Love & Sex

I Did It for Science: Craig’s List Casual Encounters

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I Did It For Science by Grant Stoddard


To have a “casual encounter” via Craig’s List, a web site where one can buy, sell and/or use anything and anyone with impunity.


State your hypothesis in the form of a prediction that can be verified by the results of the experiment.

Hirsute? Hung like a beer can? Horny and aching for sadistic nipple play? If you fit any of these descriptions , or any others in between , I suggest you stop reading and go to the Casual Encounters section of Craig’s List, an online bulletin board where armies of people yearn to hook up in a wide spectrum of ways. Urban America has an itch that really, really needs to be scratched. Like, right now! No lurkers! No time-wasters!

Chat rooms and online personals may have simplified the costly, elaborate social dance that once preceded boot-knocking, but judging from what I’ve heard on the young urbanite grapevine, Casual Encounters might be the ultimate in this trend’s evolution. It provides an ambiguity-free forum for sex, no strings attached. My friend Simone, an attractive, 27-year-old Ivy League grad, raves about CE because she can’t stand structured personals websites and, she insists, "bars are for drinking.”

But can it really be that easy: post an online ad and get a made-to-order sexual experience? Can fucking really be that anonymous, convenient and hassle-free? If so, the men and women of Casual Encounters might be sexual pioneers. If people really are deserting the dating pool in droves, this could be my most fulfilling study so far. Right?

Please list all the materials required for this experiment (including, if applicable, how they were obtained).

Computer (1)
High-speed Internet access
Coffee (1 qt.)

In this portion of your report, you must describe, step-by-step, what you did in your lab. It should be specific enough that someone who has not seen the lab can follow the directions and recreate the same lab.

In the beginning, the stigma attached to online dating guaranteed that only chubby medievalists with unfortunate skin conditions deigned to search for their soul mates via 9600-baud modem. Then , suddenly and against all odds , they started getting more action than R. Kelly at a Delia’s outlet store. In a few short years, socially adept people were flocking to online personals sites, professing their love for long walks on the beach, “a sense of humor” and spooning. All of this, of course, was codified chatter for hooking up.

Enter Craig’s List. Founded by ex-software engineer Craig Newmark in 1995 as a venue for apartment ads, the site gained notoriety for its “Missed Connections” section, where everyday citizens could cash in on the prolonged leer they shared with a stranger on the subway platform: “Saw you on the downtown N/R at Union Square. You remind me of my dead girlfriend. Would love to meet for drinks,” etc.

Fast forward to this year, and the zeitgeist turned its greasy eye to Casual Encounters, a.k.a. the sex-wanted section. As for the ads’ entertainment value, I’ll say this: start reading and say goodbye to whatever you were planning to do for the next four to six hours. Outside of Naomi Campbell’s autobiography, “Swan,” it is the most fascinating, horrifying thing you’ll experience in print.

Here are some recent highlights:

– The personal assistant to a “classy, Manhattan-based female celebrity” posted an ad seeking five or six guys to be on call to service her boss with sensual massage, oral/penetrative sex and “various other activities.” The dirty half-dozen would be paid a weekly stipend, plus a fee for each individual act. They would also be tested for STD’s on the classy diva’s dime. I applied, mostly to see if the classy mystery woman is who I think it is. If you too have a hunch, send your nominations to lizawithaz@nerve.com.

– A self-professed young, attractive, female Williamsburg resident wants anonymous men to come to her apartment once a week over an eight-week period. The lucky applicant would be manually relieved by the woman, who would catch the fruits of her labor in a Tupperware container. Each week she will put the container in the freezer. On the tenth week she’ll thaw out the accumulated jism and guzzle it before your very eyes. From the ad, I’m not sure what kind of reaction she’s hoping to elicit.

– A “nice guy” from Bay Ridge asks; “On your period? Give me a call and let’s examine the possibilities.”

