Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Kink Dating Apps

Fetlife is so last year. A discussion of four dating and community apps for kinksters: Whiplr, KNKY, Kinkstr and KinkD.

(Image: KNKY)

A couple of years ago I estimated the number of kinksters in the Netherlands. I used the number of Fetlife users worldwide and divided it by the same global number for Facebook. Femdom Resource did something similar by looking at the ratio of kinky people to city population and came up with a list of most kinky cities, relatively that is. He used the KinkD subscription numbers per city as input for his estimate.

The US is an ocean away from Europe, so I'm not really interested in kinky hotspots in the United States. What draw my attention was the KinkD app and I decided to explore the world of kink apps and found 4 of them.

The kink-oriented dating apps that are currently available are Whiplr, Kinkstr, KinkD and KNKY. One thing they all share is that they are missing a single vowel, how original. I haven't installed any of them and this post is based on information I found online. Apps such as Kik are excluded, they are not exclusively for the BDSM community.

It all started with Tinder

The original Tinder app was designed to be a casual sex-app, something not everybody appreciated. The app defended itself by stressing that it helps people find “meaningful connections” resulting in a “shit-ton of marriages.” D'oh. Some people marry their dentist, so what? Most users aren't bothered by the casual sex thing, but by what is lacking: something deeper and a little more romantic. That made me wonder if you can take the Tinder concept and build a BDSM-oriented app around it.

The main argument against it is personal safety. Even with safety measures in place, it can be high risk to meet someone kinky you don't know. There are many trustworthy people within the kink community, but given the nature of the beast, BDSM is the best hiding place for predators of any kind.

The other argument against apps for quick kink hook-ups is the nature of kink. Not everybody is interested in a quick session involving mainly sadism and masochism. Quite a few people are interested in dominant/submissive relationships that are much more difficult to re-enact during a quick hook-up.

Whiplr BDSM Kink Dating Community App


That hasn't stopped the development of four different kink apps. All of them offer more or less the same features: profiles, chats and groups. Whiplr is the oldest of the 4 and boasts it has over half a million downloads as of May 2016. The basic app is free but the latest blogpost is from December 2016. If you want more you have to sign up for Dekadom, a service that opens up unlimited messages, profile views and other functionality. It's quite expensive, if you just want to pay for a month at a time it's $19.99 / £14.99, but annual subscriptions work out to $9.99 / £7.50 a month.
In its FAQ the developers talk about the Whiplr elite, who command the highest levels of respect, bla bla bla. It is very different from the way I look at the BDSM community.

"The Whiplr Elite are BDSM and fetish trendsetters and connoisseurs – they might be professional domes or masters, educators, artists or models. They command the highest levels of respect, and are valued for everything they have done to contribute to our community."

Sophie Saint Thomas has written an extensive, overall positive review for Vice. That is not the case with People's Kelli Bender who describes it as: "Find Your Own Christian Grey with New Kinky Dating App Whiplr". Yikes. Enough said.

KNKI  BDSM Kink Dating Community App


Difficult to pinpoint exactly, but it looks like KNKY was launched at the beginning of 2016. All apps offer more or less the same features, what makes KNKY stand out is its endorsement by Kink.com. The kink video producers have already announced plans to use the app for the promotion of community events, workshops, and activism.

“As a sexual community, we have to walk on eggshells on most social networks, even when doing basic education and activism," said Kink.com's head of social media Jessica Reid. "KNKI gives us an opportunity to have those discussions without worrying about whether we’ll be banned. We see this as our version of Instagram and Facebook.” 

According to founder Carl Sandler KNKY was built to be a true social network without the censorship of kink-related content on Facebook and Instagram. Even though it is also a dating app, KNKY positions itself as a kink community first. It is also meant as a safe haven where people can be themselves and look for partners without exposing themselves by going on Tinder or OKCupid and talking about their fetishes. Neil Drumming, reviewing the app for Gawker, is positive about it, especially compared to "Whiplr which feels more like Tinder in leather chaps."

Kinkstr  BDSM Kink Dating Community App


What is it with purple and kink? First KNKY and now Kinkstr.  Like most apps the information provided on its website is scant. It looks like KNKY was launched somewhere late 2016 or early 2017. It appears there is a free version, not doubt limited and a paid one. One month is $9.99 and one year is $89.99 according to Fetish Dating Apps. The site calls "the design of the Kinkstr dating app brilliant." Because of its relative youth and limited number of users it is still to early to see how Kinkstr will develop in the future.

KinkD  BDSM Kink Dating Community App


The newest member of the kink dating app family is KinkD, launched somewhere halfway 2017. Like the others, its website looks professional but if you try to download the presskit from their Google drive, it's mainly about golden showers. That's one way to present your product to the press. Unbelievable. Their slogan is even worse: "Make Sex Life Great Again." What was wrong with it before? According to co-founder John: "When sex starts to get monotonous, getting into kink can help you make your sex life great again," Sorry mate, but most people are born kinky, it is who we are, not something we got into because we got bored with vanilla sex. Born this way and so on, you know.

Other than that, the main difference with the other three is that KinkD uses photo verification. The app claims it makes "our" community safer, but I doubt it. After all, how hard is it to edit a passport or driver's license in Photoshop before sending it?

I looked for somewhat decent reviews of KinkD, but they don't seem to exist. The Medium review is terrible. Written by Frances Carleton, a sexual health and trauma therapist [?], it discusses uploading pictures and some technicalities regarding swiping. Your Tango admits it doesn't know anything about kink but at least discusses a bit of background.  The worst of the lot is Cosmopolitan: "KinkD is awesome not only because the users are all open-minded and into kink..."


There are a few more kink dating app that I won't discuss here. Vanilla Umbrella is invitation only. Funny thing: it's logo clearly states 'no findoms.' Recon is for gay men into kink. Finally there is Feeld, but I can't quite figure out if it's kink only. Anyway best to stay away from it, it seems to create quite a mess when it is linked with office application Slack.

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