Craigslist is an online host for classified ads that can be found at http://www.craigslist.org.

Craiglist works on a local level, with subdomains ranging from San Francisco and New York, from Austin to Boston, and of course, my hometown, Portland.

Classified ads can be placed for free, sorted by category, for everything from housing to jobs, furniture to sex. Subcategories help you find specifics on what you're looking for. The website also maintains a list of community events (such as The Pushovers performances and classes and so forth) and active discussion forums.

Yet the (arguably) most famous part of Craigslist is the Rants 'n' Raves (save for possibly the Casual Encounters section), a list of posting in which people can flip out and complain about whatever they want. While this may sound like a recipe for disaster, the Rants 'n' Raves section of Craigslist (along with the rest of the site) is policed by the community. Spam is quickly flagged and brought down, while funny posts are voted up and kept in the Best-Of-Craigslist archive.

The website was started by Craig Newmark in 1995, and was originally intended to be named sf-events. The website has grown over the years, and is now an international phenomenon, getting written up in dozens of magazines and newspapers.

I've been posting to craigslist's personals off and on for six months or so, trying to...well, trying to get laid and make friends, hopefully in that order.

It doesn't work. Not from a straight male's perspective, in any event. Out of every ten personalized emails I've sent out, I've gotten maybe one response. Of those responses, I've managed to actually MEET...three people. All three of them were crazy.

What I wanted to know, was why. I'm articulate, I'm fun, I can string sentences together and I'm not hideous looking (though if you spend enough time on the 'list your self-image starts to slide towards the decidedly unattractive).

So in an effort to see what our female counterparts were up against, I posted an ad as a woman in the LTR section of newyork.craigslist.org to see what the responses were like. By the time the emails had stopped coming in I was thoroughly surprised and, frankly, ashamed of my gender.



Moral Implications

I generally don't like lying to people without an extremely pressing reason, but I don't feel particularly bad about this. Craigslist's personals are a meat market, and while I did initially feel bad about leading these men on (however slightly) my findings were so surprising to me that any second thoughts I might have had were mitigated by the absurdity of the responses I received.

Additionally, my post was designed to adhere to the status-quo as closely as possible. If I had written something more personal or witty or individual in any way, I'd feel worse. As it is...let's just say I have no regrets.



Research (or: how to write in drag)

Basically, I took the most common attributes of other personals ads and aggregated them into one post. This, unfortunately, included things like typos, bad grammar non sequiturs and horrendous cliches. I wasn't implying anything about the possible mental deficiencies of women, more-so the mental deficiencies of the men and women who seem to make up the bulk of the craigslist personals posters. So be nice.

Some things I noticed while going through the w4m's personals that seem to highlight the fundamental inequity between men and women when it comes to dating and sex in New York City are as follows: women almost always state height as an important factor, are looking for older, more established men and rarely look to date outside their own ethnic groups. They almost always emphasize their physical attributes over their mental or professional standing, and are quick to downplay what they're looking for physically while apologizing for it.

The posting

Whos out there? - 21 (LES)
Reply to: (removed to protect, erm, me.)
Date: 2004-10-19, 9:50PM EDT



This is my first time trying this place so I wanted to see what it was like!

I'm looking for a guy to hang out with, go to bars and clubs and movies and stuff and just generally relax. I'm a really busy student who doesn't have alot of time to let go, so I'd need someone laid back and flexible.

I'm 5'3", curvy and in good shape. Long brown hair (I need a haircut!) and a cute smile.

I'm looking for an older professional guy, 25 or so. 5'9" or taller please and in good shape. Please be respectful and smart and FUN. Not looking for a one night thing - serious responses only, please.

Your pic gets mine.

this is in or around LES
it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

I posted that at 9:50 PM Eastern Standard Time. By 10:10 PM, I had 30 emails in my inbox. As a contrast: when I post an ad (a real one, that is) I'll be lucky to get a single response. Ever.


Of those first thirty responses:

  • 8 were over 27
  • 3 weren't professionals
  • 6 were vulgar or utilized bad grammar
  • 8 didn't supply a picture
  • 5 of those who DID supply a picture included a picture of the subject hugging a woman (bad taste, I think)
  • 7 were obvious form letters
  • 2 were SPAM (one for a massage, one for a business marriage)
  • 12 didn't supply enough information (only aim addresses, etc)

  • 8 fit ALL the physical criteria
  • 4 were (to me) intelligent/cute enough to consider emailing back

It was the form letters that surprised me. It had never occurred to me to run my hobby like a business. Also, the men who blatantly didn't fit the criteria but still wrote a personalized email anyway were a bit of a shock.



Conclusions

It seems as if men who post on craigslist are expecting to be ignored. The theory is, the more women a guy sends an email to, the more likely they are to get a response from one of them. It's an old saw, but men apparently lack subtlety - we (again apparently) bang our heads against the wall until it either collapses or knocks us unconscious. The problem is when the good ones (guys and gals) fail to stand out against the background noise.

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