– A twenty-eight-year-old man is looking to fulfill a fantasy whereby he goes to see a “real” doctor who, in addition to taking his blood pressure, checking his reflexes, shining a light in his ears etc., includes some more unusual examinations not covered by most plans. These include the measuring of the patient’s penis , “Doctor will then comment on diminutive size of penis” , and a series of tests to ascertain “anal tightness.”

– Little-known fact: The prince of darkness lives in Southern Connecticut. He writes, “Satan seeks F minion for total depravity in the abyss of hell… Leave your morals at the gate.”

– And my personal gross-out favorite. “Suck ‘n’ dump. Italian with buzz cut seeks to suck your dick while you take a shit.”

I’m intrigued, to say the least. People say that the seething sexual underbelly of New York City is long gone, but perhaps it just evolved. Giuliani might have moved peep arcades and hookers out of Times Square, but his iron rule couldn’t extend to cyberspace.

I have empirical evidence of this: several of my friends have had success on Craig’s List. And not my scary friends, mind you. Simone explains what led her to Casual Encounters and a zipless fuck with a good-looking party planner in the East Village: “I was sitting at my desk one afternoon, thinking about recent dates I’d been on and thought, ‘What the hell , nice guys are great, but sometimes you just want to screw.” My friend Jeff, a graphic designer in his twenties, told me that he used the site to hire a clean-cut college couple who performed a live, hourlong sex show on his living-room couch , it was one of the hottest experiences he’s ever had. I also know an attractive couple who use Craig’s List to find hot girls for threesomes; they assure me that downtown girls post there all the time, and they’ve assembled a rotating cast of nubile characters for their devious ends.

Everyone is talking about Casual Encounters. Some people are actually having them. So why can’t I? I think I want to try something freaky, something that maybe wouldn’t fly with girls I date.

Actually, that might be tough.



Quantify the effects of the experiment.

On the day of my experiment, almost 300 Casual Encounters ads had been posted within a few hours. Only fifteen were from women seeking men. I answered all of them. The first was from a woman who wanted to star in a gangbang movie and was seeking spectators and participants. “Blonde, slim and curvaceous with D-cup boobs” , she certainly typed a good game. I answered her ad in earnest.

The next ad I answered was in the too-good-to-be-true category: a self-proclaimed “stunning, curvaceous, bodacious, 5’10″ Vanessa Williams look-a-like” craved “over nine thick inches.” Point of scale: That’s a Pringles container. I thought about exaggerating my stats to get a foot in the proverbial door, but instead of trying to kid a probable kidder, I approached her as me: an intrigued writer who wanted to know if she existed.

Surprisingly, I got a response from the gangbang instigator within fifteen minutes. My naïve heart was beating out of my chest at the prospect that this whole thing was actually legit. “Candy” wrote that I should check out her profile online. I clicked the link she emailed me, which led to an age-verification site that required my credit card details. Damn! I should have known. I re-read her message and realized it was a boilerplate. I’d been had. Nevertheless, I girded my loins, convinced that there were women in the city who needed near-instant sexual gratification.

The next batch of ads I answered sounded a little more plausible:

- Thirty nine year old woman, married, a little over weight, BUT NOT OBISE, bubbly personality looking to give a hand job to a guy in a public place.

- Curvy Latina gives great erotic massage at your place.

- Beautiful 25 year old looking for tantric sex partner.

- Woman wants two or three guys to jerk off and come in a cup while I watch.

To my amazement, I got a lightning-quick response from the last ad. The respondent — ostensibly the woman looking to collect the jizz — asked some terse questions over the course of three emails. Age/stats? Occupation? Orientation? It was like I was joining the Army. She then gave me the email address of a guy named Jeff, who was “putting it all together.” Jeff briskly told me that the third amigo had dropped out; it would just be me and him.

“The details keep changing, because everybody wants to do something a little different,” Jeff explained. “The one guy that I thought was in, now wants to blow me.”

