FetLife is short for Fetish Life and is an online community for like-minded “kinksters” where they can share the things that turn them on the most. Over the years, the site has grown to over 10 million members and offers several different features, ranging from online discussion groups to discovering events near you. Whether you’re an old-time swinger or someone who wants to learn more about what BDSM is all about, FetLife has something for you.
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What is a fetish?
Let's explore what a fetish is before diving into FetLife, as people can interpret it differently.
A fetish, on the one hand, is a medical diagnosis for a mental disorder where someone is sexually fixated on an object or body part to derive pleasure. However, many people simply refer to a fetish or a kink as something that turns them on, such as being handcuffed when having sex or taking particular pleasure in licking someone’s toes. One Ann Summers study in the UK found that 75% of participants had a fetish.
Perhaps this definition of a fetish by Oxford Languages is more apt: “a form of sexual desire in which gratification is strongly linked to a particular object or activity or a part of the body other than the sexual organs.”
Common fetishes include:
- Voyeurism (watching others having sex).
- Exhibitionism (having sex in places where somebody might discover you).
- Fetishism (being aroused by an inanimate non-sexual object, such as leather, balloons, etc.).
- Group sex.
- Partialism (being aroused by a specific body part such as feet, armpits, etc.).
FetLife: the low down
FetLife’s mission is to help people feel comfortable with who they are sexually. And they have certainly created a large membership with over 10 million members. But what exactly does FetLife do?
FetLife is a social networking site for people who want to explore their kinky side. Basically, it’s a site for the kink community. From newbies to experienced kinksters—anyone is welcome. Here you can meet like-minded people in the kinky community, partake in online conversations, and find local events (munches, play parties, BDSM parties and so forth).
As many people are using FetLife, you will find that you can meet people who are into just about anything—from people swinging to people into roleplaying, spanking, dogging, and so forth.
Signing up for FetLife is easy. You have to provide:
- Date of birth.
- Gender (18 options, you can choose more than one).
- Sexual orientation/romantic orientation/other (20 options for sexual orientation and eight romantic orientations; you can select more than one).
- Role (you can choose anything and everything from pit to master, including roles such as sensualist, submissive, and slave).
You must also provide your email address and mobile phone number to sign up. To access your account, you have got to verify both, as this helps keep bots out.
Once you’re signed up, you can add an avatar (i.e. profile picture). You can also add things to your profile, including gender, preferred fetishes, relationship status, and a personal note.
As FetLife works as a social media site, you can create a personal profile with text, videos, and images. You can also upload your status. FetLife has often been described as a type of Facebook for the fetish community, and that’s an apt description!
In addition to creating a profile, connecting with other members through messages, and adding them to your friend list, you can upload your writings and join groups. Some groups are linked to particular fetishes, while others are more general—such as Kinky and Geeky, a group for people who are both kinky and geeky. There are also groups for novices, people who love curvy women, and so forth. There are over 160,000 different groups!
You can also explore different fetishes—you will find this under the menu tab “More.” Clicking on a fetish will list members who are interested in this fetish, related groups, and similar fetishes.
There’s also the Kinktionary, where you will find definitions for various things relating to love, sex, and fetishes.
We will look at some of the features in more detail below.
Writings are where you can read other people's writing—usually in the form of erotic or kinky stories. However, you will find people posting about all sorts of things—from meetup requests to random notes. You can also upload your own writings and leave comments on other peoples’ writings.
You can choose between Fresh and Pervy and Kinky and Popular when looking for things to read.
You will find Writings under “More” in the menu tab.
The Kinktionary is another function on FetLife. Think of it as Wikipedia for kink. Here members can add various definitions relating to sex, love, and relationships, focusing on kink.
For example, you’ll find the definition of a scene—a session of BDSM or kink.
Interestingly, there are also sections around mental health, though at the moment, they are short and don’t have many different definitions.
If you click on Fetishes, you can choose from many of them. Clicking on a fetish gives you several options:
- Add to profile.
- Kinksters (i.e. kinksters who have listed this fetish on their profile).
- Related groups (i.e. groups related to this particular fetish).
- Similar fetishes.
This is very handy if you want to connect with others with the same fetish, as you can join the conversations in the groups or connect with members directly.
Connecting with members
FetLife is for kinksters looking to connect. In other words, FetLife is a social networking site for the fetish community, not a dating site. It’s great for people who want to explore their kinks, meet fellow kinksters online, and potentially hook up in real life. However, it means you cannot search for members like you can on a dating app.
So how do you connect with other members?
You can click on a menu item called Places to find members near your location (the listed one, as FetLife does not track your location to find members near you). The issue? Members who want to remain anonymous might have listed an area other than their real one. Likewise, you can’t “expand your search” by choosing how far from your location you wish to locate other members.
Likewise, if you click on Events, you will find upcoming events near you (i.e. events related to BDSM and other kinks and fetishes).
You’ll find a list of various fetishes if you click on Fetishes. If you click on one of them, you’ll find members who have listed that fetish (as well as events, posts, writings, etc., related to that fetish).
If you go to Explore, you can find popular posts and recent updates and, through that, connect with members.
