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We're bringing you this Q&A from BUST's Sex section, featuring advice from sexologist Dr. Carol Queen.

I’m interested in getting more involved in the BDSM community, and I want to go to my first “munch”—a casual social gathering for people interested in the lifestyle—but I’m so nervous and have no idea what to expect. Help! – A Snack

A munch is an event tailor-made for newbies, usually held in a public place, where kinky and kink-curious folks gather together to meet, be convivial, and introduce newcomers to the local scene, whether they’re beginners like you or people who just moved to town. It lets you put one toe in the water, since attending a munch is no guarantee that you will decide to go full kinkster, unless that’s a path that truly appeals.

There are solid reasons why a munch is a nervous novice’s best first point of contact. It isn’t an overly sexualized environment, so you can start your journey into the community by meeting friends, mentors, and folks with information that will be valuable for you to know, not just possible partners. It’s designed to be less intense than your first foray into a dungeon party or date with a person whose bedroom is equipped with bondage tie-downs screwed into the wall above the bed. Of course, it can be plenty nerve-wracking anyway.

First, decide who you are, kink-wise. You might not have any experience, but certainly you have some idea about what you find hot or intriguing. Do you have a sense of yourself as a potential dominant? Submissive? Switch? How will you introduce yourself and what are you curious about? If you’ve researched something about the kinds of play you’re drawn to, you will be more informed in discussions and more empowered when it’s finally time to play. There are tons of books and online resources, and it’s likely that you have already stumbled across something that points you in this direction, even if it’s erotic fantasy that isn’t exactly the same as a how-to book or video.

By all means, let people know you don’t have much experience. If you have questions about the scene, ask them. Use the same intuition that you’d take with you into a vanilla gathering. (“Vanilla” is the word kinksters use to differentiate themselves from old-fashioned people who, you know, just fuck.) Does someone seem cool? Does someone else seem like a pompous ass? Process accordingly.

The kink world has some specific folkways, for sure, but it’s also one of the most diverse communities out there, so there’s nothing stopping you from being yourself. If anyone seems to have issues with you, they are not your destined play partner. Keep looking. Plenty of people are out there with whom you can have frisky, sexy, even scary fun without leaving yourself behind. Make sure you remember your safe word and enjoy the revealing and intense journey that BDSM play can spark. 

There’s a whole book for those who are new to BDSM and want to stay safe, have fun, and meet the right people. It’s called Playing Well With Others, written by the power team of Lee Harrington and Mollena Williams. I recommend it highly. If only Anastasia Steele from Fifty Shades had had a chance to read it before that jerk with the zip ties and helicopter crashed into her life.

Carol Queen's latest book (written with Shar Rednour) is The Sex & Pleasure Book: Good Vibrations Guide to Great Sex for Everyone.

Got a sex or relationship question you need answered? Submit it here.

This article originally appeared in the June/July 2018  print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!

Photo by Clarence Risher/Wikimedia Commons 

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