“I don’t want to blow you, Jeff,” I assured him.

Then Jeff asked how I planned to enter the park, and whether I’d care if the watcher was hiding in the bushes. Huh? In the park? I scrolled back through our email thread to find the vital bit of information I’d overlooked. I found nothing. The way I had imagined it, Jeff and I were going to be sword fighting in an Upper East Side apartment while the hot, professional she-voyeur reclined in an Eames-era daybed. I asked Jeff what he meant.

His reply was frustrated: “Reading…so basic but soooo overlooked. IN the park!”

Confused, I re-read the original ad. Sure enough, the “area” field read “Central Park.” I thought they meant in an apartment near the park, on Museum Mile or something. No, they actually meant in the park. I sent a follow-up, but Jeff and his friend disappeared into cyberspace and dense foliage respectively, never to be heard from again.

I decided to be proactive and post a few ads of my own. I examined other men’s postings; they ranged from the pessimistic (“Good-looking, wealthy exec seeks fat and ugly woman for the fuck of your life”) to the wildly optimistic (“Truck driver in Astoria looking for two, maybe three smoking-hot 20-year-olds whose hot asses crave hot cock”). Maybe outrageous ads were more successful. I decided to go for something in-between:

Man wants to have NSA make-out session with Latina hottie.

I waited twenty minutes. Nothing.

Publishing industry stud has license to ill + beer and cable.

Nada.

Because I wasn’t having much luck with the ladies of Craig’s List, I decided to broaden my horizons. I found a couple’s ad: a Midtown duo in their early thirties were looking for a straight guy to come over at precisely 8 p.m., fuck the blindfolded wife, then leave. I emailed back-and-forth with the husband for about an hour. Was I cool about the whole deal? Sure. Could I email him pictures? Here’s one of me larking around at the beach. He described his wife in loving detail. They seemed to have a very focused idea about exactly what they wanted. I was ready to do it , kind of , and was put on standby.

The husband was going to call and tell me when to come to the neighborhood, then call again to tell me precisely when I was needed. I was excited but slightly worried that I’d burst into a room full of husky leathermen and get beaten to within an inch of my life. But I had an assignment due and it seemed to be my only lead. I wrote off dinner plans and awaited the call. It never came. I have to assume they did.

About half an hour later, I answered a new ad: a “str8″ guy in “NJ” wanted to “suck off a college dude: No bi’s no gay’s just a str8 guy who needs cash. I’m straight too. My wife will watch.” We emailed back and forth. He was willing to part with a big chunk of change, but I decided that prostitution was another experiment.

At this point, I was becoming suspicious that there were no humans left in the world and that I was swapping pictures and fantasies with artificial intelligence. I give Str8 Guy my cell number, jumped in the shower and unwittingly missed his call. When I checked my voicemail, a guy who sounded like Tony Soprano thundered, “Do you know how gay you sound on your phone message, fag? OH MY GOD. So . . . gay! [disgusted exhalation, hangs up].”

That’s right; the guy who was offering cash to suck cock was calling me gay. This was really not turning out how I expected.

An hour later, the tantric sex practitioner replied, or at least someone at her porn website did. At this point, I all but wrote off my chances of having a casual encounter I might actually want. As the night wore on, I was so saddened by all the bluff and artifice that I decided to use nefarious devices to get a dialogue going: I would respond to a guy’s ad pretending to be a woman. Kind of like, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” I just wanted someone to write back.

I read this ad with interest:

NO DUDES! If you are a dude forget it. Ladies if you are bored and want to see a picture of a big cock, write something to me in a ladylike manner (so I know you are NOT a dude) and be prepared to be shocked.

Before I tell you how I proceeded, let me establish that anonymity really is the hallmark of Casual Encounters. When you post an ad, you’re automatically assigned an alias , no one responding to your ad needs to know your real email address or identity. Just to be safe, I changed the name on my Hotmail account to Gina Schenkmann, then replied to No Dudes Guy in my best ladylike manner. This is a transcript of our email exchange:

Me: OMG I want to see! I’ve never done anything like this before.

