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FetLife is a social networking website that serves people interested in BDSM, fetishism, and kink. On its homepage, FetLife describes itself as, "Similar to Facebook and MySpace but run by kinksters like you and me." FetLife distinguishes itself from competitors by emphasizing itself as a social network rather than a dating site. FetLife is not dedicated to any particular sexual orientation or gender; everyone is welcome.
FetLife was launched in January 2008 by John Baku, a software engineer in Montreal, Quebec. Frustrated by attempts to find women who had the same sexual interests as he did, Baku created a website in 2007 called “FriendsWithFetishes”. While working on release 2.0 of FriendsWithFetishes, Baku decided to launch it as a separate site and named it FetLife. James Golick served as Chief Technology Officer from 2008-2012.
In 2012, FetLife found itself at the center of a controversy regarding its policy that users pledge not to "make criminal accusations against another member in a public forum," which has been objected to by users on the basis that it prevents them from warning each other about predatory users or illegal activities.
Any member may create a group devoted to whatever fetish they choose. There are thousands of groups, on almost any legal topic. (Due to restrictions from credit card processors, some topics are not permitted.) Any user may join any group, although the group owner can ban problematic users. Group membership is required to post or reply to posts. Members can enable email notification of posts in groups they are members of.
All new members are by default enrolled in the group Fetlife Announcements, which has (as of 2015) over 3,000,000 members.
There are many groups devoted to answering thematic questions, such as "Ask a Slut," "Ask a Fag," "Ask a Dominant," "Ask a Stripper," and so on. Groups can be searched for by words in the group title.
In addition, there is a separate "directory" of fetishes which a member may indicate his or her interest in. Any member can create a new fetish.
Any member can post an Event with date, location, cost, dress code, and other information. Location can be concealed and only revealed individually by the Event owner to participants. Users, on an Event's page, can indicate that they "will attend" or "might attend."
All members have a personal profile. A member may have multiple profiles. An age and location must be posted, but honesty is not required; there are many users who specify they are in "Antarctica", and many who give their age as 93 (the maximum the system allows). There are 11 possible "sexual orientation" choices, plus "Not Applicable." The groups the member belongs to and the fetishes the member is "into" or "curious about" are displayed as part of the profile. Beyond this, the member may write text that is automatically posted on his or her profile, with no limitation on length. All profiles are by default visible to all members, though a member can block another member.
Members can indicate that they are "Friends" with another member, and thus receive notification of the Friend's activity (for example, which groups the Friend joins and what posts they make). Confirmation from the proposed Friend is required; friendship is always reciprocal.
Members can also indicate that they are in one or more relationships. A separate menu allows a member to indicate more specifically any D/s (Dominant/submissive) relationships they may be in. Both optionally allow the member to specify someone on their friends list.
Members can exchange private messages with any other member. A limited chat function has recently (2013) been implemented. One can only chat with Friends.
Each member can post writings (journal entries, erotica, and notes), photographs, and videos. Posting of photographs or videos not taken by the member him- or herself is not permitted, unless they are photos or videos of the member. While membership is free, videos can only be viewed by those who are financial supporters. Those who make a financial contribution receive an "I Support FetLife" badge on their Profile.
Any member may comment on another member's piece of writing, photo, or video. Comments are public, and cannot be changed or deleted after posting.
The search feature is deliberately limited to prevent members from finding users with specific characteristics, such as age or gender. Also, writings cannot be searched by topic or keyword; they are only available via the author's profile page.
One criticism of FetLife is that the website's administration censor the postings of sexual assault survivors that aim to warn other users about dangerous users. FetLife's reasoning behind this policy is that it allows users to accuse others of a crime, which could be libelous if the allegations are false or unprovable.
An account is required to view content on FetLife, although since membership is free the level of privacy offered by the site is minimal. In practice, this means the site is not indexed by search engines and, partly because of this, critics have argued that FetLife presents itself as being more private than it is.
- "FetLife Home Page". https://fetlife.com/. Retrieved 2013-05-11.
- "nginx-fetlife on Github". https://github.com/jamesgolick/nginx-fetlife/.
- Zanin, Andrea (2008-09-04). "Facebook for the kinky: Montreal-based FetLife.com networks fetishists of the world". Montreal Mirror. Archived from the original on 2012-06-30. http://web.archive.org/web/20120630172329/http://www.montrealmirror.com/2008/090408/news1.html. Retrieved 2009-10-18.
- Baku, John (2008-01-10). "FetLife.com Launches - The First Social Network for Kinksters". Sexual Deviants Living In A Web 2.0 World. Archived from the original on 2012-02-28. http://web.archive.org/web/20120228192556/http://sexualdeviants20.com/2008/01/10/fetlifecom-launches-the-first-social-network-for-kinksters/. Retrieved 2013-01-02.
- "James Golick". http://jamesgolick.com/2012/9/5/moving-on.html. Retrieved 2014-02-04.
- Clark-Flory, Tracy (2012-06-03). "A BDSM Blacklist". Salon. http://www.salon.com/2012/06/03/a_bdsm_blacklist/. Retrieved 2013-01-02.
- J.M. Baker, Katie (2012-11-08). "Kink Community Tells Sexual Assault Victims It’s All Their Fault". Jezebel. http://jezebel.com/5958113/kink-community-tells-sexual-assault-victims-its-all-their-fault. Retrieved 2013-01-07.
- Dubinski, Kate (2013-01-09). "Teacher case exposes Internet's sinister side". The London Free Press. http://www.lfpress.com/2013/01/07/teacher-case-exposes-internets-sinister-side. Retrieved 2013-05-07.
- Jeffrey, Tara (2013-01-06). "Accused linked to disturbing online profiles". Sarnia Observer. http://www.theobserver.ca/2013/01/06/accused-linked-to-disturbing-online-profiles. Retrieved 2013-01-07.
- Morris, David Z. (March 3, 2015). "How Kink's Largest Social-Networking Site Fails Its Users". The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/03/how-kinks-largest-social-networking-site-fails-its-users/385586/. Retrieved March 7, 2015.
- https://fetlife.com/groups/311/group_posts/3499822, 09-14-2014
- See John Baku on this policy, https://fetlife.com/groups/311/group_posts/174256 (requires free FetLife membership).
- White, Rachel R. (2012-11-16). "The Story of ‘No’: S&M Sex Clubs Sprout Up on Ivy Campuses, and Coercion Becomes an Issue". http://observer.com/2012/11/the-story-of-no-sadomasochistic-sex-clubs-sprout-up-on-ivy-campuses-and-coercion-becomes-an-issue/. Retrieved 2015-02-02.
- Flox, Anaiis (2011-08-27). "FetLife Is Not Safe For Users". Sex and the 405. http://sexandthe405.com/fetlife-is-not-safe-for-users/. Retrieved 2013-01-02.