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Reynolds defined the majority of these users as "sexual outsiders" - "LGBTQ people, non-monogamous people, and kink and fetish communities who aren't a leading target market for the milquetoast dating sites." She also emphasized that "statistically very few" of Craigslist's users are victims of sex trafficking.
Even so, gruesome news stories of murders , rape and, most recently, fathers trying to sell their children for sex have only increased the sketchy reputation of the site's personal ads. "Whether intentionally or not, mainstream journalists catalyzed a moral crusade."That "crusade" culminated this past Friday in Craigslist's deletion of all of its personal ads, save for missed connections.
When Chelsea Reynolds was in graduate school at the University of Minnesota, she and her friends would read Craigslist personal ads together, specifically the casual encounters section.
They'd scroll through explicit posts submitted by anonymous users, many of whom were displaying grainy nude photos and soliciting no-strings-attached sex. Reynolds said she started reading these personal ads while she was in high school.
"For the last decade, the press has labeled Craigslist as a hotbed for prostitution, using the website as a scapegoat for the U. This comes in response to a controversial new bill - a fusion of the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) that the Senate voted 97-2 to pass last week.
President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill when it reaches his desk.
There is little precedent, however, for the knee-jerk removal of the personals section last week - what to many of the site's LGBT users might have felt like waking up to discover Tinder had simply vanished off their phones overnight.
In 2010, the site shut down its section for erotic services after it faced mounting pressure from state attorneys general - a move that may have actually endangered sex workers.
"It facilitated human connections that were not always exploitative or dehumanizing - I know people who are in 10- and 15-year relationships that began on Craigslist, that began with a hookup."When I asked Savage what impact losing services such as Craigslist personal ads could have on the queer community at large, he paused and said "it's just hard to put into words."For a generation that came of age with the internet, Craigslist and its contemporaries were queer spaces where people could "tiptoe out of the closet" without having to risk outing themselves, Savage said.
"Apps and Craigslist turned everyone's apartments, if they wished, into a bathhouse - cruising moved online."Craigslist was, of course, not the first such "bathhouse of the internet," as Salon so dubbed AOL in 1999.
The overwhelmingly negative coverage did not seem to jibe with what she had discovered in her review of hundreds of Craigslist personal ads, posted from 2005 to 2016 in New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles.
"My research shows that most Craigslist sex forum users were normal people seeking to explore their sexual desires with strangers online," she said.
In his 2009 book "Classified: The Secret History of the Personal Column," Harry Cocks, a lecturer at the University of Nottingham, showed how personals ads in the 20th century were a precursor to today's mobile dating apps.