Craig’s List Dude: You are all woman. Tell me your impressions. I have more to show. John. [attached: picture of largish shaved penis]

OMG. It’s a beaut! My boyfriend’s isn’t half as big. He’d kill me if he knew I was doing this. My heart is beating like….a thousand beats a second. you have more pictures? Say, how big is that thing?

Here is the face that owns that cock. You deserve a large cock. It doesn’t hurt to just look. It is a little bigger than 8 inches. From this angle with the balls hanging, it looks like 9 or 10 inches. Have you ever had a big cock inside you? [attached: picture of tousle-haired, mustachioed surfer guy, wistfully sitting barefoot on oversized armchair while wearing white T-shirt and snow-washed jeans.]

Being spoken to in such a brazen manner was actually kind of refreshing. I started to get an appreciation for what the female experience on Craig’s List must be like. I replied:

No NEVER! Well once. But I don’t think he knew what he was doing. It only lasted for like, a second. I like your moustache! You look like Magnum PI. Er…so now what do we do?

So my ex was giving me a blow job and then decided she wanted a photo of it in my shorts. This is how it looks with a partial hard-on.

Do you like big cock? [attached: picture of guy in loose-fitting shorts with a prominent bulge].

Where’d you go?

Sorry, I had coffee with my girlfriends. I daren’t tell them what I’ve been doing all day! I live in the East Twenties. Where are you? I don’t have many pics but I included one from my internship in the city last year. Tell me what you think. [attached: picture of me dressed as a girl for my I Did It for Science cross-dressing project from last year]

Your pretty. What was your internship?

My pretty what? Oh you mean you’re pretty. Well, thank you. I interned at a literary agency. Where are you?

You are going to hate me. I’m thousands of miles away and we’ll probably never meet. I just like showing pictures of my cock and getting the reaction. It gets me off. Sorry.

We’ll always have Craig’s List, John.

What’s worse: I showed John’s cock picture to Brian, who said “the lighting” indicated it had been taken from a porn site. So apparently, some guy is getting off on what he thinks are women’s reactions to another guy’s penis which he is passing off as his own. If the whole thing weren’t so comical, I would have been depressed.

But what if I posted an ad as a woman? I wanted to confirm my suspicions that women really had the pick of the Casual Encounters’ litter. I wrote one up, splicing together commonly desired characteristics from other guys’ sex-wanted ads:

Midwestern girl declaring next week a moral-free zone. Recovering from horrible breakup. I want to get with two friends with big cocks. I’m cute, blonde and athletic (varsity swim team). You be young, slim and cool. Your picture gets mine!

Within ten minutes, my email account had been crippled by more than seventy emails. All of them contained pictures of faces and genitalia. At least five of the responses contained pictures of two friends standing side by side, sporting erect penises and shit-eating grins. Given the context, the pictures people sent me seemed strange. Some sent black-and-white professional actor’s headshots, labeled with names and special skills such as “Dialects: French, English, Swedish”. Some sent pictures of themselves with family members. Some apologized for not being as ripped as they could be; one guy said he “didn’t get to exercise enough this summer because of the rain.” Style-wise, there was definitely a theme going on. All the guys looked kind of like early Seinfeld: tight black jeans, white sneakers, tucked and oversized button-down shirts. They all seemed to shave their sideburns too high. By and large, they lived on the Upper West Side.

I hoped that posing as woman would give me some insight. It just broke my email account and made me sad. I took comfort in the positive aspect of this online gender imbalance: at least women have the opportunity to weed out losers from an army of suitors.

Then I realized something: I had been weeded out.

