There was a predictable outcry from pro-BDSM bloggers like Rebecca Hiles when the “FetLife Meat List,” a simple spreadsheet cataloging the FetLife usernames and basic profile info of 30,000 users who identified themselves as female and under 30 years old, was released. But as usual, all Social Justice Warrior rhetoric condemning the list was shortsighted at best, though most of it was downright moronic. They all seemed to condemn the construction of such lists rather than the fact that the list targets the most vulnerable demographic.

In response, I released the FetLife Creep List, Volume 1 a few weeks later, a similar list but including one of FetLife’s most privileged demographics (male dominants with money) rather than one of its most vulnerable demographics (young women). The point is to illustrate that it’s possible to highlight privacy problems with websites like FetLife which continues to be a privacy and security nightmare many years after I first publicized them in a way that is equally compelling and attention-getting (e.g., by calling them “Creeps”), but doesn’t also target the most vulnerable possible demographic. Unfortunately, since the Internet’s “Social Justice Warriors” are all talk and no walk, they missed making that obvious point, not to mention failing to actually take advantage of that point to further their own stated goals. That’s typical SJW for you, though.

Fact is, there’s a lot of actionable information about rape culture and the BDSM subculture’s reliance on rape culture’s perpetuation for its own survival that can be illustrated with a list of the most privileged demographics in this case. Once again, that’s something that sex-positive “feminists” consistently miss, the poor dears.

After compiling the Creep List, I did a bit of basic statistical analysis on FetLife customer demographics and found numerous discrepancies between what the BDSM Scene and FetLife in particular say about themselves and what they actually do. The two biggest take-aways from the preliminary analysis are as follows:

  1. FetLife isn’t a social network. It’s a porn site, both in terms of its business model and its general usage. It simply cannot be classified as a social network with the likes of Facebook under any reasonable definition of the term. This directly contradicts FetLife’s own statements about how the site works and why the site exists.
  2. Users who support FetLife financially (i.e., FetLife’s paying customers) are at least 13 times more likely to be perpetrators of sexual violence, rape, and consent violations than the average (non-paying) FetLife user. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of FetLife customers as well as the overwhelming majority of FetLife users reported to the Predator Alert Tool for FetLife consent-violation tracking system are male doms, further corroborating the claim that FetLife actively silences rape survivors for expressly self-interested financial motivations.

Let’s look at each of these points and the data behind them in turn.

FetLife is a porn site that pretends to be a social network.

The first thing that the data clearly shows is that FetLife’s is effectively the same kind of site as amateur porn sites like YouPorn or XTube. Here’s how unquietpirate described it in her post summarizing the statistics:

FetLife’s business model is, effectively, to be a porn site in “social network” clothing. Instead of hiring models and performers and charging for membership, the adult content is provided for free by some “community members” and consumed by others. (Ironically, because of FetLife’s shoddy security, the “premium” video content offered exclusively to paid members is actually available to anyone with the URL.)

It’s an oft-repeated truism in discussions of “free” social media: If you’re not the customer, you’re the product. We know who the “product” on FetLife is. Much has been written about how the “Kinky & Popular” feature primarily displays photos of young, conventionally attractive, scantily-clad, submissive women. Who is the customer? Clearly, those who support FetLife financially.

[…]

A few days ago, in response to the release of the FetLife “Meat List” (a database of female-identified FetLife users under 30), Maymay published the FetLife “Creep List” of 3,700+ male- and dominant-identified paid subscribers to FetLife, drawn from a dataset of 1.5 million FetLife user accounts. Further data analysis showed that “a total of 15,495 accounts were identified as having premium FetLife memberships” and that “Male doms make up far and away the largest proportion of FetLife’s [paying] customer base, accounting for 3,452 (22.28%) of the total customer accounts identified.” (Not to mention that 72.89% of FetLife’s total paying customer base identify themselves as male, further confirmation that FetLife is a porn site, not a social network — which research shows are almost universally dominated by women.)

Put another way, the data shows that nearly a full three-fourths of FetLife’s customers are male. That’s an even more pronounced gender split than typical online porn stats. Even more revealing, though, is that nearly a full quarter (22.28%) of FetLife’s customers are both male and dominant-identified. Here’s a simple heatmap showing these stats visually:

Simple heatmap showing demographic breakdown of FetLife customers. Male doms make up almost a full quarter of the porn site's customers.

FetLife’s customers are 13 times more sexually predatory than non-paying members

Regular readers will remember that, in addition to the FetLife Creep List, I’ve also been working on a long-running project to build sexual violence prevention software into the architecture of the Internet. The most visible parts of this social impact project is a set of free software applications collectively called the Predator Alert Tools (PATs). One of the earliest PATs was designed for FetLife, and it’s been collecting data for well over two years. With the release of the FetLife Creep List, it’s now possible to cross-reference over 1.5 million FetLife user account’s basic profile data with the data collected by the Predator Alert Tool for FetLife to build a profile of FetLife users involved in situations with questionable consent practices.

And that’s what I’ve done. The results are sobering and unsurprising, confirming yet again that male doms (the same demographic as FetLife’s best customers), and certain male doms in particular, are far and away the most sexually predatory demographic on the porn site. In her post, “FetLife’s Best Customers,” unquietpirate summarizes the findings like this:

Analysis of this huge dataset, which comprises demographic information for nearly half the total member accounts on the site, is ongoing. There is great potential for cross-reference with demographic information drawn from the PAT-FetLife database. It’s unknown yet what kind of questions we might now be well-placed to answer about the FetLife userbase and BDSM Scene membership in general. (FetLife offers a functional microcosm for suggesting broader research, since makes a point of monopolizing online “social networking” space for the national and international “kink community.”)

