What is a munch?

I talk to a lot of people who are either new to the kink scene or are curious but not yet involved. The general wisdom, and common advice, given to newcomers is that they should attend a munch. This advice is sometimes questioned because a munch can be an intimidating first step, especially for people that are shy, introverted, or experience social anxiety.

Recently I’ve felt my own reservations about this advice. I was talking to a young, attractive, submissive woman online and she was asking me about getting involved in kink. I was about to type the stock response about munches and then I had to stop myself. I felt like I was throwing her to the wolves. Instead I suggested we meet so I could give her an overview of kink scene culture before she dove in.

Don’t get me wrong – I still love the scene and love munches – but I’ve lost some of the stars in my eyes and I realize that just like any slice of society, the kink world has a dark side. And we’re doing newcomers an injustice by pretending that isn’t the case.

Here’s a heavily abridged version of what Wikipedia has to say about munches:
A munch is a casual social gathering for people involved in or interested in BDSM. Munches often take place at a restaurant, bar, or coffee shop; the organizer usually reserving a large table, a back area, or a private room. People are free to arrive and leave within the specified hours. The primary purpose is socializing, although some munches also have announcements or demonstrations from local organizations or individuals. Munches are meant to help those who are curious about BDSM meet others, become more comfortable, and better informed. Munches can also be a place to get advice, or pass on anecdotes about BDSM experiences.

Unlike a play party, most munches are informal affairs that discourage fetish attire or BDSM play. Some munches may be restricted to a specific group; such as women, or submissives. Munches can be very specific to their region, city, or neighborhood. Each munch is different and reflects the personality of the group that attends it.

As for Portland, we’re a very kinky town and there’s a munch just about every day of the week. In addition to having different munches for different parts of town there are different munches for different interest groups – such as those divided by age, gender identification, or sexuality. If you’re on FetLife you can find a list of Portland Munches here, and whether you’re on Fet or not you can find a calendar of all the kinky goings on in Portland here.

So, what should you expect at a munch?

As mentioned above, each munch has it’s own feel. This is influenced by the venue, the organizers, and the regulars who attend. So it’s well worth checking out a couple of different munches to see which one is the best fit for you. If you’re shy, maybe the introverts munch is the way to go. Another great way to start is to get in touch with organizers/greeters in advance so you’ll have a friendly face looking out for you.

What’s a greeter? Well, most munches have organizers or greeters who attend most if not all of their particular munch meetings and who look out for newcomers to try to give them a warm welcome and introduce them to some folks. Keep in mind these are just people, and volunteers at that, and no one is perfect. If you show up to a munch and aren’t greeted right away – or even at all – don’t take it personally. Maybe you look so comfortable no one noticed you’re new or maybe the greeters were just busy with other people. Take some initiative and introduce yourself to someone, let them know you’re new. Most people will either introduce you to a greeter or do the job themselves. Kinksters are, by and large, a friendly and welcoming bunch of people.

One caveat: Kinksters are still just people. So like any group of people there are some duds. Or, more gently, some people who just might not be the best fit for you as friends and play partners. And, at worst, there are some people who intentionally prey on newcomers.

But don’t fret. This is no reason to stay away. Simply be cautious as you would in any new situation. Take your time getting to know people and the scene. It can be tempting, when all of these options suddenly become available, to dive in head-first like a kid in a candy store. Especially if, like most of us, you’ve been waiting for this opportunity for a long time. But it’s well worth getting your bearings first. Get to know some people you trust and get to know the reputations of people you’re considering playing with or dating.

If you already know what you’re into don’t hesitate to ask around about groups or parties that specialize in that topic – but don’t be in a rush to figure out what you like. Munches are a great place for general chat and to get to know people as people – there’s no need to even talk about kink.

Keep this red flag in mind: if someone tries to control who you talk to or tries to be your only source of information, something is wrong. Get to know a range of people and make your own decisions.

I really do think munches are a great way to get to know people and get introduced to those in the scene. And they’re a great chance to socialize for regulars, too.

I’m a greeter for one of the Portland munches and while sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the task I keep doing it because I firmly believe munches are a valuable resource for the community and I’m dedicated to making them as safe a space as possible for newcomers and regulars alike.

If you’re in the Portland area come see me some Thursday night.

Showing my work.

