FetLife Review & Alternatives

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What is FetLife?

Ready to walk on the wild side? FetLife bills itself as the social network "for the BDSM, fetish and kinky community." Boasting more than 8 million registered users worldwide, the site prioritizes member privacy and member-to-member networking. Its Facebook-like logic model and its simple design emphasize content and connections over ads and cat videos - although the site is surely filled with many beautiful pictures of pussy. But unlike Facebook, at FetLife all you'll find are a dizzying number of user profiles, themed groups and city-level communities, all dedicated to the pursuit of the fetish lifestyle.

The membership offers almost exclusively self-generated content, from generic kink to specific sub-fetishes. Thus, most of the 46 million photos and 887,000 videos on the site reflect amateur content that's accessible either through posts in groups or in member-profile libraries, yet still relevant to the site's overall focus. FetLife boasts a very wide latitude for some of the most extreme fetish content, including scat, genital abuse, and bullwhipping. The only prohibited material involves participants under the age of 18, snuff, necrophilia, cannibalism, and zoophilia/beastiality. Everything else, within the Terms of Use, is fair game. FetLife claims no usage rights over any user-contributed content.

FetLife content is primarily in English, despite a global userbase, The geolocation logic of the site starts at the country level, although the United States, Canada and Australia subdivide at the state or province level. From there, you drill into your home city. The city list is quite detailed; for example, in the United States, Michigan supports nearly 650 cities within FetLife, despite that the state really only boasts a dozen or so genuinely large cities.

Although the bulk of the membership is straight, there's plenty of love for the LGBT community, including support for pansexual and questioning people and people who identify as asexual.

FetLife is managed by BitLove, Inc. The company fields a team of nearly two dozen employees from British Columbia, across the United States, and in several European nations. Its primary mailing address is North Vancouver, BC.

 

How Much is FetLife?

You can't see anything without a user account - which is free to register and tied to an email address. Once in, you're not limited by paywalls or upsells, although free members' view of site content like photos and videos is constrained to the people they follow. FetLife makes its money through display ads and through voluntary member support.

Donations are fixed at $5 per month, in increments of six, 12, or 24 months, or $240 for a lifetime contribution.

Subscribers obtain several side benefits, including:

  • A profile badge
  • Access to all photos and videos, sitewide, even beyond what you follow
  • An archive of all the content you've "loved" on the site
  • A significantly deeper Friend Feed
  • Early access to new features

You cannot support FetLife with a credit card. Most credit-card processors set limits about what sort of content a website is allowed to offer. Thus, to permit members to share stuff like blood play, watersports, consensual non-consent, and related kinks, FetLife opted to disallow credit-card processing. To support the site, you'll need to set up an ACH transfer, mail a check or money order, transmit Bitcoin, or donate a gift card for one of more than 100 different retailers.

Featured Categories

FetLife lists the Top 100 fetishes on the site. The precision of the list is admirable - see, for example, cunnilingus at No. 52 or gagging/choked by cock at No. 75 or flogging at No. 94. However, FetLife's categories don't point at content, but rather at groups and members. To access photos and videos, you'll need to find relevant groups associated with the particular fetish category and browse the discussions or click through to discussants' profile pages.

The Top 5 list of fetishes include oral sex, bondage, spanking, anal sex, and hair pulling.

Oral Sex

With more than 666k members and more than 650 groups, the oral sex category is all over the board. The most popular groups within the category run the gamut from "Skype Webcam Chat" to "Subspace - What It Is - How It Feels." The first group most tightly linked to the category, "Oral Sex Lovers," clocks in the fifth position on the rank chart, with more than 11,000 members and 811 distinct conversation threads. Given that most people in the BDSM community enjoy giving or receiving oral service in some form, this fetish is so broad as to border on the unhelpful.

Bondage

Also boasting more than 666,000 members, the bondage group casts a wide tent for such varied interests as S&M, rope play, mental BDSM, breast bondage, and Japanese bondage. Discussions range from mild (e.g., "how to be a sensuous sub") to wild ("best first-aid for flogging aftercare"). Bondage content is more on-point than oral-sex content, but you'll probably find more value in searching specifically for more precise bondage-themed kinks if you seek niche content or communities.



Spanking

The two largest dedicated spanking groups boast nearly 69,000 and 27,000 members apiece. Most of the content focuses less on images and video and more on questions, medical advice, personals, and written erotica. This community breaks quite cleanly into people who enjoy receiving or giving spankings, and those spankings range from role-play discipline to deep-bruise beltings.



Anal Sex

The largest group on the site specifically dedicated to sodomy contains more than 38,000 members who launched more than 3,500 discussions engendering more than 157,000 comments. That's a lot of ass play. The group leaders pinned some discussions, including bucket-list items, turn-ons, anal self-portraits, gape photos, and favorite videos. Despite the name, the anal-sex category caters to everything related to the anal sphincter.



Hair Pulling

More than a half-million members are into hair-pulling. This fetish supports 470 distinct member-only groups, but you'll have to dive down the group list before you find focused communities around this practice.

Pros

FetLife's admin team seems to care deeply about member privacy. Member profiles offer a significant degree of customization and the logic model prioritizes connections among members more than randomly perusing porn. The most important page for any member is his or her profile - it offers a public wall, many profile photos, detailed lists of self-descriptors and kinks, and public lists of who's following whom.

For a site of this niche, the fact that it boasts more than 8 million registered accounts is impressive. If you're looking to get your crazy on, you'll find someone near enough to you. Plus, many of the events aren't sexual at all, but rather munches to support education and non-carnal networking among members. For some BDSM devotees, this emphasis on community, rather than pure voyeurism, offers a real draw, and helps to mainstream this part of their sexual identity.

FetLife won't be of nearly as much interest to casual smut surfers because it doesn't serve a free buffet of easily discovered porn. This higher friction to accessing visual and video content is a plus, however - it reduces adverse outside influences on members and helps to ensure that the people most engaged with the site and its contents are the people who are already aligned with the BDSM community.

For the cost, $5/month to subscribe to browse photos and videos helps make better choices about potential hook-up partners or event RSVPs. If you're on a tight budget and you're into kink, paying for FetLife is a much better investment than paying for online dating services that cater to a more vanilla audience.

Cons

Lists of fetishes aren't especially helpful at the top-end of the popularity scale, however, because they're common enough to be everywhere. The hair-pulling fetish, for example, is the site's fifth largest, but the first 10 groups "dedicated" to it aren't about hair pulling at all. The fetish model is based on how many people self-select it as an interest on their profiles, so the most frequent kinks are also the least well-focused from a content-discovery perspective.

Some features, like the Kinky & Popular page, only display a page worth of content in mosaic form; to see the most recent 5,000 photos, you must support the site financially. Others, like the Fresh & Pervy page, display more content - but you can't watch videos without being a paid supporter.

Perhaps the most vexing drawback relates to search. The site's search tool works well enough, but it cannot fine-tune discovery of members based on specific attributes. For example, if you wanted to find people into a particular kink in your home community, or people who've recently logged in, you're out of luck. Second-order discovery takes a back seat to group and event-level engagement. Although this serendipity-based approach promotes privacy-through-obscurity best practices, and thus encourages people to share more in their profiles, it's still harder to find the right person or the right group when you can't even keyword search within a subset of the site.

Although the site boasts a lot of members, and many members are engaged in discussions, old accounts never deactivate. In some cities, for example, the site may note more than 10,000 members locally - but of those, perhaps as few as 5 percent to 10 percent reflect members who have logged in within the last 90 days.

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