Of Course Craigslist Encourages Prostitution

I’m a fan of Craigslist for two reasons: First off, from a personal perspective, it’s free and it works. I’ve sold and promoted things on Craigslist and I know other people who have, too — and in my experience, it works just as well as a classified ad, but doesn’t cost anything. You’ve got love that — unless you’re a newspaper.

Speaking of newspapers, the other reason I love Craigslist is because it’s a dagger to the heart of the newspaper industry. The revenue that these papers lose because people are foregoing their classified ads for Craigslist is helping to bankrupt newspapers all across this country. That’s helpful for conservatism.

However, I do have one complaint about Craigslist that is covered in this story about the Craigslist killer,

Craigslist chief executive Jim Buckmaster denied yesterday that the website offered sex-related advertising, even as Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal called on the company to take stronger actions to combat pornography, prostitution, and child trafficking in its online classifieds.

“I would not describe any section of our site as ‘sex related,’ ” Buckmaster wrote in response to a series of e-mailed questions from the Globe.

He acknowledged that Craigslist offers an “erotic services” section that should not include more than “legitimate escort services, sensual massage, exotic dancers, etc.,” but said that offers to exchange sexual favors for money are “strictly prohibited” and removed from the site.

As for visitors to Craigslist, Buckmaster said, more than half are there to find used furniture, apartments for rent, or other items for sale. Job listings get the most traffic per listing “by an enormous margin,” he said, and the website’s housing section is “extremely heavily used as well.”

“Roughly one percent of ads posted on CL are in the ‘erotic services’ section,” he wrote.

Yesterday afternoon, more than 150 ads were posted on Craigslist’s erotic section in Boston, and many made openly sex-related offers. One South Shore woman headlined her ad “Sexy Busty and Ready to Play!” A Cambridge woman promised she would be “enticed the whole time” and another promoted “Naughty Hottie Afternoon Specials” in an “exhilarating, unrushed, intimate encounter.” Some people posted hourly rates or naked photographs of themselves taken in a bathroom mirror.

Now, the Craigslist killer thing? I don’t blame them for that. Sociopathic killers use all sorts of methods to find their victims. If it wasn’t Craigslist, this guy could have just as easily been picking them up somewhere else.

However, the whole “I would not describe any section of our site as ‘sex related” comment from the CEO of Craigslist is a bad joke. Let me give you an example from my relatively small, local Craigslist in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

In the last three days, there are 29 posts in the erotic services “women for men” section (There are actually 21 sections that even include things like t4mw & mw4mw — if you don’t know what those mean already, you probably don’t want to know). By my count, the women for men section breaks down as follows,

Phone sex: 2
Prostitution: 19
“Happy Ending” Massage: 3
Porn advertisement: 1
Duplicates: 4

In other words, once you take out the dupes 22 out of 25 (88%) of the ads are for services that are illegal in the state of South Carolina.

Granted, they don’t write, “Hey, I’m a skanky — and itchy — prostitute who shoots heroin and I probably look much more mannish than my pictures and I would like you to pay me for sex,” but it’s not hard to read between the lines.

Here’s a typical pic and the key section from the ad to give you an idea of how it’s presented,

Do not mention rate or price because this is not an offer of Prostitution – Money is a GIFT for time and companionship ONLY! By contacting me we BOTH agree that there is no affiliation with any l.a.w.

Maybe it’s just me and the polite manners we Southerners are raised with, but I suspect most women who don’t sell themselves for a living would be ah, let’s say a trifle offended if you handed them a wad of cash after sex for the “time and companionship.”

But you’ve got to wonder, does that actually work in court? Maybe there’s a police officer, lawyer, or judge reading RWN who can let us know, but whether it does or doesn’t, this is straight up prostitution going on right out in the open — and of course, what else would any reasonable person expect to be happening on a highly trafficked, unmonitored website that has a section called “erotic services?”

Craigslist can spin it any way they want to, but obviously they want prostitutes and their customers conducting business on Craigslist or they wouldn’t have an erotic services section in the first place.

As to why that is, my guess is that only 1% of their ads may be placed in ‘erotic services,’ but they’re probably finding that 1% draws an inordinate amount of traffic to Craigslist. So a lot of people are probably coming to see the hoes, and then heading over to the other sections.

Still, Craigslist shouldn’t be allowing this to go on and if they won’t do the right thing and put an end to it, I would encourage local states and municipalities to use whatever legal tools they may have available to do it for them.

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