New to the kink scene, or want to move beyond vanilla sex? The FetLife dating website is a great start - but can seem daunting. Stella Harris guides you through.

Many people are told to join the FetLife dating site but not given any advice beyond that. In unfamiliar territory without a roadmap, people tend to create a profile that doesn't serve them well. They load a cock shot as their avatar, write a short and explicit bio, and shoot off a few generic messages. Then they wonder why they aren't getting laid, they get frustrated and bitter, and their behaviour only worsens from there. So what's a good way to present yourself on FetLife, and therefore make a good impression on members of your local scene?

1. Treat people on the Fetlife dating site like people anywhere else.

One of the most common mistakes is not treating people like people. Even folks who have a fantastic profile on a vanilla dating site seem to lose all sense of decorum when interacting on FetLife. I think it’s a symptom of not feeling like their kinks, or their sexuality in general, is incorporated into who they are as a person. This attitude leads to treating people like kink fulfilment vending machines and soliciting for specific acts, rather than meeting people you click with and then seeing where things go.

Get to know people as fully realised individuals, beyond their fetish list. First impressions matter. Consider your avatar image. What does it say about you? Unless you have serious concerns about your privacy, I encourage people to use a picture that includes their face. Find something that speaks to who you are. If you’re into rope bondage, have a picture of your rope work. If you’re an artist, show off something you’ve created.

2. Vanilla and kinky - list it all!

Once you’ve got a picture up on FetLife, think about what to write about yourself. Avoid something that sounds like a personal ad. Write about who you are as a person, not just what kind of sex you like. List some vanilla interests and hobbies and make it clear that you’re willing to share more than the bedroom with people you meet in the kink scene.

Next, we get to the fetish list. Here you have an opportunity to get explicit about what you like. But again, think about the overall impression you want to make. Think about the things that make an encounter as good as it can be for you. There’s a lot of redundancy in the options, so don’t feel like you need to include every version of “blow jobs” or “spanking.” Just listing it once will get the idea across.

3. Keep it local: get involved in the fetish community offline.

The FetLife dating site intentionally makes it tricky to find people locally, because it’s not built as a dating site, and so joining groups is one of the best ways to connect with people in your area. Typing the name of your city or town into the group search box will likely get results - in bigger cities you might get dozens or hundreds of groups listed. Look for the ones with the most members, and the most general topic. (ie. PDX BDSM, in my neck of the woods.) See if you can find local organisations that have groups and host events. Maybe a leather alliance or a sexuality centre. These groups can be great hubs for meeting people and finding out where the biggest and best-attended events will be.

Once you’ve spent some time looking around FetLife, you’re likely to see profiles of people you’d like to get to know. Even so, avoid the scatter-shot approach of messaging everyone who looks appealing. If you think they’re hot, chances are a lot of other people do too, and they probably get a lot of messages. And anyone who’s been around for a while will be sceptical.

Your best chances of getting to know people on FetLife are actually meeting folks in person, at local events. How do you do that? Look for groups and event listings for munches local to your area. These are a great way to start getting to know people and to become a face that people recognise. Then, when you attend a party, people will already feel comfortable with you.

4. Remember: a whole new world of kink takes work.

If you meet one or two people at an event, that’s success. You’ll have to keep going back to get to know more people and to become a fixture in the community. Classes are another great way to get to know people while also learning a new skill and showing people you care about safety.

Once again, the event listing tab is your friend. All but the least populated areas will have some regular events happening within driving distance. Another benefit of classes, when on a specific topic, is that you can meet people who have the same interests as you.


Stella Harris is an author, educator, and coach who focuses on sex, kink, and intimacy. Through her writing and teaching she explores the complex world of love and lust and strives to help people explore their sexuality safely and free of shame. You can learn more about Stella on her website, or follow her on Twitter @stellaerotica

What are your experiences of FetLife? Let us know in the comments below. We love hearing from you.

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