I did a couple of photoshoots nearly two weeks ago and I’ve been waiting for the results not too patiently ever since. I’m not the one who needs to do the culling and editing, so it’s hard not to expect instant gratification.

Although modeling is closer to a hobby than part of the free-lance puzzle that is my job, I still get very excited whenever I’m asked to shoot.

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Seemingly unrelated, I went on a trip to Powell’s books today, with a particular book in mind. Powell’s is a dangerous place for me and I have to be very strict with myself not to walk out with an unmanageable pile of books every time.

I grabbed the book I was there for and then something else caught my eye. Show Your Work by Austin Kleon. I’m a huge fan of his book, Steel Like an Artist and I hadn’t known he had a new book out.

Although it hadn’t been on my list his first book was such an inspiration to me I figured that this new installment was a worthwhile impulse buy. I’m only 40 pages in and already so glad I picked it up.

What does this have to do with modeling? Well, the book pointed out to me how fixated I am on end results. I did these photoshoots and now I’m waiting for images to show you. I do the same thing with writing – I wait for a publication announcement, complete with book cover, before I say anything.

But maybe it doesn’t have to be that way. Maybe sometimes the process is worth sharing too.

I’m going to try to keep this in mind in my day to day life and work. I’m going to try to find more value in the process that other people might like to hear about. And maybe sometimes I can post behind the scenes details, too.

Heck, if a photoshoot involves being dunked in a cold river at 8am that’s going to get someone’s attention, right?

Let’s talk about fisting

Well, the Mystery Box Show performance has come and gone, and it was an amazing experience. I can’t remember the last time I was so nervous but once I stepped on stage it was sheer exhilaration. Now I’m wondering if I have any other stories up my sleeve so I can do it again!

Did you miss the show? Not to worry! There’s a video you can watch right here:

Telling a story for Mystery Box!

I’ve been a fan of the Mystery Box Show for most of the time they’ve been up and running and I’ve been thinking about telling a story for just as long.

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Well, the time has finally come! I pitched an idea and they’ve put me in the next show. I’m both excited and terrified. Get your tickets here.

And just ten days later I’ll be teaching my third class with my fellow erotica author Emily Bingham. Follow our shenanigans on our joint website, Emily and Stella Present.

Bound to please (NSFW)

As you may have noticed, I’m a sucker for a good photo or illustration, even more so when it’s of my work. So I couldn’t resist throwing my hat in the ring when I saw one of my favorite fetish artists was having a contest. Coax Dreams selected my story as one of the winners and now I have this lovely illustration to show for it! Stella_Harris_inked_small

Bound to Please

Casey was both honored and terrified to be the centerpiece at the event. Although many of the attendees were her friends she knew that anonymity didn’t always bring out the best in people. She could hear muttering in the room as Ona finished tying her. Everyone had been promised something special but details had been kept under wraps.

Casey was bound on her knees with a piece of bamboo acting as a spreader bar. Her elbows were held behind her back with another length of bamboo and her hands in front of her body held a tray loaded with toys. She caught only a glimpse of what was on the tray before she was blindfolded.

The curtains parted and the response was immediate; gasps, giggles, and a smattering of applause. Ona explained the rules, “One person at a time will be allowed behind the curtain. You can use any of the tools provided. I’ll be timing everyone one minute, so work fast. And remember, no permanent damage!”

Hearing Ona explain what people could do made Casey shudder. She wished that she’d insisted on more limits. This had seemed like fun when she’d agreed but now the reality of her situation was sinking in.

Casey heard the curtains close and didn’t know if someone was inside with her until she felt the tray move. A toy had been chosen. Casey smelled the rose beneath her nose a moment before she felt the petals glide over her breasts. The light touch gave her goosebumps. Then she felt the thorns press into her skin, a light scratch at first followed by a piercing pain.

Time was called and the curtain moved again. The next person wasted no time getting started. Casey felt what must have been a feather gliding down her side and shrieked with laughter. Her whole body bucked and she feared she’d drop the tray, breaking the one rule she was held to. The audience listening outside laughed, too. If they were amused by what she was going through it would only encourage the next person to get a louder reaction.

