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I should admit that I had no intention to actually hook up with someone, should the opportunity arise, if for no other reason than it would be inappropriate and manipulative to an unwitting partner to do so and write about it. 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.
This is the bell curve many Casual Encounters advertisers travel: If you're wondering why that sexy chick suddenly quit answering your e-mails, this sort of rational thought process is probably the reason. Gay men are always on the vanguard of any of society's sexual shifts, for good or ill, from HIV to Grindr, and Josh sees Craigslist as antiquated. He hooked up online as recently as last week, but not via Craigslist. He checks the site from time to time, but, "In reality, I haven't had sex through Craigslist for years and years and years.
With his swimmer's body, unblemished, caramel-colored skin and engaging, lighthearted, party-party personality, this resident of an Elle Decor —worthy West Hollywood apartment is clearly a desirable specimen.
Josh is in a committed relationship, but his partner has a job that forces him to travel out of town frequently; even when his boyfriend is home, his sex drive simply doesn't match Josh's.
So Josh looks online for casual hookups often, and has no trouble finding them. However, he's largely left Craigslist behind. Josh prefers a number of other sites to the creaky Craigslist, such as Adam4Adam, BarebackRT with its high proportion of users who, like himself, are HIV-positive or his favorite, Manhunt. Manhunt works because its interface has something that Craigslist has stubbornly refused to add: Twenty pictures, 20 guys. You decide on two to three options per page, and you click.
Josh adds that no site has eliminated the flake factor, which is ubiquitous in the online world. The other big problem: Not saying that fat people can't have sex, but it's the lying that got me. So I said, 'I'm sorry, I gotta go, it's not going to work. I don't want to spend money in a bar. I don't want to make myself cute. I don't want small talk, trying to be charming and seductive. It's a lot more effort. On a website, you go straight to the point.
I'm looking for someone with no strings attached, one and done. I cannot get involved, because I'm in a relationship. The only thing I want is to have sex. One benefit of the rise in online sex: Josh concludes that it's made the West Hollywood bar scene a lot more enjoyable. This idea of going to a bar for sex, very few people do that. Even if you're horny as hell. I love all races and genders butch fem, trans or intersex is all good , and I like you pretty, damn good-looking, or super sexy and comfortable in your own skin or hair, or shoes, or undies No men, and no male-and-female couples.
If you ignore this clause, I will do mean things with your e-mail address. I look forward to meeting! Grace, 5 feet 9 and pounds, is a gorgeous girl, so if anyone is going to be doing the turning down, it's her. Still, despite her warnings, a number of men replied to Grace's ad, maybe because they were enticed by the shots she included from her occasional modeling jobs, or maybe because they thought to themselves, "Sure, she's seeking a woman, but wait till she sees this JPEG of my fabulous schlong!
After wading through a small stack of e-mails and meeting up with one woman whom she didn't find attractive, Grace moved her ad from Casual Encounters to Women Seeking Women, Craigslist's more traditional dating section. It was only then that she became the only one of our test subjects to lay some rubber on the road. After a few IMs and text messages, Grace invited one woman to her apartment to meet in person, and soon after found her long legs tangled in a new friend's hair.
She's gorgeous and sweet. Had a good connection and she spent the night. We didn't sleep much. Things only became unclear afterward, when the woman wanted to hit it again and Grace demurred. If it's a onetime thing, that's fine, but I don't connect emotionally if I have sex right away. Even though she's hot, she's pretty, and she's cute, I was just a little bit disconnected.
So I think I'd rather see her again as more than just a booty call and make sure I knew how I was feeling about it. Clearly the antithesis of the "U-Haul lesbian," Grace has another potential date from Casual Encounters still pending. You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter s - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
The anonymity the online world offers is two-faced. Its beautiful face is the one that lets you shed your inhibitions and finally proclaim to the world that your ultimate fulfillment would consist of being tied up with rubber hoses while wearing pink satin panties.
On the ugly side, anonymity emboldens cyberbullies, angry at you, perhaps because you have dared to voice their own repressed desires right out loud. The flake factor is overwhelming. There are the dreaded "endless e-mails," the looky-loos, the photo collectors and the perverts — a label that typically describes anyone not into the same things that you are. Craigslist may seem to magically put scores of potential fuck buddies at your fingertips, but it doesn't magically get you over your self-esteem issues, your time crunch, your weight problem, your fear of STDs or those pesky ethics.
In reality, the chasm between the moment when, as you sit comfortably in front of your computer, your idle thoughts stray to "Boy, some head would sure be nice right about now" and actually procuring said head is always far vaster and more difficult to traverse than we like to imagine.
Do people get laid through Craigslist? But after wading through the dregs, it quickly becomes obvious that your odds are scarcely better there than they are anywhere else. Or sign in with a social account:
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