I wonder how many people Craigslist founder Craig Newmark has helped to find an apartment, sell a guitar . . . or hook up.
Besides its helpful housing, for sale, and job sections, Craigslist has a personals section that caters to every predilection, ranging from the strictly platonic to relationship seekers to Casual Encounters — its anonymous sex hookup section.
Sometimes dangerous and often disappointing, Casual Encounters is nevertheless part of what gives the Craigslist personals section higher traffic than other online personals sites — including Match.com, eHarmony, and Yahoo personals.
"Our users like the ability to be both candid and, initially, anonymous," says Newmark matter of factly about Casual Encounters, which accounts for 2 percent of all Craigslist postings.
In a recent New York Times trend piece, 100 or so users were interviewed about their experiences and provided a peek into who posts and answers those ads: Craigslist Casual Encounters attracts a gamut, from "desperados" to prostitutes and spammers and thrill-seeking hotties. Click here to read more.
Nola, a 42-year-old saleswoman in Manhattan, seeks men who will meet her in a public place, so she can go to the bathroom, take her underwear off, and hand it to them in an envelope — for a fee. Melvin, a 35-year-old divorcé, recently made the mistake of going to a woman's apartment before meeting her in public, finding that she was insecure about her weight and trying to hide it by turning out the lights.
And then there's someone like Michael, a handsome artist who claims, "I've met some extraordinarily beautiful women, had a few extraordinary sexual encounters that made my teeth itch and my brain sweat, put me in states of weird contemplation like, 'My God, I’ve never experienced that before.'"
Casual Encounters has been around since 2000 and has probably changed the way a lot of sexually frustrated people deal with dry spells. The question is — does it work? And is it healthy for the parties involved?