Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Much Ado About Fetlife

I joined Fetlife (the online social networking site that's been called "Facebook for kinksters") in September, 2008. I've been a fairly high profile presence there for about the last three or four years. I've been relatively disenchanted with Fetlife for more than a year now. It's not just that, despite having hundreds of thousands of members who claim spanking as a fetish, the percentage of pure spankos who engage without a D/s dynamic remains relatively small. It's not just that Fetlife has become less and less welcoming of the heteronormative mindset. It's not just that many of the discussion groups have become overtaken by people posting personal ads. It's not just because Fetlife has become a cesspool of people just looking for a quick hook up. It's not just the male entitlement attitude that permeates every aspect of the site. It's not just that people now seem unable to disagree without name calling and personal attacks. It's not just that you are labeled "judgmental" if you don't embrace kink the way others do it. It's not just that factions and splinter groups seem to have infiltrated the power structure of the national spanking party scene, thanks to having a site like Fetlife to use as the springboard for their supposed popularity. It's not just that Fetlife members routinely engage in silencing and shaming those who either disagree with those they perceive to be in power or who hold views that somehow dangerous to those chosen few who are actually in power (whether anyone chooses to acknowledge this or not). It's ALL of these things combined and more. So let's take these reasons for my disenchantment one at a time.

1) Pure spankos (those for whom spanking is their main or only fetish) remain a small part of Fetlife's overall membership. 

When I first joined Fetlife, it was still new so I rather optimistically thought that as soon as more spankos discovered the site they would join. But that has proven unfounded. Fetlife, the way I see it, is still mostly populated by those whose main thing is a D/s dynamic, whether spanking is part of it or not. In fact, it seems to me that Fetlife is now pretty much taken over by the bondage and flogger crowd. I've heard from a number of other spankos that they are derisively laughed at for being "just a spanko" and told, like me, that they are practically vanilla. I'm not saying that there are no other spankos on Fetlife, but there aren't enough to make me not feel like a minority. 

2) Fetlife has become less welcoming to those who hold heteronormative ideals.

This has become especially true since the Supreme Court decision that made so-called same sex marriage legal came down in June. I received several hostile (and one threatening) messages in my inbox because I identify as "straight". For the sake of argument, let me define what I believe heteronormative is: to me, heteronormative means accepting and embracing traditional gender roles for both sexes. I'm not a feminist by any stretch of the imagination. I don't happen to believe that women are superior to men. I also don't happen to believe men are superior to women. One sex is not better than the other...they're just different. If you hold this view, you are likely to get it with both barrels from feminists of every stripe. The same with homosexuals, which is why I received hate mail from them when the Supreme Court decision was made public. They seem to think that simply identifying as "straight" means you are diametrically opposed to them and are therefor judging them. So more and more, as a straight female who's only attracted sexually to men, I feel less than welcomed.

3) Many (if not most) of the discussion groups on Fetlife have become nothing more than places to post personal ads or, more commonly, "what would you like to do to me?" posts.

When I first joined Fetlife, discussion groups were mostly for...discussion. I totally understand that there are only so many topics that spankos are interested in discussing. The topics aren't unlimited. But at some point, it became acceptable for groups to be co-opted by these "single and looking" personal ads. To their credit, some groups have made rules that ads either can't be posted at all or only in a thread designated for them. I guess at some point, group moderators just got tired of beating their heads against that brick wall and just threw up their hands. The sad result is that you're less likely to see actual discussion in these groups.

4) Fetlife is slowly being turned into a hook up site by those who use it that way. 

I've opined on this topic in other entries, but I will just say that, because Fetlife is free to use, many people (men mostly) use it as a way to get porn without having to pay for it. Because of this, they tend to view the women on Fetlife as their personal sex vending machines. Women who don't want to be treated this way are usually told "lighten up" or "get with the program, sweetheart. You're on a sex site." I freely admit that I've met some pretty cool people here on Fetlife, some of whom turned out to be play partners. But using Fetlife to get my sex on? Just no.

5)  Male entitlement attitude is rife on Fetlife.

As I said, I'm no feminist when it comes to relationships between men and women, but for crying out loud the men on Fetlife need to get a clue. The number of men openly looking for play or sex partners is staggering. That's not the problem. The problem is the men who want these fantasy women to simply fall in their laps without putting any effort at all into the endeavor. It's as if they're saying to us "You have something I want. Give it to me!" I've given up counting the number of ads I've seen in groups where men (mostly "strict" doms) post about how they can fulfill my every desire and they can host, too. Uh...these guys are totally clueless. Do they really think that any woman in her right mind will just run off to visit a stranger in his home? That breaks two rules of SSC, the safe and sane part. When you point this little fact out to them, they get all butthurt and say things like "I wasn't asking for advice", etc. They just don't seem to understand how this thing called kink works. They just want random women to punish, they don't want to waste time getting to know these ladies as whole people or building trust. They just want to be serviced. 

6) If you disagree with someone on Fetlife, expect name calling and personal attacks.

It used to be that people on Fetlife were a lot more civil towards each other. When I first joined, people often disagreed about things, but made their arguments in a much friendlier way. Now, with so many snark groups on there (of which I belong to a couple) it appears that snark is now the norm in most groups. I've seen hundreds of people whose go-to answer to someone they disagree with is "what an idiot" or "don't feed the trolls". So now, if you hold an ideal that's different from someone else, you're now automatically a troll? I'm a Christian conservative and I make no secret of it. It would make your head spin to see the hate-filled venomous attacks people like me endure on a daily basis. I wonder what happened to tolerance and acceptance in our scene? Oh, that's right. Being a Christian automatically makes me a "hater" so it's OK to flame me publicly. Carry on.

7) Expect to have the "judgmental" label pinned on you if you don't do kink the way others do it.

Somehow, we've come to the point where even being uninterested in other forms of kink will get a person labeled as "judgmental". I'm not now and never will be into certain things; things like bondage and spanking as punishment are things that will never float my boat. However, I don't have anything against people who do those things. We used to have a code for this attitude: YKINMK (Your kink is not my kink). It was a way to let people know that whatever it was they were into was totally OK but just not our cup of tea. I remember sometime last year someone who was a friend of mine posted an adorable photo of herself in a costume. It was so precious, I just had to love the photo and put a comment on it. I said something like "Costumes aren't my thing, but this is really adorable" and another person (not the person whose photo it was) sent me a private message reading me the riot act because supposedly I'm always being negative and making fun of other peoples' kinks. Not only did she remove herself from my sisters list, eventually she unfriended me and then she blocked me. So be aware that asserting your individuality, even in the smallest way, will get you labeled as judgmental.

8) Factions and splinter groups have infiltrated the national spanking party scene, due at least in part to having Fetlife as a platform for their popularity.

I'm not quite sure how this happened. When I first started in the party scene, people went to their "local" party. People from Chicago (or those withing driving distance) went to Crimson Moon. Those in Michigan went to MDSS. Those in Florida went to Florida Moonshine. The only exception was Shadowlane and that was mostly because of their videos. They had a much higher profile so quite a few people went to their parties too. Nowadays, people seem to hit every major party during the party season (which, like baseball, runs from about April to October). Maybe the fact that CM went from having five parties a year to only two had something to do with it? Whatever the case, there now seems to be factions comprised of a small number of people, who attend every big party and have a hand in organizing them, even though they're not local to the area. Some of these people have only been in the scene a few years. Now I'm not criticizing someone who wants to step forward and do something for the community as a whole. Those folks are always well appreciated. I'm talking about people establishing a personal power base for themselves where they begin to dictate policy and their tastes begin to be made the norm, not just at one party, but all of them. I believe this was achieved simply because Fetlife gave these people a platform to speak from and in a way was a springboard for their popularity. I'm not a conspiracy theorist so you have to know that I feel really strongly about this. 

9) Fetlife members now use shaming and silencing to keep unpopular views from being heard. 

For some time now, I've limited my opining to this blog because I learned just how unpopular my views are on Fetlife. I believe bullying is an overused word these days, but I think this might be a case where it's actually happening. If you oppose same-sex marriage as I do or if you believe in your Constitutional right to keep and bear arms, then you are going to be called a zealot or a Neanderthal (if you happen to be male). You'll be told that your views are bigotry and/or hate speech and that you should join the 21st century. If you're a Christian, you'll be called a hypocrite for even being on Fetlife. The "tolerance and acceptance" that the Keepers Of All Things Fair and Equal preach does not extend to those who follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, well because of that unfortunate passage in Leviticus. I've seen people post in groups that "those crazy Bible thumpers" ought to have their free speech rights taken away and at least, on Fetlife, that has pretty much happened.

I admit that I'm not on Fetlife nearly as much as I used to be. I think the fact that I once lived on that site made it a lot easier to notice when things began to go downhill. I've actually let my support for Fetlife expire because I just don't see how I can justify spending $60 a year for something I enjoy a lot less than I used to. It seems more and more evident to me that if you really ARE an individual and you resist joining the conga line that Fetlife has become you won't get as much out of the Fetlife experience as those who are willing to give up their individuality and join the crowd. Oh I guess if you just want to have a profile and maintain a weak presence then you'll probably be OK. But try to join in on things and be a real presence there then you will, at some point, get dealt with by the so-called powers that be. And I don't mean John Baku (the man whose brainchild Fetlife is) or the caretakers. I mean the people to whom they have ceded their power. 

Maybe the problem is that Fetlife has gotten a little too big for its britches. Whatever the case, it's pretty obvious that the present day website isn't the same site I joined seven years ago. Change should be expected but it isn't always for the better. 

4 comments:

Quai Franklin said...

I'm always curious as to why people disclaim feminism, especially when you say " don't happen to believe that women are superior to men. I also don't happen to believe men are superior to women." This is really the core principle of feminism. So I'm confused about why you would claim not to be feminist.

DarkSteven said...

Cheryl, you know that my views conflict with yours. That said, you have never attacked me for my views, and I have not attacked you for yours. To me, that's part of being in the lifestyle - you acknowledge that others do it differently, and as long as it's done safely, sanely, and consensually, we don;t judge.

I'm sorry you've felt attacked for views that you've quietly held and not forced on others.

Chase Thomas said...

Yes, I know this is old, but...

"Two sides to every story" springs to mind... also, thank you, Quai. Someone actually gets it.

Ted Erikson said...

Hi Cheryl, My experience, in the many years I have been on Fet has been very different. While I think your observations are valid, there is more to it. While its surely true that many, in fact, most members are not purists of our proclivity, The total number of members is so prodigious, there is a huge population of our ilk. I doubt there could be any other venue that has even a significant fraction of their number.

On your point that we who hold politically incorrect views attract hostility, again, that is true in some groups, not in others. I think it depends a lot on the political leaning of the particular group's owners and mods. I probably lean a lot more in the same direction as you, and have found some very congenial groups. Please feel free to contact me if you would like some suggestions in that regard.