The next time the curtain moved there was a long pause before she felt the tray shift. Were they choosing a tool or building anticipation? When Casey felt the sharp pain in her foot she screamed. As the sensation continued she got used to it and realized it was more shock than pain. A blade was being dragged along the bottom of her foot. She swayed on her bound knees and gasped.

Another person in and then a pinching sensation as harsh clamps were attached to her nipples. Casey whimpered and struggled against the rope. She felt the inadequate latex thong she wore slide against her wet cunt as she moved. She feared the next person into the room would see wet all down her thighs.

Minute after minute and sensation after sensation, Casey never knew what to expect. And there were at least a dozen people to go.

For a good time, listen

I was fortunate enough to sit down with Dr. Dick two weeks in a row and we had an absolute blast together. We chatted about a wide range of topics and I read from some of my work.

The first week, I read an excerpt from Well Played, my contribution to Strummed. The second week I read The Jeffry Factor, my contribution to The Big Book of Orgasms.

Be sure to listen to both podcasts as Dr. Dick asks me all kinds of questions and gets me to reveal many of my dirty secrets.

Week one.

Week two.

Let me know what you think!

xoxo,
Stella

Chicks can do that?

This article was supposed to be published by Power Exchange Magazine, but due to the complexity of the publishing industry they’ve found it impossible to go back into print. Rather than leave my article homeless (or submit it to other publications) I’ve decided to simply post it here since it addresses issues that have been on my mind a lot lately. It also nicely illustrates why I’m so thrilled to begin helping with the local chapter of Hitchin’ Bitches.

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As I was giving rope tastings at a recent event a woman said to me, “I didn’t know chicks could do that.” I was so floored, so confused, that I didn’t even respond. I had tied her up and she’d had a wonderful time. That was what mattered. And while her preconception (and her language) were problematic, at least my presence as the lone female rope top at the event made a difference.

I’d like to say that was an isolated event but most of my female friends in the rope world have had similar experiences, and worse. My good friend circleoflight recently told me she doesn’t tie in public any more: “Each of the times I’ve tied in a public space a man has come along to offer ‘help.’  Once it was to give me a ‘proper’ piece of rope to finish a tie. Several times I’ve had men enter the scene in progress and touch my bottom without my or her permission. Because I wasn’t hurting her enough or she wasn’t restrained enough in his opinion.  Men often stand in ear shot and say things like ‘not bad for a girl’ or ‘I can’t believe she knows that trick.’ It makes me not want to bother and I wonder how many other competent female tops have just given up rather than deal with this behavior.”

So, what gives? Is rope only a men’s game? I don’t think so – or at least I don’t think it should be. I don’t like seeing anything divided along gender roles and kink is no different. Sadly, the world doesn’t operate according to my preferences. The prevailing norm in public play is men in the Top or Dominant role while women are expected to be the bottoms or the submissives.

“In private, I don’t believe there is any real difference between a female or male rope top. The practice of shibari itself is very personal and individual. In it’s simplest form, shibari is a top, a bottom, and the rope. Any variables in dynamic, roles, intentions, participants, gender etc. only matter to the individuals involved. It’s not until we enter the public arena that these factors outside of ourselves begin to have relevance. Then we’re dealing with normative social influence. Males make up the majority of tops in both the BDSM and Rope communities, and this lends itself to the perception of patriarchy and gender bias.” – The Soulless Ginger

From fashion to porn women are shown as owned objects. The discourse on women as public property is wide and varied and because kink is just another slice of society, this attitude bleeds into the scene. And it doesn’t only come up when women are topping. Many venues and parties have to stress only touching with consent and even with this listed in the party rules and sometimes posted on the walls, men need reminding.

“Being a female rope top is hard, and if one more person makes a joke about how that’s because we do it in heels and corsets I’ll scream. I mean yes, rigging in those things is hard, but what’s really hard about being a female rope top is how no one takes you seriously. It seems that no matter what you do, people assume you’re there to get naked.” – CindyLouWho

And I’ve had that experience too. I was playing with a male partner who was also a switch: we did a scene in the main room where I was stripped down to panties in the stocks and he was flogging me. We had a small, respectful audience. A little later that evening I had him tied to the interrogation chair and as we were beginning our scene a man came into the room, put his hand on my hip, and said; “I liked it better when you were naked.” What would make him feel like that was appropriate?

