How to Start a Munch 

Copyright Mistress Ren and LesVoiles, 2000

  Munch meetings have become one of the most popular ways for people interested in Alternative Lifestyles to meet, share experiences and ideas, and find partners.  Munches are gaining popularity and can be found in almost every state.  Some states even offer Munches specific to certain areas. 

So how do you start one?  :)  The guidelines below should help you.

Realize That Running A Munch Can Be A Demanding Undertaking: 

If you are thinking of running a Munch, be aware of what you are getting into!!  This is not something you can do for a few meetings and walk away from if you get bored … it is a commitment.  Realize that you will be surrendering some of your free time to running your group, answering email, etc.  It is very likely that you will become the unofficial "educator / counselor / shoulder to cry on / safety monitor / amateur matchmaker" for your attendees. 

If you want to start a Munch but don't think you can handle all the responsibilities and run it every month, consider running it with a partner or small group of people.  This way, you can split up monthly meetings into a more reasonable number, and eliminate the problems of 'burnout' by sharing duties.  You might even end up with a brand-new BDSM group for your area!

How Often Should You Hold Your Munch?

Most munches are monthly, but there are no rules!  If you want to have them more often, and people will come, go for it!

Determine The Type Of Meeting You’d Like To Hold:

Will your meeting be specific to one type of Alternative Lifestyle, such as BDSM, or will it include all lifestyles, including, but not limited to transgender interests, body modification, etc.  Will your group be open to everyone or couples or singles only.  The best meetings are open to anyone interested regardless of their sexual orientation, their activities, their single or partnered status, their age, their physical limitations, and their amount of time in the scene.

Determine the Atmosphere For Your Meeting:

Do you want to meet in a local mall food court?  A restaurant?  A coffeehouse? A community center?  Will the Munch be strictly social, or would you like it to be a 'meeting Munch' where you have an established information period before socializing?  Will your Munch have a monthly (weekly, etc.) topic of conversation?  It’s up to you!

Run Your Munch On A Set Date And Time:

Many people will hear about your Munch through word of mouth or by old flyers or forwarded E-mails.  Munch information is often out of date before it gets to these people.  Often they are the people who need it most, the ones that have no connection to the BDSM community and know nothing about it.  If the Munch is held on a set date at a set time, it is much easier for these people to find it.

It doesn’t matter when you hold your Munch, there will be someone who can’t make it.  Whoever this is will be very vocal!  Before you change your meeting time around to please a small quantity of complainers, check with the rest of your attendees.  You might be losing many more than you gain.

Find A Meeting Space:

This is the trickiest part of running a Munch – finding a suitable place to meet.  The space should be public enough that nervous newbies will know that they won't be dragged off out of sight and forced to participate in BDSM activities against their will.  Don't laugh!  We've had to reassure many people over the last few years. 

The space should also be private enough that you can talk about scene activities without having to edit for children and their parents who might overhear.  While mall food courts are free, there are almost always children around.  Also, some malls do not allow groups to meet.  The Bangor (Maine) Mall, for example, has a strict policy against letting any types of groups congregate in the mall.  Before planning any mall food court Munch, check with mall management or security to see if your group will be welcome.  A lot depends on size!  Most malls won’t notice a half dozen people, but in many smaller malls, 30 people or more is a crowd!

Restaurants that have a private room are a good meeting spot.  Sometimes you have to rent the room, but many restaurants allow you to use it as long as folks are purchasing food and beverages.  If a restaurant doesn’t have a private room, try to choose one that doesn’t cater to families (the Ground Round, for example, is usually full of children).  If you don’t have that option, hold your Munch after regular dinner hours to avoid your group and your conversation from being around children.

Convention rooms in hotels are excellent – they are separate rooms off a very public hotel space (usually a main lobby) and offer your group both privacy and a public local for newbies.  However, they can be very expensive.  Usually these types of meeting require an admittance fee in order to cover the room expense.

College or other private meeting spaces may also be available, however, these spaces often have to be booked many months ahead of time.

When looking for a space keep a few things in mind.  Consider parking, the safety of the area, handicapped access, difficulty of finding the facility, and consistency of the facility.  Don’t choose a location that is deserted except for your group in the winter, but a favorite tourist or wedding spot in the summer.

