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 specifics. Just like in 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 is there 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 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.  Stop it. 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 GENETALIA AS PROFILE PICS.  I will give you my opinion here.  If you have your genetalia 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 comment section below!

So you see people identify as “poly” or “monogamous” (aka mono). Seems pretty clear cut. I wish it were that easy. When it comes to poly there are a gajillion variations. (Not an official number – lol) You can ask a dozen poly identified people to describe how they “do” poly and you are likely to get a dozen different answers.

For some they are romantically mono but agree that they and their romantic partner can play or have sex with others. For some they can only play with others – no romantic or sexual involvement. In some cases, partners have agreed that only one of them can have an additional outside partner – or that they can share one or more partners. Perhaps they share a romantic partner or play/sexual partners. Perhaps it’s closed and only a certain number of partners are allowed or open and people in the poly “pod” are allowed to date, play, and/or have sexual relations with others. The list is really endless when you consider all the various options and combinations.

An interesting twist is that one person may not do the same kind of poly based on their partner. Let me explain what I mean. At one point an individual may find themselves involved with an existing couple – for the purpose of this article I will use the term “secondary” to describe this person. However, let’s say that relationship ends and the person finds their own “primary” partner. The partner, based on what they know of the person’s relationship history, may expect that they are poly in any way. For example, this partner wants to bring in a secondary partner. They expect it to be an easy adjustment based on the fact that their partner has been a secondary in a poly triad. This may not be the case. It may not be the case by a long shot. Just because someone has been in a poly relationship, this doesn’t mean any poly dynamic will be comfortable for them. If you find yourself in this kind of situation, handle the transition just as you would if poly were a new thing for your partner. Because, essentially, it is brand new. This particular type of poly dynamic may be one that they have no experience with. Not all poly is the same and just because you have experience with one structure or one role doesn’t mean other roles or structures will work for you.

Poly can be a wonderful thing. It can lead to multiple fulfilling relationships and/ or fun adventures. However, nobody will say it’s always easy. Part of the difficulty comes back to “know thyself” as in “know thy poly”. Part of the journey is figuring out what kind of poly works for you and for you and those in your life. So be honest with yourself first, then be honest with your partner. Be patient and understanding and remember that it’s not all the same.

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. Read more about Jennifer on her blog, A Kink Shrink.

Large green fields. A huge bonfire. Adults and children playing, talking, eating, laughing. I say a few pleasantries to a few of the moms I know then focus on the needs of my children. Once they have had their fill of hot dogs, deviled eggs, and s’mores – they leave me to go play with their friends.

I sit off to the side, writing these words in my Hello Kitty notebook (which they probably assume I stole from my daughter). I wonder what the other parents are thinking of my behavior. Do they even notice me? Probably not. They’re busy reminiscing over the school year and discussing their family plans for the summer. It’s early evening so there are moms and dads here – whole family units. Every time I attend a school event I feel the same way.

Like an outsider.

There are a couple of reasons for this. One, I am in the minority of single parents. In fact I haven’t met any others in the 5 years we’ve lived here – even though I’m sure they exist. Maybe I haven’t met them because they avoid these things. In any case, that’s the less significant reason. The other is that I’m different. I doubt many of them would relate to my job, my friends, my lifestyle. There have been two other moms I became friends with and trusted enough to tell. As chances would have it they both moved away last year.

You may be wondering why I’m not as open with other school parents when I’m “out” to everyone else in my life – friends, colleagues and family. Well. No matter how kinky you are or how involved in the scene you are – you always have vanilla aspects to your life. For me, the biggest one is my kids. The last thing I want is for parents to worry about having my kids for play dates or (gasp!) sending their kids to me. They may talk, gossip, doubt, worry, etc. because they don’t understand that kink and my kids don’t mix. My children know nothing about the scene or my preferred relationship dynamics. However, ignorance and misunderstanding can often lead to fear. I don’t want my “being out” with other parents to effect them.

I’m not ashamed of who I am or how I live my life and I don’t hesitate to talk to people about my life. Yet there’s a line between it effecting me and handling it – and it effecting my kids in any negative way.

So here I sit, on the sidelines. Honestly, I’m ok with that. I have plenty of friends and acquaintances I can talk to. To everyone here I’m a single mom and psychotherapist. I’m proud of those parts of me too.

**UPDATE**

So after I wrote this and put my notebook away I decided to walk over to the food table and eat more grapes. One of the dads approached me and we started having a friendly conversation about this and that. At one point he asked me about what I do for a living. I initially gave him my stock “vanilla” answer and said I was a marriage and family therapist. I’m not sure what it was about him, but my gut told me it would be ok to at least put out the tidbit that “I also teach”. He, of course, followed up with asking me what I teach. I explained that it’s not something I usually bring up around the “school parent crowd”, however, he encouraged me.

After I told him I teach BDSM 101 classes it turned into a lively conversation – including many questions from him – and I felt no judgement. In fact, it turned out he had dated someone years before who was into the power exchange idea but he found it wasn’t for him. We continued to talk for some time and it was nice (although slightly nerve wracking) to discuss this side of my life in that setting. It was a good reminder that you never know what someone’s history holds or how open minded they may be!

**UPDATED UPDATE**

Fast forward a couple months later and I am at a birthday party for one of my son’s classmates. I end up sitting with another mom in the shade while all the kids were involved in an organized party game out in the field of the park we were at. The subject of work came up and I ended up “outing” myself to her as well. I suppose I’m on a roll! She was very cool about it, asked questions, etc. I explained that it’s not something I usually throw out there to other parents due to my concern over being judged as a parent, etc. She was very supportive and even friended me on Facebook.

Moral of the story – sometimes we make a mountain out of a mole hill. If either of these parents had made an issue of it then I would have to deal with that. But they didn’t! I will continue to operate as I have in terms of not making it something I put out there right away, however, if it comes up naturally I won’t be as afraid to let the information “out”. Pun intended.

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I’m Jenn. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, BDSM 101 educator, Poly Support group leader, and active BDSM community lifestyle member.

I have decided to start this blog for several reasons.

One: To reach more Los Angeles, Orange County, and Inland Empire people who may be interested in, or benefit from, my BDSM 101 classes, poly support group, or need a kink friendly therapist.

Two: To give mainstream society and “kink-curious” folks – near and far – a friendly and realistic peek into the BDSM community from the perspective of an active member in the lifestyle. There is no reason your information should be coming from popular fan fiction or horror stories in the news!

Three: To help promote other people I know in the scene who maybe teach or create really cool stuff! I’m all about supporting my fellow kinksters!

This blog will include things like interesting articles I find and my opinion on them, a picture of some awesome fetish fashion or breathtaking photography I stumble across, stories of my own adventures in the scene, personal thoughts, etc.

So whether you are a newly active member of the scene, a seasoned “veteran”, kink-curious, kink supporter, or just love absorbing new information and want to understand more about it – I hope you enjoy your peek into my life as a kinkster, educator, therapist, and everyday girl in line behind you at the market.

I welcome your feedback, helpful criticisms, personal thoughts and – of course – your support!

*This is a personal blog and does not necessarily represent the feelings, thoughts, or opinions of others’ in the BDSM scene or the community in general.