Have Craigslist's erotic ads changed at all?

To look at Craigslist's new Adult Services section it to find slightly more subtle language, slightly more subtle pictures. But, one suspects, the same services as before.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read

Gentlemen of Philadelphia, don't let this great girl pass you by.

No, those aren't my words. Well, not the last seven. These are the words of Britney, who is advertising in the new adult services section on Craigslist.

She continues: "Im 5'5, 120 lbs all natural 34 c, I have a great body and i want to show you what I can do with it....tanned and toned, sexy, sweet with a bubbly outgoing personality."

Or take Ashley, an advertiser on the New York Craigslist. She headlines her ad with the enticement: "Very Pretty Grad Student Available Now!!!!!!!!!" And she promises: "Your pleasure is my goal, your wish, my command."

Some advertisers have chosen to make their pictures a little more discreet. Some advertisers have even taken the name change from Erotic Services to Adult Services to heart. This advertiser from the Los Angeles section literally uses the phrase "adult services," as if this is now a seal of approval.

Craigslist founder Craig Newmark CC Top Rank Online Marketing/Flickr

Yet everyone involved knows that this is little more than a dance, a dysfunctional Argentine tango between those who advertise sexual services on Craigslist and those who have sought to pursue the site for no other reason than that it is large and successful.

Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster offered these words to the San Francisco Chronicle on the subject of the new adult services section: "We are no more able to read the minds of people placing ads than are classifieds editors at newspapers and the Yellow Pages."

Yet his language reflects the new subtlety of his advertisers. He told the Chronicle that the new tone of adult ads is less racy than that in weekly newspapers and other, perhaps slightly less high-profile Web sites. He is right.

It is very easy to find ads in many media that tell it far more as it really is. Even those that offer more indeterminate promises, seem to wink as they do.

Please just take this one example from the site nyasianfun.com. As well as showing women in various stages of undress, when you go to the link marked "rates," you will see not only that Suffolk County is more expensive than Brooklyn, but that: "Our escorts are of the highest quality, guaranteed to mostly please our clients."

What conclusions can one possibly reach from the phrase "mostly pleasing"?

Critics, such as Sheriff Tom Dart of Cook County, Illinois, have assailed Craigslist for not revealing how monitoring of sex ads is performed, or even who performs it. Does Craigslist founder Craig Newmark do it himself? Or has he farmed the job out to interns, contractors, or full-time employees?

But isn't the reality that this is all mere posturing, as people have learned how to communicate with each other online in ways that will successfully circumvent the law's arm length?

If you don't feel like being in the adult services section, you can try "causal encounters" or "women seeking men" or "men seeking men." And who would wish to declare that all of the massage advertisers in the "beauty" section are, indeed, merely masseuses and masseurs?

If you wander around the site, you will see new code words emerge, words that quickly become understood by those who regularly go there, seeking whatever it is they seek.

It's just a microcosm of life being played out on the pages of a very successful online trading floor. Well, mostly successful.