(NB: All information in the article is real. The postings were, and will be for a limited time still available to view on Craigslist. All emails are still sitting in my inbox. I would print the addresses but it is probably illegal, although judging by some of these guys, they would probably love it.)
So. Where to begin.
Craigslist is a centralized network of online communities, featuring free online classified advertisements with a site dedicated to almost every major city in the world. Each local site has sections specializing in housing, items for sale, services and community. Oh yeah, and sex ads. Lots of sex ads.
I suppose I could try to wriggle my way around the subject by talking about my deep love of online classified listings, how hilarious and inexplicably twisted people can be when they are shrouded in anonymity, how I was ‘curious’ or found myself reading ads ‘by accident’. But, as you will no doubt agree, the point will remain exactly the same. I was sitting in a café, reading the casual sex pages of the Beirut Craigslist website. There, I said it.
The odd thing about this site is that unlike in other parts of the world where it can be a gold mine of free furniture, stolen bikes and strange landlords, nobody seems to use the Beirut Craigslist. The jobs section is bare. The flat rental department features around one new posting per week. Unwanted pets, not even a hamster.
So when I entered the ‘Personals’ section I was quite surprised to find anything at all. As you will see if you visit the site, the links are arranged into different categories. There is the very ambiguous ‘Strictly Platonic’ for those prudes who cannot admit to their own depravity even whilst hidden behind their IP address. Following this is the regular ‘Men 4 Men’, ‘Women 4 Men’ and ‘Women 4 Women’ columns, the much racier ‘Misc Romance’ and finally the pure filth that is ‘Casual Encounters’. I have always wondered about the latter section, whether it means you are up for it without taking your socks off or can perhaps spare a free hand whilst also doing a bit of light housework.
The postings, if there are any, follow a very strict pattern depending on the genre. The Women4Men section is dominated by adverts for prostitutes, with images presumably taken straight from porn sites (none of them look very Lebanese at least). The Men4Women area is a bit more genuine, with a few business men looking for a cheap lay whilst here on a sales trip and the majority appearing to be unattractive middle-aged men from the USA looking for a woman who is prepared to put up with their ugly mug in exchange for an American visa. The percentage of said marriages which end with one of the newlyweds buried in the back garden is not available on the site.
If you want some action and are happy to be frank about it then the Men4Men, Misc and Casual sections are the place to be. Without wanting to offend anyone I believe it is common knowledge that gay men are a little more gung ho in their approach to getting some hanky panky, an assumption which is certainly not disproved here. Graphic descriptions, orgy planners and pictures of naked body parts are to be found aplenty here, and the response rate to these postings, as you are about to find out, is nothing short of enthusiastic.
By way of testing the water I decided to reply to one of the emails under the user name Fred Haley, the author of the curiously titled book ‘Satan was a Lesbian’ (anyone recognize the poster from a bar in Gemmeyzeh?). I decided to reply to a post with a high chance of a response and found one looking for people to make up the numbers at an orgy following the Vanity Party. I foolishly did not save the original posting so cannot recall it verbatim but the general gist was as follows.
‘Looking to get an orgy together after the vanity party, email with a pic if interested.’
That was it. No specifications for age, appearance, political leanings, piercings, pets or otherwise. Just guys wanting an orgy. Replying in a serious manner would undoubtedly get me a serious response. But I wanted to see how far they might be willing to push this. My reply was as follows.
I am fit, 35 but look 31, built, some tattoos.
When are you planning your party? Time is an issue because I have a court appearance coming up. I wanna make sure I have some fun before I go away for a while.
Get in touch if you are for real and we will speak.’
Unremarkably this did not get a response, but it almost certainly caused some small debate between the orgy hosts as to whether or not they wanted a muscly, tattooed jailbird popping over for a game of hide the beef jerky.
Orgy Organizer 1; ‘But I think it will be exciting, a real thug at the party’
Orgy Organizer 2: ‘But we don’t know what he has done. Maybe he is a car thief, maybe a murderer’
Orgy Organizer 1: ‘Can we ask him? Is it rude to ask?’
Orgy Organizer 2: ‘I think we should keep him in the ‘maybe’ pile?’
But still I wanted more. There was nothing to prove that any of these posts were actually real people who really did use this service to meet up and get jiggy wid it. So in the interests of journalism and academic research (ahem) I moved on to plan B. Creating my own posts. And here they are.
