This is a question I get from a lot of those new to exploring the BDSM and kink scene. You can see their apprehension about any number of preconceived notions all running around in their heads. Well, the short answer is, it’s a social gathering typically held in a restaurant of some sort where folks can talk, eat, and just be among like minded folks in a relaxed casual environment.
Actually, Wikipedia has a reasonably good definition of it, which you can find on en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Munch_%28BDSM%29
However, here are the very abbreviated notes:
Munches are told to have started in the San Francisco area in the early 80’s (before internet) in order for like minded folks to gather, talk, and socialize. Initial gatherings were small groups of people meeting in coffee houses. These later migrated to a burger joint as it grew in attendance; adopting the nickname of a “burger munch”. The burger munch was later replicated in Boston by another group in 1994. Eventually the “burger” name was dropped as locations changed from specific burger restaurants to other locations.
Purpose of a Munch
The primary purpose was for like minded people in the kink and BDSM scene to socialize, talk, and enjoy company of friends. It was also a great way of introducing new partners to a circle of friends; as a place where newcomers could meet people and get comfortable in a public space; and where new folks who might be interested in closed or private play parties could be introduced by their sponsor and vetted through casual dialog. A munch is not a place to expect a hookup, but to meet people and learn about them.
There is usually one or two organizers to a munch, and meetings are typically scheduled in advance and occur on a regular basis. Schedules are often by day and week – such as “first Tuesday of the month”. Various boards (such as FetLife) or group websites will list these as local events. Details will specify if it’s completely open door or if a RSVP to the organizer is required (usually just for headcount purposes). It’s always good to try to RSVP so organizers can help plan for space, tables, and alert the venue if additional staff might be needed.
A search on “bdsm munch list” will turn up a few results.
Munches are nearly always held in public locations. It can be in coffee houses, burger joints, diners, pizzerias, hotel and chain restaurants, etc. Bills are usually all handled separately, by each individual. Exact venues can vary based on size of the group, access to private rooms, local events, etc. Because venues and size of group vary, bill and tipping may be strictly individual or (with a large group) have an added “service gratuity charge”; use your best judgment but please be as generous as is reasonable for you. After all, we rely on their accommodation and service as much as they would like the business.
Were you a stranger walking in to a pub or diner, all you would see is a group of people numbering from 5-50 talking, laughing, eating, etc. Since a munch is made of people (insert soylent green reference here), each munch group will have its own unique vibe and feel because of the personalities who attend. Some munches are just about the local area, while others might be event or theme focused – such as geek culture, polyamory, an activity, or an age group (20-30, 30-50, etc).
What kind of people will you meet at a munch? Well, what kind of people are you? It’s just people, from every walk of life, trade and profession. We are doctors, nurses and lawyers; students and teachers; programmers and techies; tradesmen and union folk; and perhaps most of all, local friends and neighbors. Ultimate its men and women usually 20 and up of all ethnicities, backgrounds, sexual and/or gender identity, etc.
Dressing at a Munch
Because munches are typically held in public locations, that means “street legal” dress – no fetish wear. If further guidance is needed, one should wear what you would when you run errands like grocery shopping, visiting vanilla friends, office work – upscale casual restaurant or club at best. While the munch often tries to use a private or semi-private space, that’s not always possible, so bear in mind that “family friendly” is a good rule as children may be within eye-shot. Again, when in doubt always contact the organizers or someone you know that attends to get a better picture of the expectations for that group.
People will talk about anything and everything, just like anywhere else. You’ll find common vanilla topics about work, sports, health, personal happenings. You are likely to hear about upcoming events, new or approaching play parties, peoples play experiences, new favorite toys or gear, etc. You’re also likely to hear about relationship drama, gossip, and other “trivialities” folks like to chat about.
Lifestyle & Orientation
As mentioned before, unless there is a munch with a specific subculture or group, expect ALL types. This means you need to turn off the judging part of your brain and not make assumptions or jump to conclusions. There will be folks of every sexual orientation, gender identification, and power dynamic (top, bottom, dominant, submissive, switch, slave, master, mistress, etc). A polite and honest question is better than a bad assumption.
Here are some helpful tips to make your outing to a munch successful.
- Don’t hesitate to contact the organizers with any questions or concerns you might have. Organizers are typically very community minded and want folks to feel welcome and included.
- Try to RSVP so that organizers can plan for the size of the group, which will naturally ebb and flow. If plans change please change the RSVP.
- A munch can make or break its success by the behavior of its members in a public space. Be on your best behavior, tip servers appropriately, etc. We are all judged by the company we keep and a good reputation is important.
- Don’t “interrogate” folks with a barrage of personal questions about where they live or work, etc. We may be like minded folks that enjoy each other’s company, but the culture we are in also demands a certain amount of discretion – not to mention you wouldn’t want to sound like a stalker.
- Show respect to others around you. In tight communities that value consensuality, word gets around fast. This is also a great reason to join, to get a sense of folks and the word on those that may have approached you about play. No matter their identity, orientation, or power structure, treat EVERYONE with respect.
- Don’t assume you have any rights or entitlements beyond that of public law. A much is a space place to socialize and we are EQUAL at a munch and under the law. Leave the BS and the Ego at the door. Misbehavior along these lines will get you banned and often blacklisted as we are also very protective from those with predatory behavior.
- GO! It can be intimidating going for the first time. Everyone I’ve known that did this for the first time found getting out of their car and walking in to be the hardest step. Take a breath, feel the fear if you have it, and then GO. This is honestly the best way to meet people and learn about the scene. No amount of online interaction can match 20 seconds of eye contact.
- Keep going – because people come and go you are bound to learn as the group changes. Typically there is the same 5-6 folks that are the “core” or regulars of the group, but as you go you are more likely to learn more and meet more people.
- Eventually, you may meet someone you already know. No need to worry, for they are here for the same reasons you are, to meet people. Its just that now your preconceived notion of that person needs to be changed a little, as they of you. Don’t panic, and even say hello – you might be surprised.
You can also check my Events page for those munches I attend regularly…
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