Craigslist recently announced that it was getting rid of its “erotic” services section. Instead, the website will have an “adult” services section with more stringent screening and a $10 fee. Speaking with On the Media, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said to Craigslist, “you've got to recognize that your site has become the number one Internet brothel, and you have to take some responsibility for this.” The CEO of Craigslist countered, accusing politicians of “a bit of a witch hunt or a use of Craigslist as a political piñata.”
Largely absent from this conversation are the sex workers who have come to rely on Criagslist for their livelihoods. The latest issue of $pread, a magazine about “illuminating the sex industry,” has a point-counterpoint with two sex workers on the effect of the new Craigslist rules.
It’s understandable that Craigslist would bow to pressure from politicians and special interest groups, according to a writer known as Starchild, but that doesn’t make it fair. “Their new policy singles out folks who seek and provide erotic services from all other Craigslist users and subjects them to special discrimination, not to mention a greater risk of arrest, fine, and jail,” because of the ability to trace the fees. She does not, however, blame Craigslist. And she doesn’t advocate that people leave the site. Having the “erotic” services listed along side job and apartment listings on Craigslist, she writes, “can do nothing but help sex work be seen as normal and acceptable.”
The new rules aren’t unfair to sex workers, according to Mistress Matisse, but they are unfortunate. If sex workers don’t want to put down a credit card for the Craigslist ads, they can always go other places. And people who can’t afford the fee have bigger problems than Craigslist.
“Don’t blame Craigslist,” Starchild writes. “At least, not too much. Instead, let’s lobby them to send those $10 payments, which Craigslist says will go to charity, to groups like the Desiree Alliance, Sex Workers Outreach Project, and Erotic Service Providers Union, which are working to decriminalize prostitution.”