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A munch (derived from "burger 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.
More recently, munches dedicated to people into polyamory have sprung up around the U.S. They function much the same as BDSM munches, with perhaps more focus on talking about poly relationships. Some come with food, and there are now some "Liquid Munches" that are held, usually early enough for conversation to be possible, in bars. "Liquid Munches" are known as Sloshes in many areas.
Unlike a play party, most munches are informal affairs that discourage fetish attire or BDSM play. However some munches may be held as a get-together prior to a more formal play party, or other groups may be open to the wearing of collars or pride emblems; as such, covert Master/slave interactions, fetish dress, or other BDSM play may be observed.
Munches have changed with time and with increasing social acceptability of BDSM and fetish lifestyles. Many have expanded to include more people, topics and philosophies. 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 can be very specific to their region, city, or neighbourhood, and regional groups will often host member's only meetings. Each munch is different and reflects the personality of the group that attends it.
Many munch organizers post their event information on social networking sites, some may use e-mail or mailing lists. Local BDSM groups may announce a munch in-person at a meeting, on a community calendar or newsletter, or on their own websites.
Munches started in the early 1990s, prior to the widespread introduction of the web. At that time, meeting members of the BDSM scene was difficult, given the prevalent bias against BDSM; which resulted in a lack of places to meet those of the same interest. The USENET group alt.sex.bondage was a common meeting ground online; as was a San Francisco-area email list known as BABES (Bay Area Bondage Enthusiasts Society). While organizations such as the Society of Janus and the BackDrop Club existed, there were few informal ways to meet others socially within the fetish scene. One of the alt.sex.bondage and BABES members, using the pseudonym "STella", organized a social meeting at Flames, a coffeehouse in Santa Clara, California.
After that initial meeting, an informal rotation of organizers and locations were instituted, with widely varying amounts of success. STella proposed that a standard time and location be chosen; and selected Kirk's Steakburgers in Palo Alto, as it was known for its hamburgers, and had a spacious patio where attendees could meet in relative privacy. This was called the "Burger Munch".
The Kirk's Burger Munch attracted a large and often spirited crowd, some of which participated in discreet play. As time went on, the atmosphere became more overtly fetish and BDSM play oriented, and people started bringing in outside food. Ultimately, the management insisted that the group stop meeting there.
Many of the original participants organized another social gathering just down the street, though STella requested they not use the name "burger munch". The name was shortened to "munch".
The term "Burger Munch" was also used in Boston in 1994, with meetings being held at Mr Bartley's Burger Cottage in Harvard Square. Some of the Boston attendees went on to model for images in Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns.