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FetLife is one of the most most popular online communities for kinky people. They aren’t a dating service, precisely, but a social network that can also be used to find people to date and have sex with. Recently, the site banned thousands of fetishes that might appear immoral or nonconsensual (with “appear” being the operative word), and deleted hundreds of offending accounts. In short, the kinkster site banned basically everything to do with BDSM and the kink scene in general.
In a statement, founder John Baku explained that the move came after one of their merchant accounts cut off ties following a complaint about “blood, needles, and vampirism.” Shortly thereafter, the site’s other merchant account also ended their relationship over reasons “illegal or immoral.” FetLife determined in was the best interest of the community to severely restrict their content in order to appease the banks and keep the the site afloat.
The list of banned fetishes includes:
Anything non-consensual, such as rape and abduction play.
Obscenity, such as incest play.
Impairment of judgement and consent, such as alcohol and drugs.
Hate speech. Meaning no Nazi or slave roleplay.
Anything with “lasting physical damage,” such as blood-letting and deep cutting.
BDSM is common. Like, insanely common. Over a third of Americans are down to clown with ropes and (consensual) bruises. So while FetLife is not devoted to BDSM specifically, but kink in general, it’s not surprising that the overwhelming majority of the users are there to get some kind of consensual nonconsent action. That makes the move to ban said action a tough pill to swallow.
“It’s always been a delicate balancing act,” wrote Baku. “We try our best to balance the needs of individual members, the community as a whole, the team, and FetLife itself.
Everyone’s needs are not always balanced equally. Historically we’ve sided more with individual members needs, but what we’ve learned from recent events is that we need to start putting more weight on the safety of the community, FetLife, and the team behind FetLife – including my personal safety.”
I am not unsympathetic to FetLife’s position. Banks and governmental institutions are not known for their progressive and open-minded policies. And now with the looming possibility of the ultra-conservative and puritanical Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, the kinky community has a lot to fear.
I also get that from the outside, some kinks look quite bad. Nazi and slave play, for example, or incest. But it’s critical to remember that these things are kinks. They’re fake. There is an ocean of difference between two (or more) consenting partners engaging in a staged rape scene and an actual rape (and I’m not using “actual rape” in the Todd Aiken sense). Certainly, it requires constant communication and things can get messed up or people’s boundaries violated. But that happens in vanilla situations as well. There’s nothing more intrinsically immoral about BDSM and here’s to hoping that there continues to be a place for kinksters to safely and consensually exercise their interests.