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FetLife is a social networking website that serves people interested in BDSM, fetishism, and kink. On its homepage, FetLife describes itself as, "Like Facebook, 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 not dedicated to any particular sexual orientation or gender; everyone is welcome. Fetlife has over 8 million user accounts.

Type of business Social Networking
Type of site
Adult Social Networking
Available in English
Headquarters Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Parent BitLove, Inc.
Registration Required
Current status Active.
Written in Ruby on Rails

During the summer of 2016, Fetlife altered its membership policies. While it was mistakenly thought the website would become invite-only, Fetlife administrators added an option to verify an account with an anonymous text message as an alternative to getting an invitation from an existing member.



FetLife was launched in January 2008 by John Kopanas, (usually known as John Baku or JohnBaku), a software engineer in Montreal, Quebec.[2][3] 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.[4] James Golick served as Chief Technology Officer.[5]

In July 2016, the website was made invite-only. The new system is currently in transition and while that is ongoing, the site administrators gave invites to Fetlife Supporters first. Supporters are members who paid for premium features; the bulk of the website itself is free and paying money is not required. The site administration says they will extend invite privileges to unpaid members, in good standing, once they figure out the formulas and code them.[citation needed]

A couple of weeks after Fetlife made the invite-only system there was a new system added.[6]


In the past, any member could create a group devoted to whatever fetish they chose. However, in January 2017, Fetlife temporarily shut down the ability to create new groups. At the same time, they deleted hundreds of existing groups, including anything with the words blood, needles, rape and incest.[7][8] The ability to create new groups was reinstated shortly afterwards.

All new members are by default enrolled in the group Fetlife Announcements, which has (as of 2017) over 6 million members.

There are many groups devoted to answering thematic questions, such as "Ask a Submissive", "Ask a Mistress", "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 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. A member may have multiple affiliate profiles, but sock puppets are against the site's terms of use. 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. There are 12 possible "sexual orientation" choices, plus "Not Applicable" and over 60 "role" choices. 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 they make). Confirmation from the proposed Friend is required; friendship is always reciprocal.

Members can also indicate that they are in one or more relationships. A separate menu allows a member to indicate more specifically any D/s (Dominant/submissive) relationships they may be in. Both optionally allow the member to specify someone on their friends list.

Members can exchange private messages with any other member. A limited chat function was implemented in 2013, allowing members to chat to others with whom they were friends: this function was discontinued in 2016.

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 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 or gender.[9] Also, writings cannot be searched by topic or keyword; they are only available via the author's profile page.

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


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".[10] This policy has been objected to by users on the basis that censoring posts of sexual assault survivors that name predatory users prevents them from warning others.[11][12][13][14] FetLife's reasoning behind this policy is that it allows users to accuse others of a crime, which could be libelous if the allegations are false or unprovable.[15][16]

An account is required to view content on FetLife, although membership is free. 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.[15]

On April 19, 2017, Fetlife was allegedly accessed by Brendt Christensen, the alleged kidnapper of Yingying Zhang, to explore topics such as "Abduction 101" and sub-threads such as "Perfect abduction fantasy" and "planning a kidnapping."[17]

After being cited in several criminal cases, FetLife prohibited several hundred fetish categories.[18]


  1. ^ "FetLife Home Page". Retrieved 2013-05-11. 
  2. ^ Bell, Niko (February 9, 2017). "What just happened to kink social network FetLife is a bad sign for web freedom". Daily Xtra. Archived from the original on July 3, 2017. In an apologetic post to the FetLife community, founder John Kopanas — better known on the site by his username JohnBaku — said the restrictions were the only way out of an existential threat 
  3. ^ Zanin, Andrea (2008-09-04). "Facebook for the kinky: Montreal-based networks fetishists of the world". Montreal Mirror. Archived from the original on 2012-06-30. Retrieved 2009-10-18. 
  4. ^ Baku, John (2008-01-10). " 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. 
  5. ^ Golick, James. "James Golick". Archived from the original on July 4, 2017. Retrieved 2014-02-04. He told me about his growing company, and a month later, the consulting firm I'd been running was closed, our office vacant, and I had joined BitLove (the company that runs FetLife — which was then known as Protose) as CTO. 
  6. ^ "A More Secure Signup". 
  7. ^ Kale, Sirin (January 25, 2017). "Kinky Social Network Fetlife Deletes Thousands Of Fetishes to Stay Online". Vice Media. 
  8. ^ Baku, John (2013-02-06). "The Next Steps - The Big Four". 
  9. ^ "FetLife, now with improved search - - Fetlife Announcements - John Baku - 2009". 
  10. ^ "Terms of Use". April 22, 2016. Archived from the original on September 26, 2016. You agree that, while using BitLove’s Products and Services, you will not [...] Make criminal accusations against another member in a public forum. 
  11. ^ Clark-Flory, Tracy (2012-06-03). "A BDSM Blacklist". Salon. Retrieved 2013-01-02. 
  12. ^ J.M. Baker, Katie (2012-11-08). "Kink Community Tells Sexual Assault Victims It's All Their Fault". Jezebel. Retrieved 2013-01-07. 
  13. ^ White, Rachel R. (2012-11-16). "The Story of 'No': S&M Sex Clubs Sprout Up on Ivy Campuses, and Coercion Becomes an Issue". Retrieved 2015-02-02. 
  14. ^ Morris, David Z. (March 3, 2015). "How Kink's Largest Social-Networking Site Fails Its Users". The Atlantic. Retrieved March 7, 2015. 
  15. ^ a b Flox, Anaiis (2011-08-27). "FetLife Is Not Safe For Users". Sex and the 405. Retrieved 2013-01-02. 
  16. ^ Weinberg, Jill D. Consensual Violence: Sex, Sports, and the Politics of Injury. University of California Press. pp. 71–72. ISBN 9780520290655. 
  17. ^ "'Nobody saw this coming': Arrest in Chinese scholar's disappearance stuns U. of I. community". The Chicago Tribune. July 1, 2017. Authorities also searched Christensen’s home and seized electronics, including his phone, according to the affidavit. The phone’s search history revealed visits to a bondage and sadomasochism fetish website called FetLife and a forum called "Abduction 101," as well as subthreads titled “Perfect abduction fantasy” and "planning a kidnapping," according to the affidavit 
  18. ^ The Associated Press (July 4, 2017). "Man who tapped 'Abduction 101' forum denied bond in kidnapping, suspected murder of Chinese scholar". The Japan Times. FetLife prohibited hundreds of fetish categories this year after it was cited in several criminal cases, Baku said in a February online note to members. 

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