What is Fetlife? Here’s everything you need to know about the kinky social network

By Sofia Gallarate

May 8, 2020

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The last few years have seen the BDSM, kinky and fetish community grow bigger, both online and in real life. Kink, fetish and BDSM practices often involve consensual violence made up of both psychological and physical submission, domination and masochism, which can explain our society’s scepticism towards the community.

Although it is true that BDSM isn’t for everyone, the spectrum of possibilities that it has to offer is very wide and varied, expanding the community’s reach to people who might be willing to experiment with the different aspects of their sexuality and their boundaries. The recent online presence of BDSM communities has actively allowed more and more people to approach and discover these practices.

But when it comes to these subcultures, Facebook might not be the best place to look for people to share your kinks with. That’s where Fetlife found its market.

What is Fetlife?

Fetlife.com (which also comes as an app) is “The Social Network for the BDSM, Fetish & Kinky Community,” as the website defines itself. And with over 8 million users and more than 40 million photos and videos shared, it seems as though the platform is everything but niche.

All that is required to enter Fetlife is for new users to create a free profile and select a gender, pick a sexual orientation out of a list that, unsurprisingly, counts 11 choices for each point, and choose the role that will define them within the platform—from dominant and kinkster to swinger and brat.

Users are then allowed to post images, videos, and write stories that include all sorts of extreme fantasies, some of which might be illegal within the ‘outside’ world. The BDSM community’s premise is based on consent and expressing your individual boundaries prior to each session, making it a safe zone where you can play and experiment. On Fetlife, these rules are, of course, very well known. But just like any other social media platform, (non-consensual) abuse, violence and gruesome stories have also been linked to the kink website.

Yingying Zhang’s murder

In 2017, the website made headlines after it was connected to the abduction and murder of Yingying Zhang, a visiting Chinese scholar at the University of Illinois who was brutally murdered by Brendt Christensen.

According to the authorities, before abducting Zhang, Christensen had visited one of Fetlife’s forums titled ‘Abduction 101′. Although this was the only link between the crime and the website, it was the start of Fetlife’s tarnished reputation.

Liam Gordon Murphy, The Wolf

More recently, other accusations were made against Liam Gordon Murphy, a Fetlifer nicknamed ‘The Wolf’ whose erotica stories which were published on the platform were particularly successful. In an article titled He Developed A Devoted BDSM Following Online. Then He Was Accused Of Rape. published this year in the HuffPost, the accuser, only known as Adrienne, shared her previous admiration for The Wolf and the influence he had as a Fetlife user: “On FetLife, people reveal fantasies that are often subversive, sometimes taboo and occasionally illegal. But The Wolf’s stories were different because he said they were true.”

What is Fetlife? Here’s everything you need to know about the kinky social network

After contacting him and offering to meet, Adrienne, who was 23-years-old at the time and new to the platform, didn’t discuss any safe words but told The Wolf that what he was offering sounded frightening, to which he answered: “That’s kinda how I do things.”

The first night she met him, they had consensual sex, and they did so again on several other occasions. But on one afternoon in June 2015, Adrienne asked Murphy to stop, which he didn’t. Adrienne never spoke up about what happened until 2017. In October 2016, The Wolf was arrested for raping another young woman. He was charged in June 2017 of raping Adrienne, but his charges were ultimately dismissed in June 2018 due to the lack of evidence supporting the victims’ arguments.

How did Fetlife respond?

Just after Murphy was charged, Fetlife started deleting and prohibiting any content promoting non-consensual acts like rape or abductions and anything that would leave permanent markings such as deep cutting or killing. The platform also removed consensual non-consent from the website. But, at the same time, the site’s administrators were also censoring the several call-out pages that were asking users to share their accounts of abuse inflicted by other Fetlife users.

Conclusion

The BDSM world is far from being perfect, but among its complex structures and blurred boundaries, its community is keen to create a safe space where transparency and communication are pillars of its constitution. But just like most social media platforms, Fetlife isn’t free of toxic behaviours, online abuses turned physical, bullying, censorship and sexual violence.

