When did Craigslist become the internet's red-light district?


Flipping through the newspaper, I recently came across an article discussing the rising problem of prostitutes advertising their services on Craigslist. According to the author, Vivekananda Nemana, a probe by New York city councilman Eric Gioia had found that 85% of "erotic services" ads were offering illegal acts.

Now, while I'm a regular Craigslist visitor, I tend to hang out in the apartment, gig, job, and furniture listings; never having ventured into the dark world of "erotic services," I hadn't seen any prurient sexual ads. Although, to be honest, some prurient sexuality would really have made those job listings a lot more interesting. I can see it now: "Midtown advertising agency ISO discreet, erotic copywriter, 25-40. Must be able to type 60 wpm. With one hand."

At any rate, I expected the prostitute advertisements to be somewhat subtle. The article had stated that "Thousands of men and women promise 'sensual, full service massages' with 'all your fantasies fulfilled.'" It seemed to me that these sorts of ads left a lot to the imagination, and I could easily visualize a young sex worker, brought up on charges, claiming that "full service" meant that she did both shiatsu and Swedish, while "all your fantasies fulfilled" meant that you were dreaming about getting rid of that lower back pain.

When I actually went to Craigslist, however, I found that the marketing was a little more...spirited. One site promised "Crazy Low Rates" and declared that "CONDUM [sic] USAGE IS A MUST FOR EVERYTHING," which seemed strange, given that the ad claimed to be offering massages. Most ads were more subtle, although many of them gave wink-wink nudge-nudge hints that they offered more than mere massages. On the other hand, several postings cautioned that they don't do "F/S"; upon further investigation, I came to the conclusion that this means "full service," as "fridge/stove," "feet per second," and "frozen section" all seemed just a little too weird to be plausible.

While my explorations of Craigslist's sleazy side were far from comprehensive, I saw enough to convince me that there are a lot of people offering a lot of illegal services out there. I understand that Craigslist is unable (and unwilling) to police its listings, but it seems a little amazing to me that it's possible for people to so bluntly advertise for sex. Since when did my favorite user to user purchasing site become the best little brothel on the internet?

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. If people are using Craigslist to find cheap, meaningless sex, then what's the point of MySpace?