soleri’s special recipe of bronze to cast the metal into shapes used to assemble their famous wind chimes. The bronze recipe is a secret, though I suspect that the secret to it’s rainbow gleam is similar to raku, a firing technique used by potters to create a multi-color sheen throughout the glazed surface. As I watched the students pour the molten metal in the foundry to create these giant and super expensive “Soleri Windbells,” I noticed that the silence was more eerie than peaceful. Not once throughout the two visits I made to the commune had anyone greeted or spoken a word to me or my various companions.

"Soleri Windbells" Hayley Rose 2008

It is the Soleri Windbells, priced hundreds of dollars and up, that help fund the foundation and keep it running. From what I remember, in the gift shop there was a portfolio full of nude drawings and a note with instructions on how to become a future subject. The note said that if you wanted to model for the master artist (I think it was Soleri, himself) that there was a long wait list and if chosen,  you would be paid in a copy of his nude drawings of you. Wow. This is almost as bad as getting paid $50 an hour to pose nude for smut pictures. I don’t care how famous an artist or an arcitect he was, I found this practice- to be paid in drawings for exposing your body with copies of the drawings you posed for- not only offensive but exploitative (especially coming from an established and likely well off person). I had spent many years struggling as an artist, trying out things like modeling, film, art, painting, photography and writing. More often than not, I was roped into doing these things for free- but more so by other volunteers/ fundraisers, not by people who could afford to pay me. Reading this changed my perception a little of the beautiful landscape we spent the afternoon exploring. Was this an art commune based on a innovative design for the sustainable architectural future? Or was it closer to glimpse of communes given to us in the 1969 movie Easy Rider?

Right after I graduated college and began to flounder in every way possible, namely financially. It was then that I decided I would join a commune.

I took to the internet to do some research. I wasn’t looking to join just any commune, but an art commune. And it only took a handful of Google searches until I changed my mind.

I found one in Arizona that appealed to me, but then on the “About” page it became clear that it was not what I envisioned an “art commune” to be. “HIV tests are given every thirty days to all communal residents.  You must pass an initial STD screening in order to gain entry into this community for the safety of yourself and other commune members.” Say what? I could just imagine how a young 23 year old, like myself (at the time), would be targeted in this “community” setting, that I would be viewed as community property, that is… Would they brainwash me first and then pass me around like a joint? I wasn’t going to find out. The thought alone disgusted me. Was the gorgeous Arcosanti nestled in the breathtaking Arizona landscape this type of commune as well? Was I so naive? Was there only one type of commune?

Arcosanti Sculrptures, Hayley Rose 2008

According to one former Acrosanti student and resident, “After living under Paolo’s regime, I can understand why he does not consider Arcosanti to be a eutopia, that is, a good society because the fact is he has created a dystopia, a bad society, a culture of hedonistic self-indulgence and quick sex rather than learning, creative synergy, and duration.” Could this be why the students I encountered seemed detached, almost fearfully quiet? The article goes on to say that Soleri, the founder, ran Arcosanti with almost a dictatorship rule, never entertaining suggestions from what she refers to as the “peasant class.”

Arcosanti, Hayley Rose 2008

In her dissertation about the commune, she goes on to say, “Dissenting voices, for the good of the people, are not welcome at Arcosanti. It is ‘Paolo’s place.’ Another common slogan among brainwashed residents is, “Paolo’s way or the highway.” In such a worldview Arcosanti does not become a project for the survival and benefit for humanity, but a project to serve Paolo’s megalomania. Arcosanti becomes Paolo’s capitalistic mansion where he rules over his servant class of bell makers and domestic workers.”

Arcosanti, Hayley Rose 2008

Though this is one student’s take on the community, it does make sense to me. I remember being stunned by the inflated price of the bells, the least expensive ones ringing in somewhere around $400. Just strolling through Arcosanti gives you a ghost town vibe, though it is inhabited.

Look at the definitions I’ve listed below.

1. This word “usually refers to a new religious movement or other group whose beliefs or practices are considered abnormal or bizarre. (Wikipedia)

2. An instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, especially as manifested by a body of admirers (

These sound like descriptions and possible definitions of the word “commune,” correct? They do, indeed, however, they are not definitions for the word “commune,” but definitions of the word “cult.”

