The names are secret, but the club certainly isn’t. As The Crimson has reported, and as news outlets across the country and beyond have echoed, the Office of Student Life has officially recognized Munch, a discussion-based group for students interested in kinky sex. This formal recognition promises to foster openness and tolerance toward alternative sexual preferences. It also provides the welcomed potential for a more robust approach to sexual education and health.
Sexual proclivities outside the mainstream remain severely marginalized—hence Munch members’ reluctance to disclose their identities. No single campus group will change that, but Munch can provide an important movement toward tolerance, at least locally. The group’s mission statement characterizes itself as “a forum for students interested in alternative sexualities to explore their identities and develop a community with their peers,” and this forum is one that has been regrettably missing. Of course, top-down recognition on the College’s part, while laudable, is no panacea. It merely marks the end of the beginning for Munch on campus. An important onus remains. It rests in part on Munch itself to expand and promote its efforts for discussion and openness as well as on the student body as a whole to learn and to dialogue.
Part of that learning and dialogue, hopefully, will center on sexual health and education. Personal opinions aside, Munch’s subject matter is a reality for many. Given that fact, the new organization has the opportunity to expand campus safety and education efforts for alternative sexual interests. Education works. As one comprehensive, meta-analytic study has noted, with participants, fittingly, of mean age 20.3, sexual education is significantly correlated with changing knowledge and attitudes toward rape, as well as changes in behavioral intent and incidences of sexual assault (with smaller samples, but still significant findings, for the latter two). Munch has an opportunity, even a responsibility, to leverage its new official position to educate and to encourage health and safety.
The group’s constitution includes encouraging efforts on related fronts. It mandates Harvard-based and external safety training for Munch’s board members. Further, it creates a “safety team,” with goals that include dealing with sexual assault allegations as well as propagating and clarifying the group’s policies on consent.
We endorse these efforts and, on a more basic level, believe that the College’s decision to sanction Munch makes simple sense. Munch constitutes a sufficiently large group of students sharing a desire to learn about and discuss a common interest. After jumping through the OSL’s requisite sanctioning hoops, Munch deserved recognition as an official student organization. The whir of national publicity surrounding the College’s decision is, in a way, unfortunate. The sensationalized reaction betrays a need for the very service that groups like Munch aim to provide: a mature approach to and acceptance of alternative sexual interests. Paradoxically, then, we hope the newly minted Munch proves a helpful step toward its own obsolescence—toward an open and tolerant future when we no longer need it.