Fetlife is a popular social media platform advertised as a space made by kinksters, for kinksters. Fetlife offers individuals the opportunity to explore their interests and curiosities as privately, or as publicly as they might like.
As with any site on the internet, it is important to consider how one would like to engage in the space, what their intentions are, what they hope to gain from the experience, and how this can all be accomplished safely. Even for those who are initiated in the world of kink, and who may practice kink with their partners, perhaps being more open about their interests in the public kink community can feel confusing.
The amount of knowledge a person has about themselves, the world of kink, and BDSM, along with their self-reported technical literacy can impact the way they experience the online kink community as well as any future decisions they may make regarding their participation in the community, or lack thereof.
Joining the Fetlife community can provide one with a lot of exciting opportunities to learn more about the gloriously beautiful, diverse world of kink as well as one’s self.
As always, I encourage readers to only take what serves them and to leave the rest behind. This article was conceived with the intention of providing helpful suggestions and tips and is by no means a direct challenge to one’s personal autonomy or self-determination capabilities. We are all experts in our own lived experiences, needs, and desires.
Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is simply to offer suggestions and is in no way official, formal advice of any kind. Participation of any kind, in any activity, online or in real life, is done solely at the individual’s discretion and based on their personal risk to rewards assessment. The following material is intended to be helpful and is in no way a comprehensive piece of literature encompassing all areas of BDSM and kink. Participate at your own risk.
Self-reflection: Why do I want to join? What motivation do I have?
Before revving up the computer and creating a Fetlife account, it may help to first identify the reasons you have for joining Fetlife’s website. There are no real wrong or right answers to this question, but having an idea of what your motivation is before making a decision may help to direct how things go and allow you the time you may need in order to plan or reflect on what you want to achieve, learn, or experience.
An example reason might look like this: “I have long been interested in pet play and now I want to connect with others who have similar interests.” This gives you a helpful heading as you set sail on your own kink expedition into the unchartered waters of Fetlife. Whatever reason you choose, try to keep your pleasure, safety, and joy as well as the pleasure, safety, and joy of others as a main focal point.
Starting off with a goal or intention that does not really feel personally fulfilling or validating may not be the best way to start out and can lead to some complications and inner conflicts, which is why making informed personal decisions that truly honor who you are is such an important and equally radical act.
Even if the intention is not quite clear yet, pausing to at least do a small bit of reflection before joining can help new members avoid getting into potentially dangerous, harmful, or just negative experiences on the platform. A bit of introspection may make joining Fetlife easier, simpler, and more enjoyable.
General Online Safety Tips
Staying safe online is important no matter what. Whether you are spending time on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Fetlife, it is beneficial to take proper safety precautions in order to prevent sensitive, personal information from being stolen or exploited.
Using a secret personal email address for the creation of a Fetlife profile may be useful for those who want to keep their kink lives and other aspects of their personal lives separate. Many people also adopt scene/screen names in place of sharing their real names. Scene names can be quite a lot of fun and may help users to sort of engaging in a deeper exploration of who their kink persona (if they have one) is.
Fetlife allows its users to indicate where they are currently located. If you prefer, you can choose an inaccurate location. A popular choice is the great far-off continent of Antarctica. An added layer of protection includes using a VPN, which can help protect your identity and keep your IP address secret from others.
Similarly, it may be a good idea to install a trusted antivirus and malware software on your device just to ensure best practices that allow you to enjoy your time online with less worry.
Decide What You Are Comfortable Sharing Online
- Building from general online safety tips, is the following consideration: What am I comfortable sharing on the platform, and what would I rather not share?
- Fetlife allows users to upload photos and videos, which may include NSFW homemade creations. Maybe you are super interested in engaging in some online exhibitionism and uploading naked photos is something you would like to try. Or maybe you’ve never been into that.
- Everyone’s limits and interests are unique and none or superior to the other. It all comes down to knowing who you are and what you need. There might be other users who do want to share content, but who will only do so under specific circumstances where they cannot be identified through their uploads. If you want to share content, but you worry about how anonymous it is there are some actions you can take, like making sure not to upload images that depict identifying features such as tattoos, wearing masks to obscure facial features and details, and using backdrops to keep your personal bedroom private. No matter what your reasons are for joining Fetlife, it is important that users only share content willingly and comfortably, in a way that honors their desires and values.
