A munch (short for burger munch) is a low-pressure social gathering for people involved in or interested in BDSM, usually at a restaurant. When available, munches often use a private room. In the UK, the venue is usually a pub, and people are free to arrive and leave within the specified hours. The primary purpose is socializing, though some munches also have announcements from local organizations. Munches often help those who are curious about the lifestyle meet others who may be able to help them become more comfortable and better informed. Munches can also be a place to get advice about or pass on anecdotes about BDSM experiences.
Unlike a play party, most munches are casual affairs that exclude fetish attire or BDSM play, though a rare few include covert Master/slave interactions or other play. Some munches may have a specific focus, such as spirituality or whips. Others may be restricted to a specific group, such as women or submissives.
Munches started in the 1980s, prior to the widespread introduction of the web. At that time, meeting members of the BDSM scene was a bit more difficult, given the then-prevalent bias against BDSM and the resulting lack of places to meet those of the same interest. While organizations such as the Society of Janus and the BackDrop Club existed, there were few informal ways to meet others socially within the scene. The USENET group alt.sex.bondage was a common meeting ground on-line, as was a San Francisco-area email list then known as BABES (Bay Area Bondage Enthusiasts Society).
One of the alt.sex.bondage and BABES members, by the name of STella organized a social meeting at Flames, a coffeehouse in Santa Clara, California. It was a quiet meeting in one corner of a family-orientated coffee house.
After that, an informal rotation of meeting sponsors and locations was instituted, with widely varying amounts of success. Not long afterward, STella suggested that a standard time and location be chosen, and selected Kirk's Steakburgers  at 361 S California Avenue in Palo Alto, as it had both great hamburgers and a spacious patio where attendees could meet in relative privacy. This was known as the "burger munch". (That Kirk's location was demolished around 2005, though a few other locations still exist.)
The Kirk's burger munch attracted a large and often spirited crowd, with discreet play. As time went on, the atmosphere became less discreet and people started bringing in outside food. Ultimately, the management insisted that the group stop meeting there.
Many of the original participants found another social gathering just down the street, though STella requested they not use the name "burger munch". The name was shortened to "munch" and the gathering took on a quieter tone. The organizer of the first spin-off munch, Miss Vicki, still runs a munch in the SF Bay Area (www.TheMunch.org).
Munches, like anything change with time and the increased acceptability of BDSM, "the lifestyle", or WIITWD (What it is that We do). Many have evolved in depth to include more people, topics and philosophies. While some munches remain traditional asking that no expressions of identity be expressed, others are open to the wearing of collars or pride emblems. Each munch is different and reflects the personality of the group that attends it, make sure to ask the host or attendees for what to expect at a particular munch.
The term "Burger Munch" was not only used at the Palo Alto munch, but was also used in Boston in 1994 and possibly earlier, meetings being held at Mr Bartley's Burger Cottage in Harvard Sq. Someone very active in the scene at that time and today has said that the first munches in the US were called "burger munches" and were in SF, LA, and Boston.
Some of the Boston attendees became somewhat famous, or infamous, as they were models for images in the noteworthy book Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns.
Full article ▸