When people ask how to become involved in kink or how to learn, the first thing they are told is “go to a munch!” Munches are a great first step, but like all first steps, they can be intimidating if you don’t know what to expect or how to behave.
What is a munch?
A munch is a gathering of kinky people in a vanilla setting, usually a pub or cafe. You don’t have to worry about being outed, they look like a business group or a hobby group meet-up, not a bunch of deviants. There is a lot of socializing, friendly conversation, and eating (munches are almost always held where there is tasty food!).
Munches are a key part of the BDSM community. It is where people go to meet other kinksters, see old friends and to establish themselves in the community. If you want to go to some of the private parties that are held in your city, you will want to start out at a munch where people can get to know you. This process is often referred to as ‘vetting’. The people who host parties want to see that you can behave appropriately in a social setting, and get to know you a bit before inviting you to their private homes or dungeons.
This is also a chance for you to get to know people in your community. You can talk to people and find out who you would like to get to know better, for friendship, play or romantic encounters. You can figure out if this part of the community is right for you. Keep in mind that different munches draw different people – if you aren’t crazy about the first one you attend, try another until you find the right fit.
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Common munch groups
The internet has really helped the BDSM community grow. When I first started attending kinky events, the internet was in its infancy, so most munches and parties were more word of mouth. Today, we can advertise munches online to draw a bigger crowd, which means that our munch culture has changed – there is a munch for many different types of groups.
The Next Generation (TNG)
TNG munches are aimed at a younger crowd. The usual age range for these groups is 18 – 35, although some may have a slightly different age range. If held at a bar, the lower age may be between 18 and 21, depending on the drinking age in the area. The top end of the age range may be between 30 and 35, depending on the desires of the hosts.
TNG munches are a great place to get to know other kinksters in your age range since anyone outside of the range is not allowed to attend (although some allow it on their anniversary munch). Younger people can feel comfortable with each other and there are often a lot of new people who are just discovering BDSM.
Female Dominant oriented groups
Often a local scene will skew towards M/f couples, so female dominants and their submissives may want to create their own space to get together and exchange ideas. These may be open to female dominants and male submissives or to submissives of all genders. The specific rules of the munch should be made clear on the event listing.
Special interest groups
A munch may be organised around a specific kink if there are enough enthusiasts in a city to support it. I’ve seen rope munches, spanking munches, foot fetish munches and other kink specific groups. These are a great way to meet others who share your kinks – you know that everyone there is into the same things!
Pretty much any group can organise its own munch. I helped to host a munch for kinky people with disabilities, for example. The great thing is that once you’ve met people in your community if there is enough interest in a specific munch, you can create one.
What to wear?
Dress the way you would normally dress on a Tuesday evening (or whatever day its held on). The general rule is NO fetish wear. Discrete collars are fine, but obvious kink gear is discouraged (or outright banned).
It’s important to remember that a munch is a public gathering in a vanilla setting. Many people don’t have the luxury to be out about their sexuality. Many people just don’t see the need to advertise this side of them. Everyone has to respect everyone else, so discretion is encouraged.
What do I do there?
A munch is a great place to meet people in the community. You quickly get a sense of who’s who. Many munches have ambassadors, people to greet new folk and introduce them around a bit. Talk to people, listen a lot. If you approach the munch in an open and friendly manner, you will walk away with at least a few new friends.
Chances are you will learn about some of the play parties around your city. Often you can’t get an invite to those parties unless you go to a munch and meet people first (they want to make sure you can act like an adult, have reasonable social skills, etc before inviting you into their home or private play space).
A munch is also a common place to meet people you’ve chatted with online. It’s an easy first meet spot. If the person you’ve been talking to doesn’t show up, you’re out with friends, so you’re not stuck sitting at a coffee shop all alone. If they do show up, you can see who they know in the community, and how they interact in a social setting. Since there isn’t any play allowed at a munch, you can focus on getting to know each other without the pressure.
A munch is a great opportunity for people of all economic backgrounds to get out and socialise. If you can afford it, you can buy meals, drinks, etc. If money is a little tight, you can stick to a cup of coffee or a soda as an inexpensive alternative.
Any rules I should know about?
Some munches have specific rules about who can attend, for instance, TNG munches are 18 – 35 only, there are sub only or Dom only. Be sure to check the rules about attendance before you go and respect them.
Once again, do not wear any sort of fetish wear or obvious signs of kink.
Don’t expect to take pictures. Cameras and photos are usually not allowed at kink events. If you really have to take a picture, check with the organizer and make sure everyone in the frame is okay with a photo (beware of people in the background). Remember, not everyone is out about being kinky and they may not want to have their picture taken, even if they only appear in the background.
At many of these events, name tags are provided. Please remember to use the name on the tag – many people choose to use their online handle instead of their legal name for privacy reasons. Even if you know a person’s legal name, it’s best to use what is on the name tag, since it’s what they feel comfortable being addressed as.
The use of titles is generally discouraged unless you have a kink relationship with the person. It is inappropriate to approach every female presenting person in the room calling them ‘Mistress’, just as it is unrealistic to expect everyone to address you as ‘Goddess’ or ‘Master’. Don’t try to force titles on people, no matter which side of the slash you find yourself on.
Munches are not the place to pick up partners. Focus on making friends and learning the dynamics of your local group. You may make romantic connections with people you meet at a munch, but it’s obvious if you’re just on the prowl for partners. Meeting people of all genders and orientations means you can make lots of friends – who may know someone they can introduce you to, so keep an open mind.
Don’t forget to pay your tab before you leave! If you forget to pay, then your host will have to pick up your bill – which isn’t very fair at all.
Things to remember
Munches are all different, the first one you attend may not be the right group for you. Try a couple until you find where you fit in. E-mail the organizer with any questions you have, or to let them know you’re new and would appreciate some introductions. One of my favourite local munch groups will try to add new people to a table with more experienced people, so they can share knowledge. I’ve made new friends every time I’ve attended because of this!
Size matters – some groups are big, others small. Know what you’re getting into if you’re shy in groups the biggest munch in town may not be for you. Big munches can be overwhelming, even for the experienced munch goer, but they are a wonderful place to meet lots of new friends. A small group may be better suited for group discussions, so you can have more serious conversations.
Talk to everyone. Don’t just talk to people you find attractive or who have a specific role. Dominants can learn a lot from submissives, bedroom only people can learn from 24/7 ones (and vice versa!) BDSM is dynamic, it’s always growing and changing and we should never stop learning.
Remember that this is a vanilla event – act appropriately. You shouldn’t go to a munch trying to act Dominant or submissive, be yourself. If people are unsure of your role they will ask. Also, it’s okay if you don’t know your role yet! You’re new, exploring, don’t be afraid to tell people that.
Be prepared that kinky groups are often more open and accepting of people who don’t always fit society’s rigid gender roles. The BDSM community often has a number of trans* people, gender fluid or non-binary people. Don’t assume pronouns (‘he’ or ‘she’), and if you aren’t sure, just ask.
If you make mistakes own up to them, apologize and learn. We were all new once and most people are happy to kindly explain what you did wrong and how to fix it. Everyone makes mistakes, it shows the quality of your character to handle them with grace. Alternately, if others make a mistake with you, be gracious about correcting them.
While not a munch specific rule, don’t touch anyone (in any way) without their consent. You will often hear kinksters asking if they may hug each other – we are friendly people for the most part, but we also respect each other’s bodily autonomy – always ask before touching, even if you think it’s an innocent touch. No one will get angry because you asked, they can and will get upset if you don’t ask!