After reading her dissertation, the uneasy feelings I had while visiting Arcosanti began to make sense.

Attracted by the idea of a self-governed almost libertarian state, free spirits and risk takers come from all over the world only to be unsuspectingly bonded and oppressed to a new and more glamorous form of governing, the commune. Once supporters and monetary contributions arrive, the founder loses site of his or her vision for the future because the newly acquired power has intoxicated them. This cult/communal model dystopian is a smaller scale example of histories fallen nations, oppressive governments, and dictatorship rules; many of which started off with the best intentions.

It is the same with the strange married couple that messaged me and invited me into their life (not that I had any interest in them). They are the smallest scale model of this cult/ brainwashed/ dictatorship paradigm. They are the controlling/powerful parties of this scenario who choose who is invited i.e me, the subservient, into their already established “rule.” They not only over power me, should I enter the relationship, but outnumber me. Though I do have an avid imagination, I feel that their invitation and others like it have sinister intentions despite their initial claims. They are much like the commune/ cult in the sense that they are going against the grain of societal norm in the name of trying something new and being a free spirit.

To me it seems that entering that type of situation is not only crazy but dangerous. To come from a position of unknowing  entering into a relationship with two people who already know each other very well sounds extremely risky, such as entering into life on an established commune. The first couple that contacted me made me think of how dangerous the proposition they made would be for anyone who accepted it- to enter a sexual situation with not one but two strangers who know each other pretty well. They might even be extending the invitation so they can do some weird S and M stuff (hey, I saw Pulp Fuction) and then murder me at the end. It would be pretty difficult to get away from not one but two people in an unfamiliar scenario or anything similar. The concept itself sounds like the material that CSI and TV movies are made of.

It has long been the habit of dictators and cult leaders alike to leave established society in a quest for their vision of a utopia. Many people jump on board with them unaware that their vision for this utopia actually includes the same bonds and oppressions of any modern day governance; the only difference being that they are now the ones in charge and as for the members of this new cult or society- they are still being oppressed now just by a different leader.

“It is a paradox that every dictator has climbed to power on the ladder of free speech. Immediately on attaining power each dictator has suppressed all free speech except his own.” -Herbert Hoover



Filed under Art, Dating, relationships

6 Responses to Communal Dystopia

  1. Linda Seccaspina

    Some of this is common knowledge to me and I wonder if the first guy was a radical Big Love dude.
    HIV tests are given every thirty days to all communal residents.
    EXCUSE ME???
    what kind of art are they doing?

    • Hayley Rose

      LMAO “What kind of art were they doing?” good question! This wasn’t at the commune I mentioned by name but another commune in AZ-

  2. Paul Roese

    you were right to leave that situation alone. places like that and the folks who are boosters of that type of scene always creep me out.

    • Hayley Rose

      You could say that again- I wish I had a photo of the sushi bar patron- believe me he looked the part of creeper! The married couple however looked like your average sweetnatured married couple- which may be even creepier than the aforementioned sushi bar patron!

  3. suzanne smith

    I see lots of fear and judgment here. I do not like swingers, players or cults but I have explored them a little and they are just people. I thought the views of that cult place were gorgeous. I understand about the creepy feeling but some people do have big egos and get off on having a following and some people love to follow.
    Same goes for the swingers. Silly that they like to play around and recruit people to play with them. Yes it is odd and being part of a group like that is not for everyone but some people enjoy it and have fun.
    I am reminded of nudists too. I have almost joined a nudist group a couple times but I am just not a joiner. I do think it is a healthy outlet for lots of people and I’m glad they can be in this world.
    Fear has divided us so terribly and the fear of sexual deviants makes it all go underground. With the internet age we are getting it out there more than in the past but it is still someplace to understand and figure out your place in relationship to such play.

    • Hayley Rose

      I have read your work on the subject and enjoyed it- a very different take than mine. I do come from a place of fear, good observation. They are just barking up the wrong tree so to speak. For me, being a survivor of rape, the idea of entering a situation like that where there are two people scares me. The thought of being overpowered is the only thought that comes to mind as I write about this

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