FetLife is meant to be the kink lifestyle version of Facebook. Many people assume it’s more like a dating site. However that was not the original purpose, which is why you can’t search for specific types. Just like anything online, FetLife is prone to trolling and people basically acting in a way they wouldn’t if they were standing in front of you. In this article I want to speak to four issues that I see on FetLife. I am positive that this article will not cover EVERY issue, however, I will cover the top four that stick out to me. Unfortunately the people that probably need to read this article are the ones that won’t, however, I’m hopeful that perhaps a few of them will happen upon these words.
The first issue is a pretty simple one: NOT READING PROFILES. Rather than sending someone a message based on their profile picture or just the fact that you know by looking at the top of their page they are the “role” that you’re looking for (aka sub, Dom, etc) look at those things as your first filter, but then keep reading. There’s a lot of important information you can find in somebody’s profile page – the first one being whether or not they have any protocol to follow or for you to follow in order to contact them. If they have someone that they are connected to – whether that person is someone they are in a D/s relationship with or someone that is protecting them – they may have certain rules about contacting other people. So if you don’t do that, you may not hear back from them. Whether or not you think you should have to contact somebody else first is beside the point.
You can also learn a lot from what they say in their “About Me” section. Perhaps the two of you have common interests, in or out of the kink scene that you can connect with them on, or it can give you some extra insight into the type of person they are. Their list of fetishes might tell you some things they may or may not enjoy, but don’t assume they’ll enjoy all of those things with YOU! You may find some common interest there as well but I don’t recommend starting with that. If you were trying to pick up on someone at, say, a vanilla event you wouldn’t start out by asking them their favorite sex position. Same thing here, you’re getting to know somebody – get to know them as a human being first. Look at the groups they are involved in – that may also give you some insight. Take a look if they have friends writing on their wall or how much activity they have had recently. This can tell you how active they are. Check out some of their writings if they have any. If they have many writings, maybe just check out the most recent ones. Again, this lends more insight into who they are and what they are about and may give you some additional information to reference when you start to message them.
I’m going to extend this etiquette rule to not only individuals but also events. Most event coordinators are perfectly happy to provide information about their event if you’re confused about something or not sure about something – they’re usually more than happy to help. However, please read the entire event page first and if there are links back to a group page that hosts the event, take a look there as well. If you have additional questions once you’ve done that then that’s the time to contact the host. People who create events put time and effort into managing those groups and event pages so that most of the information is there.
This moves me right into the second issue, which is the CUT AND PASTE MESSAGE. Don’t do that! While you might get away with this sometimes, you need to understand that many times (perhaps when you don’t get a reply and can’t fathom why) it’s because the person on the other end can tell that there is nothing personal about your message. This brings me back to why the first issue is so important. Also, if you’re messaging the same cut and paste message to multiple people – and especially when you have found those people through the friends list of the same people – those people do talk! I hear female s-types talking to one another all the time, comparing the messages they receive. So, once again, refer to issue number one -read the profile of the person you want to message and write the message accordingly.
Issue number three: FORCING A DYNAMIC. This applies to online and in person. Just because someone identifies as a babygirl, doesn’t mean you get to start referring to yourself as “Daddy”. Just because someone identifies as a Domme, doesn’t mean you should start calling them Mistress. Just because someone’s fetish list includes “dirty talk” or ” humiliation, doesn’t mean you start your message with, “How are you my dirty slut?” NO! Again, how they identify or what’s on their fetish list has NOTHING to do with you yet. Approach with respect and treat them like any other human being until (or if) the relationship progresses.
The final issue I am going to speak to is a bit more controversial; the issue of GENITALIA AS PROFILE PICS. I will give you my opinion here. If you have your genitalia as your profile pic I will make some initial assumptions. Keep in mind, just like meeting someone for the first time in person – your profile picture is your first impression. I will assume that you are only on Fet for sexual reasons and/or that is all you have to offer. I personally, don’t want to see it. If I look at your picture gallery and find pics of your junk (any gender) – well that’s on me. Still not my favorite, but much better than getting greeted with your erection or close up of your cervix every time you send me a message or pop up on my feed. On an even more personal level – as a female s-type if you are a male D-type that I may be interested in, I will be turned off by ANY pics of your package. To me personally it detracts from your confidence as a Dominant.
Now, having said all that, if you really are on Fet for mostly sexual adventures and want to attract others with the same goal, then let your privates march out in front for all to see! I am not going to not be your friend and I won’t think less of you. However, if that’s the first impression you choose, please understand when I don’t feel as badly when you are complaining about all the “unsolicited”, “aggressive”, or “creepy” messages you get.
I understand I may get some arguments over that last issue. Again, this is all my opinion. And it’s my article. So there. 😉
Feel free to add any additional FetLife etiquette issues that you have come across in the comments section below!
Jennifer Masri is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, specializing in Alternative Lifestyles for individual and relationship issues. She also teaches the BDSM 101 class series at Sanctuary LAX in Los Angeles every Monday evening. We are delighted to have her as a columnist for Kink Weekly, offering particular insight into some of the common challenges that kinky people face in their relationships and journey in the lifestyle.