What Craigslist tells us about sex and America
Ever wondered what Craigslist tells as about sex and the real America?  I had to write a novel about it in order to find out.  It’s wild.  How did we get here?
Amy Chau’s book (Why Chinese Mothers are Superior) caused fierce uproar by reminding everyone, with excessive matter-of-factness, that effort and discipline is required to build character and educate children for life and for success.  But what happens when many of these children grow up into adults with no solid values and discipline, proudly thinking that they ought to have a high sense of self-esteem regardless of how they lead their lives and what they allow themselves to become?   

The famous Chinese Book of Change says: “a compromise with evil is not possible; evil must under all circumstances be openly discredited.  Nor must our own passions and shortcomings be glossed over … the struggle must not be carried on directly by force.  If evil is branded, it thinks of weapons, and if we do it the favor of fighting against it blow for blow, we lose in the end because thus we ourselves get entangled in hatred and passion.  Therefore it is important to begin at home, to be on guard in our own persons against the faults we have branded.  In this way, finding no opponent, the sharp edges of the weapons of evil becomes dulled … Finally, the best way to fight evil is to make energetic progress in the good.”

It used to be that religion was the safeguard of ethics or, at the very least, an inspiration for people to seek the angel within, and not just give in to the always-lurking animal side; then, a growing number of people outgrew the idea of organized religion and said that one could lead a moral life without being religious.  So far, so good.  But slowly, our messy democracy Obama talked about in his last State of the Union Address, and the free speech that made Larry Flint a free man, took over our sex lives and changed everything.  It made the wildest degree of promiscuity socially acceptable in America.  It is non-judgmentally called exploration or experimentationPeople holding on to old-fashioned values are billed as square.  The media hypes the sex, lies, and all the dirty digital tapes.  Is this something good? Is it bad? Where are we going to draw the line? Is there going to be any line? I guess the answer to this question lies into each person’s set of personal values.  And most importantly, where do we want to go, as a nation, next?

When I started writing the novel, My Life on Craigslist, I thought that the idea of taking a young, starry-eyed girl from a small town to the big city and forcing her by circumstances to live vicariously through a website offering pretty much everything while being free of fees, would be interesting, fun, and  cute.

At least that’s how I felt until I started doing my research.  I was shocked about the level of promiscuity that lies today beneath our society as a whole.  This is in no way an invitation to blame Craigslist, which is merely the mirror showing what’s out there, and the messenger telling – with absolutely no commentary and in total respect of free speech – the story, secret lives, desires and fantasies of millions of Americans with “alternative sex lives.”  And, unlike websites like Ashley Madison, Craigslist doesn’t charge a fee for it.

The Casual Encounters section of Craigslist has 21 outlets: w4m, m4m, m4w, w4w, t4m, m4t, mw4mw, mw4w, mw4m, w4mw m4mw, w4ww, m4mm, mm4m, ww4w, ww4m, mm4w, m4ww, w4mm, t4mw, mw4t.

There’s a paradox between the exterior wide-spread conformity of our society, and the below-the-radar promiscuity.  Hundreds of people, and for my purposes, strictly those living in New York, New York, troll in each of these sections every day.  Many if not most of these people lead a double life, have a regular, trusting  girlfriend, boyfriend, wife, or husband who has no idea what is the truth about their partners.  I’ve learned that, only in Manhattan, there are hundreds of ‘straight’ guys who are in committed relationships or engaged to be married, who put an ad for a quick blowjob from another guy in their lunch break or after hours… What if you are dating one of them now and you don’t know?  How can we ever be sure?  The variety of this secret promiscuity spans across both genders and sexual orientations.  After a quick glance through all this, one must realize that we can’t be sure of our partners – and their secret alternative sex lives – and everything is possible with everyone, and if we look at the numbers, even probable.  

Even further, although there are 21 outlets for alternative Casual Encounters, 90% of the ads posted by men looking for women in the tame section of long term relationships, are looking for everything but long term, steady, or traditional relationships.  Casual sex and no-strings-attached sex top the statistics, followed by “older benefactors” seeking young flesh, and guys looking for swing partners.

During my research, I placed fake ads on behalf of Emily, the main character, under the “women looking for men ltr” section, and for each ad that mentioned the words “long term relationship” or “true love,” I received only two-three answers, mostly from Indian and Asian men; whereas any ad that had an intimation of casual sex and no-strings-attached sex brought in tens or even hundreds of answers from young, good looking, blue-eyed Abercrombie-and-Fitch types of dudes.  Most of them either were seriously dating girls who happened to be away and wanted a quick fling, or wanted to engage sexually with as many people as possible with no-strings-attached.

Why?  Simply because they can.     

What does it say about us as a society?

The few “good” men that I interviewed who were looking for something serious on Craigslist, encountered their own sets of problems, mostly with mercantile female responders or covered up pay-per-log-in erotic websites.   

So how did we get into this promiscuous mess?  If we start with what single men and women are reading about relationships, it is easy to see that the media, the self-titled dating “doctors,” and self-help books all encourage guys to be jerks and women to be bitches, championing a race to the bottom of “old-fashioned” values.

One of the “Top 10 Better Man” on the popular site sets standards for today’s cool guy: he advises not to call the next day (after he has sex), and warns guys that many girls still see the first night of love as the start of coupledom, as opposed to just casual sex (which in today’s fashion makes her a psycho).  The site’s love doctor also encourages guys to keeps interaction to a minimum and reduce pretty much the entire dating dynamic to meet-and-fucks with little or no contact in between, thus killing in the bud the idea of a traditional relationship when the man and the woman are not only lovers, but also friends.  Messages and sites like this float around everywhere, permeating many people’s brains, encouraging bad behavior, and creating excuses. Everywhere you turn online or offline, you hear the same refrain:  people are not monogamous, so there you have it, everything goes, rotating sex partners like dinner partners and ethnic restaurants is the way to go.

   The once off-stream, becomes mainstream.  Hollywood is now mildly catching up with the trend with the two new movies, No Strings Attached and Friends with Benefits.  That comes after many years of countless movies where marriage and couples have been presented either too picture perfect or too boring or too outrageous, thus lacking any fun and utterly unappealing.

A few weeks ago I was having drinks with a friend at the Marks Hotel in Manhattan.  It was very busy, lots of single and couples, including two people next to us that really stood out.  The woman was in her late 30s, the man was in his early 40s, and sitting by each other on the bench, they couldn’t stop laughing, kissing and touching affectionately and playfully.  They looked like a teenage couple madly in love on their first date having an incredibly fun time with each other.  Brainwashed as we were by all the messages that bombard us today about the doom of traditional coupledom, my friend and I reckoned that these two people must be each married with other people, met online, and were having a steamy affair or a first Ashley Madison date.  They were too happy and were having too much fun. 

Eventually we struck up a conversation with them, just to find out what is was all about.  To our big surprise, it wasn’t a first date, they were living with each other and had two children, ages two and four.  Sunday evening was their date night when the nanny took care of the family.  She was Italian, and he was French, or maybe the other way around, a couple of interior designers, she specializing in modern stuff, he in antiques.  They were not only European by birth, but in their style and actions as well, even though they have lived in the United States for many years.

The type of dynamic necessary to allow for a quality relationship like this couple’s doesn’t follow the three dates rule for sex, meet-and-fucks, no-strings-attached encounters, or any mercantile approach in selecting a mate, and doesn’t mesh with any of the gray areas of alternative sex.  To the contrary, they only ruin it.  

For a long time we used to look at Europeans with puritan superiority.  Things have changed.  I’d love to see more American couples seeking and nourishing the type of true love that blends shared passions and gives that lasting sparkle.      

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