Your phone can get a little bit kinkier this year, with the launch of KNKI, a new social media app that aims to provide more than just hookups for the kink community. Like last year's launch of Uplust — basically an NSFW-friendly answer to Instagram — KNKI wants to give poly folks, BDSM aficionados, and other fetishists something other than a standard, GPS-based dating/hookup app. It seeks to give kinksters a broad range of social networking features, from photo feeds and hashtag searches to follower bases and community events.
One of the most difficult parts of developing a kink identity can be the sense of isolation a budding kinkster may feel while sorting out the nature of their desires. Even if you manage to nurture a healthy sex-positive attitude in spite of the overall tone of puritanical sex-shaming perpetuated in our sex education system, not being able to find a community of people who share your desires can feel alienating.
It's vital, when we start to play with our sexual/relationship boundaries, to have fellow, like-minded folks of various experience levels to bounce thoughts and feelings off of. Practicing BDSM in a relationship vacuum with no outlet for venting, asking questions, or finding models of ethical behavior is a prime breeding ground for abuse and trauma to occur, intentionally or not. So having a social network with the express purpose of setting you up with a community to turn to is an important resource for the kink community.
One promising endorsement of KNKI comes from porn magnate Kink.com, which has 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.”
True to its format as a social network, the app draws together all the best features of Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook:
The good: You can "follow" people you like, which puts their photo uploads in your FotoFeed. You can also search the FotoFeed by hashtag for inspiration. Users are also able to lock or unlock the content they share with the public, just like private Twitter or Instagram accounts.
The bad: In order to keep its spot in the Google Play and App Store marketplaces, KNKI must adhere to their strict photo guidelines, meaning no NSFW pics, which, on a purported app for kinksters, is sort of tragically vanilla. You can, however, exchange NSFW pics within private messages. Which brings us to...
2. Messaging And Shoutouts
Like dating apps, the platform obviously has a messaging feature, and, if you're shy with words, it has a "shout-out" feature (sort of like "liking" someone), which gives you the options of letting a user know you've flagged them as: "cute," "hot," "funny," having a "great smile," being a potential "playdate" mate, or that you're turned on by their intellect with "sapiosexual."
3. Gender, Sexual Orientation, Relationship, And Lifestyle Role Options
The good: KNKI's sexual orientation options are pretty diverse, with users being able to identify as straight, gay, bisexual, queer, pan, other, or all. You can also filter matches using any of those identifiers, but the menu isn't multiple choice. You can only search by one identity at a time, ie., if you wanted to search for "gay" and "queer" users, then you'd have to conduct two separate searches.
The relationship type options are also diverse, with users being able to frame their relationship status as: single, exclusively dating, dating, in a relationship, open relationship, poly relationship, married, separated, widowed, or other.
The bad: KNKI's gender identity options leave a lot to be desired with only "man," "woman," or "other" offered as self-identifiers, and only "man," "woman," "other," or "all" listed as search filter choices.
The so-called "Lifestyle Role" identifiers and filters are also somewhat limited, with your options being: Dominant, submissive, switch, slave, kinkster, or other. By comparison, kink social networking site FetLife has 66 roles to choose from, as well as sections for specifying how active you are (eg., do you prefer to play inside your role 24/7 or just during sex), and a multiple choice menu of what you're looking for in a play partner (eg., "a teacher/mentor," "a sub," or just "someone to play with").
One of the pitfalls of FetLife, which KNKI has also fallen victim to, is that the lifestyle role menus are not multiple choice, meaning that, if you have more than one kink identity that describes you, you're stuck choosing just one. For example, if you're a FetLife user who identifies as a service top, there's no way to check off that you're both a submissive and a top — you'd have to pick just one. With a role menu as limited as KNKI's, this isn't quite as much of a problem. But you'd still be stuck identifying as a submissive from the drop-down menu, and then having to explain in your profile that you also identify as a top.
The same goes for filtering matches — you can only search by one role at a time. So if you want to filter your matches by Dominants who are also kinksters, there's no way to cross-reference the two in a search.
I asked KNKI founder Carl Sandler if there were any plans to incorporate a multiple choice menu in the future. "Yes, absolutely," Sandler tells Bustle. "Moving toward multiple choice is one of our next steps. We want the community to really define the priorities for how this app evolves. Obviously, with a BDSM/kink/fetish/poly community, there are lots of different and sometimes competing needs. Rather than trying to create a complex, overdetermined system, we thought we'd let the users make the site useful for them, and follow their lead with updates. We want to be open-source and DIY in spirit, just like the lifestyler."
Like most new apps, KNKI's userbase is super tiny right now, and its usefulness in building community depends on a large usership. Hopefully, we'll see the complexity and inclusivity of the app's profile features improve as the launch kinks (puns!) get worked out.
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