Written by, and posted with explicit permission of shadow (i999shadow).
Because of STella and the renown of the public meeting as a “Munch”, the term has become associated with a food related public available event.
There is no One True Way to run a Munch, and people are free to run their Munches as they see fit. There is, however, a great need for clarity and consistency when the BDSM community interfaces with the vanilla community, and with our outreach efforts to the kinky people out there seeking to become members of “the scene”.
For that reason alone, the use of the term “Munch” should be exclusively for gatherings that are open -but not necessarily limited to- new people that want to find community and do not necessarily know anyone in the scene. By keeping the term “Munch” to that context, anyone anywhere in the world can pull up a search engine on a computer, type in “Munch” and find a meeting place of like minded pervs to help them along their own path.
Co-opting the term for other uses (private parties by invite only, meetings at locked facilities, including play at the event, etc.) makes the ability to outreach difficult and creates confusion for people seeking Munches in their own neighborhood, as well as for scene members who want to connect up with like minded pervs while out of town.
WHY WOULD NEWBIES WANNA COME TO A MUNCH?
Munches are frequently the first contact with “warm bodies, real people” for kinky people finding their sexuality. Some folks come after living out their fantasies only through fictional novels (you will get to know who they are fairly easily), while most will arrive having spent some time finding out what they are on line (known as VR- Virtual Reality). They are seeking the “next step”, making contact with others like them. Like you. Some newbies are also long time computer players and are seeking to verify the players they have met on line.
Munches are wonderful places for people to check the references of folks in the community and see that those who “claim” experience really have it. Many established BDSM communities also like their munch to be their “vetting” system. This is the first place anyone new to the community MUST come before they can attend any other BDSM related event.
The Munch system gives the community a place to “look over potential new members, get a chance to know them personally rather than as just as on line personalities, and decide if they like them enough to invite them to something more intimate/personal. Many dungeons will NOT allow anyone to come in off the street without having been cleared through the local “scene” Munch, even though they advertise the Dungeon in national magazines. It is another tool to protect the privacy and anonymity of the players inside.
LOCATION & FREQUENCY
Munches should, whenever possible, be held in public accessible places. Restaurants are great, for they provide safe, well lighted, comfortable venues for new people to safely explore meeting those in the scene. Coffee shop style sites are idea, for they remove any financial barriers that might make attendance difficult. Most everyone can afford a cup of coffee or a scoop of ice cream to enjoy while getting to know others.
Coffee shops are also perfect places for the deniability factor. MANY of the people in scene and out want some level of confidentiality. Maybe they have a high profile job to protect, maybe they have small children, or have other public issues. The reasons are varied- and they don’t matter. We respect each individuals right to control their level of exposure just as we respect their right to control their bodies or their property.
For whatever reason, using a public space that seems “innocent” gives those coming to a Munch the deniability clause. Everyone can claim- successfully- that they were not at a BDSM event- they were in a public coffee shop. The best possible restaurants are those with closed meeting rooms out of the way of the main dining hall. Especially for the larger Munches (several of which i know currently run over 30 people at a time), having that space helps lower the public profile of the group. 2 or 3 like minded folks sitting quietly at a corner table at a Denny’s works fine, but once you have a regular group of 12 or more, it helps to have some separate space. Large crowds draw attention from the vanilla folk, and that cuts down on deniability and might bring the wrong attention.
Large crowds also make more noise and tend to be a bit more “rowdy” and loose. That impinges on the other patrons of the establishment- and is non-consentual inclusion of the public. Having a private, separate banquet or dining room for your event also means that scene folks can feel more comfortable being “themselves”, they can socialize with others in their lifestyle roles rather than maintaining vanilla facades, and they can frequently do some discreet ‘sharing’ or show and tell about new toys or scars & piercings. It is hard to control that kind of interaction once it is admissable, so do try to keep it to a minimum.
