FetLife logo, a heart with horns
John Kopanas' user page
Type of site
Adult social networking
Available inEnglish
FoundedJanuary 3, 2008; 16 years ago (2008-01-03)
HeadquartersVancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Founder(s)John Kopanas
ParentBitLove, Inc.
Current statusActive
Written inRuby on Rails

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." The "Fet" in the name refers to "fetish". FetLife distinguishes itself from competitors by emphasizing itself as a social network rather than a dating site.[1]


FetLife was launched on January 3, 2008, by John Kopanas (also known by his username John Baku), a software engineer in Montreal, Quebec.[2][3][4] 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.[5] James Golick served as chief technology officer.[6] In 2009 Baku received the Community Choice (Man) Award as part of the Pantheon of Leather Awards.[7]

In January 2017, FetLife deleted hundreds of groups - including anything with the words blood, needles, rape and incest - and temporarily shut down the ability to create new groups following pressure from their payment processor.[8][9] The action by the payment processor was criticized by the Electronic Frontier Foundation as censorship.[10]


All members have a personal profile with the option to display one or more sexual orientations, D/s roles and fetishes from respective lists. Profiles can also list relationships with other members.[11]

Members can create and join groups which function as internet forums, send direct messages to one or more other members and advertise and organize events. Members can also post blog entries, photographs and videos, either publicly or only to members in the poster's friends list, along with comments on other members' posts.[12]

The search feature is deliberately limited to prevent members from finding users with specific characteristics, such as age and gender, and blog posts can only be searched via tags specified by the poster.[13]


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".[14] This policy has been objected to by users on the basis that censoring posts of sexual assault victims that name predatory users prevents them from warning others.[15][16][17][18] 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.[19][20]

In April 2017, FetLife was accessed by Brendt Christensen, the killer of Yingying Zhang, to explore discussion forums on topics relating to abduction and kidnapping.[21] Following this and other similar incidents, FetLife removed several hundred fetishes.[22]

Racism controversy

While the site's terms of service prohibit promoting racism or hate, FetLife has faced criticism for not adequately addressing the increasing prevalence of racist content. During the George Floyd protests, members reported an increase in racist hate speech and extremist content, including "white power" symbols, posts glorifying Nazi imagery, and discussions promoting white supremacy and antisemitism. Additionally, the inclusion of "race play" on the "official" fetish list has divided members, with some defending the practice as a consensual exploration of historical trauma and others criticizing it as a form of racism and fetishization.[23]


  1. ^ "FetLife Home Page". Archived from the original on May 10, 2013. Retrieved May 11, 2013.
  2. ^ "JohnBaku". FetLife. Retrieved May 8, 2024.
  3. ^ 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
  4. ^ Zanin, Andrea (September 4, 2008). "Facebook for the kinky: Montreal-based FetLife.com networks fetishists of the world". Montreal Mirror. Archived from the original on June 30, 2012. Retrieved October 18, 2009.
  5. ^ Baku, John (January 10, 2008). "FetLife.com Launches - The First Social Network for Kinksters". Sexual Deviants Living In A Web 2.0 World. Archived from the original on February 28, 2012. Retrieved January 2, 2013.
  6. ^ Golick, James (September 5, 2012). "Moving On". jamesgolick.com. Archived from the original on July 4, 2017. 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.
  7. ^ "Pantheon of Leather Awards All Time Recipients - The Leather Journal". www.theleatherjournal.com. Archived from the original on December 28, 2020. Retrieved December 28, 2020.
  8. ^ Kale, Sirin (January 25, 2017). "Kinky Social Network Fetlife Deletes Thousands Of Fetishes to Stay Online". Vice. Archived from the original on May 27, 2017. Retrieved April 9, 2017.
  9. ^ Baku, John (February 6, 2013). "The Next Steps - The Big Four". FetLife.
  10. ^ Malcolm, Jeremy (March 15, 2017). "Payment Processors are Still Policing Your Sex Life, and the Latest Victim is FetLife". Retrieved May 7, 2024.
  11. ^ Montgomery, Maria (March 22, 2024). "FetLife: How does this social networking site work?". Age Times. Retrieved June 3, 2024.
  12. ^ "FetLife - Safety Tips". eSafety Commissioner. February 19, 2024. Retrieved June 3, 2024.
  13. ^ Baku, John (2009). "FetLife, now with improved search". FetLife.
  14. ^ "Terms of Use". FetLife. 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.
  15. ^ Clark-Flory, Tracy (June 3, 2012). "A BDSM Blacklist". Salon. Archived from the original on January 1, 2013. Retrieved January 2, 2013.
  16. ^ J.M. Baker, Katie (November 8, 2012). "Kink Community Tells Sexual Assault Victims It's All Their Fault". Jezebel. Archived from the original on November 10, 2012. Retrieved January 7, 2013.
  17. ^ White, Rachel R. (November 16, 2012). "The Story of 'No': S&M Sex Clubs Sprout Up on Ivy Campuses, and Coercion Becomes an Issue". Observer Media. Archived from the original on February 14, 2015. Retrieved February 2, 2015.
  18. ^ Morris, David Z. (March 3, 2015). "How Kink's Largest Social-Networking Site Fails Its Users". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on March 5, 2015. Retrieved March 7, 2015.
  19. ^ Flox, Anaiis (August 27, 2011). "FetLife Is Not Safe For Users". Sex and the 405. Archived from the original on December 30, 2012. Retrieved January 2, 2013.
  20. ^ Weinberg, Jill D. (May 31, 2016). Consensual Violence: Sex, Sports, and the Politics of Injury. University of California Press. pp. 71–72. ISBN 9780520290655. Archived from the original on August 20, 2018. Retrieved July 3, 2017.
  21. ^ "'Nobody saw this coming': Arrest in Chinese scholar's disappearance stuns U. of I. community". The Chicago Tribune. July 1, 2017. Archived from the original on July 1, 2017. Retrieved 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
  22. ^ The Associated Press (July 4, 2017). "Man who tapped 'Abduction 101' forum denied bond in kidnapping, suspected murder of Chinese scholar". The Japan Times. Archived from the original on July 3, 2017. Retrieved July 3, 2017. 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.
  23. ^ Feast, Fancy (October 16, 2020). "Users On A Site For Kinky People Say The Racism Has Become Unsustainable". BuzzFeed News. Retrieved August 29, 2023.