- Sharing pictures of one’s face usually does not happen right away and occurs when some level of trust and rapport has been established between all parties. When sharing pictures of your face, it may be worthwhile to only share photos that have not been posted elsewhere on the internet, otherwise there is the risk that the other person could run a reverse-image search on the image and ascertain personally identifying information, such as your name and address.
- It’s also worth considering what kinks if any you want to include on your profile. One really cool feature on Fetlife, is that users can add fetishes on their page, which means anyone who views their page can see what fetishes they are interested in, absolutely adore, or are just curious about. If there is a fetish or kink you do not wish to make public, you do not have to add that information on your page.
Pick a communication platform you feel comfortable with using in addition to FetLife
Many people will ask to speak on a platform other than Fetlife when they feel comfortable with you or when they just want to get to know you a little bit better and see if you are both compatible in terms of interests, personalities, desires, kinks, and other areas. While Fetlife is an amazing site and a wonderful place to interact, many users who wish to have more regular conversations, find it easier to communicate elsewhere.
Popular choices include kik, Snapchat, and Skype. If you foresee that you will speak with users on an additional platform, it may be beneficial to double-check that the secondary platform does not include any information you do not wish to share. For example, if you wish to chat on Skype, make sure your real name is not on Skype (assuming you have chosen a scene name or alias to protect your identity).
If you are considering using unique Google hangout meetings or Zoom links, make sure the email you share is an email address you feel comfortable sharing and that the name on the Gmail/Zoom is the name you would like to be addressed by. When you have made the changes, double-check that they are actually in effect.
Setting up your fetlife Bio
- One of the most exciting parts of creating a Fetlife account is deciding how to organize your personal bio and about me section. This is a space for users to talk about who they are, what they are looking for, what they hope to gain from Fetlife, and their overall level of experience in the kink community IRL and online.
- I recommend taking your time to think about what you want people to know about you and how you wish to express that in words. And don’t worry if you are not quite sure what to say. You can always come back to it and make amendments as needed. Bios are a great place to start outlining your personal boundaries when it comes to communicating with other users and how you wish to be approached.
- If there are special considerations that you feel are meaningful or significant in some way, do not be afraid to include those in your bio if it feels right for you.
- Fetlife allows users to tag their kinks, curiosities, and limits on their pages, which helps kinksters to find similar users more easily. Including your hard and soft limits on your page can not only help users to have a better understanding of what your unique kink life is like, but I think it also helps users to reorient themselves to their personal desires and can protect them from feeling as if they are obligated to challenge their own limits.
- It is very easy to feel pressured to conform or prematurely leave one’s comfort zone, and that can be really dangerous in kink. Staying grounded and firm in our individual needs/values, giving ourselves permission to hold space for who we are is not only affirming, but empowering.
- Kink should ideally be an empowering, liberating experience that connects us to deep parts of ourselves, which is why I encourage all kinksters, whether they are on Fetlife or not, to give themselves permission to show up as they are. And bios are a fun place to do just that.
- Aside from how you choose to show up in your personal Fet space and the tags you include on your bio, adding little ice breaker questions is a cute and creative way to further get to know some of the individuals you meet on the site. You can feel free to come up with your own zany questions, or find inspiration elsewhere. It may be helpful to use an assortment of both open and close-ended questions. (ex; How would you describe a perfect day?; Coffee or tea?)
- Some users like to include their test results from the popular BDSM test which can be found here: https://bdsmtest.org/select-mode Test results are often used as a fast index into what a user is particularly interested in and what archetypes they identify with, such as princess, slave, hunter, and owner. (I find it interesting to take and retake the test every so often just to see changes in preference over time.)
Following the FetLife Rules
Practically every forum has rules and an outline for how group members are expected to comport themselves and it is imperative that these rules be followed. Some forums will provide members with a warning depending on what rule was broken and what the circumstances were, but these incidences can be avoided by reading all rules and regulations thoroughly before joining.
Common rules include the following: that members use the golden rule and treat all other members with respect, that discussion posts stay on topic to the particular group, for example, if the forum is dedicated to discussing ABDL, then all the discussion should be centered around a topic within ABDL, and that personal ADs for dominants/submissives stay in the advertisement sticky, or that they do not occur at all in the forum.
Some forums have rules for what kind of profile photo is used. In Fetlife it is not uncommon for members to post nude photos, and while this is generally approved -albeit so long as all parties were adults in the photos and consented to sharing the image(s), there are forums that prohibit profile photos with genitalia, for instance.