Be upfront and honest about the type of group meeting!  Tell the location manager or owner what type of group you are (usually ‘alternative sexuality group’ covers it) and what your meeting intentions are.  Most facilities do not have a problem with a strictly social BDSM gathering. However … lie to them, and you may find them resentful and unwilling to host future gatherings.

Private homes SHOULD NEVER be used for Munch meetings.  Very often you do not know the people attending a Munch very well – for your safety, the safety of your family, your neighbors, and your Munch patrons, never hold a Munch in your private residence.  Also, many newbies (at least the knowledgeable ones) are leery of meeting in such a private place.

Advertise, Advertise, Advertise!!!

Contact existing BDSM groups and clubs and ask them to advertise your Munch.  Even if you are in another state, contact all groups in surrounding states with the information.  People will often contact an outside group hoping to find info.  Many groups have BDSM meeting info on their websites, and are very happy to add new listings. 

 Also …

  •  Send info to groups that have newsletters and ask them to let their members know.

  • Contact the Webmaster of local BDSM bulletin boards and ask them to post the info.

  • Put flyers in BDSM and Fetish shops

  • Place an ad in the local alternative or 'underground' newspaper

  • Discuss your proposed group in the local chatrooms or IRC rooms and spread the word.

Establish Rules For Your Munch:  

 Basic rules include:

  • No sceneing.   Munches are strictly social events, not play opportunities.

  • If you wish to show toys, books, etc., show them discreetly.  Avoid showing items like dildos, butt plugs etc. where the public can see them.

  • Munches are not pick-up joints.  They are opportunities to talk, learn, and meet others in a social atmosphere.

  • Attendees are not to harass others, demand that others submit to them, etc.  Newbies may not know that they have the right to say no to a pushy Dom.

  • No attendance by people under 18 or 21 – Many State laws forbids it.  Check the legal age limit in your state.

  • No drunk or high attendees should be allowed.  Anyone attending in such a state should be asked to leave.

  • Rules of the host establishment take precedence over any Munch rules.  Breaking establishment rules will result in your Munch being asked to find a new home.

Depending upon your location and type of Munch, you may need other rules. 

Don't forget, some of the people who come to a Munch for the first time don't know how to behave at a Munch.  They mistakenly think that the normal rules of public etiquette do not apply.  The rules you establish will keep you out of trouble with the owners of the place where you hold the Munch and they will also keep you from trouble with the police.  Finally, they will also help you protect vulnerable Newbies from predators and pushy wannabees.

Be Prepared To Enforce The Rules:

This is the toughest and most thankless part of running a Munch.  If somebody disobeys the rules, you have to deal with them.  It won’t make you a popular person, but if you let one person get away with breaking rules, soon you will have no control over the event.  It is up to you, as the Munch leader, to assure everyone is safe, secure, and comfortable.  Troublemakers should not be ignored. 

If an attendee ignores your request to behave or leave, take further action.  If you are meeting in a mall food court and somebody gets out of hand, contact mall security.  If you meet in a restaurant, talk to the manager.  Again…the establishment allowing you to use the space has the final word. 

99% Of Scene People Are Wonderful, But 1%….:

As with ANY type of meeting, you will attract folks who make you nervous, suspicious, and wary.  Not everyone in the scene is wonderful, and anyone who raises “red flags”  (see the CUFSmaine Safety Page for information regarding “red flags”) should be watched carefully and dealt with if they cause problems or harass anyone.

"You Can't Please All Of The People All of the Time:"

No matter how hard you try…no matter how much effort you put in…no matter how much you sweat or how many sleepless nights you have trying to please everyone…there will ALWAYS be one unhappy person.  Acknowledge this and you will be much less frustrated.

Have A Support System of Your Own:

Even the person who supports everyone else needs someone to support him!  As with all jobs, even Munch leaders need to blow off steam now and then!  Make sure you have someone who is willing to listen and help you deal with the stresses caused by being lucky person in charge!

Have Fun at Your Munch!

It sounds simple, but sometimes, as the person running things, you are so involved in paperwork, answering questions, etc., that you don’t get a chance to have fun.  Make sure to allot some time for ‘official’ work, and some time to enjoy yourself.  After all ... you deserve to meet folks and have a great time, too!


More Information:

How To Start a BDSM Discussion Club  From Sexuality.Org

Organizing and Operating a Leather Group  From Black Rose


  Page Updated 08/27/05


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