Today, Craigslist announced closing of its Erotic Services section, finally bowing to the media and politician feeding frenzy related to the murder of Julissa Brisman, a sensual masseuse advertising her services in the Craigslist’s naughty neighborhood.
I say “related”, not “caused”, because the “Craigslist Killer” case was simply an excuse to raise a few network’s ratings and increase the popular appeal of a certain camera-loving Attorney General. Sex, murder and a moral crusade – oh, how we Americans love that golden (ka-ching!) combination.
Fact – advertising for erotic services on Craigslist is still safer than advertising in papers, or, god save us, walking the streets and getting into stranger’s cars.
Fact – “Craigslist Killer” was caught through his use of Craigslist. If he simply answered a printed classified, we’d likely still be looking for him, and he’d likely still be robbing and killing sex workers.
Fact – there are well known scams in rental and real estate sections of Craigslist. Not one public figure seems to care. Guess a crusade to clean up those would not be photogenic enough to get them on the front page.
But when did the facts ever stand in the way of a good story?
Think I’m just too cynical? When Katherine Olson was murdered after answering a fake babysitter ad on Craigslist in 2007, there was no outcry to ban all babysitting ads. This is about punishing people who trade in sexual pleasures, not about their safety. It’s about trying to stuff all that nasty sex stuff back into back alleys; so we can again pretend it’s not happening in *our* neighborhood… business as usual.
And, regarding business as usual, Craigslist will close the Erotic Services section only to open the Adult Services section. After the “sky is falling” panic among the sex workers and customers wears out, they’ll discover that the things didn’t change much after all. The only real difference is that the Adult Services ads will be manually approved. This means no sexually explicit words and images, and no over posting. Basically, the rules will be similar to printed personals. On the long run, this will only make Adult Services section considerably more usable, benefiting the adult providers who didn’t abuse the system to begin with.
It certainly won’t stop Julissa’s co-workers from advertising their services on Craigslist – any serious adult entertainer knows to post non-explicit, articulate and elegant ads, the ones that Craigslist claims the new section is for. They’re doing it already, because they know such ads bring in a higher caliber customer and ultimately make more money, a simple fact of higher perceived value selling for higher prices.
But that’s ok. What public really wants is simply to be allowed to continue self-deceiving that sex work happens somewhere else, by people they don’t know and don’t want to know. The new ad format will accomplish that.
Sigh. Every once in a while, I really just want to run up to random strangers, shake them and scream into their faces: “Everyone fucks! I know you do it. Your mom and dad did it – you’re the proof. Your grandma did it too. LIVE WITH IT!”