Activity is also important. In certain groups members are removed for failing to remain active and participate in the group.
Before joining a group, be sure to read all of the community member rules and if the group asks for an introduction, make sure to post your introduction in the correct sticky. The introduction sticky should be recognizable and easy to find. And if you have questions or concerns, reach out to the appropriate moderators or group leaders. They are there to help and to ensure the safety of all community members.
Going to Events for the First Time
The first public, in-person event for many kinksters is called a munch. Munches are essentially an opportunity for community members to meet and get to know one another in a low-pressure setting. Even informal social gatherings, like munches, may potentially feel challenging.
Depending on your level of social anxiety and perhaps kink community involvement, you might not feel comfortable or confident attending in-person gatherings. Using the buddy system might just be the perfect solution. Attending a munch in the company of a trusted friend in the community takes some of that uncomfortable uncertainty surrounding the event away because you know that if all else fails and you do not connect with anyone at the event, you still have someone with whom you can have a great time with.
Many recommend it is also safer to go to munches using the buddy system. In addition to social comfortability, having a buddy helps to keep people safe while they are out and about. And this does not apply to just kink gatherings. Going to any outside event or gathering with trusted friends is like an added layer of protection.
Together you and your buddy can locate the venue, and make special plans or agreements, such as who will act as a designated driver if needed, how to discreetly signal to one another that you feel uncomfortable and need assistance, and what kind of transportation to choose (Uber, Lyft, bus, etc.). For additional assurance, you could also send your location to a friend and let them know how long you expect to stay at that particular location and what to do if you do not contact them by a set time.
If it feels appropriate and just positive for you, maybe plan a special treat after the munich to celebrate the fact that you showed up. Going into unfamiliar social situations is no easy task, and maybe that is especially true for introductory kink gatherings, where you are not sure whether you will be accepted, shunned, or rejected by other people.
This is not to say that all community members will be unwelcoming. Not at all. But for many, social gatherings can be difficult to navigate and there can be an element of anxiety. So if you can and it feels right, find a way to commend yourself for putting yourself out there and trying to connect with people. Well done you!
How can I celebrate?
- Going for ice cream
- Watching a film/show you enjoy
- Gratitude Meditation
- Calling a friend you really care about
- Any activity that you find enjoyment in and feel fulfilled by
Using Personal Ads
Personal ads for subs/doms, unicorns, and play partners are incredibly common. However, it can be dangerous to meet up with people you do not know. Exercise caution before embarking on any relationship with someone you meet online, even if you have agreed to only interact virtually. As with any site, there are scams and catfishers, so it pays great to be discerning when it comes to who you interact with and how.
Play parties are safer spaces because these events come with clearly defined rules, regulations, and practices that prioritize safe practices for all. A good rule of thumb is to take your time getting to know people before agreeing to anything. When you feel ready to come to a scene arrangement, the more questions you ask the better. Detail is crucial. Having an understanding of what the other individual(s) are interested in, open to, comfortable with, and willing to participate is absolutely everything.
As always, take all the time you need to get to know them and release yourself from the pressure to compromise what you are and are not comfortable with doing. There are times when users may ask to see a photo of your face. Generally speaking, it is best if the person who first asked for a photo sends one of themselves. When asking for a photo of someone, you can ask for a safety photo, or a picture with specific detail, usually a piece of paper with the current date, but it can be even more specific than that for added measure.
You could ask for a photo of them holding up a hand-drawn purple and red spotted t-rex if you wanted. Snapchat is a widely used app for exchanging images because the photos disappear and because those who sent the photo are notified if the recipient screenshots the image.
There are times when people worry they might not find anyone, and this can influence people to do things they aren’t ready to do or simply don’t ever want to do. Thankfully, just because it didn’t work with someone, does not mean that you will never meet partners you feel compatible with.
You might meet someone you feel instant chemistry with only to discover that it wasn’t really a match. But do not be discouraged. There are a lot of kinksters out there and sometimes it just takes time to meet the play partners/doms/subs that you want, need, and deserve. And maybe you won’t meet them on Fetlife. Maybe you prefer to meet people in other ways and then simply ask them about their thoughts on kink.
Remember that everyone has their own preferred method of doing things and their own ways of being in the world. In the meantime, keep to your personal guidelines, honor your values, remember your safety measures, and have fun!