Back in the bygone years of the early '90s, when I first got into the San Francisco kink scene, I had to meet people the old-fashioned way - face to face.

It wasn't easy and most people will tell you that this internet thing is the bee’s-knees when it comes to hooking up with BDSM folks. That doesn’t mean that it’s perfect: just a lot better than the way things used to be.

Why is that? Well, let’s take a look at some of the pros, the cons, and what you’ll find when you begin to dip your own leather-shod toesies into the world of kink dating sites.

Safety First

Because we are talking about BDSM, we have to begin with the magic word: safety. But, in the case of kink dating sites, in might be more accurate to use the term security.

Yes, you should keep the trinity of BDSM in your mind at all times - physical and emotional safety, playing with you and your playmates’ heads screwed on straight, and with clear and unequivocal consent from everyone involved - but when you step into cyberspace, you also need to be extremely cautious about any site you visit. Especially if it’s kink-related.

The great news is that this is a concern that many site hosts are also keenly aware of and they address it directly when you first sign up. (If a site doesn’t then you might want to think twice about using it.)

Personally, I recommend kink dating/hookup sites that also don’t link to outside social media. Not that doing so is inherently a bad thing but as kink can be an extremely private thing, you might prefer a place where it won’t be possible to accidentally out yourself by clicking the wrong icon.

Another bonus in terms of security is sites that allow you to create a profile without having to put in any of your “real world” information. True, this is a necessity if the site charges for some of its features, but if they aren’t charging anything then they shouldn’t really need it. Just something to keep in mind.

The bottom line is what a friend of mine once wisely said: don’t say anything online you wouldn’t want the whole world to know. This means that you should evaluate your personal and professional risks before you do anything on the internet. Yeah, it’s kind of a drag when you want some kinky dating options but it's better safe than sorry.

Read: Stay Safe: Tips for Protecting Yourself When You're Dating Online

Let's Have Some Kinky Fun With Kinky People

With that out of the way, let’s look at the good news: BDSM dating sites can be a LOT of fun. Naturally, the major benefit is using them to connect to bunches and bunches and bunches of kinky folks: and quite of few of them may even be up for meeting and playing with you.

Another huge plus with them is that you can get really (ahem) specific. Places like BeNaughty, Match BDSM, and ALT and fetish.com (to name just a few) give you all kinds of options in narrowing your search for possible playmates. You name the interest and fetish and, more than likely, they’ll be a box to click (or a space to fill out) to put you on the that kink radar for others to find. Most also help you find munches and other events in your area.

What’s extra cool is that you can always tweak or change your profile over time. Find yourself gaining too much unwanted attention, or that the kink you listed isn’t really working for you? Then get into your profile settings and change it. The same is true about any pictures or such you want to share: just delete if things are getting uncomfortable.

And if things are getting way too weird - and, let’s face it, they more than likely will at some time or another will - most sites usually have a means of either reporting someone or blocking them completely.

In other words, the internet offers a safe way for you to connect with other people with similar interests - and to block people who creep you out. If only this feature existed in real life.

Read: How to Date When Kinky

All-In-One Community

Many kink dating sites also offer a complete online experience: meaning that you can send instant or email-like messages or posts and share images and files (within the site itself). Fetish.com has forums galore as well as a private chat function so you can connect with other people.

This way, you don’t have to make the uncomfortable decision to leave the site to carry on communicating with someone you might be flirting with. By the way, if someone you just started to flirt with insists on getting in touch away from the site … well, let’s just say that this is rarely a good idea.

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A Hot - or Just Nice - Chat

Another great part of being “all in one” in regards to kink sites is that they frequently have an option to engage in real-time chats. This way, if you or your potential playmates so wish it, you don’t have to do the rather slow process of messaging back and forth.

Some sites even have an Android or Apple version of their site, making it even easier to carry on a conversation. Although do think twice about allowing your phone to chirp and display CAN’T WAIT TO TIE YOU UP! when you least expect it.

It's More Than Just Dating

While finding playmates is the focus for a lot of the sites, others offer a lot more. Many kink dating sites also offer a variety of informational content. Fetish.com, for example, includes information about 285 different kinks, as well as a magazine around just about anything kinksters of all experience levels should know.

Others have a huge number of user-created forums. There, you and others can join in discussions on all kinds of BDSM-related topics. This can be a great way to learn about kink as well as make great connections.

Tips for Having a Good Experience

Because these and other sites sites have become the go-to way of finding play partners for many people, it’s probably a good idea to take a bit of time and go over a few universal things about dating online: kinky or not.

The first is that it takes time and practice. A key to this is understanding that while data on the internet moves at the speed of light, the people there move at the speed of … well, people.

So be patient and most of all be respectful. Coming on too strong or acting like an egregious twit will do nothing but get you kicked off a site - and good riddance.

Someone doesn’t answer your message? Don’t get irked: just move on. Someone says something you don’t like? Take a deep breath and try and forget about it (unless, of course, it’s something worth blocking and/or reporting).

And never forget that this is a process and that there will be great experiences as well as not so great ones: it’s all in how you deal with it.

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See You Online!

You younguns sure have it easy, with your fancy-dancy, new-fangled smart-ass-technology.

Back in my day, when we wanted to get all kinky with someone we had to get out there and just do it.

But, let’s be honest. It wasn’t just tough to find a date back then; it also could be incredibly risky. Rather than testing the waters in a safe digital space, you often had no way of getting to know who you were actually playing with - until it was too late.

Do I miss those days? Every now and again, but then I go online and find an entire world of fellow kinksters eager to chat, get into discussions, make friendships and - best of all - play!

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