Inside the dark world of fetish dating sites

Inside the dark world of fetish dating sites: Anonymous apps connect users for sex with categories including ‘punching’, ‘torture’ and ‘sensory deprivation’

  • Fetish dating has become increasingly popular, with dozens of free apps and sites offering connections between millions of users based on sexual preference
  • Categories on offer include BDSM, rope-tying, kicking and sensory deprivation
  • Few require photo identification, with most letting people sign up anonymously 
  • British backpacker Grace Millane was known to have used dating site Whiplr before she was murdered by a man she met on Tinder

The internet contains something for everyone, no matter how niche – so it is perhaps not surprising that fetish dating apps and sites are increasingly popular online. 

While each varies slightly, most allow users to sign up anonymously, input their sexual kinks and then browse users who are into the same things as them or explore what else is out there. 

Categories on offer include the more mainstream, such as BDSM, rope tying and massage, to more extreme options such as punching, sensory deprivation, electrocution and water bondage.

It was sites like this that Grace Millane – the British backpacker who was murdered in New Zealand during a Tinder date – was using in the months leading up to her death.

The trial has shed new light on the community, and also underlined the need for participants to be aware and keep each other safe.

Fetish dating sites and apps such as Whiplr (pictured) are becoming an increasingly popular way for people to connect and explore their sexual kinks with like-minded people

FetLife, one of the oldest kink dating sites, has some 8.2million members. Most fetish sites allow users to sign up anonymously before inputting their kinks and connecting them to people who share those fetishes

During her trial, a person who once spoke to her on one of the sites said she was new to the scene, and while keen to explore, lacked experience. 

In court, defence barristers presented kink dating as ‘the new normal’ with sexual expert Clarissa Smith, from the University of Sunderland, testifying: ‘We are no longer living in the era of lay back and think of England.’

However, she stressed that as exploring sexual fetishes becomes more commonplace, education is needed to keep people safe.

‘It’s very important that consent is given,’ she said. 

Whiplr – the site Miss Millane was known to use – requires no identification or background checks in order to sign up, which takes less than five minutes to do.

While users are required to submit a profile picture, many use stock images or illustrations. 

New light was shed on the fetish dating scene during the murder trial of Grace Millane (left), who was strangled to death during sex by a 27-year-old man (right) 

Mail Online was able to create a profile with an image of a painting, which was approved by site moderators within minutes of the profile being activated.

In fact, anonymity is promoted as a virtue by many of the sites, with users understandably nervous about their real-life identities being linked to their online personas. 

Just one site – KinkD – that Mail Online found requires users to submit an ID for verification before a profile is activated.

Tools on offer to members of such sites then include the ability to connect with like-minded users, or to explore what other people are into.

Some of the more niche subjects include the likes of paraphilia – someone who is sexually aroused by plants – and macrohpilia – someone who fantasises about being trampled by giants.

As with most social media sites, users are free to speak with each other privately, or can sign up to events and meet-ups that allow them to gather in the real world.

Since launching in 2015, Whiplr has amassed some 1.2million users, with some 50,000 chats and video messages shared each day.

The majority of sites allow users to sign up anonymously, though one – KinkD – does require photo identification before a profile can go live, one of the oldest fetish dating sites on the web, has some 8.2million members sharing 44million photos with each-other.

Groups, message boards and chats with experts are offered by some sites as a way for people to expand their knowledge and most importantly, stay safe.

The defence in Miss Millane’s trial tried to argue that her 27-year-old date was simply ‘doing what he thought women wanted’ when he strangled her to death during sex.

But the jury swept that argument aside during just a few hours of deliberation, concluding that he had acted knowing he was causing harm, and convicted him of murder. He will be sentenced in February next year.

The case shed new light on the world of online fetish dating, and highlighted the need to stay safe.

According to Women’s Aid, in the UK alone, a woman is strangled to death once every two weeks.

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