To quote Wikipedia, a 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. (emphasis mine)
Now that we’re all on the same page, let’s take a look at the parts of the definition I’ve bolded. Why is it so important that munches are strictly social gatherings that exclude kinky play? There are two main reasons. One, munches are usually a new person’s first experience of the scene, and two, they’re almost always held in public places.
Not everyone wants to be part of the public, in person scene, but for those who do munches are a way to get to know people in a safe, friendly setting. If you’re planning to start going to play parties, they’re especially important because they’re less intimidating and they’re a better way to get to know people. On the other hand, if you aren’t planning to go to any play parties they’re especially important because they are your best opportunity to spend time with other kinky people.
Going to your first play party is pretty fucking scary. You don’t know just what’s going to happen there, you don’t know if you’ll accidentally make some terrible faux-pas and be shunned forever, you don’t know what you’re going to say if you run into a vanilla friend on the way there, you don’t know if you’ll fit in or if you’ll spend the entire party awkwardly standing around, you don’t know if actually seeing people play will freak you out, or if anyone will want to play with you, or if you even want to play. That’s kind of a lot to worry about. Doesn’t it make sense that we’d have separate events with simpler expectations (ie, show up in normal street clothes and try not to be a jerk) so people can have an easier time getting into the scene?
Not everybody even wants to go to a play party. Some people are only interested in the d/s part of the BDSM acronym (newsflash: you can be kinky and not like impact play!). Some people only want to play in private with their romantic partner/s. Some people just aren’t interested in watching other people play. If play parties aren’t for you, munches are just about your only opportunity to socialize with other kinky people.
As Crimsonjen commented on my post on tolerance, “Freak them out on their first night and they don’t inform Someone In Charge. They quietly leave and never come back.” That’s why it’s so important to make munches friendly and non-threatening. Everybody struggles to accept their kink. Meeting other kinky people tends to be hugely helpful to people who are freaked out by their own desires. If we fuck up people’s first introduction to the scene, we can set them back years. YEARS. How can that possibly be less important than getting to have a coercive group spanking scene at a munch?
Even if it were possible to have a non-coercive group scene at a munch (hint: it’s not, but that’s a separate rant), playing in public in any visible way is would still be completely inappropriate. Most munches are held in restaurants. This means that there are often vanilla customers near by, and even if the munch is held in a private room there is still the waitstaff to think about. Did they consent to watch your scene? While you can tell munch goers to just leave if they don’t want to watch (as if that wouldn’t be tremendously awkward, but again, separate rant), the staff literally cannot leave. We cannot talk about consent being one of the most important values in the scene if we’re willing to just ditch it when it’s inconvenient.
Also, we tell people who are scared of being outed that it’s safe to come to a munch, that as far as anyone who sees them at the restaurant will know, they’re just having dinner with some friends. If we have spankings at our munches, we’re saying that those people can go fuck themselves. Even people who probably wouldn’t face any serious consequences if they were outed (students, for example) might not be interested in justifying their interest in kink to their friends/parents/coworkers. They have the right to make their own decisions about if and when to out themselves.
Not only am I still waiting to hear a single good reason why there should ever be any play whatsoever at a munch, but there is simply no argument that you can possibly make that trumps our core values of consent and being welcoming to scared newbies. If you have to argue for something like birthday spankings at a munch, at least have the balls to admit you’re a selfish douchebag who puts your own amusement ahead of the core values of the community.