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.

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