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Hey Yana,
I am totally new to BDSM [bondage and discipline/sadism and maso- chism]. Someone told me about a “munch” happening locally tomorrow night. They found it through the FetLife website and suggested I go. Do you know anything about these “munch” meetups? How safe are they? I am Northampton based, looking to connect with other BDSM folks. Do you have any suggestions on how else I can do this?

— Curious Munchkin

Hi Munchkin!

A “munch” is a public, non-sexual gathering of folks interested in kink and/or BDSM. It’s typically held at a restaurant or cafe where attendees can casually talk. If the munch happens in a private section of the restaurant, topics of conversation may be directed towards matters of kink and BDSM, but if the munch is, say, at the big communal table in the middle of The Roost, topics of conversation will generally be PG-rated.

Most munches have a dress code to protect the group from unwanted attention or accidental outings of members, including no overt fetish wear. (Some munches allow obvious fetish collars for submissives and others don’t — check in with the host.) Despite the no-fetish-wear rule, some munch-goers dress up in what might look like sexy clubwear. In other words, save the latex bodysuit for a play party, and opt for something you might wear to a casual dinner party.

Other common munch protocols include no touching (beyond the socially acceptable handshakes), and that the munch is not a place to pick up a date (take that to FetLife).

This brings us to your question about safety, Munchkin. Something I know about the kink and BDSM communities is that they really value consent. Like, a lot. I myself just attended the Northampton Munch to teach a consent workshop and they taught me more about the topic than any other group of participants I’ve presented to before.

So, if a member of the munch is coming onto you, trying to low-key Top or Bottom to you, or certainly if they are touching you, they are violating both your boundaries and the boundaries of the munch itself.

Common consent language, or “safe words,” in the kink community are “Green” meaning “yes, go!,” “Yellow” meaning “you’re approaching my limit or a place where I want you to stop,” and “Red” meaning “stop!” If a member of the munch is making you uncomfortable you can draw on this language as a tool, and you can and should report the unacceptable behavior to the host of the munch…continue reading…