Craigslist has been a hub for raunchy “casual encounters” to be arranged almost since its conception, but it is only much more recently that some land-owning Craigslist users began using the site as a platform to find desperate people who are willing to arrange long-term sexual relationships in exchange for rent. The problem has gotten so bad lately, in fact, that lawmakers, who say the practice is essentially ongoing prostitution, are doing something about it.
BBC reports that a British politician named Liz Truss is acting as the figurehead for the movement, and she has brought the Craigslist sex-for-rent epidemic, which is growing exponentially in both the United States and Britain, to the attention of the courts.
“Will the Secretary of State agree that this is happening at the moment within the law and a review needs to take place so that people who are doing this and exploiting extremely vulnerable young women will face the full force of the law?” said a manager of Parliament named Peter Kyle while bringing the debacle to Truss’s attention.
In other words, the sex-for-rent scheme, under current laws in both the U.K. and the U.S., is not punishable. If the ads were actually explicit in saying “I will offer you this valuable item in exchange for sex,” then they might be, but as of now they simply offer a place to stay in exchange for companionship.
Because the Craigslist ads are vaguely worded, even though it is pretty obvious in almost every case that they are veiled ways of trying to buy sex, it is difficult to say with 100 percent certainty that the posters are not just very lonely guys with a bit of extra money on their hands looking for someone to spend time and maybe even find love with.
For a practical example, check out this Craigslist ad.
Compare it to this ad.
Obviously, the first one is just what the courts are trying to snuff out: solicitation for running a sex-for-money arrangement. And yes, exchanging a product that is worth money, in this case a rented room, for sex is the same thing.
But how about the second one? Does it really convey any criminal intentions?
Truss and others similarly opposed to the practice say, no matter what the poster’s motives may be or how vague the request might be, the whole idea is exploitative, preying on the young whose judgement may be clouded out of desperation.
There are also those that argue the Cragslist sex-for-rent trade, while perhaps unfortunate, is an unavoidable part of a free market.
The two ads pictured above were both placed regarding properties in the London area, but The Date Report notes that the landlords/ladies offering “free” apartments for maids/on-call prostitutes is a growing trend in the U.S., too, and especially on the West Coast.
“It’s a fine legal line between companionship and straight up sex exchange,” the article points out. “If the ad is explicit, the exchange is illegal, but if the ad is subtle, it’s lawful. Because of this, the ads are laden with euphemistic language for the situation.”
Some of the ads might see the Craigslist poster asking the respondent to “pretend to be [his] girlfriend,” while others go for the more direct approach, requesting a “naughty girl” to move in. Deciding whether they should both be illegal is posing quite a challenge.
TomoNews US says in a YouTube video on the subject that, as of right now, the best way authorities have to find the sex-for-rent ads that are considered unlawful is by analyzing the specific language used in the Craigslist post. Apparently, asking for a “roommate with benefits” is too vague to indicate the scheme, but actually using phrases like “house b**ch wanted” and “sex in lieu of rent” is a giveaway.
Luckily, notes the Date Report piece, the Craigslist sex-for-rent scourge has not managed to spread into major metropolitan areas in the U.S., the simple reason being that property is just too expensive to justify it.
Hopefully Truss and others like her can find a way to help authorities bring an end to this predatory Craigslist practice before it becomes any more prevalent.
[Featured Image by Katatzyna Bialasiewicz/iStock]