Some Central Michigan University students are using Craigslist to find more than just a used car.
The Internet classified site has become a hotbed for sexual activity and has been linked to reported cases of prostitution, sex rings and human trafficking this year alone.
But, sometimes, it’s not just about making money.
In a non-scientific effort to determine how commonly people use the site to find sex, Central Michigan Life created a fake Craigslist account advertising sex with no strings attached.
The account, which did not contain a photo, was created under the guise of a 19-year-old girl named “Ashley,” who had supposedly just transferred to CMU and was looking for a “one-night stand.”
The post was flagged and removed after being up for a mere 12 hours. During the half-day it existed, 20 people responded, some with photo attachments.
“I’ll give you what you’re looking for,” wrote one anonymous male.
“I am looking for (more) than a one night stand,” wrote another. “If we both enjoy it, it could become a regular thing.”
Others chose the more straight-forward approach.
“Let’s do this,” one reply read.
After cross-referencing the responding e-mail addresses through MySpace, many of the male responders appeared to be CMU students, some even in committed relationships.
A fake male account was also set up, but didn’t receive close to the amount of responses from women; only 20 in about a month.
“OMG this better be real, I want you …” was one response.
A non-threatening e-mail was sent to those who responded to the ad, offering anonymity in exchange for going on the record. Nobody responded.
online easily tracked
Sociology professor Alan Rudy said anytime there is a new way for people to have sex, people will try it. Technology like Craigslist is no exception.
“People are interested in sex,” Rudy said. “And most of the time, sex isn’t easy to get.”
Rudy said our culture broadly believes that sex should only occur between people in relationships. The problem is that sexual relationships can be difficult to negotiate, he said. Many are more interested in just sex.
Mike Morrow, a CMU Police detective sergeant, said the anonymous nature of the Internet allows people to say and do things they normally wouldn’t.
“They don’t realize that what they do can be tracked in any number of various locations,” Morrow said.
In an effort to crack down on this kind of activity, Craigslist made agreements last November with state attorney generals around the country. They mandated that people posting ads for erotic services must provide a working telephone number and pay a small credit card fee.
Last week, the Web site filed lawsuits against 14 Internet and software companies that provide people with ways of getting around such precautions.
This, along with MySpace’s recent decision to remove the profiles of 90,000 registered sex offenders, is part of an ongoing movement to promote online safety.
Timothy Boudreau, a journalism professor who teaches media law, said unless issued a subpoena, Craigslist and other privately owned networks do not need to take these precautions.
“Craigslist is a private company,” he said. “Whatever policy they want to set up, it’s up to them.”
Steve Thompson, the director of Sexual Aggression Peer Advocates, said people who look for sex online will find ways around these policies and that this behavior is common, even popular.
Thompson, a national figure on the issues of sexual assault, harassment and stalking, said he deals with online issues regularly.
“It isn’t rare at all,” he said. “People don’t know what’s going on online, you can deal with a serial killer, a pedophile child rapist … there is so much strangeness out there.”