One of the most striking early findings to come out of the data, however, is the correlation between FetLife users who pay for premium accounts and FetLife users who have been reported for violating a partner’s consent[.]

The way the correlation breaks down is like this:

In the Predator Alert Tool for FetLife database as of April 29th, 2015, there are 652 unique users reported as having violated someone’s consent. Out of those 652 users, 86 (13.19%) are paying FetLife customers. […]

Among paying FetLife customers, consent violations are overhwelmingly perpetrated by D-type roles, with Doms across all reported genders accounting for 19 accused users (22.1%), followed by sadists and switches, who each account for 10 accused users (11.63%). Notably, there are no male S-type FetLife customers who have been accused of consent violations so far.

From a dataset of over 1.5 million FetLife accounts (1,517,103, to be precise), a total of 15,495 customers were identified, showing that FetLife’s customer base is approximately 1.02% of its total user base. In contrast, out of 652 unique users reported to the Predator Alert Tool for FetLife, 86 of those users are paying customers, which is a whopping 13.19%.

This indicates that paying FetLife customers are 13 times more likely to be sexual predators than the average FetLife user. In other words, you may want to be especially cautious whenever you see the “I support FetLife” badge on someone’s profile. :\

So. That’s a thing.

Once again, a visual heatmap of the above stats:

Simple heatmap showing the demographics of FetLife customers cross-referenced in the Predator Alert Tool for FetLife database.

Although FetLife insists that protecting their revenue stream isn’t why they censor rape survivors on their site, the fact of the matter is that the data shows a significant chunk of their revenue comes from people who materially and substantially benefit from FetLife’s continued censoring of rape survivors. There just isn’t any wiggle room anymore. Numerous bloggers, including myself, have questioned FetLife on this in the past. For example, M. Lunas was quite explicit on this point 2 years ago this month:

FetLife is a private For-Profit Canadian company. Among other sources, it receives funding from members who opt to pay a fee for added features–what is known in the tech world as a “freemium” model. What sort of features do these “supporters” get? Along with a number of pretty useless things, they get community status in the form of a badge on their profile, the ability to view over 5,000 of each day’s most popular pictures, videos, and writings, and the ability to upload and watch videos. There are over 80,000 such videos–mostly amateur porn–currently on the site. In other words, the benefit of paying is the ability to perv endlessly on other users’ amateur porn. And FetLife’s ability to provide the maximum amount of porn to paying members depends on other users not giving much thought to the security or privacy of what they’re uploading and sharing. And a rich database of amateur porn attracts more paying members. In other words, it is in FetLife’s direct financial interest not to provide security and privacy features.

He also voiced concern about the influence the vocal minority of FetLife customers—who, again, are primarily male doms and in many cases literally the same people accused of rape by other FetLife users who are not the site’s customers—might have on FetLife’s notorious policy of siding with “community members” who are accused of rape and against survivors of sexual violence:

[C]ould there be a profit motive here too? While disturbing, it makes sense. We know that predators (especially repeat abusers) are often community leaders, often older, and often male. Such people, I would hypothesize may be more likely than the average FetLife user to be a paying supporter of FetLife, either as a signifier of community status, or because they are better off financially (having had more time to rise in their careers and accumulate resources). […] In short, paying supporters are likely over-represented in the set of users who have allegations against them in [Predator Alert Tool for FetLife database]. Therefore, were FetLife to adopt a policy of removing members who were accused of consent violations, they would be targeting a group that disproportionately supports the site financially.

At the time of M. Lunas’s post, we could only make the educated guess that FetLife’s motivations for censoring rape survivors was indeed a policy designed to protect male doms, the demographic who is statistically most likely to pay them money to perv on your nude selfies as well as the most likely to actually physically assault you if they met you in person. Now, we no longer need to guess. Now, we know.

In an otherwise inane post about the FetLife Meat List issue, Rebecca Hiles writes:

the exposure of The List has raised the very important question of why Fetlife is the only popular option for kinksters looking to network and create a sense of community.

Given that FetLife’s customer records show it to be a porn site, not a social network, it’s definitely worth asking why the BDSM Scene continues to insist that it’s “not a meat market” when their primary social gathering spaces—both in-person and online—are commercial porn venues. But even more important than that, I think, is that given male doms are disproportionately more likely to be perpetrators of rape, why is it that the BDSM culture at large, not just FetLife in specific, continues to support rapists by glorifying dominance and sexual violation? And why do we continue to buy into a financial, economic, and legal system premised on the same sociopathic principles as justifying or excusing sadomasochistic rapes?

These and others are important questions. We’ve got a lot of tools at our disposal to attack rape culture. But don’t expect Hiles and the pro-BDSM contingent to focus on these latter questions or to do the work required to actually mitigate rape culture’s horrific impact. They’re far too busy enjoying their Social Justice Warrior circle jerk to think about it much, and besides, as BDSM’s cultural advocates, they rely on rape culture to get their jollies in the first place. When push comes to shove, they don’t want rape culture to actually diminish.

Donate Bitcoin

Flattr this!