Noise levels are not nearly as critical to privacy issues, and language can be slightly less restricted. Do remember, however, that this is STILL a public venue, and the staff should NOT be exposed to WIITWD without their consent. Many Munches that have discussed the groups focus with the restaurant in advance, kept their members discreet, paid their bills with nice tips, and left the rooms clean have been not only welcomed back, but been given unusual leeway by those locals. Restaurants that are treated with respect can become so comfortable with BDSM folks that all drinks are gratis, staff are assigned exclusively to serve and clean up, or even allow fetish wear and give discounts to the BDSM regulars.
Having a regular meeting place is also vital for public postings and word of mouth. Many Munch notices may end up posted on servers and bulletin boards far away from the control of the host. If your Munch is held every Wednesday at XYZ Diner, people will expect that indefinitely. Your postings about a Munch will travel all over the net, and many will be permanently added to announcement lists you have no control over. Regular attendees will depend on you being there- come rain or shine- and quit checking for location or time changes.
A Munch needs a permanent place and a regular time just as much as your local Police department needs a dependable phone number. Munches can frequently become the life line and the backbone of a BDSM community. Frequency of Munches varies from place to place. Some are as often as every week, others only once a month, depending on the area and the attendance numbers. You might want to start out with a once a month Munch and then add dates as the attendance grows and folks show a preference for when it’s most convenient for them to come.
NAMING AND MARKING THE BEASTIE
You will need a name for your group- hopefully something less colorful than “The local adult sex gang’. You need this for 2 reasons- One, to have something to call it when you write e-mail announcements, and Two, so that new folks entering the restaurant can ASK for the group without fear of standing around looking for the kinky people.
Pick something that can be spoken without blushing. Something that can be announced over the loudspeaker if need be. Something innocuous. “The Computer Club” has worked for years in every city i have ever been in. “The Monday Club” is another nice one ( of course, use the day of the week you actually meet to avoid confusion). The Munch bunch is nice, and doesn’t out anything, but *might* be so normal sounding that outsiders could be confused.
Some groups also mark their tables at small restaurants so that you can see them from the door. A simple piece of plain rope by the “reserved” sign works beautifully. A glove, or even a leather rose. i once attended a vanilla event on a crowded public beach- the ladies hosting the event marked our picnic spot with black and blue balloons. It was a wonderful “in” joke.
Remind people that are new that YOUR name may not be your real one either- and that they can create whatever pseudonym they choose to use in the scene. Names are more often than not entirely fictional.
WHO CAN I EXPECT TO ATTEND?
It varies all the time. Ages can range from from 18 On up- we have a wonderful lifestyle and people of all ages love to gather in together. All genders, sexual orientations, and BDSM preferences will eventually show up, and should be given equal respect and the same warm greeting. Try to make contact with new faces as soon as you notice them. A warm handshake and a personal introduction around to one or two of the regulars is always nice.
“Your kink is not as good as my kink” should NEVER be the first rule of a good hostess, although the occasional odd person looking for illegal connections (child molesters, etc.) should be asked to leave immediately.
SO WHAT WILL WE DO?
Some Munches are just chat- folks talk about whatever they feel comfortable with in small groups, or all at one table. Larger Munches usually take on the “eat and meet” system, letting people arrive, get food or drinks, eat, and then have an informal “meeting” at a preset time later in the evening. The meeting can be as simple as each person introducing themselves with their on line name/e-mail address or what they “think” they identify as (Dom, bottom, switch, submissive, crazy), or as detailed as how long they have been in scene and what other scene related work they do (do they own a Dungeon? Are they a toy maker? A ProDom/me?).
Folks will want to know if they need to be “experienced” or have some kind of “role”. Let all your guests know that everyone is invited, at whatever level of experience or type of play. If you get contacted by a nervous newbie, offer to sit them next to you and hold their hand till they get warmed up to the room.
Try to keep the “introductions” short (less than 1/2 hour total) and low key (quiet enough so that no one else in the restaurant outside of your group can hear you). Some people come to Munches to “meet the meat” and use the place as their own trolling grounds. Other people find that they can ONLY meet new play partners comfortably at Munches, as the dungeon or other BDSM events seem too “pushy”. Remember, this IS a social gathering, and a wonderful place for folks to get to know each other.
