Thursday, November 6, 2008

US vs. Sex

The New York Times reports that the attorneys general of 40 states are on the warpath against Craigslist to make it weed out the most objectionable "erotic services" ads. Craigslist has long been used by people who want to hook up for no strings attached sex. The site has already begun verifying the phone numbers of people who place sex ads. Now they're going to start charging a $10 fee for their ads as a way of getting people's credit card information and learning their identities. The message is very clear. If you're gay, if you're kinky, if you're a sex worker, look out... Big Brother is watching you.

A few years ago a flamer posted a fake Craigslist ad posing as a kinky submissive woman looking for a male top, then published the personal information of all the men that replied. Some lost their jobs or were outed as kinky to their families. You don't have to be ashamed of your sex life to want and expect a certain level of privacy. This is yet another example of the government doing something that it has gotten very good at during the eight years of the Bush Administration: trying to control people's sexual expression through intimidation. Will Obama change this policy? I'm not holding my breath.

UPDATE 11/9/08: Mistress Matisse has just posted on her blog about the Craigslist situation and she took a more positive view of it than I did, which is surprising coming from a sex worker. She acknowledges that there is a danger that the government could subpoena Craigslist's records but says that's a lot of effort to go to in order to bust independent prostitutes. Simpler methods already exist. The only people who are in danger according to Matisse are pimps and the shadier escort services, and Matisse doesn't mind if "the riff-raff" goes to jail. I think she's missing a larger point -- that the government is intimidating Craigslist into intimidating prostitutes, which drives sex work farther underground and makes it less safe. But she definitely knows more about the subject than I do. Maybe I should give the standard liberal, sex-positive defense of sex work a rest.


  1. I think these policies will peter out under Obama's administration. While he probably won't specifically seek to abolish them in the name of sexual freedom, I think that in general, intimidating policies like the one you describe will be put on the back burner and eventually become ineffective through lack of use. While it might not be the actively sex-friendly response you're looking for, it's a start.