Lastly, you can engage with others through groups—join the groups that strike your fancy and connect with members to whom you then send a friend request.
If you haven’t interacted with a member through groups, commented on their writings, and so forth, they might not accept a friend request. Instead, try to send them a message explaining why you wish to connect.
Design and layout
The design of FetLife isn’t exactly the most modern. However, the site is nice to look at, uncluttered and super user-friendly. The layout is set against a black background, and the muted colour palette feels right for the site's vibe.
Compared to a site like AdultFriendFinder (AFF), that’s somewhere between an adult social networking site and a dating site, FetLife is a lot less cluttered, better designed, and easier to use. If you want to find a quick hookup, you’re better off with AFF. You can read more about AFF here.
The FetLife app
FetLife doesn’t have the kind of app you can download on the App Store or Google Play. Instead, they have a progressive web app. It allows full-screen browsing, push notifications, and access from your home screen. You can use it both for Android and iOS.
To get the app, log into FetLife using your web browser, then follow the instructions here: https://fetlife.com/pwa.
FetLife is, in their own words, 99.9% free.
What does that mean?
It means you can join for free, connect with others and send messages. You can also use all other features on the site, but some have limitations. For example, while you can see (or “perv”, as they say) images, videos and writings, to get access to all the most popular ones, you have to pull out your credit card.
You can also go back further in your Friend Feed and customise it as you wish if you pay for premium. However, even without premium, you can choose between seeing status updates, videos, pictures, and writings in your feed. You can also see group activity in the groups you join.
In addition, you can hide online ads on mobile and get access to new features early on.
So what does premium cost? A mere $5 per month. And yes, the price is in dollars, even if you are in the UK.
Looking at Trustpilot, FetLife gets 2 out of 5 stars from 79 reviews, while Sitejabber gives 2.49 out of 5 stars from 24 reviews.
This rating might not sound great, but compare it to a site like Tinder, that gets 2.79 out of 5 stars on Sitejabber and one star on Trustpilot. Facebook gets 3.1 and 1.4, respectively.
In short, it's not easy to get many stars when it comes to dating and social networking.
Because the sites don’t control who you meet. The person who didn’t find any dates, or met someone who was catfishing and so forth, will leave a bad review as they’re angry about it. The person having a decent time but who wasn’t completely awed is probably unlikely to leave a review. It’s not like restaurants where people are more compelled to write reviews, no matter their experience.
Sites that review dating sites like AskMen and DatingScout give much better reviews. It scores 9/10 on AskMen and 3/5 on DatingScout.
On a site like FetLife, you must consider anonymity. If you don’t want your neighbour, boss, or sister to know you’re on the site, you might want to blur photos of your face.
Likewise, it’s important to remember that FetLife does not control the content sent to you. If someone sends you inappropriate content, you should report it to FetLife.
Also, remember that the content you send to others or upload to the site can be screenshotted and shared. FetLife cannot prevent that, no matter how much they’d like to do so.
If you chat with someone online (and even on a first date), do not divulge your home or work address (or even the name of the company you work for), credit card details, or other personal information. Nor should you share photos that alert others to where you live, for example.
It’s also crucial that if you decide to meet up with someone, you meet them somewhere public before going somewhere more private. Furthermore, always let someone else know where you are and bring your mobile phone.
Note that you can verify your profile and interact only with others who have done the same. However, just because someone is verified to look like what they say they look like doesn’t mean they’re telling the truth in other aspects of their life. If they aren’t verified, you can always video chat with them before meeting in real life (if you intend to meet in real life).
How to be successful on FetLife
If you want to meet people and connect on FetLife and perhaps also meet people for hookups, it’s important to remember a couple of things.
First of all, create a nice profile. Add some photos. List some kinks. Add a personal note showing your personality and why you’re using the site. It does not have to be long, just something so that people get a glimpse of who you are. You can read more about creating a great dating profile here (while FetLife isn't a dating site, you can still get some tips).
Secondly, join groups and partake in conversations. Moreover, comment on peoples’ photos, videos, and status updates—that way, you’ll find like-minded people whom you can then send a message to connect with.
Lastly, when contacting someone, don’t be rude or tell them you want to hook up with them right off the bat—express interest in getting to know someone and why you want to get to know them. “Hey, I saw your comment in xyz group and would love to connect. I’m also into BDSM but am still learning.”
FetLife: How this social networking site works
In summary, remember that FetLife functions as a social media site, not a dating site, although it can facilitate finding hookups. Approach it to make new friends and find events of interest near you. Remember that if you want to see events or members near you, you must list your real (or approximate) location (i.e. town or city), as the site doesn’t use IP geolocation.
To get the most out of FetLife, you need to create a profile and then join various groups where you contribute to the conversations. You can also engage with other users by reading and commenting on their writings, status updates, photos, and videos.
Send someone a message before sending them a friend request so that they know why you’re interested in connecting. Don’t be sexually overt or ask to hook up immediately.
If you want to remain anonymous when using the site, blur your face in pictures. Also, be careful not to upload private information, such as your real name, home, or work address.
If you want to stay as safe as possible, only interact with verified profiles. Note that people can be verified by proving they look like their profile picture or using a government ID.