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The Website (No, not this one)

The kink community has changed considerably since its conception (generally agreed as being right after the second world war). Once upon a time, if you wanted to meet like-minded individuals, you had to search for classifieds in the back of scandalous magazines or notes scribbled on the bathroom walls of sketchy-as-fuck nightclubs. Kinksters developed elaborate ways of signaling to each other who they were, how they identified and how available they were. These days we have the Internet and that's completely changed the game. Gone are the days when the only surefire way to get a spanking was to purchase the services of a sex worker. Now all it takes is a quick Internet search and a variety of sites pop right up.

Of all of the BDSM sites, one has risen to the forefront to shine as the "Facebook of Kink." There are others, dating sites like collarspace.com and BDSMsingles.com, and more general ones like alt.com and BDSM.com. But, when it really comes down to it, if you want to genuinely get involved in the local community, you need a Fetlife.com account.

Started in 2007 by a man who goes by John Baku, Fet is the kink networking site. It offers you a profile page, groups to join, people to friend and announcements of events. You can post musings, cruise the home wall, read and ogle the "Kinky and Popular" page and be alerted to new posts all at the click of a mouse. Your profile lets others know, in no uncertain terms, how you identify, what you're into, the relationships you're in and what groups you are affiliated with. It allows you to comment on things, "love" things others have posted and post photos. It's very user friendly and extremely effective. It's also free, unlike many other sites.

That's not to say that people don't still attend munches or other gatherings to meet people. They just usually do it through Fet. When I joined, I knew no one in the community. Now I have hundreds of friends. All but a couple, I met through Fetlife.com. It literally changed my world.

That's also not to say it's without flaws. Fet has received countless complaints and criticism for not doing enough to protect its members from dangerous individuals who joined and regularly stalk, taunt or hurt others. The site refuses to take action strictly on the words of faceless people, filing grievances from behind anonymous profiles. And, I have to say, who can blame them? People do make false claims of abuse from time to time. It does happen. It'd be pretty unrealistic to have any type of retaliatory policy against behavior that couldn't be, 100%, confirmed. Members are forced to look out for themselves. But then...that's the way it was before Fetlife.com. ...And everyone in this lifestyle should be careful and lookout for themselves...ultimately.

(Side note: If you do get a Fetlife.com account, remember, anyone can. That means, even while cruising the underground site, you need a username that is unlike your real one and should avoid pictures of your face. If your old Sunday school teacher hears about Fet and starts an account in order to locate and exocize the devil out of the heathens in her area and finds you--that's on you. Be smart. Be discreet.)

That all being said, Fetlife.com has tightened some of its regulations, eliminating groups devoted to truly deviant behavior like incest and rape and deleting the same stuff from the list of fetishes people can cite as their own. (Note: Anyone can create a new fetish and post it to their profile. The really scary shit just won't save anymore.) Like the court system, they do what they can.

But let's not dwell on the negative. Instead, let's explore how one joins Fetlife.com, sets up a profile and networks. The first part is simple. All you really need is an email and a phone number. The email I signed up with isn't even one I use. I give it to places that I think will hit me with a lot of spam or maybe even viruses. It's a junk email. But it works just fine for its purposes, including joining Fet. Outside of that, you do need a phone number. They will send you one text, and one text only, just to confirm that you're a person and not a bot or a first grader. That's it. Boom. You're in. Even easier than I made it sound in joining a site like this in Ignite35: My Life in the Sex Fetish Community (shameless book plug. Yes, remember, this site is mainly to promote that thing. GET IT, FUCKER! It's good.)

Fetlife, as I said, is free, which means it runs, mostly, on ads. However, they aren't the constant, pop-up-slap-you-in-the-face-clog-up-your-computer type. There's just a thin strip down the side of the page, far from what you're really going to be interested in. Add to that, they are always kink-relevant. Fet does take donations, and even asks for them annually, much like NPR. It also bares mentioning that, in order to post or view videos, you have to be a paying member. That starts at a whopping $30 for six months. Not too shabby.

I've spoken with a few people at the site, but nothing was ever said that put it better than their mission statement: 

“To help people feel comfortable with who they are sexually by connecting and educating kinksters in a safe, open, and supportive environment.”

Pretty much.

There are still plenty of other ways to get your freaky kink on, but for the most part, there's Fetlife.com, a great resource that has reshaped the lifestyle.

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