All of us who frequent and create sex positive spaces need to recognize that simply calling something a safe space doesn’t make it so. Party organizers, Dungeon Monitors, and members of the community all need to be aware of the prevalence of this behavior and work to prevent it before any more players are made to feel unwelcome. It shouldn’t be our job to educate the ignorant one person at a time, but if we don’t do it who will?

As a community our diversity gives us strength. We can all learn from each other if there are a variety of voices to be heard. But if we let things distill down to ‘one true way’ thinking there will be no new ideas put forward.

But it’s not all gloom and doom, The Soulless Ginger also notes; “Honestly, I haven’t experienced any of that [bias] first hand as a female rope top. If anything, those gender biases have been to my advantage and helped to create more opportunities for myself and my partner to perform and present in the public scene. My journey in rope has been facilitated by the over-arching perceptions of a female’s role in Shibari both as a bottom and a top. Are there challenges and benefits to being a female rope top? Yes. Do they matter? Only in the way we let them.”

She’s got a point. If as a female rope top we’re looked at as a novelty we can use that attention to our advantage and work to change minds. Even if the initial interest comes from less than ideal motivation, in the end those watching may see that women can be just as skilled as men. Maybe even more-so. The nature of rope work is that it requires close, intimate contact and attention to detail. Skills that are typically attributed to women. So even those with a gender bias should lose their own argument.

I’m contrary by nature and being told I can’t do something is great motivation. I find myself eager to improve my own rope skills and tie in public as much to buck the norm as for my own pleasure.

I urge everyone who has been discouraged or who is self conscious to push through their fears and insecurities and get out into the public scene. There are more of us than you might think, and we deserve to be seen and to be respected.

Because yes, chicks can do that.

It’s a giveaway! Enter to win a copy of The Big Book of Orgasms

I’ve been honored to be included in a number of amazing books, but the acceptance to The Big Book of Orgasms gave me a special thrill. I’ve been a fan of Rachel Kramer Bussel since I first started dipping my toes in the erotica waters so getting to work with her really felt like one of those “I’ve made it” moments.

Rachel with the BBOO

Rachel with the BBOO

You can read Rachel’s introduction and see the full table of contents on the Big Book of Orgasms website. You can also read an excerpt of my story.

So, are you ready to win your own copy of this beautiful, sexy book? Just click the link below and follow a few easy steps. The winner will be announced next week.

Take me to the giveaway!

Good luck!

xoxo,
Stella

PS. Like free stuff? I’m still giving away bookmarks!

Sneak peek

So, I hate to break it to you, but I’ve been keeping secrets. I’ve been working on a project that I’m very excited about and I wanted it to be a surprise, but the process is taking long enough that I thought I’d give you a little taste.

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The project went something like this: I wrote a dirty story, put together the Naughty Librarian’s Artists Salon, invited artists and models, and then read my story as the models acted it out and the artists captured the poses. Some amazing art was created that night! I’m still collecting the finished art from everyone who participated and the next step is compiling it all into print.

This time around I want to go the DIY route. I went to the Print Camp at the IPRC and learned letterpress, screenprinting, and bookbinding. I am now both excited and a little overwhelmed at the prospect of putting this all together. I’d like to have something ready by Valentine’s day, but I’m not sure yet if that’s realistic.

In other news, Love Burns Bright is being released in just under two weeks and it contains a story of mine that I’m very excited to put out into the world.

That’s all for now.

xoxo

2014 Literary Pin-up Calendar

2014 Literary Pin-up Calendar by Lee Moyer

2014 Literary Pin-up Calendar by Lee Moyer

I’ve been lucky to be a part of many amazing projects but I’ve got to say, this might be the project I’m most excited about.

I’ve been a fan of Lee Moyer’s work for a while and his 2013 literary pin-up calendar is hanging on my wall right now. When he asked me to be the cover girl for the 2014 calendar the offer seemed too good to be true.

I couldn’t be happier with the company I now keep:

All three Literary Pin-up Calendars by Lee Moyer

All three Literary Pin-up Calendars by Lee Moyer

As if this project could get any better, it’s also for a good cause. Read all about the project and make a donation on the Indigogo page.

Come on, you know you want me hanging on your wall!

Cover of the 2014 calendar by Lee Moyer

Cover of the 2014 calendar by Lee Moyer