But it's not a stretch to say that even if you abstain from the goal, spending a week on Casual Encounters can teach you a lot about human beings and how the web has changed how we pursue one of our most essential and important desires. It goes without saying that the content of this article is not intended for children or those made uncomfortable by such topics.
But if you're interested, read on for the story of my seven days on Craigslist's Casual Encounters — my failures, near misses, discoveries, insights and successes. Following that, I interviewed two women to learn how they used the site successfully for their own fulfillment. Each day I tried a different approach to see what would be most effective, though I never lied or posted fake photographs.
One day my message was intended to be sweet and normal; I suggested starting with drinks and fun conversation to see if we had chemistry, then going back to my place to cuddle on the couch with a movie and see where that led. Another day, I described it as a rebound. In yet another, I explicitly detailed sexual activities and used very aggressive language. Ultimately, only the "sweet and normal" was successful, even though very few posts by women had that same tone more on that later.
I received about a half-dozen responses each day. Most were scams, some were men, some were prostitutes, and just one was legit. All the responses I got from real people on my first day weren't from women — they were from men. I made it very clear in my post that I was only interested in women, but a large number of men chose to ignore that. They all offered oral sex. I responded to them politely, saying, "Just interested in women, but thanks for the offer! Have a good one.
I began to suspect that no women actually used the site. The stereotype is that women are interested in relationships, and that only men would be interested in totally casual sex, right? We know that's not true, though. In fact, I was inspired to write this article when a friend told me many of her female friends had owned up to using it. Over the next couple of days, I actually received a lot of posts from women.
Or at least, they said they were women. To be honest, I doubted the veracity of the claims. It didn't take long to realize that almost all the replies I received were scams. The situation is so severe on Craigslist Casual Encounters that posts by real women who are actually seeking hook-ups are often flagged for removal at the slightest cause for suspicion.
The most common scams are "safe dating" websites. An alleged woman will write a man saying she's interested, but that because of the Craigslist-based serial killers and rapists in the news, she needs some extra assurance that it's safe.
If you follow the link she provides, the website asks you for your credit card number — y'know, so it can do a background check to make sure you're not a criminal. One individual tried to get me to buy him or her virtual currency in online games like MapleStory before agreeing to hand over contact information. Yeah, right — moving on! What little luck I'd had so far. The week was half over and I hadn't had a single bite.
I decided I would have to take the initiative, so in addition to posting my own ads, I started responding to every ad from any woman who seemed at all interesting.
I cast a wide net in my searches, looking up posts by straight or bisexual women between the ages of 18 and 35 who lived anywhere in Chicagoland — a large metropolitan area that's home to close to five million females. Most of the women wanted something very specific they couldn't find in their normal lives: Someone to help play out a particular fantasy, someone vastly older than them or someone of another race.
Very few of the women who were advertising seemed to be looking for anything I would consider a "normal encounter. I typically wrote two or three paragraph replies and matched the tone of their own messages, then attached a couple of tasteful photos of myself.
I didn't get a single reply from an actual prospect this way. It turned out that most of the ads were fakes from scammers, and quite a few fell into another category all together. Prostitution is what made Craigslist controversial. There's technically another section for that — "Adult Services," formerly "Erotic Services" — but that's not the only place you'll find practitioners of the world's oldest profession. The prostitutes of Craigslist speak in code, but it's not a difficult one to learn.
They advertise "French lessons" — an odd thing to advertise under "Casual Encounters," don't you think? Well, it's obviously a euphemism for something else.
Many of the ads that weren't from scammers were from prostitutes. The ads are so obvious that it's surprising the euphemisms are effective in fending off law enforcement.
Then again, maybe they are law enforcement. Amidst all those failures, I had one near-success. A woman wrote in response to my sweet "cuddling first" ad saying she was in town for only a couple of months, and that she was frustrated she couldn't find a relationship.
When she sent her pictures, she looked plain but attractive. We exchanged a couple of e-mails over the course of two hours, tossing back and forth lists of interests and the like. She made it clear that she wanted to meet up, and while she talked about starting slow, it was clear that it would indeed be a casual encounter. But when I suggested a time to meet — the last message from me before I would reveal myself and back out — there was no reply. At least, not yet. The next day, she e-mailed me saying she was deeply apologetic and that she'd fallen asleep.
She said she'd like to meet up sometime. Reddit said the purge was enforcing its new content policy, which bans "transactions for certain goods and services," including "paid services involving physical sexual contact. This failure to distinguish between ads for prostitution and any discussion of prostitution is part of what has sex workers and free-speech advocates so worried.
Sex worker blogs could be shut down, and they could find their social-media accounts suspended simply for being honest about their work. This is because the core of FOSTA makes it a federal crime to "promote or facilitate the prostitution of another person," punishable by up to 10 years in prison, plus fines.
For promoting the prostitution of five or more people, the penalty is 25 years, and the same if promoting someone's prostitution "contributed to sex trafficking. Sex workers don't have to worry about being punished for posting their own ads, but they could run afoul of the law if working in pairs or helping a colleague place an ad.
Start and finish your day with the top stories from The Daily Beast. A speedy, smart summary of all the news you need to know and nothing you don't. The primary target are websites, apps, messageboards, and other digital publishers, which have deeper pockets.
To reach them, Congress had to carve a hole in Section , which has governed the internet for 22 years. It protects web platforms from being sued in civil court or criminally charged by state prosecutors for third-party i. It doesn't apply for federal crimes. Section says that unless they create the content in whole or part, these platforms shall not be treated as the speaker of such content, and good-faith efforts at content moderation like banning ads that explicitly mention illegal acts or auto-filtering out content that contains prohibited words do not change this.
That's why sites are scrambling right now to prohibit any content that could get them held liable. It's probably too late, or at least would be if legislators get their way. FOSTA "shall apply regardless of whether the conduct alleged occurred… before, on, or after such date of enactment. No less than the U. Department of Justice has urged against passing FOSTA, calling it unconstitutional and saying that it would make prosecuting sex traffickers harder.
Ron Wyden Wednesday from the Senate floor. Wyden—who co-authored Section —was the only Democrat to vote against the bill, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul the only Republican. An amendment to FOSTA proposed by Wyden would have clarified that websites can try to filter out illegal content without increasing their liability, but it was overwhelmingly defeated.
Wyden stressed that FOSTA is not a matter of substituting some free-speech rights for a better ability to stop sex trafficking.
Rather, it's imposing serious burdens while at best doing nothing for trafficking victims and quite likely making their lives worse. For one thing, it incentivizes law enforcement to go after third parties rather than stop traffickers or rescue victims.
It also takes away an important tool for finding trafficking victims—the open internet. Online ads have allowed an untold number of victims to be identified and found. What's more, the digital trail of ads, emails, and texts can provide evidence that makes catching and prosecuting the perpetrators easier.
Law enforcement loses this when traffickers switch to private, encrypted, or dark web forums. Many sex-trafficking survivors and victims groups vocally opposed FOSTA, saying it fails to address the things they really need like housing and job assistance and will make saving future victims harder. Plus, even those being forced or coerced into prostitution benefit from things like screening out violent clients and not having to walk the streets.
The bottom line is that FOSTA "is not going to prevent sex trafficking [and] it's not going to stop young people from becoming victims," Wyden said....