from The Observer (UK), October 19, 2003
Women log on for one-night stands
By Amelia Hill
Thousands visit 'no strings' London sex site
It makes speed dating look slow: a new craze to hit Britain is rapidly levelling the playing field between men and women intent on sex without commitment.
Craigslist.com, an American internet marketplace that sells everything from unwanted futons to houses, has come to Britain, bringing with it the Casual Encounters section for people who want 'one-off, no ties, no nonsense sex'. 'The site is frank about that,' said founder Craig Newmark. 'People who want a relationship, or even a conversation, should look elsewhere.'
But while the Casual Encounters page is a minor part of the Craigslist site in America, on the British version (http://london. craigslist.org) it is one of the the most popular pages, and increasingly it is women who are logging on to advertise their appetite for uncomplicated sex.
'I'm surprised by the eagerness with which British women have greeted the Casual Encounters site,' said Newmark. 'I don't know any British women first-hand but from what I hear about them, they're particularly game. Our experience seems to bear this out.'
In the six months since Craigslist was launched in London, the Casual Encounters page has had 280,000 hits, with around 42,000 of them from women - an unusually high proportion.
Rachel Morris, a psychotherapist for Cosmopolitan magazine, said: 'I've been worried about soulless sex imposed on women by the ladette culture but the fact that this site is so popular proves that hardcore, testosterone-driven sex is genuinely what some women really want. Women have long been labelled sluts where men with similar appetites are regarded as studs, but this site seems to indicate that perhaps society is finally ready to allow women to satisfy their sexual needs without guilt or shame.'
Even traditionally conservative groups such as the Brook Advisory Centre and the Family Planning Association have no problem with the site. 'If the women involved practise safe sex, then there's no reason why they should be any different from men in the levels of sexual activity in which they engage,' said Jan Barlow, director of BAC. 'At the end of the day, there's no difference between doing this and going out to a nightclub to find a man.'
Polly O'Doherty, a 31-year-old IT specialist from north London, heard about the site from a female friend in San Francisco. 'I'd been single for eight months and although what I ideally wanted was a boyfriend, in the meantime I was sexually frustrated and desperate for physical affection,' she said.
She has met three men through the site in the past six months. 'I get the men to send me their pictures but don't give them mine, which means they won't recognise me when we meet, giving me the opportunity of changing my mind even at the last minute,' she said. 'The first man I met was so handsome we didn't even finish our drinks before heading back to my flat. It was so exciting. I felt amazingly liberated because we were both clear and honest about what we wanted. When he left the next morning I didn't mind at all and am completely happy that we haven't been in contact since.'
When Craigslist was launched in Britain in April, Casual Encounters was the least popular of the five most-viewed categories, behind Flats For Rent and the more traditional Women Seeking Men and Men Seeking Women pages. By September word had spread and Casual Encounters had shot to the top of the list.
The language they use is more direct than ever before: JO indicates 'just oral' and D&D is used to signal that someone is 'drug and disease free'.
The London site is Newmark's first overseas attempt to widen his online marketplace but its unexpected success has led him to start planning sites for Birmingham, Manchester, Madrid, Paris and Berlin.
Cosmopolitan 's expert is sceptical, however, about the lasting appeal for women. 'Unless a woman is very assertive and can teach a man in a single sex session how she likes to be touched, it's unlikely she will achieve satisfaction in a one-off sex session,'said Morris. 'Many of the women who log on thinking soulless sex is what turns them on might realise it's not that simple.'
It certainly wasn't that simple for O'Doherty, who refused to take the second man she met back home because she thought there was something odd about him, and was left disillusioned by the third man.
'The third and last man I met through the site was terribly sexy in a quirky way and I felt we really hit it off,' she said. 'But when he didn't even want to stay the night and refused to reply to any of the emails I sent afterwards, I felt so upset I realised it's not just sex I want: it is a real relationship.
'I don't think I'll be using the site again; it just left me feeling sadder and lonelier than before.'
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