The Fet in Fetlife stands for “fetish” and the site is geared towards BDSM and kink interested folks to mingle, share interests, find each other, and find kink events in their areas. The site claims to be “a social network like Facebook and mySpace but specifically made for the fetish and alternative lifestyle communities.” as described by its founder John Kopanas.
It all started in 2007 with “FriendswithFetishes” and a software engineer named John Kopanas, who was frustrated by the lack of spaces where he could find people with similar interests and kinks as him.
John, also known as John Baku, who was working on the 2.0 version of “FriendswithFetishes” decided to drop his plans of revamping the existing site and to instead create a separate, new site “FetLife”, launched in January 2008 and branded “the first social network for kinksters” in an announcement made detailing this switch.
Yes and no, depending on how much you love it. Joining, i.e. creating a profile, is completely free. The reasoning for making FetLife free for anyone joining was, according to its creator, because they wouldn’t have paid for such a service and, thus, shouldn’t expect others to pay for it either. We, at LVRSNFRNDS, disagree as paying for accessing a community platform is important. The community can rely on its members (vs advertisers) and the members give more intent to their membership by financially supporting it.
However, you can support the site if you want to, which allows you to gain some premium benefits like accessing most loved pictures and videos, a badge stating to the world that you are a supporter of FetLife, etc.
With over 10 million users to date and the ability to make your profile as anonymous as you want it to be, it would be quite difficult to define a specific scope or say for sure who is on the site. While privacy is important in such scenes, the lack of identity confirmation or vetting does make it hard to say who you might encounter on the site.
However, it would be safe to assume that they’re all there because they love kinks, fetishes, and BDSM and are eager to share that interest with other people.
There is a large amount of content available about probably every single kink you can think of, which comes with a large number of users. It can also be used as a roadmap to all the kink events happening within your community and to get in touch with people who might have similar kinks as you.
While FetLife is advertised as an anti-dating site, it can be used to get in touch with people you meet at those events after and if you’re fearless, get in touch with other users within your groups --although we wouldn’t recommend doing so.
Let’s get it out of the way, the site, from a technical standpoint, is made to be overwhelmingly confusing and the interface is borderline frustrating. We know it, you know, and they probably know it too. As there is no vetting or selection process and everyone on the site can hide behind the veil of pseudo-anonymity, it’s safe to say that it’s not the safest site out there --according to our very subjective opinion.
It’s not better from other standpoints either as well. FetLife has gone under fire multiple times for hosting racist and pedophilic kinks (Master/slave, schoolgirls, and other variations) as well as having serious security and creep problems. It’s been accused of not doing enough to combat racists and abusers on the site numerous times and has managed to garner quite the problematic reputation. One that some say persists to this day.
When joining FetLife, you can choose from 12 different gender identities, 13 different sexual orientations, and 79 roles. If you can’t find yourself in any of those options, they do offer a “Not applicable” one. And while the button doesn’t actually allow you to enter what you identify as, it is still much better than what most sites have to offer in terms of the diversity in choices. However, as mentioned previously, inclusivity within the actual platform remains up for debate.
The recommended way to use FetLife is through the site itself. While an open-source Android app does exist, it is no longer being maintained and all developments for it have been put on hold. An open-source project for IOS devices exists as well.
Still, some avid FetLife users seem to be satisfied with the mobile view of the site as well but there are definitely still areas that can be improved on when it comes to both the web and mobile experiences.
It comes as no surprise that due to the high amounts of censorship and conservatism on the internet, there are not many alternatives to FetLife, especially in terms of sites. Certain Facebook, Reddit, and Discord groups, however, can offer a much smaller-scaled approach to what the site currently offers with more or fewer restrictions and security measures depending on the general rules of the host site.
Sites like FetLife are very much needed to offer unconventional folks who choose to live outside of society's norms a place to belong. FetLife itself, being run by the same people it caters to, is an alleged bigotry-free space where that kind of magic can happen. However, unfortunately, not having an app and not really doing much tp prevent creep behaviors is putting us off.