This article features the personal but neutral opinions and interpretations of Trikoot. I have no afiiliation with any site mentioned in this article, aside being a member in all of them.
Decades ago — before the time of the Internet and instant cruising — a local kinky guy had very few choices on how to meet like minded people. The lucky ones lived in big cities with dedicated leather bars, and the unlucky ones had to resort to mingling with the normal people, and attempt to signal their perverted interests through discreet means. Everyone knew the local outdoors hot spots for cruising.
Now, times are different. Printed kinky periodicals are a rarity mostly found in LGBT museums, and through marvellous satellite positioning, any kinky guys in the vicinity are quite literally on your radar, 24/7.
While applications such as Grindr and Scruff have partly taken the market of instant, anonymous meat, the void left behind by the death of the leather bars has partly been filled and greatly expanded by the kinky social sites. In this post, I will attempt to analyze the differences of the major sites representing the bulk of kinky socializing on the net. Specialty sites focusing on one fetish or interest alone are not included.
Recon: The Biggest and Meanest
Recon.com, launched in 2000 by the London-based T101 (also behind trackies.com) quickly grew in popularity and can nowadays fairly claim to be the biggest all-male kinky social site on the Internet. While originally Recon featured a wide portfolio of interest sites (such as worldrubbermen.com) with a combined user database, it did away with these separate sites a few years ago and merged all members together on the recon.com site. The old interest sites still survive in the form of a selectable “Main Interest”, whose main role is to act as a filter in searches. In addition to the kinky interests, “Recon Men” is a category aimed at expanding to the vanilla demographic.
Aside the social site, Recon also organizes and sponsors a number of kinky events worldwide, and has a reasonably sized, exclusively online fetish store.
Recon.com is under active development, and can be also accessed via dedicated, and quite usable iOS and Android apps. While the basic functions of Recon are free for all, paid membership (79 EUR / year) removes the limits on the number of profile views you can do per day, and allows you to see all the pictures in user profiles.
Is it right for me? If you enjoy a large user base, and like to find kinky meat on the go, Recon is the gold standard, as long as you ignore the fakes and the flakes.
GearFetish: Old, but Dedicated
GearFetish has a colourful history dating to late 1990s, with ownership changes and legal issues, some of which have been unfortunately aired in public. The current incarnation was created in 2002, operating as a one-man operation from Colorado. While originally free for all, the site was forced to adopt a paid membership model (currently 15 USD / year for basic usability, 69.95 USD /year for full usability). Free membership is somewhat restricted but alright for casual use.
While news of feature development are prominently advertised on the front page, promises on new features such as online video have been left unfilled so far. Lack of dedicated mobile apps (aside the extremely simplified mobile web site) and a general freeze on development have left the user base of GearFetish wondering what is the future of the site. While the site remains usable, features such as slightly broken searching, masses of long inactive profiles and unfinished graphic design reek of unrealized potential.
The smaller profile of the site has the advantage of mostly attracting only serious gearheads, and the average level of authenticity is somewhat higher on GearFetish than on other sites.
Is it right for me? If you want authentic gear heads, and like to see pictures in 1200 pixels (paid membership only), register and remember to check your messages at least once in a while.
FetLife: Sleek, Fun, but What Is With All The Women?
Fetlife.com (created in 2008), the Canadian gift to the kinky world, does not limit itself to LGBT minorities, but aims to please everyone, left and right. With a modern, AJAX-based browsing experience, and a perfectly usable free membership, Fetlife aims to be the global townhouse of kinkpeople. Heavy emphasis on community is proved by extensive user forums with active discussions from politics to shibari.
This generality comes with a heavy price. Aside the obvious fact that there are more naked women on the site than the average kinky gay man can handle in a week, there is no way of filtering them out. Fetlife has a stated policy of limiting searching and filtering features specifically to prevent the proliferation of cruising (especially towards women) that is the lifeblood of gay people. As a result, you are unable to see, for example, a list of guys living in your city, a basic feature on any gay social site.
Paid membership (60 USD per year) is mostly a signal of support, video functionality being the only major gain.
Is it right for me? If you feel uncomfortable posting your ropework on Facebook, and seek a support group for your addiction to inflatable toys, Fetlife is the way to go. Also, if you were not bisexual before, you might want to give it a try.
GayRomeo: Die Blaue Seite
Gayromeo, started in 2002 in Germany, is not a kinky site by itself but is included here as an example of potential. With over a million active members, Gayromeo is mostly focused in Europe, and in particular in the German-speaking part thereof.
The extremely feature-rich site, native iOS and Android apps, and perfectly usable free membership are just icing on the cake. Support for communities, discussion forums, profile authenticity ratings, crowdsourced picture ratings, user advertisements, geographical positioning, and many more show the possible potential for other sites to improve their game to match the state of the art for social dating. Membership base in exotic locations such as the US can be slim though.
While mostly vanilla, due to its size Gayromeo also features a lot of kinky profiles, and the extremely flexible search allows filtering by stated fetishes, making it easy to find your kinky match.
Is it right for me? If you are from Central Europe, your gay friends are probably already waiting for you there. Other than that, who can resist all the cute young German guys there?
The Bottom Line
No single site has the superset of all the online kinky people. As long as you do not have a presence at all the sites, you will miss a part of the population.
If you aim for the biggest coverage with the least effort, Recon will get you more people than most people have time to meet. If you enjoy exclusively gear-oriented people, check out GearFetish. If you reside in Europe, register at Gayromeo just to be on the safe side.
And… if Facebook is not stealing enough of your time, and you are not afraid of gratuitous pussy, there is no harm in Fetlife.
Agree or disagree with me? Leave a comment below!