Starting out in BDSM? Munches, fetish fairs and events – the real deal

wordle word cloud for this post

It seems fairly common for people who have an interest in bdsm, but who aren’t yet sure of themselves, to shy away from actual human contact with other kinksters and try to satisfy their interests online.
While understandable, it’s not always the best solution. There are plenty of places one can go online to discuss bdsm, but sometimes real-time, face-to-face communication is the most direct way to ask questions, share experiences, gain knowledge, discuss feelings and so on.
One of the best places to start is a munch.
Munches became popular over 20 years ago on the bdsm scene as a low-pressure way for people to meet informally. They started in the US and the idea spread to many other countries. They’re usually regular events and run at pre-set times, for example the first Wednesday of every month at a regular location.
There are probably somewhere around 40 munches every month up and down the UK, though no one’s really counting. You can normally expect ten or twenty people, though some are smaller and a few are occasionally larger (Fulani remembers going to one in Nottingham a few years back that just grew and grew, ending up to be around 70 or 80 people, but that’s rare!).
Advantages of going to a munch: it’s in a public place, usually a bar or bistro, and if you don’t like it you can just walk away. No one dresses up, though many are held in ‘goth’ pubs where some leather and PVC is regarded as acceptable if you’re so inclined. Unless the munch details specifically allow it, there will be no bdsm play at a munch. Usual protocol is to contact the organiser in advance so you’ll be expected and welcomed (many have dedicated ‘meeters and greeters’ who will meet you outside, answer any questions you have, and introduce you to people. They’ll also generally look out for your welfare.
You’ll discover people there don’t have two heads, are not monsters or sociopaths (excepting Fulani, who probably is a sociopath) and do have lives and interests outside bdsm.
Still interested? Try a fetish market. There are several up and down the country: the London Fetish Fair, the Birmingham Bizarre Bazaar, SWAMP in Bristol and others. A fuller list appears on the calendar of InformedConsent (can’t remember if you have to join the site to view it, but joining it is free anyway). At fetish fairs you’ll be able to browse stalls, ask questions of stallholders, watch demonstrations of different techniques, and in all probability meet people from your local munch or even from online groups. At the Birmingham Bizarre Bazaar, for example, by custom and tradition people who know each other from Alt.com have one specific gathering place; those who know each other from various goth websites (Netgoth etc.) have another, and so on.
Fetish events, equally, aren’t nearly as scary as you might imagine. For one thing they’re not usually massively crowded – there’s no point in having play kit there and no room to swing a whip! Organisers are usually happy to meet and greet, discuss concerns by email before the day, offer advice on dress codes, appoint someone to look out for you, and so on.
Best advice for going to a club for the first time: whether dom/domme or sub, don’t assume that the first time you go to a club you’ll hook up with the person (or people) of your fantasies and play. Especially don’t, as a dom or domme, march in and demand that everyone should bow down before you. You’re an unknown quantity and people will want to get to know you before playing. Give other people room, don’t interfere in their scenes, watch, listen and talk. And be polite! Most people will be happy to chat, answer questions, etc., if they’re not in the middle of a scene.
So don’t feel intimidated by getting to know your local fetish community. They’re just people, and by and large they only bite if you ask them to.
Above all, have fun!

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The image at the head of this post is a ‘word cloud’ from http://www.wordle.net – have a go with any text you want to use and see what designs you can create…

2 thoughts on “Starting out in BDSM? Munches, fetish fairs and events – the real deal

  1. First of all I want to say that I think this blog is a great resource! I also wanted to comment, however, to point out that fetish events aren’t always as safe and fun as they should be. I’m sure it varies by city/community and by which group is hosting the event, but I found out the hard way that kinksters aren’t always the progressive, sex-positive folks they market themselves to be. In fact, a lot of them have nebulous concepts of consent similar to those found among the general population: ‘Don’t ask beforehand; it’s fine unless she tells you to stop!’, an attitude that can be especially dangerous with BDSM activities. So take the same precautions you would at any party you’re going to with an unfamiliar crowd: watch your drink, don’t drink too much, and be clear about your boundaries. Also make sure you know who and where the ‘monitors’ are, and don’t go to a party that doesn’t have them!

    Ugh, sorry for being Debbie Downer all up in here. I really am enjoying this blog though!

  2. Thanks for your comment! Yes, it’s true, your mileage may vary. You can find events in which bad stuff happens sometimes. And it’s always a good idea to be aware of who the dungeon monitors are. A lot of the bad behaviour does seem to be around excessive drinking, which always used to be frowned on in fetish clubs though you’ll find a few clubs in bigger cities these days where it happens – maybe more in the major US cities than the UK? Offhand I can think of maybe two clubs, both in London, where there’s a fair bit of heavy drinking.

    That said, I’ve never seen people in a fetish club as drunk or badly behaved as they often are even in nightclubs local to us, in a small town. I would agree, though, if you’ve got yourself tied up and vulnerable, having someone drunk on the other end of flogger can be more scary than you might have bargained for.

    Going to a munch is often a good way to get to know people who are regulars at various clubs and get background knowledge before you go an event.

    Thanks for raising the issue.

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