The weirdness of Craigslist just got a little less weird. It was over a year ago when Craigslist changed its “Erotic Services” section to “Adult,” and only recently when they changed “Adult” to an unclickable, black box of text that simply read, “Censored.” Now, even the remnants of that subtle protest are gone.
What was once a semi-moderated forum for lonely men to seek creepy pleasures and porn studios to hunt for hungry college students is no longer. Instead, these desires are now masked under new code words and lexical twists throughout other sections of the website. Honestly, anyone who’s browsed CL with any sense of adventure knows that “snow” is code for cocaine, “roses” is code for “dollars,” and that “athletic blonde” is code for “delusional broad in stained stretch pants and a kid on a leash wandering dangerously close to traffic.”
After the word “Craigslist” infiltrated every American home permanently affixed to the word “killer,” things were forced to change, and the website even attempted to repent for its steadfast dedication keeping the exchange of services, whatever they may be, free. After donating $100,000 dollars to The Center for Young Women’s Development in San Francisco, the group ritualistically burned the check (along with some sage and a prayer), taking photographs of its slow immolation—because nothing promotes women’s equality like burning something at a stake. The center didn’t want to accept money from a website which “facilitated” sex trafficking, despite CL’s efforts to monitor and eliminate these ads, but mostly, it was because a CL representative was “annoyed” with their questions. Hell hath no fury.
This weird effort to cast Craigslist as some kind of Internet pariah is misguided. Those seeking to buy and sell sex aren’t going to stop seeking these things because an Internet forum is shut down, but they will begin to flow around the obstacle, develop a new set of secret words and ferret out forums which don’t undergo the same moderation, and thrive elsewhere. The rights of adult men and women to find employment in the sex industry are inalienable.
None of this halts bizarre, and potentially dangerous, solicitations. I’m a good friend of one girl who has recently “earned” roughly $4000 in gifts over the course of one month after placing an ad seeking men who wished to be controlled by a domineering woman. While the psychological implications of this (and one fine gentleman selling his house to please her) are another discussion entirely, completely closing down the “adult” section of CL is a mistake, as these things continue to propagate. While CL might be a channel for the undesirable, it also included many dams along the way, and remains a relatively effective venue for crowd-sourced moderation.
Blocking off a sewer pipe doesn’t make the excrement go away—it just bubbles up into places where it shouldn't be. People are going to be insane and live dangerous, cruel lives—at least we could watch it all happen in one place on Craigslist.