“I’m too kinky for FetLife,” was the line I heard while watching Scott Steven Erickson’s song, “A Pervert’s Guide to Avoiding Loneliness,” during the Portland Mercury’s annual Hump Film Festival. As a younger, single student I could sympathize with the song title to a certain extent. After all, I was spending my Saturday night with my best friend watching porn in a room with 300 other strangers. “What the fuck is FetLife?” I asked myself, noting the laughter in response to the reference.
Assuming “FetLife” would be just another dating website, I waited a couple days before drinking too much one night and making myself an account. As an admitted workaholic who doesn’t have the time or emotional sensitivity for traditional dating, I wasn’t having much luck with apps such as Tinder or Bumble.
Trauma was endured from meeting mouth breathers, lecturers, the secret conservatives, men who pretend to read, or the dreaded “Stage Five Clingers”—somebody who becomes immediately, emotionally attached in an inappropriately brief amount of time. In a nutshell, I had been on enough bad dates to where I was ready to accept that I would rather die alone.
It seemed to me that many people presented an idealized version of themselves while avoiding the important question, “What are you looking for?” while responding honestly. God forbid a woman feel empowered and secure about her sexuality; there was no way in hell I was going to let anyone slut-shame me on Tinder. So in the spirit of “fuck it,” let me indulge you in what I found in the world of FetLife.
While creating a “Kinkster” profile, you’re expected to identify with a sexual orientation, whether it’s straight, gay or lesbian; asexual, homo/hetero-flexible, etc. Then you get to claim a “role” such as “mistress, rope bunny, hedonist, dominant, submissive” or “brat”. Users have the option of stating what they are looking for: lifetime partner, relationship, mentor/teacher, playmate, friendship, master/mistress, sub/slave, events, or my personal favorite, “A princess by day, slut by night,” which is exactly what it sounds like.
The lists appeared endless and required extra research on my part for comprehension. Spoiler alert: shit got real that night. I thought I understood what a fetish was or what it meant to be “kinky”; but as it turned out, I was clueless. There’s a fetish for nearly anything you can imagine: “girls with high IQs and low morals,” dacryphillia, exhibitionism, home sex-tapes, voyeurism, double+ penetration, gangbangs, cuckolding, breastfeeding and pregnancy, “bare handed spanking,” or even orgasm denial—all were mere blips on the spectrum of what constitutes a fetish.
Kinksters can also be as “vanilla” as they like, which means that you don’t have to be interested in “bondage, discipline, dominance, and submission” in order to join. There are fetish groups catered toward those who would identify as “sensualists” and such fetishes include cuddling, bonding, massage, or “teasing.”
FetLife facilitates community discussions within groups that are broad in topics but have included “The Psychology & BDSM,” or “Promoters, Performers, Presenters, Educators, and Artists.” However, there is also a group called, “Actually, I Am Mainly In the ‘Lifestyle’ to Get My Brains Fucked Out”—just in case you needed clarification pointers.
There isn’t an expectation for participating in any way that is outside one’s comfort zone and how private one’s profile is can be easily managed. Harassment is heavily monitored, and FetLife is open about their policy on disclosing activity to law enforcement if misconduct is suspected. Kinksters are not able to find each other based on age, sex, or location due to the website’s firm stance on being “a social network and not a dating site.” The only way to meet others is to join common fetish groups, local events, or using an alluring profile picture.
Although I deleted my FetLife profile in order align my priorities with school and work, I appreciated how honest and open the website users can be. It wasn’t a dating site, but there was a notion of “reverse-dating,” which I would define as “sex compatibility first, personality and companionship after.” FetLife provides many people with an outlet for political, artistic, and humanitarian efforts as well, as it is more of a community of consenting, sex-positive adults who want to network in a contemporary fashion.
I encourage anyone who wants to explore their sexual interests or social networking limits to check out FetLife but to also be mindful of one’s intentions and expectations before joining. Like any social website, there will be people who don’t have your best interests in mind or who might try to exploit other users in some way. Discretion and brevity in profile information are important considerations to have for remaining safe, sane, and consensual! Good luck!