Heavily caffeinated and on a mission, I was determined to make human contact, no matter what. I wrote to a chap who wanted to put together a circle jerk. He was looking for several other guys who wanted to watch straight porn, drink beer and jerk off, “maybe even get a chick in the middle.” Good luck, dude. I even reached out to a guy who wanted a stranger to beat the crap out of him and trash his place while he whacked off. I received nothing in response.

I made a last-ditch posting: “Jerk off for 26-year-old straight guy in East Village. We’ll have a quick chat, you do the business and I’ll watch. That’s it.” An hour passed. It was 3 a.m. Finally, I got one response. The guy sent a thumbnail pic of his obscenely muscled torso. He asked for some of my “body pix” in return. The only body shot I could find was from my experiment with cross-dressing. Despite the fact that I’m wearing theatrical makeup and a gold lame dickbag in the shot, it provides a decent idea of what my body looks like. Ten minutes later I get the following response.

Thanks man, but i kinda need more of a gym-bod to get horned up for this sort of thing.

If I weren’t doing all right in real life, this is where I would have busted out the red wine and sleeping pills.

Summarize your findings. Don’t forget to attempt to identify possible variables that could result in different findings for others trying to recreate your test results.

Sixteen hours, forty-seven sent emails, a handful of lackluster responses and an obscene amount of coffee later, I was left with a bruised ego and little else. I’m convinced that if you’re a straight male, finding an encounter on Craig’s List is going to be anything but casual. I’ve been slogging away at this for hours, and the only responses I’ve received from people claiming to be women were either automated or involved me shelling out money for “sensual massage.”

Now, I’m inclined to believe that new technologies , Webcams, cell phones, high-speed Internet connections and Photoshop , are practically conspiring to get strangers to fuck. So why have I spent a whole day on fruitless virtual curb-crawling?

The answer is in the numbers. In New York, the ratio of straight women to straight men is something like 13 to 9. But online, the proportions are reversed. Even if we imagine that all the people posting as woman actually are women, females are still hugely under-represented, and any woman posting on Casual Encounters will literally have hundreds of responses in a short period of time. Simone told me she received scores of responses to her ad, and only about 5% passed muster. Based on Simone’s testimony and my own experience as a “girl,” I think that for women looking for no-strings-attached sex, Casual Encounters would be infinitely more effective than meeting at a bar. As a man, however, you feel like you’re playing out the relationship between sperm and egg in macrocosm.

(What’s interesting is Craig’s List’s Erotic Services section. On Casual Encounters, men promise mind-blowing oral sex to women. Many would probably even pay to drink from the furry cup. On Erotic Services, women offer their genitalia to men at sky-high prices. If you’re a woman, you get to choose who you do it with in both sections. Why not go with the guy offering $500? I would.)

I guess Casual Encounters’ ultimate value is that it provides a forum where one’s deviant thoughts and desires can be presented to an audience. You might find it hard to ask your corn-fed fiancée to shit on your chest. You never know how your gym buddies might react to your desire to throw a circle jerk, or how the guy in the next cubicle would stomach your request for “blumpkin.” Totally understandable. It’s exciting to tell the world, albeit anonymously, that you’re into some freaky shit, especially if it’s been repressed for a while.

But there’s a grander chicken-and-egg question here. Is Casual Encounters providing a much-needed sexual outlet for people seeking wanton sex, or is it indiscriminately drawing curious rubbernecks who wouldn’t dare fuck outside the traditional social construct? Casual Encounters allows you to reveal your most illicit fantasies, but it also amplifies the uncertainty, bluff and artifice that often accompanies hooking-up for hooking-up’s sake.

I came into this experiment thinking I’d found a shortcut to sexual Valhalla. Although it didn’t turn out that way for me, it could for some. Ultimately, like anything else, Casual Encounters is just a numbers game. Technology marches on, but the cock tease will never be obsolete.

Do you have an idea for Grant’s next I Did It for Science? Let him know here.

 

© 2003 Grant Stoddard and Nerve.com, Inc.