This is the gateway for many new to the scene to see that the players are not all dressed in tear away leathers and the women don’t have 8” stiletto heels on all the time. You can set the tone- and the rules- as you see fit. i personally suggest that while casual dating and first meetings at Munches are wonderful, do not let the occasional trolling Dom/me turn the event into his or her private fishing hole and cruise every newbie as they come in the door. It is uncomfortable enough for new people to go to an adult event, and their first few times should be as pressure free as possible. So You’ve got the Place and the Day….
GETTING THE WORD OUT- PART ONE: WHERE TO GO
Be it called BDSM, WIITWD (What it is that we do), or “the scene”, the kink community has more venues today for information than ever before. You no longer have to sneak into your local adult book store and post a 3×5 card on a bulletin board hoping that like minded people will see and remember your event.
The best starting point is always the nearest large BDSM organization’s web page. New York has TES, San Francisco has JANUS, Washington D.C. has Black Rose. Check the web sites of the largest BDSM organizations you can find on line- and e-mail your particulars to them. Check with the links below at the bottom of this page.
Include in your search the gay/leather/alternative lifestyle community organizations, If you can, visit your local Leather shop/ adult toy outlet and pick up the free publications and newspapers to contact as well. Most adult entertainment publications will include Munch announcements for free on their web sites/ in their monthly newsletters.
Start your OWN web page. Free web page hosting is everywhere now- AOL, Yahoo. and most larger servers offer free space for your page- and free help setting it up. Listing it for search engines to find as “BDSM, Munch, Your City Adult Events, D/s, Leather Events” and other possible combinations assures you of the widest audience possible to get the word out.
Your mail lists are another great place to put the word out. Write up a nice announcement, and post it- regularly- on whatever e-mail lists you are on. Even the nation wide lists will have people from your neck of the woods on them (usually lurking in the dark) that can benefit.
Some magnificent people in scene actually collect and redistribute all the Munch announcements they run across, so maybe your post to the Canadian Master/slave mail list will end up being distributed to the New Orleans fetish wear list, where it will be seen by your next door neighbor…. who loves to dress up as Lancelot during his submission scenes… and *he* wanted to meet someone local. You never know where things will end up on the net- or how you might contact others seeking community.
If you attend a local Dungeon, or have access to a Dungeon in a nearby city, contact the Dungeon Master about posting a notice in their lobby for like minded local folk to find you. Ask local costume stores, saddle & tack shops and even hardware stores to let you post a small notice about a “Munch”- vanilla customers will ignore the information, but the local kinky people will immediately know what you mean- and will hopefully attend.
GETTING THE WORD OUT:PART TWO WHAT TO PUT IN MY ANNOUNCEMENT
Use the word MUNCH in the title and the first line. Give the name of the group that people may ask for at the door if necessary. Give the regular day/date/ and time. Give a good address, Name the establishment, and give the phone number. Put in a nice set of written directions from the closest major freeway(s). Link to a web site for a map if you have access. Put in YOUR name (scene or real, your choice) so that people will know who is in charge, and add some kind of contact info for yourself (e-mail is safest, easy to use, and confidential). Then add any pertinent rules or information about the location as you choose.
GETTING THE WORD OUT: PART THREE RULES OF THE ROAD
Every Munch sets their own tone and their own style. Gorean events are NEVER hard to miss, and Het only Munches can be mistaken for PTA coffee meets. Make sure that YOUR Munch is a credit to the community and not a detriment to your reputation as a class act.
Part of the success of long standing Munches is their reputation as a clean, polite groups that welcome strangers, keep their voices low, and act like adults. The way they have done that is with published rules that are fairly “common sense”, but enforced quickly, even handedly, and as politely as possible.
The rules should be included alone with all your announcements, right after your date/ time/ place and just before the directions to your Munch (that way no one can claim they “never read that far” yet they found the place!). One rule is inviolate for most Munches- no one under 18 is allowed. Better to be safe than sorry, for the legality of even discussing WIITWD with minors is dangerous. Check the I.D. of anyone who seems even close to underage, and if they are, politely ask them to leave. If necessary, have the restaurant escort them out. No amount of outreach is worth facing charges of “contributing to the delinquency of a minor”.
