FetLife.com is an adult social networking site aimed at people who are interested in BDSM, kink, and festishism. Members have to be 18 or over. Like OKCupid, it offers a freemium membership model. Unlike OKCupid, it does not present itself as a dating/hookup site, and does not offer any type of questionnaire or quiz to match users with each other based on personality or interests. It does, however, offer interest-specific discussion groups and private messaging, and many users do use the site to find new partners or to find out about local events (fetish balls, BDSM munches, photo shoots, schtupperware parties, rope workshops, etc.) at which they can meet new people.
Some people who use the site for finding partners use it in tandem with OKCupid and will list their usernames for one site on the other. This can be a useful, time- and conversation-saving tactic since OKCupid offers the ability to determine general potential compatibility whereas Fetlife offers users the ability to list their kink and fetish interests front and center.
Users are able to friend each other on FetLife, and as with Facebook, friendship has to be reciprocal, although users can allow non-friends to follow their posts. Posted content can be locked down to friends-only or made available to logged in site members; at present users cannot make private posts for their own eyes only, nor can they make truly public posts, although as with any other site, content can be easily screencapped and reposted elsewhere. Users can write about themselves on their profiles, and can reveal or obfuscate details such as their age, location, and fetishes as they prefer. Some people use cartoon characters as their profile images; some use their real faces. A whole lot of men, who I suppose are engaging in the philosophy of "best foot forward", use pictures of erect penises as their profile pics.
Site users can upload photos and videos and write blog posts. Only paying members can view videos, however, so if you really want to watch the holiday-themed video of the guy in the turkey mask having sex with a pie pumpkin, you have to pay for a membership. There are quite a lot of professional erotic photographers, pornography models and actors on the site who offer free images and videos for marketing purposes. Larger fetish events and swinger's clubs also offer content to entice new patrons. Using the site to advertise/promote paid sex work, brothels or phone sex operations is against site policy, though, and some users are walking a very fine line there.
Posts and posted materials are subject to removal if they violates the site's content and community guidelines. Photos and videos will be taken down if they feature any underage participants (no matter what is or isn't being portrayed), incest, zoophilia, necrophilia, snuff, scat, or animal cruelty. Their guidelines are mainly aimed at keeping site content from violating the obscenity laws in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Images of nonsexual age play are fine, as are graphic aftermath photos of BDSM beatings (some subs are very proud of their massive bruises and welts). Butt stuff is fine as long as no poop is visible. Depiction of pony play and furry play also okay as long as no actual animals are involved. Some photos, especially those of complicated rope suspensions, have high artistic value; others are poorly-lit, grainy and amateur.
Users are able to "love" (the equivalent of a Facebook "like" or an E2 upvote) photos, blog posts, and videos. Content that has gotten a lot of love ends up on the Kinky & Popular page, which tends to be a mix of well-written (or at least seemingly heartfelt) personal essay blog posts and photos and videos of pretty young white women performing various sexual acts or being dominated by men. The heterosexual male gaze seems to be the main determinant of what visual content ends up on K&P, and men (gay or otherwise) are seldom featured except as anonymous body parts. If images of dominant women with male submissives show up on K&P, the domme and her sub are usually heavily done up in rubber and fetish gear (whereas a popular image of a male dom might just be a shirtless guy with a belt in his hand looming over a naked young woman) and seem deviant even on a site catering to deviancy.
With regard to discussion posts: aggressive personal attacks, racial/homophobic slurs, etc. are verboten, as are accusations of criminal behavior. The latter policy has garnered the site criticism because in a couple of instances, people who had been sexually assaulted by a predatory dom or rope master were prevented from getting a warning out to others in their community so that a broken stair situation could be avoided. The site seems to err on the side of protecting themselves against libel charges rather than the side of keeping their users safe. Some women who have received unwanted, creepy messages from men who seemed to be engaging in pre-rape behaviors were told to simply block the user; there was no indication whether or not the site took any action against the men in question.
Fortunately, users can't send each other photos or videos in private messages, so the potential of unwanted messages is limited to words (plus the dick pic that the unwanted message sender is likely using for his profile pic). Users who identify as female will inevitably be inundated with messages whether they have a "sexy" profile or not; this is a common social networking phenomenon even on Facebook and nobody should be surprised it happens on FetLife.
FeLife began in 2007 as a site called "FriendsWithFetishes" and was founded by John Baku, a software engineer from Montreal; in 2008 he changed the site to its current name. The site is now run by a Canadian company, BitLove, Inc., and advertises itself thusly: "Like Facebook, but run by kinksters like you and me. 5,425,045 Members are sharing 27,803,818 pictures and 353,264 videos, participating in 6,689,772 discussions in 109,416 groups, are going to 500,421 upcoming events and reading 2,479,290 blog posts."