Yesterday I talked to a woman named Cinnamon Sweets.
She was hesitant about letting me print her name, but agreed since it was also the name of her escort service and since she did nothing illegal and she had been running this respectable business in the Bangor area for more than 10 years, she had nothing to hide. She’s also listed in the Yellow Pages.
I found Cinnamon and her picture and phone number on Craig’s List, an extremely popular worldwide Web site where people post classified ads selling everything from iPods to cars to washing machines.
Cinnamon advertises her company as “one of the best companies that provide Maine escorts.” The photograph that accompanies her ad depicts her clad in a bikini-type bottom, topless, with her hands behind her head.
Her company “has been serving the needs of men in Maine for over 10 years and we are (again) listed in the Yellow Pages.”
The business books from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. seven days a week because “we understand the urge gets urgent,” claims her ad.
Cinnamon sounded very sweet. I explained who I am, that I was doing a story on Craig’s List. She called me “hon” and assured me that though she’s aware that some may think her business is a bit questionable, that “there is absolutely no prostitution” going on. She simply hires out girls to perform exotic dancing in private settings.
I came to check out Craig’s List this week after a couple of high-profile arrests stemming from people using the site. One was a woman accused of selling herself who was charged with prostitution in Portland and the other involved a Brownfield man who allegedly offered to pay to have sex with the young daughter of a Biddeford man who placed an ad on the site looking for work.
The father notified Biddeford police who enlisted the Maine Computer Crimes Task Force to assist in the investigation resulting in the arrest of 28-year-old Michael Berk of Brownfield.
You can truly buy just about anything you want on Craig’s List. Earlier this week, my sister-in-law roamed the Web site looking for apartments in the Bangor area. I have friends who have sold and purchased cars there.
But this is not your mother’s Uncle Henry’s. If you look just a bit closer, you can find graphic sexual photographs of women, men and couples. You can find ads with photographs and “price lists.”
I have parental controls on my computer for good reason, the most important being my 12-year-old son.
He often complains about being blocked out of Web sites that feature such innocent content as animation or superheroes.
This week we conducted an experiment.
“Sit down,” I said, “and log onto the computer.”
He did. I told him to type in “Craig’s List.” He did. No problem.
From there my 12-year-old ultracurious budding sexual being had access to more pornographic material than we, as adults, could ever have imagined as youths.
The home page itself is quite boring, but with just a little bit of knowledge, such as the meaning of “erotica,” and he would have been on his way. Instead, after the Craig’s List home page came up, he turned to me and said, “So what?”
“Nothing,” I said. “I just wanted to see if you could get onto that Web site.”
“I haven’t even heard of it,” he said.
“Not this week,” I thought to myself.
Meanwhile, my trip through Bangor’s erotic services category on Craig’s List seemed to reveal that the age-old practice of selling sex is alive and well and perhaps easier than ever.
All that’s needed is an erotically worded ad and a cell phone number.
To be fair, Craig’s List states on its site that it forbids pornographic photographs and allows users to report forbidden material or ads. It also warns users about providing financial or personal information. The site further indicates that it will “flag” “improper” ads and delete them.
Just like every other career and aspect of our lives, selling sex seems to have been revolutionized by the Internet. I may not be able to do a damn thing about that, but what I can do is add Craig’s List to the sites that my kids can’t visit.