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TypeSocial Networking
HeadquartersVancouver, Canada
ParentBitLove, Inc.
Written inRuby on Rails
Type of siteAdult Social Networking
Available inEnglish
Current statusActive
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TypeSocial Networking
HeadquartersVancouver, Canada
ParentBitLove, Inc.
Written inRuby on Rails
Type of siteAdult Social Networking
Available inEnglish
Current statusActive

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.[1] FetLife is pansexual; everyone is welcome.


FetLife was launched in January 2008 by John Baku, a software engineer in Montreal, Quebec.[2] 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.[3]

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,"[4] which many of its users object to[5][6] on the basis that it prevents them from warning other users of alleged rapists, murderers,[7][8] and sexual predators who frequent the site.[9][10][11][12]


Any member may create a group devoted to whatever fetish he or she chooses. There are thousands of groups, on almost any legal topic: there are 32 pages of groups with the word "piss" in the title. (Due to restrictions from credit card processors, some topics are not permitted.[13]) 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 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 (meeting, gangbang, casting call, etc.) 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. 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 he or she makes). Confirmation from the proposed Friend is required; friendship is always reciprocal.

Members can also indicate that they are in a "relationship" with another member. There are 19 types of relationships on the menu: friend with benefits, play partner, married, member of a house, "it's complicated," and so on. A separate menu allows a member to indicate that the member is in a D/s (Dominant/submissive) relationship with another member. There are 49 types of D/s relationships listed: mommy, brother, mentoring, property, collared, kajira, pet, and so on.

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, sex, or location.

Members are encouraged to report illegal content as well as terms of use violations to the administrators of FetLife.


The limitations on search capabilility are cause of significant user dissatisfaction (though there is some user support for them). One can search for users with interest in fetish X, and one can search for users with location Y, but by deliberate design - intended to foster online fetish minicommunities - one cannot search for a user with interest X located in location Y. There is also no ability to search for users by age, gender, sexual orientation, or other personal characteristics other than profile name.

While every user can post and is indeed encouraged to post erotica, journal entries, and other types of writing, there is no way to search user writings by topic or keyword. Also, group postings can not be searched; thus there is no easy way to see if "your question" has already been answered.

There are over 78,000 users in New York City, but there is no way to limit the search to any particular borough, much less neighborhood, of New York City, or any other city. One can create a group for "Members in Williamsburg, Brooklyn," or even "Gang-bang lovers in Williamsburg, Brooklyn," and many such groups exist, but there is no direct way to notify potential members of the existence of such a group.

While many fetish-related Events are posted - any user can post an Event - there is no way to search for events in a particular location. There is an "events near me" option, but in the U.S., it returns events for the entire state in which the user is located.

Because of external pressures, certain words are blocked in the search for groups. For example, there is a "Support Group for Victims of Real Rape and Abuse" (https://fetlife.com/groups/36643), and a group for "Erotic Hypnosis" (https://fetlife.com/groups/123), but a search for groups with the word "rape" or "hypnosis" in the title brings the reply that none exist. There are about 40 such words which are blocked.

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.[14]


FetLife runs on a custom nginx variant of the Ubuntu/Debian distribution of GNU/Linux; it was adapted from the brightbox version.[15]

In addition, the open source page on Fetlife lists notable technologies used that includes:


  1. ^ "FetLife Home Page". Retrieved 2013-05-11. 
  2. ^ 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. Retrieved 2009-10-18. 
  3. ^ 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. Retrieved 2013-01-02. 
  4. ^ "Terms of Use". FetLife.com. 2012-10-10. Retrieved 2013-01-02. 
  5. ^ Clark-Flory, Tracy (2012-06-03). "A BDSM Blacklist". Salon. Retrieved 2013-01-02. 
  6. ^ J.M. Baker, Katie (2012-11-08). "Kink Community Tells Sexual Assault Victims It’s All Their Fault". Jezebel. Retrieved 2013-01-07. 
  7. ^ Haddadin, Jim (2013-05-07). "Police eyeing records from online dating site, sex networks in Marriott case". MetroWest Daily News. Retrieved 2013-05-07. 
  8. ^ Dubinski, Kate (2013-01-09). "Teacher case exposes Internet's sinister side". The London Free Press. Retrieved 2013-05-07. 
  9. ^ White, Rachel (2012-11-16). "The Story of ‘No’: S&M Sex Clubs Sprout Up on Ivy Campuses, and Coercion Becomes an Issue". The New York Observer. Retrieved 2013-01-02. 
  10. ^ Allen, Samantha (2012-12-27). "$35g bail for murder suspect's girlfriend: Portsmouth woman charged with hindering probe into Lizzi Marriott's disappearance". Foster's Daily Democrat. Retrieved 2012-01-02. 
  11. ^ Jeffrey, Tara (2013-01-06). "Accused linked to disturbing online profiles". Sarnia Observer. Retrieved 2013-01-07. 
  12. ^ Haas, Kimerley (June 12, 2014). "'Kat' breaks calm, snaps at Barth: Prosecution later describes Mazzaglia's personal preferences on Fetlife.com". Foster's Daily Democrat. Retrieved 2014-06-13. 
  13. ^ https://fetlife.com/groups/311/group_posts/3499822, 09-14-2014
  14. ^ Flox, Anaiis (2011-08-27). "FetLife Is Not Safe For Users". Sex and the 405. Retrieved 2013-01-02. 
  15. ^ "nginx-fetlife on Github". 

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