Yesterday afternoon, of the four adverts on Craigslist offering rooms in Glasgow, three were from men offering what has become known as a “sex for rent” deal. This was despite recent exposure of the practise by the BBC and The Herald.
On the bulletin board-style website’s Glasgow “rooms offered” section, one man offered a room at £350 a month, all bills included, but offered “reductions” depending on what the tenant was willing to do.
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Another man, going by the name of hrnytravelr, seemed to be targeting the homeless and offered a “warm bed and hot food” for any “nice girl” in need who was “open-minded”.
There were similar adverts in Edinburgh but by late afternoon, after much interest, they had all been taken down.
That interest was sparked by The National columnist Vonny Moyes, who wrote about sex for rent in yesterday’s paper.
After filing her column she spoke to some of the men advertising and heard stories from tenants who had been in similar arrangements.
One landlord insisted to Moyes that the arrangement was “completely legal” and “consensual”.
He wrote: “I assure you I’m not some crazy pervert. My desire for this arrangement is purely because I don’t have time to date and maintain a traditional relationship. Aside [from] this I have a professional career and am a respectful guy.”
He added: “Moral? That’s up for debate, but definitely legal”.
After reading the exchange, Lily Allen tweeted: “Theresa May, sort your country out please.This is appalling.”
Moyes said reading the adverts was “soul-destroying”.
“Sex-for-rent ads are the result of a troubling confluence of the housing crisis and objectification culture,” she told The National. “Men are capitalising on the financial precarity of women, using it as a means to access service functions – sex and housework – attracting vulnerable women in the process. Women entering these arrangements lose control over consent – how can you say no to increasing sexual demands when the threatened with homelessness?
“Until we start valuing women as full humans, rather than a resource to be used, these ads will appear. The most troubling part is that many men see no problem with degrading and exploiting women in this way.”
Charities and women’s organisations are calling for the law to changed and more houses to be built.
Katharine Sacks-Jones, director of Agenda, an organisation that campaigns to help women and girls at risk, said: “Homeless women are in an extremely precarious and often desperate position. Adverts offering shelter in return for sex are a disgusting abuse of their position and show just how shameless some men will be in exploiting women who have few other options.”
“Government must take urgent action to ensure women can get a roof over their head without having to resort to unwanted sex and the violence that so often goes along with it.”
A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “Police Scotland is committed to keeping people safe. People should always be careful in replying to adverts of this nature. They should ask themselves how much they know about the person advertising, perhaps try and find out as much as possible about the individual, whether that’s agreeing to meet somewhere public beforehand or seeking references.
“They should never feel pressured into agreeing to anything and if it doesn’t feel right then don’t stay. No-one should feel coerced into doing something they don’t wish to do.
“If a person feels they are being exploited or coerced then they should contact the police on 101. We would investigate any complaints that we receive.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said:“This type of behaviour is concerning and no-one should feel that this is their only option. This government is committed to tackling all forms of violence against women and girls, including commercial sexual exploitation. We always keep our laws under review to ensure they can deal appropriately with sexually exploitative behaviour.
“Our new strategy on human trafficking and exploitation, to be published in May, will help co-ordinate Scotland’s response to the offences of human trafficking and slavery.”