A brilliant idea with a bad interface.
John Baku, legend of a man that he is (ie the man who invented Fetlife), set up the website to find partners who shared his kinky proclivities. Since it’s inception in 2007 as “Friends with fetishes” it has amassed a huge following. Under its current name, as of this writing, it boasts over 6 million active members.
The interface, however, is… bad. Not unusable but pretty terrible. Reminiscent of early web pages - millennials will not be happy - it's not the most intuitive of designs, emojis don't exist and it really just doesn't have all the tecky bells and whistles that one would expect in 2018. But, never judge a peacock by its feathers, there’s a whole treasure trove of delights to be found in this cavern of black and red.
In and of itself Fetlife is not a place to meet people. Let’s get that out of the way now. Just like Facebook, you don’t join to find people but you do go there to stay connected with people that you have met (in real life). Where Fetlife does an amazing job is through providing people with a platform to find the meetups and events that introduce them to prospective dates/friends/play partners.
That being said it doesn’t mean that people don’t try and use it as a dating site. Ladies, if you’re anyway “good looking” by societies standards expect your inbox to be flooded. Men chomping at the bit looking for a sub/domme/woman with a pulse to have their way with.
Rest assured, ignoring them works for the most part and if in doubt block and delete.
Fetlife is not a place to go to get laid
Just because the topics of conversation run on a tangent of sex, it does not mean it’s an easy place to get a leg over. In fact, many, if not most, of the community are more educated around consent and boundaries than the average human being. We’re more aware of what we’re looking for and more likely to not bend on our standards. Plus, sussing out someone looking for sex alone is pretty easy.
Touching on the last point because it’s social media it’s not exclusively for singles. Many profiles will explicitly state that they’re online for friends, pen-pals, events and workshops or just to keep an eye on “kinky and popular”. Other times couples are looking for a 3rd to join their shenanigans or you know polyamory - one can have multiple partners.
A gateway to the community
The kink community exists outside of the site. Fetlife is a resource and a great starting place. A way to delve into the world and gain an understanding before you dive in. But eventually, to really understand, you need to get your hand out of your pants, your ass off the couch and out the front door.
And that’s where fetlife really comes in. It’s where you find the events, workshops, meetups and clubs and in turn find people to friend on fetlife. Your newsfeed becomes an awful lot more interesting when you actually know the people posting.
Like anything else in life you will get out of it what you put in. There’s a whole world to dig around in, explore and discover. If you’re dipping your fishnet-clad toe in for the first time there’s a lot to learn. Fetlife is rife with starter manuals, beginner guides and how to’s, littered with forums and groups. It's a place to ask questions, gain an understanding, see what’s happening and delve a bit more.
Discretion is huge
Some are enmeshed in the lifestyle and use it like anybody else would Facebook but for the large majority, privacy is key. Pictures are posted with no faces, real names are never shared - because, for the most part, we don’t know what Sallys tits look like with no clothes on and Sally’s quite happy getting her baps out in public - privately.
That discretion can bleed over into munches and events. I know the meetups I’ve attended needed a pre-screening before the actual event. Where someone sits you down and explains the rules of the evening.
For the most part, hosts just want everyone to have a good time so it’s no shaming, no photography, no pressuring people into doing what they don’t want to even if you can’t understand why they won't give you their name - respect that choice.
Kink Shaming is a Huge No No
Everybody thinks they’re kinky until they hit fetlife. You think you have a good understanding until you see the never-ending lists of kinks and fetishes. So even if you think you’re the only person in the world with a proclivity for whatever your thing may be - chances are there’s a number of groups, events, munches or meetups dedicated to it.
For safety and legal reasons certain kinks - paedophilia, rape and a host of others are not allowed but rest assured you’ll find something that tickles your fancy.
The general rule is that if it’s safe, sane and consensual it’s fair game.
Kink shaming, however, is not allowed. Many moderators of the forums and events will ban you for shaming. It can be pretty cutthroat but it’s a global network, sometimes with thousands of people to moderate.
Just because you don’t like it doesn’t give you the right to shame others for liking it. And really that should just be a rule for life. Live and let live. You do you, I’ll do me.
A word of warning: While the kink community considers itself as kink-inclusive, sex-positive and a caring group of people. Not everyone understands that nor do they wish to comply. The site is open to anybody to join so there will be asshats, morons, wannabes and abusers on the site.
As with anything, stay cautious, use common sense and listen to your gut. If something or someone doesn’t feel right, go with that feeling.
an outlet of self-expression
For me, fetlife is all of the above, what pushes it further is the expression on the site. The imagery is (can be) amazing, I've found and followed some fabulous kink photographers their work is amazing.
There is a ream of writers too. Set up more like journal entries than blog posts some people use them as a way to pour out their heart. Others to log their journey, and others again to write spectacular pieces of work. Poetry, smut, researched articles, musings whatever your written porn is you'll find it here with enough digging.
It's startling to see what can be achieved when people are given a space where they feel accepted. Creativity is given room to breathe. But given the layout of the site, it can take a bit of time and rummaging around to find them.
Whatever you want it to be
As I’ve already said what you get of it is what you put into it. If you attend the munches, meet people at the events, respect peoples boundaries, proclivities and generally just be a sound human being who uses common sense you should get on fine.
Do your own research, don’t take anyone's word as bible (yes I’m aware that makes me sound like a Kardashian) stay open minded and enjoy it. Don't feel pressured to join, do it if you want to. Even if you don't stay you will most certainly learn something about yourself in the process.
If you want to sign up - go here