BDSM Community Reacts After Kink Website FetLife Goes Invite Only

Following accusations that it doesn't do enough to stop sexual harassment and abuse, BDSM, kink, and fetish site FetLife halted new sign-ups. 

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As Fetlife works to straighten out its kinks, we asked users how the changes are impacting their online community.

Since it first launched in 2008, kink-centric social networking site Fetlife has amassed more than 3.5 million users and established itself as the most prominent platform on the Internet for BDSM forums, dating, and local meet-ups. So, when the site closed its doors to new members without explanation on July 7, it sent a ripple through the online kink world.

Rumors flew about the reasoning behind the change, and many kinksters feared it would make the often-stigmatized community even more closed-off to people hoping to explore it. Some speculated the user cap was due to an influx of spam bots, while others believed the site was preparing to close for good.

Many also suggested Fetlife was perhaps finally responding to allegations it does not do enough to crack down on abuse. BDSM blogger Kitty Stryker first mentioned the site's failure to identify and ban users accused of assault and rape in 2011; her accusations set off a domino effect, with dozens complaining on the site's forums about sexual assault and repeated violations of preexisting safe words and boundaries by other users. The uproar exposed a huge problem in the BDSM community, which boasts an unofficial motto of "safe, sane, and consensual" and relies heavily on trust and communication.

Weeks after the initial change to the rules, Fetlife founder John Baku sought to clear up some of the gossip, saying in a blog post that the decision to turn off sign-ups was meant "to prioritize the experience of current members over signing up new members." (Fetlife did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story). Baku noted that the support team previously did not have the capacity to respond to all complaints and that support cases had already dropped by 50 percent. He promised to take users' thoughts into consideration moving forward.

"Barriers to entry don't solve all problems... but they can drastically decrease them," he wrote. "All problems have solutions and all solutions have pros and cons. We are putting one foot in front of the other and we will iterate until we find the right balance that creates the best possible community."

Since then, the site eased up on its complete ban of new adds; It now allows users by invite only. Under the new system, paying members get one invite every two months they subscribe to the site. However, the impact of the new policy is already seeping into the site's user base. Longstanding frustration with the site's dated appearance and regulation issues have boiled over, and many users are taking their online activity elsewhere.

Read the full Broadly article: http://goo.gl/1InhQI