That incognito world, complete with its own erotic lingo ("str8," "BBW," "dom," "BB," etc.), has given Reynolds a virtual window into the intimate lives of strangers."Most of my friends are queer," said Reynolds, who also identifies as queer.
"We were amazed at how many straight-identifying men and women were seeking same-sex hookups on the site's sex forums."This phenomenon inspired Reynolds to conduct an analysis of hundreds of Craigslist personal ads.
There is little precedent, however, for the knee-jerk removal of the personals section last week - what to many of the site's LGBT users might have felt like waking up to discover Tinder had simply vanished off their phones overnight.
Many people use Craigslist to find roommates, cheap furniture, used cars or part-time jobs. I decided to dive into Craigslist's "Casual Encounters" — a section made for no-strings hookups — to see if any of what I assumed about that virtual place was true.
This is not the first time Craigslist listings have come under scrutiny in relation to sex trafficking.
In 2010, the site shut down its section for erotic services after it faced mounting pressure from state attorneys general - a move that may have actually endangered sex workers.
Reynolds defined the majority of these users as "sexual outsiders" - "LGBTQ people, non-monogamous people, and kink and fetish communities who aren't a leading target market for the milquetoast dating sites." She also emphasized that "statistically very few" of Craigslist's users are victims of sex trafficking.
Even so, gruesome news stories of murders , rape and, most recently, fathers trying to sell their children for sex have only increased the sketchy reputation of the site's personal ads. "Whether intentionally or not, mainstream journalists catalyzed a moral crusade."That "crusade" culminated this past Friday in Craigslist's deletion of all of its personal ads, save for missed connections.