1) Lonely Fishing Enthusiast – M4M – 42 (Beirut (Hamra))
Looking for someone to talk about rods, reels and nets.
And maybe other things.
Can travel anywhere between Beirut and Tripoli.
I have my own van.
Author’s note: This was my first post and the one I took the piss the hardest with. I was absolutely certain that nobody was interested in meeting a lonely gay fisherman to talk about ‘rods, reels and nets’. The picture of the old bearded chap alone should give that away. The ‘I have my own van’ line was just the cherry on the cake. Nobody would write back to this, right?
2) Rich man, marriage – M4W- 30 – (Beirut/USA)
I am man who have much money but need wife (sexy).
My car (BMW) can be drived by you sometimes.
Many thing in my house are made of gold (like Midas ahahahahahahaha).
I am good for love and (many) children.
Let us meet.
Author’s note: OK so I expected to get a few hits with this. I thought there would be at least a few women out there looking for a rich Arab husband.The ‘Midas’ joke might just about be plausible too. I also tried get across the fact that whilst this guy was boasting about being rich, he was not a walkover, and that the lady he chooses would sometimes be allowed to ‘drived’ his car, but not every day.
3) Seeking shaven beast
I am tired of all these hairy guys.
Need a real smooth companion.
Get in touch if you are soft to touch.
I can travel to your place (as long as you have no pets).
No time wasters.
Author’s note: This I definitely expected to get replies from. Given that Mediterranean/Arab guys often have a little more body hair than their western counterparts, I thought it not unreasonable for somebody to have a fetish for baldies, if not full on alopecia.
4) Dominatrix W4M (30) (BEIRUT)
Are you a pathetic worm?
Of course you are. You are a maggot with no self esteem. You are not very good at your job. You have reduced fertility and no woman would want your neanderthal offspring anyway. You lay awake at night imagining all the things you would say to people if you actually had a set of balls in your withered little sack. You are cannon fodder. You are toilet water. You are a cockroach in a plastic bucket. You are a manufacturing error.
You think nobody knows these things about you.
But I do.
And I will let you know.
Each and every single day
Author’s note: I was certain what I had written was just a bit too ridiculous to be taken seriously. Telling someone ‘You are not very good at your job’ is hardly psychological humiliation. I did enjoy writing the phrase ‘withered little sack’ though. I also picked the most unattractive picture of a dominatrix I could find on Google (and some of them were really hot).
So the bait had been set. My expectations were low, and any response at all would have brought me some satisfaction, even if it were only to justify that I had spent a whole afternoon conducting this ‘project’. But before closing the computer down to spend the evening interacting with actual people I thought I would have a quick check of my email.
What? How could it be? The first post had only been put up less than an hour ago. It must be some spam about cheap Viagra, or perhaps an email from Craigslist requesting that I somehow prove I am a gay, alopecia loving, wealthy, unmarried dominatrix who likes to go fishing in his/her spare time. My heart was actually starting to beat faster as I opened the inbox.
It was a reply! To the Lonely Fishing Enthusiast. A wonderful, single word reply.
So the fish had started to bite. I left the virtual nets in place and went into to town for a beer.
The next day I opened up Fred’s email address and was thrilled to find 4 more replies. And 3 of them were for the gay fisherman…
The first I opened was a tragically sincere email from Phil.
I just read your ad on craigslist and I’m wondering what are you looking for? I’m Canadian male in Beirut for the summer and looking for someone to spend time with and maybe have fun with too. So please let me know if you’re interested in that. P.s. I dint know anything about fishing .’
Well Phil, I am sure you are a nice guy, but did you READ my post? I said I want to talk about rods and reels and fishing stuff. And here you are, with your shameless lack of fishing knowledge, thinking I’m some cheap hussy. You tart. The next one was from Eddie.
I saw your Ad on CL and i thought it was interesting, i don’t know much about fishing i am more a hunting kind a guy, but i was curious, are you lebanese? do you fish here in Leb??? and why did you put the ad in m4m section are you interested in men sexually???’
See that Phil, at least Eddie knows about hunting. And he is asking if I am interested in men sexually, not just assuming. But there are more.