After searching hundreds of Munch announcements, a brief listing of what is (and is not) acceptable behaviors to guide the newbies and remind the old hands are listed below. They have been taken with minor changes from Munch announcements for all sorts of locations. Not all of them will pertain to your venue- a private back room in a restaurant that serves liquor will allow more loose talk than a small diner with 6 benches on the Interstate. Use common sense, and adjust the rules as your group grows and changes.
Most of the items are needed every time, in every Munch announcement, to let new folks know what to expect. The following should give you all the examples you might need to host the Munch of your communitys dreams. Good luck.
THIS IS NOT A PLAY PARTY.
It’s a get-together for folks who share a common interest in BDSM . . .(our common bond..) If you’re shy or unsure of yourself, this is the perfect place to be… everyone is friendly and non- judgmental. Give us a try.
You’re welcome to stop by and join us. Munches are a great way to meet other people involved in the BDSM scene, ask questions, and share experiences. This is a casual, friendly and non-threatening social environment.
We’re lucky to have a private room at the back of the restaurant. Dress in what feels good to you, but keep it vanilla (covered up as necessary) until you’re behind our door.
The restaurant has a full menu at reasonable prices. Please try to get to the munch in time to order your food so they will have it to you before 7:30 to make things go smoother. Calendars are passed out then and it is really disruptive if the food is still being delivered.
Yes it is MUNCHTIME!!! XXXXX Munch…..TAH DAH! The munch will be held XXXday, theXXth from 7-10 pm, atXXXX, XXX N X Street (behind the cockfight ring).
We love meeting the new people! If for some reason we don’t talk to you, come talk to us, we don’t bite….ok it is negotiable. Or just sit on the side for a while and get comfortable.
We will have calendars of local events for the next 2 months that you may be interested in attending. Please do NOT leave any of them in the restaurant. Those who come to the munch get to know about upcoming events before anyone else in the community. Munch attendees will get to sign up right away for those events that fill up fast.
Dress as you wish, within reason. Please bring cash (+15% for tax/tip). No playing. The restaurant folks are scene friendly.
Please dress conservatively and act appropriately in this public meeting place. Confidentiality rules apply.
This is *NOT* a play party, and we are not meeting at the Exotic/Erotic Ball, so please do not wear fetish clothes, demonstrate your toys, punish your partner or demonstrate other behavior that will call inappropriate attention to our group. We want this to as safe an environment as possible for new people interested in WIITWD.
If you’re new to the Scene, or just slightly curious about BDSM, a munch in a public place is a safe, non-threatening way to check out some like-minded people. You can watch us from a distance and not even introduce yourself, if you like.
There is no play at this munch. Occasionally, someone brings a toy or something small to show off discreetly, but that’s as far as it goes. Respect the other patrons.
Please keep the fetish-wear to a minimum, and use a cover-up when entering and exiting our meeting place (this includes collars, cuffs, leashes, etc).
Nudity: NONE, so please do not even think about it. Do not push limits.
No Scenes, or S/M Play allow, but light D/s is always fun and in fashion. Please respect the Non-D/s patrons of this establishment with your actions and words.
No recording devises, cameras, or videos of any type allowed.
Everyone in attendance is responsible for placing their own orders and handling their own tabs.
Toys, heavy play, and sexy clothing are not a good idea. This diner is popular with the cops.
ANY LAST THOUGHTS BEFORE LIFT OFF
Well, that’s the basics of How to Host a Munch. Being in charge of an alternative lifestyle community gathering point can be exhilarating, but it is also a responsibility to be taken seriously. Make your Munch regular. Never forget to attend. Be patient. Never forget that some post you put out 12 months ago for your weekly gathering could, easily, be hanging on a wall in someones bedroom while they gather their courage to get in their car and attend it. That was my experience. Thank heavens, the Munch i waited for was- and still is- hosted by a true pillar of the community, the wonderful Miss Vicki. It is the direct descendant of STella’s first Burgermunch, which was still held on the same street, every Thursday night at 8 pm, come rain or come shine when i wrote this. And the best parts of gracious hostessing, i learned from her. My personal hugs are hers forever.