Beyond the obvious individual responsibilities, it’s in the hands of the platform’s administrators as much as it’s in their power, to make sure a safe place is maintained and that rules are being followed. The same can and should be applied to any social media platform we use.

What is Fetlife? Here’s everything you need to know about the kinky social network


By Sofia Gallarate

May 8, 2020

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Roman Polanski’s win at French César Awards sparks riots in Paris

By Alma Fabiani

Mar 4, 2020

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This weekend, during the 45th César Awards (France’s equivalent to the Oscars) famous movie director Roman Polanski won the César for best director for the movie An Officer and a Spy. This resulted in people from the film industry leaving the room in protest and, subsequently, riots in Paris.

To many, Polanski, who had previously been accused of drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl in 1977, pleaded guilty to the ‘lesser offence’ of unlawful sex with a minor in 1978 to then fled from his US sentencing.This is just another reminder of how ‘separating the art from the artist’ doesn’t always work. His nomination and win at the César Awards caused an uproar both in the movie industry and in the streets of Paris, sending a clear message: French women are finally ready to speak up about sexual abuse and join the #MeToo movement.

Only last week, Harvey Weinstein was convicted of rape during his trial in New York. After hearing the news, many hailed the courage of the victims who had spoken out—it felt like a victory for the #MeToo movement and every woman, one that we were all quick to celebrate. But that didn’t last for long.

At the end of January, the César nominations were announced, a month before the ceremony, and caused more than 200 members of the film industry and French feminist groups to call for “profound reform” of the Césars academy. Two weeks before the awards, the entire leadership board collectively resigned—but the nominations didn’t change. This news came out after the board complained about the voting membership and its “elitist and closed” system in which they have “no voice.” Just after that, producer Margaret Menegoz was named as the academy’s interim president, which represented a well-needed change for the César Awards.

But this still wasn’t enough change for feminist organisations who decided to protest against Polanski’s nominations on the night of the awards just outside the venue, trying to pull down safety barriers to get access to the red carpet and storm the theatre. Protesters waved signs that read: “Shame on an industry that protects rapists,” and chanted “lock-up Polanski.” Local newspapers reported that the French police ended up firing tear gas on the crowd in order to stop them from entering the venue.

Roman-Polanski-César-riots

The series of events unfolded despite the French-Polish filmmaker announcing in a statement the night before that he would not be attending the ceremony, which didn’t seem to ease the controversy. An Officer and a Spy’s producer Alain Goldman told the Agence France-Presse (AFP) that he and the film’s team had decided not to attend amid “an escalation of inappropriate and violent language and behaviour.”

When Polanski’s name was announced as the winner of the best director award, very few people applauded, but only a few decided to leave the room. Among them was Adèle Haenel, one of France’s most prominent actresses who revealed at the beginning of this year that she had suffered from sexual abuse in the French film industry. As the first one to leave the room, waving her arms in disgust while mouthing the word “shame” and shouting “bravo, paedophilia” in the venue’s hall, she strongly highlighted the need for the #MeToo movement to keep on living. In an interview with The New York Times last month, Haenel said that “France ‘missed the boat’ on #MeToo” and it certainly looks like it did.

In this specific case, is it really possible for people, especially women, to separate the art from the artist? Wouldn’t that be forgetting what Polanski did, to celebrate his work and therefore imply that rape is somehow acceptable under ‘certain circumstances’? Has everyone already forgotten the other accusations of sexual assault he faced? In November 2019, after Haenel became the first high-profile actress to speak out over abuse in France’s movie business, actress, model and photographer Valentine Monnier accused Polanski of raping her in 1975, when she was 18, in a ski chalet in Switzerland, which he denied.

In the wake of these accounts, other French women came forward and highlighted abuse in the film and literature industries. France seems to finally be waking up, and women—from the movie industry, the sports industry and academia—are already protesting. This uproar sparked riots in the streets of Paris, and hopefully, this is only the beginning.

Roman Polanski’s win at French César Awards sparks riots in Paris


By Alma Fabiani

Mar 4, 2020

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