I found your add online while I was looking for something else… It sounds cool… And nice pic. Haha… I am from Canada… And have been trying to travel around the world for about 15 months… Now i am in cyprus, and I want to come to Beirut/middle east for a few months, and I love fishing! Haha… I’ll send you a pic, but I’d love to know a little more about you… Was that you in the picture?
Perfect! Ronan loves fishing! Right Phil, you are definitely out, Eddie you are on the waiting list, Ronan let’s get the van fired up and head for the hills.
Sadly I am not gay or a fisherman, otherwise I would feel like a kid on Christmas day. The next email I received was a rather patronizing response to the Rich Man Seeks Wife ad. As she was both attempting to offer services of a commercial nature (which breaks the Craigslist rules) and she offended me personally be insinuating that my ‘Midas Charm’ would not be enough to lure anyone in I have included her contact details. Feel free to write to her.
Angelika Lancsak: Cyber pimp
I establish contacts to outstanding singles in the Mid East, Europe, America and Asia.
If you are not successful in your search & you seek some exceptional mate in your life kindly check my websites:
www.angelikalancsak.com www.myspace.com/angelikalancsak www.expectexcellenceangelikalancsak.blogspot.com I am well-known for international matchmaking since 1997.
Please reply for further details.
Thanks & best wishes
The thing is Anglelika, the phrase ‘If you seek some exceptional mate’ has put me right off. I might be a hilariously bad mannered, rich Arab guy but I do not view women as biological specimens. ‘Exceptional mate’ makes the game sound like ordering from a catalogue of farm animals. So piss off, you cyber pimp. I did check her blog though and she has her own Podcast of love making songs to download. Track 1: Barry White.
Next email received was for the Dominatrix. I had expected a more depraved reply and was shocked by Rami’s polite response.
‘Hello my dear
my name is rami… i am 26 years old guy living in beirut and used to be in california.. please let me know what you want so we can have a friendly meeting to discuss what you want from me and i will be at your quiet service
Waiting your reply
Well what a sweetheart he sounds. What reason could he possibly have for wanting a big, fat, leather-clad trollop tell him he is a bad person whilst he was tied to a radiator with his own socks? Is it because he is too nice? Maybe he had a mean piano teacher as a kid that really got him going? I will probably never know (Rami if you are reading this please let us in on the mystery).
There was nothing yet for poor old baldy lover. Were there no hairless men for our fictional hero to meet with? There was still time for him, but it was now getting late in the day and real life was calling again. Time to close the computer and check the nets again in the morning.
It’s 8am and I am so excited I log into Fred’s account before even checking my own email. Ten replies! Ten! Most of them for Gay Fisherman, too. What the hell have I started? Could it be that the Gay Fisherman is actually an untapped genre in the word of ‘Miscellaneous’ relationships? Perhaps it’s the Brokeback Mountain factor, two guys, alone in the wilderness, arranging their worms to catch a bite from something. If this thing develops into a registered fetish (where do you register a fetish?) then I want it known that you heard about it here first.
Over the coming days the calls for gay fisherman were slowly overtaken by the dominatrix, who is now the runaway winner of the contest. And not all of them were as submissive as Rami..
Adam got the ball rolling with this. ‘I love feet nd would love to be ur slave from time to time’ Thanks for that Adam.
And Chris is apparently a man of stamina. ‘I need someone who could show me they have what it takes to keep up with me.’
Habibi seemed to think a Dominatrix would be interested in his hobbies. ‘I like outdoor activities, walking, skiing, travelling.’
And my personal favorite LeSheik had a confession to make. ‘Unfortunately im married and i prefer the secretive encounter 🙂 i never tried the dominatrix thing, c’est la vie, im sorry 🙂’
God I hope he is a real Sheik…
I got a second message from Phil, who removed any references to his lack of fishing knowledge from his email. Either he went away and read a copy of Trout and Salmon magazine or he was just trying to bluff it. No game Phil, no game.
But before I leave you I want you to know that Rich Arab Guy finally got a genuine message. I am sure he would be delighted…
‘Is your cock long and hard as gold, would you like me to pleasure u, u r so sexy what would u like me to do to u..’
The Midas touch indeed…
Happy fishing folks
PS – If anyone is a Gay Fisherman/ Rich Arab/ Dominatrix I may be persuaded to pass some of this information on (free of charge) as I actually started to feel a bit guilty about leading people along. xx
by Beirut Beat